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At the beginning of this lesson, students will learn about General Nathanael Greene and his role in the Revolutionary War. Then students will examine how the Nathanael Greene Monument at the Guilford Court House used artistic elements available to its creators to portray valued elements of his character. Students will use this information to think about how they would choose to honor a person of importance to them through sculpture.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • explain Nathanael Greene’s role in the Revolutionary War.
  • identify characteristics of the Nathanael Greene monument.
  • describe how an artist represents individual characteristics of their subject.

Teacher planning

Time required

Three 45-minute classes


  • Pencils/pens
  • Paper
  • Crayons/markers
  • Drawing paper

Technology Resources


  1. As students come into class, have a picture of George Washington’s statue projected in the front of the classroom for all students to see. Give students five minutes to write about the following questions:
    1. What do you notice about this monument?
    2. Who do you think this monument is depicting?
  2. Allow students to share their observations about this statue. Explain that this is a statue of George Washington located in the center of New York City.
  3. Ask the students to use their new understanding of the Revolutionary War to discuss the following questions:
    1. How did you know that this was a monument of George Washington?
    2. Why do you think this monument was created and placed in the center of New York City?


Day one

  1. Explain that throughout history, communities of people have created monuments to honor important individuals, events, and ideas. Just as monuments were created to honor George Washington’s role in the Revolutionary War and the early history of our country, North Carolina has also erected monuments honor individuals perceived to be important to the history of the state.
  2. Explain that students will learn about an important figure in North Carolina’s history, Nathanael Greene, and the Nathanael Greene Monument a monument erected to honor him located on the Guilford Court House in Greensboro, North Carolina.
  3. Ask students to create a list of “What They Know” and “What They Want to Know” about Nathanael Greene:
    1. What do you know about Nathanael Greene?
    2. What do you want to know about Nathanael Greene?
  4. As students share what they know and what they want to know, record the information in a visible place.
  5. Students will watch a short video about Nathanael Greene. While students watch, ask them to think about the questions that they came up with as a class. After the video, the class will try to answer these questions.
  6. After the video, allow students five minutes to get together with a partner and to answer the questions displayed on the board. Class will gather and share students’ responses.
  7. Summarize the information that your class knew and have collected from the video. As a class, think about the following question: How would the Revolutionary War been different without Nathanael Greene?

Days two and three

  1. Remind students that they learned about a North Carolina Revolutionary War leader, General Nathanael Greene. In order to review what they learned and move them towards the next activity, ask the students to list adjectives that could describe Nathaniel Greene. Remind the students that an adjective is a word that is used to describe a noun. Encourage students to be prepared to explain their choices.
  2. Explain that they are going to examine an important historical monument of Nathanael Greene and contemplate how the artists used the medium of sculpture to portray some of Greene’s characteristics. Remind students that artists choose to represent individuals in a variety of ways: through busts, whole figure, with objects or other individuals that are important to them, etc.
  3. Distribute drawing paper and ask the students to draw how they would represent General Greene. If the students have time, ask them to write a description of their monument on the back of their picture.
  4. After students have been given the time to draw their representations, ask students to share and showcase their work. Encourage them to explain why they included or did not include what they did in their drawings. Highlight the diversity of representations and what students decided to include or leave out.
  5. Then ask students to think about where they would place their monument. Discuss their choices and encourage students to explain the reasoning behind their selection.
  6. Explain that they will get an opportunity to look at one monument that was designed to honor General Greene. Display the monument of General Greene and ask the students to write about the following questions:
    1. What do you notice about this monument?
    2. How does the actual monument compare to the monument that you designed?
  7. Discuss students’ answers to these questions, drawing connections to the adjectives created by the students.
  8. Explain that this monument is located at the Guilford Courthouse Battleground near what was the American secondary line. Ask students to hypothesize why the monument was erected in this particular place.


Throughout history, monuments have been taken down or altered in order to better represent its subject. Following this exploration, ask the students to write a letter or e-mail to the National Park Service proposing a new or altered monument of General Greene or arguing for the maintenance of the existing one. Remind students of a letter format and encourage students to provide details to support their opinion.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 3

        • 3.H.1 Understand how events, individuals and ideas have influenced the history of local and regional communities. 3.H.1.1 Explain key historical events that occurred in the local community and regions over time. 3.H.1.2 Analyze the impact of contributions...
      • Grade 4

        • 4.H.1 Analyze the chronology of key historical events in North Carolina history. 4.H.1.1 Summarize the change in cultures, everyday life and status of indigenous American Indian groups in North Carolina before and after European exploration. 4.H.1.2 Explain...
      • Grade 5

        • 5.H.2 Understand the role of prominent figures in shaping the United States. 5.H.2.1 Summarize the contributions of the “Founding Fathers” to the development of our country. 5.H.2.2 Explain how key historical figures have exemplified values and principles...

    • Visual Arts Education (2010)
      • Grade 3

        • 3.CX.1 Understand the global, historical, societal, and cultural contexts of the visual arts. 3.CX.1.1 Exemplify how visual arts are used by various groups for artistic expression within the local community. 3.CX.1.2 Understand how art documents the history...
      • Grade 4

        • 4.CX.1 Understand the global, historical, societal, and cultural contexts of the visual arts. 4.CX.1.1 Understand how the visual arts have affected, and are reflected in, the culture, traditions, and history of North Carolina. 4.CX.1.2 Recognize key contributions...
      • Grade 5

        • 5.CX.1 Understand the global, historical, societal, and cultural contexts of the visual arts. 5.CX.1.1 Understand how the visual arts have affected, and are reflected in, the culture, traditions, and history of the United States. 5.CX.1.2 Recognize key contributions...