Lesson Plan: Three Regions of North Carolina
Student Learning Objectives

• Students will investigate the concept of place via the three regions of North Carolina using works of art.
• Students will demonstrate knowledge and research about a selected region of North Carolina through an interactive group project.
• Students will create art that communicates a sense of place using ideas and imagery from North Carolina and a variety of art-making processes.

Social Studies

4.H.1.3, 4.H.2.1, 4.G.1.3, 4.C.1.1, 4.C.1.2

Visual Arts

4.V.1.4, 4.V.2.2, 4.V.3.3, 4.CX.1.1, 4.CX.1.4, 4.CX.1.5, 4.CR.1.1

Written by Jill Taylor, NCMA Educator
Essential Question: What makes a place unique?
Abstract: Students will examine artists’ use of color and landscape features in the depiction of North Carolina's regions (Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Mountains) through three sample works of art. Students will then conduct independent research on an assigned region and work collaboratively in small groups to create a game that incorporates Artist Trading Cards to help learn and review key vocabulary, famous places, and other tidbits of information about that region.

1. Introduce the three regions of North Carolina (Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Mountains). Ask students to talk about the region they call home. What defines where you live? What characteristics give your home region a sense of “place”? How would you choose to represent your region in a work of art? What colors would you choose? What landmarks would you show?

Then, display the works of art on the overhead or interactive whiteboard. Have the students guess what part of the state each represents, and then ask them to explain the rationale behind their responses. Consider questions that explore subject matter and how artists’ choices can create a sense of place for the regions represented. For each work ask: How is the artist’s representation of the place or region similar to or different from what you would have done? What would you have shown that the artist did not?

Coastal Plain: Identify buildings and objects in this scene.

  • Why does North Carolina have so many lighthouses? (North Carolina is called the Graveyard of the Atlantic because of the many shipwrecks that have occurred here.)
  • What colors has the artist used? (blue, green)
  • Why did he pick these colors? (water tones, calming)
  • What are some activities you can enjoy at the beach? What does the Coastal Plain look like in the areas farther away from the ocean? (flat, sandy land)


  • Could you visit the artist's mother's farm and take a picture identical to this painting? Why or why not? (No, the artist was inspired by the views at his mother’s farm, but he did not copy them directly.)
  • What time of day is shown here? (The orange colors suggest a sunrise or sunset.)
  • Locate Alamance County on a map. What metropolitan areas are near? (Alamance County is located between the Triad and the Triangle regions.)


  • What is depicted in this scene? (a drive-in movie theater)
  • Have you ever been to a drive-in? Is there one in your area? When do you think this picture was taken? (early 1980s)
  • Why is the black-and-white photograph appropriate for a portrayal of the Mountains? (Both have a relationship to the past—the mountains through traditions, and black-and-white photography through changes in technology.)

Share additional photos or paintings from the region to explore key concepts such as climate and geography.

2. Break the class into groups of three students. Assign each trio a region of North Carolina (it is OK if more than one group works on the same region).

3. Instruct the students to research their assigned region thoroughly. Provide books, Internet Web sites, and additional printed materials that may be helpful (see Lesson Resources for starters).

4. Review these instructions for the group project assignment:

a) Create a game to learn and review key vocabulary, famous places, and other tidbits of information about your region. Use your imagination! You may either craft an entirely new activity or add a twist to an old favorite (such as Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders).
b) Draw your game board in the shape of your respective region.
c) Using Artist Trading Cards as inspiration, design game cards based on your collected research information. Make the images on the cards correlate to the information or trivia used on the reverse side. Recall the class discussion about what you would choose to represent the region, and pay special attention to the colors selected. For example, one card might show the skyline of Charlotte on one side and read "Name the county where Charlotte is located (Mecklenburg) and move two spaces forward" on the other. Questions must address climate, major landforms, bodies of water, natural resources, major cities, recreation areas, industry, farming, and cultural interests.
d) Type up a list of directions to include with your game board.

5. Provide students with ample time during the school day to work with their partners to locate relevant research and complete the outlined project.

6. When the due date arrives, ask the groups to share their games with the class, and have the groups play their peers’ games.

• Class discussion will be used to evaluate the students' understanding of their own region and the artists' interpretation of North Carolina's three regions through their works of art.

• Observation will be used during small-group sessions to assess whether students are actively engaged in the research process, using their time wisely, and working cooperatively with their partners.

• The Artist Trading Cards will show each student’s success in applying creative and critical thinking skills to artistic expression.

• The completed project will demonstrate what the groups have learned while conducting, organizing, and displaying their research. Ask each group to assess their project with the class rubric, and then compare their responses to your own.

North Carolina Regions
Greensboro native John Beerman resides in the Hudson River Valley of New York but turns his gaze toward home in Three Trees, Two Clouds. Three evenly spaced evergreen trees dominate the foreground of the painting. One tree centers the composition, and the other two extend across the edges of the canvas. A softly glowing orange light filters through the overhanging expanse of clouds to bounce off the tree limbs and blades of brown grass. Two wispy clouds hover in the spaces between the trees. A more irregular band of trees populates the rolling hills that extend into the distance. The clouds that cover the sky take up an amount of space equivalent to the grassy land at the bottom of the painting and contribute to the overall symmetry.

What was Beerman's inspiration for this landscape?
Beerman's inspiration comes almost literally from his mother's backyard. Fond of the views from his mother's farm in the Haw River country of Alamance County, the artist presents a serene and balanced scene of the North Carolina Piedmont. The careful symmetry of the scene gives away the secret that this is not an exact depiction of the landscape. Beerman likes to venture into nature with a camera and a box of paint tubes and supplies to sketch scenery. Once he is back in his studio, the photographs supply Beerman with details to create his improvised scenes, and the sketches contribute impressions of colors, light and moods experienced outdoors. In Three Trees, Two Clouds, this method creates a surreal atmosphere resulting from the orange sky and symmetry of the nearly identical trees and clouds.

Much like the Hudson River School painters of the 19th century, Beerman combines varied elements of scenery to produce a unified and emblematic vision of a place. While many contemporary artists are drawn to the brash modernity of cities and technology, Beerman produces a more contemplative art influenced by 19th-century landscape painting traditions, as exemplified in the works of artists such as Thomas Cole and Jasper Cropsey.

How does the work reflect North Carolina's Piedmont region?
Neither flat nor precipitously high, the land rises and falls gently in Beerman's scene. Hills appear in the distance, but they do not approach the grand heights of the Appalachian Mountains. A dense blanket of grass covers the ground. Unlike in the Coastal Plain, patches of sandy soil do not interrupt grass in the Piedmont. What type of soil is found in the Piedmont? What crops are grown in the Piedmont? Is it an area that is more urban or more rural?

Wilmington native Claude Howell's identity as an artist is intertwined with the North Carolina coast. Howell's most frequent subjects include fishermen, docks and seascapes. Using bright, flat colors, the artist created vibrant portraits of life along the coast. Ocracoke Harbor exemplifies this style, with Howell using a marine palette to cut geometric swaths of color across the canvas. As a passionate artist and educator, Howell contributed to the cultural vitality of his community and was asked to start an art department at Wilmington College (now UNC-Wilmington), where he taught from 1960 to 1981.

Elizabeth Matheson's photographs were among the first works in that medium to be acquired by the North Carolina Museum of Art. The Hillsborough photographer has used her camera to capture a sense of place in points as near to home as the towns of North Carolina and as far away as Great Britain and France. Matheson received a North Carolina Award, the highest civilian award in the state, in 2004 for her photographic legacy.

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