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Terra Foundation Announces Winners of Civil War in Art Lesson Plan Contest

December 20, 2012

Chicago, IL—The Terra Foundation for American Art announced today the winners of its Civil War in Art Lesson Plan Contest:

Winners received cash prizes of $500, $300, and $150, respectively. An honorable mention was awarded for “The Art of Sketching: Looking through the Lens of Visual and Written Hospital Sketches” by Kathleen Harsy, Riverside Brookfield High School, Riverside, IL.

The contest arose from the The Civil War in Art: Teaching and Learning through Chicago Collections (, an online resource that connects students to the issues, events, and people of the era through artwork in the collections of seven local cultural organizations.

“Our aim was to encourage teachers to use the website to produce engaging and innovative lessons that could be easily used in classrooms across the country,” explained Jennifer Siegenthaler, education programs officer at the Terra Foundation, which sponsored the contest.

For example, Mr. Bonsignore and Ms. Hanson’s lesson plan invites students to analyze a portrait of a Civil War soldier and then synthesize the portrait with written text from the same time period to construct a fictional “Questions For…” column in the style of the New York Times magazine.

“This lesson plan is now available on the site—teachers can download it and start integrating it in their coursework in the new year,” added Siegenthaler. “And we plan to post additional plans in the coming months.”

In addition to the prize-winning submission, the website hosts a selection of other teacher-developed lesson plans aligned with Common Core State Standards for English language arts and national social science standards. Other features of the site include:

  • A high-resolution zoomable gallery of nearly 130 objects, many of them previously unavailable online, which allow students to examine the pieces in remarkable detail;
  • An extensive integrated glossary of approximately 200 art and historical terms and biographies; and
  • Short illustrated essays examining the causes and impact of the war and the role art played.

“An equally important goal of the contest was to recognize and reward the great work teachers do on a regular basis,” said Siegenthaler.

The Civil War in Art website was created with teacher input by a team of historians and museum and library professionals. Organizations contributing art and content to site include the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library, DuSable Museum of African American History, Newberry Library, and Terra Foundation for American Art. Historian Margaret Storey and art historian Mark Pohlad, both faculty members at DePaul University, served as consultants and writers.

The website evolved from the Terra Teacher Lab initiative, an annual year-long professional development program for Chicago public school teachers that employs the history of American art to promote critical thinking in the classroom and enrich social studies, language arts, and visual art curricula.

Terra Foundation for American Art

Established in 1978, the Terra Foundation for American Art is dedicated to fostering the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States. With financial resources of more than $250 million, an exceptional collection of American art from the colonial era to 1945, and an expansive grant program, it is one of the leading foundations focused on American art, and devotes approximately $12 million annually in support of American art exhibitions, projects, and research worldwide.