Grade: Middle
Subject: Special Ed

#3198. History of Ponce de Leon in Florida

Special Ed, level: Middle
Posted Wed Aug 11 11:37:15 PDT 2004 by Mechelle De Craene M.Ed. (
Westwood Middle School, Gainesville, Floirda
Concepts Taught: History & the Arts

Ponce de Leon in Florida

Learning through the arts has significant effects on learning in other domains and provide compelling evidence that student achievement is heightened in an
environment with high quality arts education offerings and a school climate supportive of active and productive learning (Champions of Change, 1999). The arts enable teachers to reach students not only on an academic level but also on an socio-emotional level. Thus, learning through the arts does not limit students to the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical pathways of acquiring knowledge. It holds the potential to combine all of Howard Gardener's Multiple Intelligences and Learning including: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, intrapersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and naturalistic (Gardner, 1983). In addition, by the sharing of art both in practice and appreciation it helps facilitate a connection between teacher and student that may not be found through the pedantic measures of old. Hence, by engaging in the arts both student and teacher can share a holistic aesthetic experience inspiring both student and teacher.

In addition, many middle schoolers who are Special Ed have their social studies and exploratory classes (i.e. art and band) cut to give them more reading instruction. This does a disservice to the kids because it cuts their exposure to cultural appreciation and knowledge. By infusing curriculum into themes discovered though art rather than separate domains the student is exposed to the "bigger" picture of things seeing how all things are intertwined.

This lesson is designed to teach Florida History through the arts, but can be extended to learning about other states as well. You could even have different student groups create murals about other states and compare & contrast them.

Time Frame:
Two class periods that may extend if necessary)

Instructional Objectives from Sunshine State Standards:

1. LA.A 1.2.2 Student selects from a variety of simple strategies including the use of phonics, word structure, context clues, self questioning, confirming simple
predictions, retelling and using visual cues to identify words and construct meaning from various text, illustrations, graphics and charts.

2. LA.B.1.2.1 Student prepares for writing by recording thoughts focusing on a central idea, grouping related ideas and identifying the purpose of writing.

3. LA.B.2.2.5 Student creates narratives in which ideas, details, and events are in logical order and are relevant to the story line.

4. LA.C.3.2.1 Student speaks clearly at an understandable rate and uses appropriate volume.

5. LA.D.2.2.1 Student understands words choices can shape reactions, perceptions, and beliefs.

6. VA.B.1.2.1 Students understands that subject matter used to create unique works of art can come from personal experience, observation, or imagination.


A transparency of the Thomas Moran painting Ponce de Leon in Florida and/or access to the web site showing the painting at:

Lesson Summary:

Ponce de Leon is a very important part of Florida History. The goal of this lesson is to explain how Ponce de Leon influenced our history. The Florida Heritage of this man on a quest will be explored through art.

Guided Practice:

Share information with your students on the fascinating story of Ponce de Leon. Explain that he was in search for the fountain of youth when his feet landed upon Florida's warm shores in 1513.

For an initial project the class could create a visual time line with images including key names of prominent figures that helped him on his voyage both on land and sea. (Note: You can also use this time-line format to explore states in other parts of the country and their history. Then you could compare the development and growth between states. This is a good way to practice compare & contrast, which is also an FCAT skill.)

Explain the story of Ponce de Leon in story format. Tell how Ponce de Leon waded ashore the coast near St. Augustine. Also, tell how actually gave Florida its name because he was so taken by the beautiful abundant flowers blooming in Florida around Easter time. This name was also in honor of Pascua florida "feast of the flowers" which is his home country of Spain's Easter time celebration. Then display a map showing the distance of his journey between Spain and Florida. Have them measure the distance (This strengthens the kids' math and geography skills)

Display the Image of Ponce de Leon by Thomas Moran. Tell the students that it was painted from 1877-1878. To explain more about the painting show students various colors of oil paint and how it comes in tubes. Then mix some of the colors together on a pallet to show color mixture, texture, and intensity. Then brush (using various size bristles) some vibrant colors onto a small canvas and pass it around the class. Next, to show the paintings actual size measure out a 63 X 115 parameter on the board and use chalk, markers, or masking tape to define the size for the kids. (Remember: By showing that concrete tangible information first it will eventually help kids to grasp the abstract, which aligns with this age range's Piagetian development.)

Next, tell them how the exotic forest surrounding the St. John's River inspired the painting. (Show river on map) Also, tell how two hundred people accompanied Ponce De Leon on his quest, as well as fifty horses. Tell how his colonization attempt failed because of attacks from the natives (i.e. Indians).

Next, ask the students to imagine they are "in" the painting. Ask the kids to discuss in small groups who the people were in the painting with Ponce de Leon. Ask them to describe the people in the painting and how the people may have felt as they were exploring. Have each group make a journal entry just like pirate logs were done. (Also, explain the significance of a travel exploratory journal.)

You could also have costume accessories (e.g. large hats with feathers) handy for the kids to act out a possible dialogue between Ponce de Leon and the people he journeyed with. Now, ask them to use their imagination and think of the question, "What would have happened had Ponce de Leon truly found a fountain of youth?" They can also act out their imaginary scene perhaps pretending to wade in a pool of water exclaiming, "I'm young! I'm young, yippie!)...or you could have them imagine that instead of finding a fountain of youth that they found the fountain of old. Hmmm...ask them to act out that scene.

Independent Practice:

Next, ask them to draw their very own Ponce de Leon story in comic book form (along with text) explaining their imaginary version of the story. You could also have the kids draw their own "Florida Mythology" drawn from their own neighborhoods asking prompts such as, "What would Ponce de Leon find if he landed in their neighborhoods? What might Moran paint...maybe he'd be a graffiti artist. Wow! Show them the possibilities!)Then have the class share and display their awesomely creative comic books with classmates.

Don't forget to also tell the students they can visit the originally painting at The Cummer Museum in Jacksonville. Get them excited about the painting. Perhaps you could plan a field trip to The Cummer Museum .

The Cummer Museum of Arts & Gardens:

Direct link to painting: