Grades/Level: Middle School (6–8)
Subjects: Visual Arts, History–Social Science
Time Required: 2–Part Lesson
Two to three 45-minute class periods
Author: Sunny Martinez, Seventh Grade Teacher
Paul Revere Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District

For the Classroom

Curriculum Home
Lesson Plans

Lesson Overview

Students will view three works of decorative arts and complete the accompanying activities to better understand the Age of Exploration and the Scientific Revolution, and how these "revolutions" and their discoveries influenced the new European world view.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• recognize the various animals depicted in The Striped Horse tapestry, and identify their continent of origin and the animals that are not native to Europe.
• recognize the different astronomical instruments in The Astronomers tapestry, and understand how they were helpful to the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Exploration, and how these instruments evolved over time.
• understand that several cultures contributed to the development of the instruments and technology that made the Age of Exploration possible.
• understand that transportation was very important at this time and that there was a constant challenge to find the fastest route and mode of transportation.
• recall other advances in transportation that occurred during the Age of Exploration and the Scientific Revolution, and compare them to what is common and important today.


• Reproduction of Tapestry: The Striped Horse from The Old Indies Series by Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory
• Reproduction of Tapestry: The Astronomers from The Story of the Emperor of China Series by Beauvais Tapestry Manufactory
• Reproduction of Chandelier by Gérard-Jean Galle
• Student Handout: "The Striped Horse Worksheet"
• Student Handout: "The Astronomers Timeline Worksheet"
• Blank paper
• Markers, color pencils, or crayons

Lesson Steps

1. Show the reproduction of The Striped Horse from The Old Indies Series tapestry. Have students share their observations about what they see and what they think of the tapestry.

2. Have a class discussion about Mesoamerica and its indigenous animals and people (see web page about Aztec culture on Minnesota State University's website). Pass out "The Striped Horse Worksheet" and have one student read the opening paragraph. Go through the questions with the class, calling on volunteers to read the questions aloud and fill in the chart.

3. Next show the reproduction of The Astronomers from The Story of the Emperor of China Series tapestry. Invite students to share their observations about what they see and think of the tapestry. Ask students to speculate about where the scene takes place and guess the identities of some of the characters. If not addressed during class discussion, inform them that the scene is set in China, and that the Emperor of China and some Europeans are present. Invite students to share what they know about why Europeans traveled to China and what goods from China were in high demand in Europe at this time (e.g., silk, spices, tea, gunpowder, etc.).

4. Pass out three different colored pencils to each student and "The Astronomers Timeline Worksheet," which includes important dates in the development of astronomical and navigational instruments. Go over directions with students, and have them work on putting the dates and information into the timeline.

5. Show the reproduction of Galle's Chandelier, and ask students if they can guess what it resembles and what mode of transportation it represents (hot-air balloon). Discuss how exploration and trade had become so important that people were always seeking "the fastest way there" because various countries wanted exotic luxury goods from different parts of the world. Since hot-air balloons had just been invented in the 1700s, people had the first opportunity to fly at that time before the invention of the airplane. Air travel was a very exciting discovery!

Ask students why they think a person would have wanted a light fixture designed as a hot-air balloon. Point out to students that this extraordinary chandelier was intended for the King of France. Although never purchased by the king, it showed just how important transportation, trade, and invention had become.

6. Have students research other transportation methods from the 1400s through the 1700s. Encourage students to use both online and textbook resources. Pass out a blank piece of paper and tell students that they will create a two-column chart entitled "Transportation Then and Now." Ask students to fold the paper in half, and write "Then" on one side and "Now" on the other side. Have a class discussion about transportation methods in which students share what they learned during their research. Record student responses on the board. Compile students' charts together as a class.

7. Finally, ask students to design a light fixture (e.g., a lantern, chandelier, or lamp) intended for the White House as a gift to the president (just as the Chandelier was intended for the King of France). Have students design it after a modern form of transportation that they feel is important to the future of the United States. Whether it's a type of jet, space shuttle, or the latest eco-friendly car, each student can brainstorm ideas with a classmate. Provide students with more blank paper and ask them to design their light fixture, draw it, and color it!

The Astronomers / Beauvais Manufactory
Tapestry: The Astronomers from The Story of the Emperor of China Series, Beauvais Tapestry Manufactory, designs by Guy-Louis Vernansal, 1697–1705


Students will be assessed on their participation in class discussions, completion of the worksheets, and design of their light fixture.


Students can create a model of their light fixture out of cardboard, paper, or recycled materials. They can display their models around the classroom or put them on display in the school library.

Plan a trip to the J. Paul Getty Museum to see the tapestries and the chandelier, and have students choose another artwork that corresponds with the theme of global influence on Europe during this time. Have students do further research and present their chosen object to the class in an oral presentation.

Standards Addressed

Common Core Standards for English Language Arts

Grades 6–8

Research to Build and Present Knowledge
7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Comprehension and Collaboration
1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 7
3.0 Historical and Cultural Context
3.2 Compare and contrast works of art from various periods, styles, and cultures, and explain how those works reflect the society in which they were made.

History–Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 7
7.10 Students analyze the historical developments of the Scientific Revolution and its lasting effect on religious, political, and cultural institutions.
2. Understand the significance of the new scientific theories (e.g., those of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton) and the significance of new inventions (e.g., the telescope, microscope, thermometer, barometer).

7.11 Students analyze political and economic change in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries (the Age of Exploration, the Enlightenment, and the Age of Reason).

"I learned that giving students a visual always helps them to grasp the main concepts better. Using these decorative arts definitely piques the interest of students, and the art project gives them a creative outlet that they don't always get in their core classes."
—Sunny Martinez