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The State Seal Offline Lesson
An offline lesson comparing the seal of 1849 with the current seal. For classrooms without student access to computers 

Two Seals to Compare

Symbols of the Great Seal of California by Caleb Lyons

Comparison Sheet

United States Mint Design Criteria

Images of First Five State Quarters

State Symbols

Symbols Used in MY Quarter Design

The Great Seal of the State of California

Go To Teacher Lesson Plans

  • Students will learn the meaning of the different objects on the State Seal.
  • Students will identify changes in the State Seal over time
  • Students will hypothesize why elements have changed
  • Students will suggest what elements should represent the State of California

Student Task:
After studying the Great Seal of the State of California, the student will create a design as their version California's quarter.

Time Required: Two to three 50 minute class periods

Recommended Grade Level: 4

Lesson Connections and Standards References:
California Department of Education

  • Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills
    Kindergarten through Grade Five
    Research, Evidence and Point of View:
    Historical Interpretation:
Resources Used: Materials and Preparation:

Download and print the following student documents:


  1. Introduce the lesson by describing what symbols are and how they could be used to represent the school the students are attending. Discuss which symbols could be used to represent the school.
  2. Ask students what symbols are important for the State of California.
  3. Show students the image of the State Seal of 1849. Explain that this is a source document from which they can get information. Discuss the elements of the seal, asking why those symbols might have been used.
  4. Distribute Symbols of the Great Seal by Caleb Lyon. (another source document) Compare their guesses about the seal elements with the explanation by Caleb Lyon.
  5. Distribute the Comparison Sheet, asking them to compare the two symbols and note any changes. On their sheet, they will list the changes and speculate why those changes might have been made.
  6. Conduct class discussion of speculations about the changes in the seal. List the changes and try to reach consensus as to why each change might have been made.
  7. Inform students that they have been selected to draw the reverse of California's quarter. Distribute Images of First Five State Quarters. Have students examine images of first five state quarters to determine what things are included in all coin reverses. Discuss the elements of the individual coins and why those elements might have been chosen. Ask students to consider what elements could be on the quarter to represent California. Have them incorporate some of those elements into their own design.
  8. Discuss the design criteria with the students. Refer to the United States Mint Design Criteria
  9. Distribute the handout Symbols Used in my Quarter Design. Have students write why they used each symbol.


Students will be evaluated on:

  1. Observations of the differences between the seals
  2. Hypothesis as to why seal was changed
  3. Drawing of proposed quarter obverse
  4. Explanation of choices for the elements of the quarter reverse


  1. Students could make their own stamp from a potato half. Drawing their design and then carving away the white areas of the seal. (If students do this, keep the design simple)
  2. Students could research their family crest and compare its elements with a state seal.

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