Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States and the author of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a great innovator and often tried new ideas in botany and farming. By integrating core knowledge objectives with the many contributions of Thomas Jefferson, preschool teachers can produce lesson plans that introduce their students to this interesting man.
Explore Past and Present
Preschoolers should be aware of the periods of time known as “past” and “present.” Create a presidential timeline by hanging pictures of all 44 American presidents. Explain that a long time has passed since Thomas Jefferson was president. Compare pictures of the early presidents with recent presidents and talk about what has changed. Students will notice that hair and clothing styles are different. Explain that even after 200 years, some things never change, like our need for love and acceptance and freedom. Thomas Jefferson knew that Americans would always need those things, so he wrote the Declaration of Independence to ensure we could always have them.
Create Historical Documents
Obtain a souvenir replica of the Declaration of Independence. These are available in most American history museum gift shops. Point out the many signatures at the bottom and explain what a signature is. Have students make their own “historical documents” on tea-stained paper. Steep tea bags in hot water for five minutes and let them cool. Have students rub the damp tea bags over ledger size paper. Allow it to dry overnight. The next day, have students “write” on their documents and have each of their classmates “sign” their names as best they can.
Donate a Temporary Library
Explain to students what a library is, and that Thomas Jefferson loved to read, discover and invent. He had his own library, which consisted of over 6,000 books. Ask them if they have a library or bookshelf at home. In age-appropriate terms, explain that the United States government also has a library, called the Library of Congress. When Thomas Jefferson was alive, there were only 3,000 books in the Library of Congress, which was destroyed by invading British forces in the War of 1812. Afterward, Jefferson sold all his books to the Library of Congress. Tell students you are going to make a special “sharing library” in your classroom. Send a note home to parents, asking each family to send a few books from home to include in a temporary classroom library. During story time, make selections from your donated classroom library, pointing out and thanking individual students for sharing their books.
Celebrate Fruits and Vegetables
Talk about fruits and vegetables and the importance of eating them. Explain that Thomas Jefferson experimented with plants to see if they could survive in America. He grew hundreds of varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs in his garden. One of these plants was the tomato. Most people in America did not grow tomatoes, and Jefferson helped make it popular. Bring in a tomato and a number of products made from tomatoes, such as spaghetti sauce, soup, ketchup and tomato juice. Have students list other fruits and vegetables, and the products that are made from them. Have students find pictures of fruit and vegetable products in magazines and make a classroom collage, or make watercolor paintings of fruits and vegetables.
- Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images