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BLAST Elementary
Yellowstone Moran

Yellowstone Moran: Painting the American West
by Lita Judge

Tom Moran had never ridden a horse or slept under the stars before, but the paintings he created on his journey from city boy to seasoned explorer would lead to the founding of America's first national park.


Open-Ended Questions

These questions can be used during an interactive read aloud to engage student interest.

  • Why would it be good to have a painter and a photographer on the trip? (page 9)
  • Why did the trail disappear? Why was traveling so hard? (page 11)
  • Why didn't Tom just make the painting while he was there? (page 19)
  • How did Tom gain the respect of the other explorers? (page 22)
  • Discuss what a National Park is. Why are they important? (page 30)

Vocabulary Words

  • Expedition
  • Perilous


How Deep is 1,000 Feet?

In the story, we hear about how amazed the characters were when they finally arrived at Yellowstone's Grand Canyon; the thousand-foot-deep gorge carved out by the Yellowstone River. Just imagine standing on the canyon's rim! As a class, gather information from books and websites about the area around Pittsburgh (or your area). How high is Mount Washington? How high is the tallest building downtown? If you stood on the top of that building, would you be as far above the ground as standing on the edge of Yellowstone's Grand Canyon?


Historic Diaries

In the author's note, Lita Judge talks about how she used Thomas Moran's diary and the diaries of other explorers to write Yellowstone Moran. Diaries are an important source of information for historians. They also help connect us to the past and give us a chance to imagine what it would be like to live in another time. A range of historic figures have written important diaries, from explorers like Dr. Hayden, to presidents, even children like Anne Frank.

Spend some time looking at Thomas Moran's diary as a class ( Discuss the types of things he wrote about. Then, you can introduce a "class exploration diary." If students go on trips or vacations during the year, encourage them to take the class diary and write a few entries while they are gone. When they get back, they can share their experience with the class.


Journal Questions

  • Thomas Moran was determined to go on adventures to new and exciting places. Is there a place you've never seen that you would like to visit? Describe it.

Imagine you are one of the first people to explore the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Write a letter to your family or friends telling them what it is like and what happened during your trip.



Extending Books

Other books about Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park
by Cari Meister

This book presents the geographic features, plant and animal life, and other attractions of the first national park.



When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature's Balance in Yellowstone
Written by Dorothy Hinshaw

Photographs by Dan and Cassie Hartman

When wolves were eliminated from Yellowstone National Park the natural system was out of balance. This book shows the return of the wolves to the park and the natural balance being restored.


Summer of Fire: Yellowstone 1988

by Patricia Lauber

Summer of Fire describes the season of fire that struck Yellowstone in 1988, and examines the complex ecology that returns plant and animal life to a semmingly barren, ash-covered expanse.