Statue of Liberty Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about the Statue of Liberty and its history. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Statue of Liberty. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Before beginning this topic, you may want to share the U.S. Symbolsmovie for review, or explore the Ellis Island movie. This topic explores the Statue of Liberty and shares information about its design and construction, as well as its significance.

Review with children that a monument is a statue, building, or place that honors a person, event, or an idea. Discuss different monuments in your community. Who or what do they honor? You may also want to talk about monuments all over the country and in other countries. What did they look like? How are the monuments alike and different? Help children draw comparisons.

Remind children that the Statue of Liberty is a monument that stands in the New York Harbor. It’s official name is “Liberty Enlightening the World.” The statue was a gift to the people of the United States from the people of France. Study pictures of the monument together and have children make observations. The statue is modeled after Libertas, the ancient Roman goddess of freedom. She wears a crown with seven rays, which stand for the seven continents and the seven seas. She holds up a torch, which stands for liberty. Help children understand that the liberty is “lighting the way.” The statue holds a table that says July 4, 1776 in Roman numerals. What is the significance of the date? Guide children to realize that it is the date the Declaration of Independence was signed. The tablet is a symbol for the law and government. The statue stands on a broken chain, which is a symbol for independence, and she is stepping forward, which stands for progress, or moving into the future. Encourage children to make other observations about the statue and make inferences.

In 1865, Édouard de Laboulaye, a French writer and professor, had an idea for a monument that honored America’s independence. He wanted to criticize the oppressive regime of Napoleon III by showing support for democratic governments. Laboulaye stated, “If a monument should rise in the United States, as a memorial to their independence, I should think it only natural if it were built by united effort—a common work of both our nations.” His statement inspired the sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi to design the monument. His plan was for a statue to be 151 feet tall and made out of thin sheets of molded copper. He employed the help of architect and engineer Gustave Eiffel to design the structure. (Some children may recognize his name from the Eiffel Tower, which he designed.) Eiffel designed a special frame so the statue could withstand strong winds and changing weather, and also allow for the metal to expand and contract. Teams of builders began working on the statue in France, but the project suffered delays due to lack of funding. To raise support, parts of the statue were on display in Paris and in New York City. Bartholdi chose an island in the New York Harbor for the monument, and President Rutherford B. Hayes agreed to the site. A special committee, which included nineteen-year-old Theodore Roosevelt, raised funds to build the pedestal. The statue was completed in Paris, but it had to be dismantled and shipped to New York, where it was rebuilt. Finally, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886. It had taken over twenty years to plan, design, and build.

Remind children that a symbol is something that stands for something else. For example, a dove is a symbol for peace, and a heart is a symbol for love. What does the Statue of Liberty stand for? Discuss together. Guide children to understand that the Statue of Liberty stands for liberty, independence, and friendship between countries. Review with children that an immigrant is a person who moves to a new country. In the late 1800s, millions of immigrants moved to the United States for better opportunities and to start new lives. Many came through Ellis Island, which is near the Statue of Liberty. Each day hundreds and sometimes even thousands of immigrants arrived in America and saw the statue as a welcoming presence. A poem by Emma Lazarus is posted on the monument. She wrote about the immigrant experience:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Help children understand that the poem is about welcoming people and about hope and freedom. Encourage children to think of a monument they would like to build. What would it honor or support? Discuss together.