Rock 'n' Roll Presidents
on Mount Rushmore



Over seventy three years ago a historian, named Doane Robinson, had a dream to build a gigantic monument in his home state of South Dakota. Robinson came upon Gutzon Borglum, a sculptor, who was ready to take on the challenge. Borglum and Robinson wanted the monument to represent the ideals of our great American nation.

"The Glory of Democracy" was the theme for this great monument. Robinson and Borglum chose four American presidents to showcase the concept on which the United States was founded." Man has a right to be free and to be happy."


The National Park Service wants to celebrate the anniversary of an American monument, Mt. Rushmore. The Park Service has asked you to provide a brochure to visitors explaining what the monument means to America. In this activity you will be learning about Mt. Rushmore and four United States presidents who made a big difference in the lives of all Americans.

You and your classmates will work in groups to gather information about the sculptor Gutzon Borglum and the four presidents he carved in the South Dakota mountain. After you gather the information about this national monument, you and the members of your group will create a Rock 'n' Roll President brochure.


Step 1
Brainstorm all the things you know about the following:

Do you know any presidents?

What are they famous for?

What is South Dakota?

What is a sculpture?

What is Mt. Rushmore?

As a class have your teacher record your answers or you can record your own answers on a sheet of paper. Display your thoughts somewhere in the room. Before you move on to Step 2 go to this first web site and discover where South Dakota is located in the United States. Can you find South Dakota on this map of the United States?  On your sheet write the states that border South Dakota.

United States Map Machine Atlas by National Geographic

Step 2
Go to the next web sites and answer these questions on a sheet of paper. Keep your answers in a safe place or display them in the classroom with your brainstorming responses. You will need this information later.

Who are the four presidents carved into the mountain?

Who carved them and how long did it take to finish?

About how tall are the presidents' faces?


Photos of Mount Rushmore

The Official Mount Rushmore Homepage
(Tough to read for 2nd grade, but can still be used.)

Step 3
Each member of your group should pick a president from the monument to research. Below you will find the Internet sites you will need. Go to the site about your president. There are additional books and materials listed below that you may want to use when the computer is not available.

(The following web sites contain text above 2nd grade reading levels.  Students may need assistance when reading them.)

About George Washington

About Thomas Jefferson

About Abraham Lincoln

About Theodore Roosevelt

Record your notes on paper and draw pictures as needed.


Step 4
After you have gathered all the information you need, meet with your group and share what you have learned. Listen to what the other group members have learned too. It is now time to begin creating your page for the brochure. Be sure to work with others in your group so that each page in the brochure has the same look.


Step 5
Your group will share their finished product with the class.


Maps of the United States and South Dakota
George Washington: A Picture Book Biography by James Cross Giblin
 George Washington: Leader of a New Nation by Mary Pope Osborne
 George Washington's Breakfast by Jean Fritz
 George Washington's Mother by Jean Fritz
  (Grosset & Dunlap)
 Thomas Jefferson: A Picture Book Biography by James Cross Giblin
 A Picture Book of Thomas Jefferson by David A. Adler
  (Holiday House)
 Thomas Jefferson: The Revolutionary Aristocrat by Milton Meltzer
  (Franklin Watts)
 Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman
 Abe Lincoln's Hat by Martha Brenner
  (Random House)
 Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln: The Story of the Gettysburg Address
  by Jean Fritz     (Grosset & Dunlap)
 Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt! By Jean Fritz and Mike Wimmer
 Theodore Roosevelt and His America by Milton Meltzer
  (Franklin Watts)
 The Story of the Rough Riders by Zachary Kent
  (Children's Press)

Learning Advice

You will be collecting a lot of information, so it is important that you keep it together in a safe place. Write down your big ideas, draw pictures, and print one page from a web site you visited. If your group has a folder or you have your own, that would be a great place to keep all your information and drawings.


You will be graded on:


This gigantic mountain monument serves not only as a reminder of the four great presidents that served our country, but a picture of our true American spirit and our quest for the American dream. Would you like to visit Mt. Rushmore? What other national monuments do you know about?


What have you learned?  What did you do well? Look at your brainstorming list, could you add information?  Is there any information you don¹t need?

Looking back on this lesson what national monument would you create?

Teacher Notes

Teacher monitoring is essential for the success of this lesson. Non-readers will need support. More advanced students may enjoy the challenge.

Grade Level/Unit:

Grade 3  National Holiday Songs and Symbols

Lesson Purpose:

The purpose of this lesson is to have students serve as historians to research and develop their own ideas about Mt. Rushmore and the four presidents who helped build our nation.

The student will:

Information Literacy Skills:
The student will:

Length of lesson:
The length of the lesson depends on how much you want to cover. Helping second graders gather information can be very time consuming, but this lesson was developed to be driven by the students. Allow for six, 45 to 60 minute sessions. 


Draft H/SS Standards Grade 2: Students draw on folklore and biographies to describe people who make a difference.
Draft H/SS Standards Grade 3: Students identify the nation's heroes who took the risk of new and controversial ideas.

Language Arts Standards Grade 2 & 3 Reading: Students read and understand grade level appropriate material.  They draw on a variety of comprehension strategies as needed, including generating and responding to essential questions, making predictions, and comparing information from several sources. Writing Applications: Students write compositions that describe and explain familiar objects, events, and experiences including descriptions that use concrete sensory details to present and support unified impressions of people, places, things, or experiences. 

Resources or materials needed:

Easy to read books about President Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and T. Roosevelt. (Refer to the resource section) United States maps, and maps of South Dakota.

Background information that might be helpful:

Be sure to collect informational brochures, to be used as examples, prior to beginning the lesson. Your local automobile club and travel agencies are excellent sources. Although visiting websites can be time consuming, it may be helpful to visit the additional Washington and Jefferson sites and print out necessary information to be used as additional resources. (See above resources)

Lesson sequence:

Introducing and the first brainstorming session can be done as a whole group. After that the class should be divided into teams of four. Each member of the group selects one of the four presidents for their part of the brochure. Teams gather information via the Internet or books provided. Finally, teams decide on how the brochure will be put together and each student makes his/her page.


Name:  Debbie Sawyer

School/Dist: Westwood Elementary, Poway Unified School District