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The State Seal Online Lesson
An online lesson comparing the seal of 1849 with the current seal. For classrooms with student access to computers 

Two Seals to Compare

Symbols of the Seal of California

Comparison Sheet

Student Online Instructions

Images of First Five State Quarters

The Great Seal of the State of California

State Symbols

Symbols Used in My Quarter Design

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 discussing how symbols are used and what they represent. Discuss which symbols could be used to represent the school the students are attending.


  2. Ask students what symbols might be important for the State of California.


  3. Distribute Two Seals to Compare


  4. Have students examine the image of the State Seal of 1849. Explain that this is a source document from which they can get information.


  5. Discuss the elements of the seal, asking why those symbols might have been used. Ask students to share their hypothesis about why those elements are part of the seal.


  6. Distribute The Symbols of the Seal of California by Caleb Lyon. (another source document)


  7. Compare student guesses about elements of the seal with Caleb Lyon's explanation.


  8. Distribute the Comparison Sheet, asking them to compare the two seals and note any changes. On their sheet, they will list the changes and speculate why those changes might have been made.


  9. Conduct a class discussion using student speculations about the changes in the seal.


  10. Inform students that they have been selected to draw the reverse of California's quarter. Distribute Student Online Instructions. Students will then go to the LearnCalifornia.org web site and go to the lessons on the State Seal. They will connect to the Images of Five First State Quarters page and fill out their worksheet on the first coins. Students will then design their own quarter.


  11. Distribute the handout Symbols Used on my Quarter Design. Have students write why they used specific symbols in their quarter design.
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 reverse


  4. Explanation of choices for the elements of the quarter reverse
  1. Students could compare the reverse of the state coins with their present day seals by going to www.Netstate.com and comparing that state's seal with their coin reverse.


  2. 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)


  3. Students could research their family crest and compare its elements with a State Seal of California.

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