The Capitol Complex

Through The Decades

Where Are We?

Living History

People Of Pennsylvania

I Know All About

That’s My Representative


Kids Will Be Kids

I’m Hungry

Let’s Make A Law

Scavenger Hunt

Only In Pennsylvania


Submit Your Suggestions!



Lesson: The Capitol Complex

Objectives: To learn about the different departments of government, what they do and where they are located. To learn about the physical layout of the Capitol Complex.


Materials: Materials to construct the building model and the subsequent diorama.


Lesson: Divide into small groups. Assign each group one of the buildings in the Capitol Complex. Have them research what offices are located in “their” building and what the duties of those departments are. Help the students find someone to contact in each building who is willing to visit with the students (in person, by telephone or by e-mail). Have the students prepare questions for the employee (what does that person do, what is the role of the department in state government, how does what that person/department do impact the lives of Pennsylvania residents). Have each group study its building, then design and build a model of that building. When the groups are prepared, have each present a short program on what the students have learned and describe how they made “their” building. Have the students set up a diorama with all of the buildings in their proper locations.


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Lesson: Through the Decades

Objectives: To learn about the Commonwealth’s history


Materials: Mural paper

                   Pencils, pens or markers


Lesson: Create a time line of major events in the history of Pennsylvania. At the students’ eye level, place a long, plain piece of mural paper along one wall or around the room. Divide the paper evenly into the decades beginning wherever you choose through the present. Divide the students in small groups (or pairs) and have each group/pair research major events that occurred in the Commonwealth during the decade assigned to them. Have them plot the event in the appropriate time frame. Small photos can be added to the mural to make it more “kid-friendly.” Include information about legislative actions.


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Lesson: Where Are We?

Objectives: To use maps to learn more about Pennsylvania


Materials: Different types of maps, including state map, city map



       Interactive Pennsylvania Counties Map


Lesson: Study the different types of maps available (state map, city map, topography map, fishing/hunting map, globe, map of the school building if available). On a state map, locate the Capitol, large cities, historical sites, state parks, the county where the school is located. On the city map, locate landmarks (include the school, library, parks, even restaurants – anywhere students would find interesting) Find the largest city and the smallest community listed on the state map. Discuss why some parts of the state are more populated than others (include transportation issues including rivers, highways and roads, and topography including river valleys that flood and mountains), why some of Pennsylvania’s borders are straight and others are not, and what states border Pennsylvania. Consider the size of the state relative to the size of other states/countries. Research the history of the name of the community/county where the school is located. Divide the class into small groups or pairs. Have them locate (10) towns/counties in Pennsylvania that have certain similarities (for example, they are named after people, places or animals, or they are similar in size).


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Lesson: Living History

Objectives: To learn about Pennsylvania’s more recent past and to forge stronger bonds with older relatives, acquaintances


Materials: Writing materials


Lesson: Talk as a class about some of the things that have changed in Pennsylvania in the past 50 years or so (consider issues such as: population, farming methods, new housing developments, more retail stores/businesses, more people drive instead of walk, eat out at restaurants more often). Interview a grandparent or other older relative or neighbor (someone who has lived in Pennsylvania for at least 50 years). Ask them what has changed about Pennsylvania in their lifetime and if they believe the changes are positive or negative. Ask them to list their favorite spot in Pennsylvania and why they like it there. Have each student write a report about their interview experience.


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Lesson: People of Pennsylvania

Objectives: To learn about the people who settled Pennsylvania in the early days and those who live here now


Materials: Recipes and supplies to cook food

                   Actual clothing – or photos of clothing – worn by different settlers



Lesson: Research the backgrounds of Native Americans who lived in this area before the “white man” came here. Then study the early settlers through to current times. What are the backgrounds of the people who first lived in Pennsylvania? What traditions were brought to this part of the country by each of the groups of settlers? Who lives here now? Look for information about such different topics as age, gender, race, ethnic background, religion, how long they have lived in the state, and education. Who is the “typical” Pennsylvania resident?  Study the backgrounds of some of the major groups of people who live – or have lived – in Pennsylvania. Take one theme – perhaps food or clothing – and discuss how each group is different/similar regarding that theme. If food is chosen, get some recipes and make some of the simple ones highlighting different cultures. If clothing is chosen, get some samples (either real or photos) of the different types of clothing worn by the different groups (a representative of a local museum/historical society might bring a sample of their textile display to a class session).


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Lesson: I Know All About ….

Objectives: To learn about the lives of important Pennsylvanians


Materials: Camera



Lesson: Divide the class into small groups or two-person teams; have each choose a well-known figure from Pennsylvania’s history. Research that person’s life and present a report. Take photos of the students presenting the reports and compile all reports into a book (including the photos), and give copies to each of the students.


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Lesson: That’s My Representative

Objectives: To learn more about the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in general, as well as the specific person representing the area


Find Your Representative


Materials: Internet Access


Lesson: Check to see who represents the area where the school is located. Have the students get familiar with their representative by going on his/her web site. What is the person’s background, what sorts of issues does he/she support when they come up for a vote. Contact the representative’s staff (either in the district office or in Harrisburg). See if the representative – or a staff member – would be willing to visit with the class in person, over the phone or by e-mail. Have the students prepare questions for a “press conference.” Issues that could be addressed: major issues facing the legislature, if it was difficult to decide to run for office, what is the “best” thing about being a legislator, what would he/she change if it were possible to decide on one issue without everyone having to vote on it. Have the students take notes during the “press conference” and then write a “news story” about the event. Make sure students know they can visit the Capitol – as a class or with their family – and that they know about the page program and intern program that are available when they are older.


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Lesson: Kids Will Be Kids

Objectives: To learn more about the history of Pennsylvania through the eyes of a child


Materials: Words to old songs

                   Props to play the games that are chosen


Old Songs Page

1906 Information

More 1906 Information


Lesson: Have the children imagine they were born hundreds of years ago. What would their life have been like? Have them research what toys they would have had, what games would they have played, what books would they have read, what would school have been like, what chores would they have been helping with. Learn some of the games and songs that would have been popular with children during the time being studied; play the games and sing the songs.


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Lesson: I’m Hungry

Objectives: To learn more about the agricultural history of Pennsylvania


Materials: Materials to correspond with class “farmer”


Lesson: Research what foods are grown and/or processed in Pennsylvania. Record what foods are served in the school cafeteria for several days. How many of those foods could have been grown in Pennsylvania? Interview the person in the school district who is responsible for purchasing the food served in the cafeteria. Are local foods used in preparing meals for the students? Adopt a farmer and have the students correspond with him/her or a family member for a semester/year. Have the farm representative describe the day-to-day operations of a farm as the seasons change. That person might be persuaded to visit class, send photos or video or grain samples to help the students understand the process. Note that food isn’t the only product from farms – cotton for clothes, leather for baseball gloves and shoes, timber for pencils, feathers for pillows, flowers for decorating purposes, etc.


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Lesson: Let’s Make A Law

Objectives: To learn how laws are made in Pennsylvania


Materials: Ideas for a law


Lesson: Discuss Pennsylvania laws and how they stem from an individual’s idea and finally develop into the law of the Commonwealth. Consider some ideas of what would make a good law (it’s fine to make them kid-friendly, such as there’s no school on sunny, warm days or each school is to provide a Hershey’s kiss to every student when they arrive on Monday morning for class). Once students agree to the idea, follow it through the legislative process – write a proposal (known as a bill), Speaker of the House assigns the bill to a committee for study, meet in caucus (groups) to review the content of the bill and decide whether to support it or not, consider the bill on the House floor, if it passes the House, it goes to the Senate, where it is considered by the senators. In the Senate, it can be approved without change (amendments) and go to the governor for signature or veto, or if it is approved with changes, it goes back to the House, where House members decide if they agree or disagree with the changes made by the Senate. If they don’t agree, the issue goes to a Conference Committee where the senators and representatives try to work out a compromise. If approved, the bill goes to the governor for action. Once the bill is on the governor’s desk, he can sign it into law, permit a bill to become law without signing it or reject the bill with a veto. Members of the legislature can override a governor’s veto with a 2/3 majority in each house. Once the governor takes action to sign the bill or allows the bill to become law without his signature, the bill becomes a law.


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Lesson: Scavenger Hunt

Objectives: To learn more about Pennsylvania and to learn more about navigating the Internet


Materials: Internet Access


Pennsylvania General Assembly


Lesson: List Internet sites that students can visit to find the answers to the scavenger hunt. Present lists to students of items to find during the scavenger site. Ideas could include:



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Lesson: Only in Pennsylvania

Objectives: To learn about Pennsylvania’s unique celebration of Groundhog Day


Materials: Pennsylvania state map

Lesson: Read (or tell) the story regarding the history of Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-predicting groundhog. Find the location of Punxsutawney, Pa., on the map. Visit the official web site of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.



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Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board  

Penn State Sustainable Forestry Teacher Resource Center

Chesapeake Bay Foundation  

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resource

Pennsylvania Department of Education  

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau   

National Park Service (Department of the Interior)

Pennsylvania Farm Show  

PBS Video (Gettysburg)  

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania  


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