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Welcome Educators!

Campfire Stories uses art, artifacts, and primary source texts to bridge American history, geography, art appreciation, environmental conservation, and multicultural studies. The site and its lesson plans were developed in consultation with a panel of teachers.

Here you can explore this site's content, purpose, and organization. Campfire Stories was designed to enrich middle and high school classes and to meet curriculum standards, but how you use this site is up to you. If you are a seasoned professional who wants a flexible, do-it-yourself resource, or if you are a new teacher looking for ready-to-use lesson plans, we have developed this site with you in mind!

For general introductory information about George Catlin and the organization of the Website, please visit the Site Info page.

Jump Start with Lesson Plans or with Standards.

How Was the Site Developed? How Is It Organized?

To create this project, the Smithsonian American Art Museum's education department convened a teacher advisory group. The advisors chose interdisciplinary topics that overlap content studied in many middle and high school classrooms. They also wanted our material to align with national curriculum standards. Educators concluded that Catlin's artifacts enrich the study of U.S. history, geography, and environmental conservation, as well as leadership and character development. Consequently, the group identified the following core themes:

Each theme comes alive through recorded interviews (the multimedia "campfire stories"), a gallery of artworks with labels, a timeline, and maps. Transcripts of the interviews are also provided. A rich database containing Catlin's writings and hundreds of his artworks empowers you to create your own themes of study, too!

For example, your students might study an existing theme in total, listening to the audio and viewing all the related artworks, texts, maps, and the timeline. Alternately, you might use the search page to find artworks and texts that address more specific topics of curricular relevance or student interest.

Need Lesson Plans?

Campfire Stories suggests classroom activities for each theme mentioned above. While the subject matter varies, all of the lessons were designed—then reviewed by classroom teachers—to meet the following criteria:

  • Activities state clear goals and objectives that correspond with standards of learning.
  • Lessons use materials and equipment readily available to classroom teachers.
  • They provide flexible activities as well as enrichment options that can be adapted to specific needs of teachers and students.
  • Procedures actively involve students in structured learning experiences within practical time frames.

If you need assistance in implementing these activities, please consult our museum's education staff. They can help adapt or expand the existing lessons to meet your circumstances and curricular goals. Please contact the education staff at

The museum will continue to add activities over the next year. Your comments on existing lesson plans and your suggestions for additional activities are welcome. Please send your ideas and feedback to the education staff at

Good luck on your educational journey with George Catlin!

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