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Webquest About Grades 6-12
Family & Community

Introduction  Task  Process  Resources  Evaluation  Reflection


This painting shows a Harlem scene of men, women, and children relaxing on and around a stoop on a hot day in the city. On closer examination, notice that Lawrence has made symbolic and religious references to the cycle of birth, life, and death. Limited access to health care and hospital facilities was a major problem for blacks in northern cities. Smallpox, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and other diseases spread quickly. The death rate for blacks was consistently higher than for whites.1

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In this webquest you will:
  • Discover how Jacob Lawrence represented family and community in his paintings.

  • Research family and community photographs on the web.

  • Create an album of your family/community.

  • Write an essay about who you included and why.

  • Present and discuss your album with the class.
Back to the Beginning

Tombstones, 1942
Gouache on paper
28 3/4 x 22 1/2 in.
(73 X 57.2 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase  43.14
© Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence; courtesy of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation
  1. Look at Jacob Lawrence's painting, Tombstones. Move your mouse over the painting and find questions to discuss with your classmates.

  2. Read the information about Jacob Lawrence's painting, Tombstones.

  3. Go to http://www.jacoblawrence.org/art04.html. Select the medium painting. In the Title box type in "family." Click on SUBMIT.

    Look at a selection of paintings where Jacob Lawrence has portrayed families.

    What types of settings has Lawrence shown in these images?
    What are people doing?
    How does the artist indicate people’s relationship to each other?

  4. Look at family and community photographs in the web resources below. Compare these representations with Jacob Lawrence’s. Look for unusual and interesting compositions.

  5. What is a family? A nuclear family? An extended family?
    How do you define a family?
    How many different examples of family can you think of?

    Who do you consider your family?
    Your mother? Father? Brothers? Sisters? Relatives? Guardians? Friends? People in your community?

    How do you define your community?
    Your street? Your block? Neighborhood? School? Friends? A club or group that you belong to?

  6. Use drawing, painting, photography, or video to make an album of people in your family and/or community. Include pictures of yourself. Include as many people as possible whom you consider part of your family and/or community.

    Represent different generations of people in your family or community.
    You could use existing photos of your family and yourself, or take new ones.
    To compose your images, think about the examples that you saw on the web.

    Carry a notebook with you. As you make your images, ask people if they have a comment about family or community, for example, who they are, what they do. Write these comments down to include in your album.

    If you are using a computer, make your album in PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, HyperStudio, or other software that incorporates images and text. If you can, add sound. Use your own voice to narrate your text.

    Show how you relate to your family and/or community by the way you sequence and arrange the images and captions in your album.

    Write titles for your images. Include people’s comments as captions for your images.

  7. Write an essay about who you included in your album and why.

  8. Present and discuss your albums with the class.

    Who did you choose to represent as your family/community? Why?
    What were the different ways that you chose to portray people in your family/community?
    What settings did you depict people in?
    How did you represent different generations?

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Click on search. Click on photos and prints. Type the word "families" in the search box and click on search.

Artist Nan Goldin.

Artist Aaron Siskind.

Photographer Charles "Teenie" Harris.

Personal documentary photographer, Mary Teresa Giancoli.

NYU Family Album Project.

More family photos.




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You will be evaluated on the family album and essay that you create. Your teacher may also choose to create rubrics for evaluation.

  • Refer back to the questions in the  Process section. Does your album convey what family means to you and how you define family, neighborhood and community?

  • Is your essay that accompanies your album well written and does it show evidence of creativity and originality? Are the images relevant to your text?

  • Does it include factual information, as well as personal information such as thoughts, feelings, and emotions about your definition of family?

  • If you created a multimedia media presentation that uses sound, how does the sound affect and enhance the essay? How might different music (if applicable) convey a different meaning?

  •  Learning Standards Addressed

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Look at your family/community albums together.

What do they have in common?
As a class, how have you portrayed your families/community?

If possible, organize an exhibition or presentation of your work for your peers, family, and community members.

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1. Carole Marks. Farewell, we're good and gone: the Great Black Migration (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1989), p. 147.

©2001 Whitney Museum of American Art