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painting of crowd in 19th century attire standing on and around two steam engines

A Hidden History: The Chinese Community

Resource Type
Grade Level:
3–5, 6–8
Social Studies, Art
Chinese Experience, Westward Expansion/Migration, Railroad, Asian American and Pacific Islander Month

Self-Paced Lesson 

Students will search for a hidden history by analyzing two pieces of artwork. One artwork includes the history of the Chinese community. The other artwork hides the history of the Chinese community. During this activity, students will answer the question: Which artwork best tells the story of the Chinese community in the 1800s? They will answer this question by looking closely at both pieces of artwork and reading their object labels. Students will then create a piece of artwork that tells a story about one of their own communities.


CA HSS 4.4.1
CA HSS 4.4.3
CA HSS 8.8
CA VA: Re7
CA VA: Cn11
CA VA: Cr1
CA VA: Cr2

Lesson Resources

Lesson: Pdf in fullPdf in Spanish

Student Response Sheet: Student Response Sheet (fillable pdf)Student Response Sheet (fillable pdf) in Spanish

Teaching Tips for Different Learning Environments

Whole Class In-Person Learning:

Relate: Students will make connections to their own lives.

  • Discuss the meaning of community and the different types of communities with the whole class. Then ask the students to share some of the communities that they are a part of.

Investigate: Students will analyze artwork and object labels.

  • Read the INTRODUCTION, PART 1, PART 4, PART 6, PART 9, and PART 11 with the whole class. After reading each part, have the students work in groups, with partners, or individually to complete the corresponding activities such as look, find, circle, and write. Then have the students share their answers from the different activities with the whole class.

Create: Students will create their own artwork and object labels.

  • Assign the students PART 13, PART 14, and PART 15 to complete individually.

Demonstrate: Students will demonstrate their learning by sharing their work with others.

  • Have students share PART 14 and PART 15 during a classroom exhibition or gallery walk. 

Whole Class Distance Learning: Follow Whole Class In-Person Learning above. Instead of having a classroom exhibition or gallery walk, students can post a video of themselves sharing PART 14 and PART 15 through Padlet or Flipgrid for others to view.

Associated Resources

*The artwork above is a loan courtesy of the Hronopoulos Family, La Jolla, CA.

Educational Programs at the Autry are sponsored by:

Dean and Laura Beresford · Molly and Neal Brockmeyer · Vince and Colleen Caballero · Capital Group · David F. Eisenberg · The Georgina-Fredrick Children's Foundation · Christy McAvoy · Marleen and Bruce Rognlien · Robert E. Ronus · Brenda and Gary Ruttenberg · The Steinmetz Foundation · Virginia F. Stevenson · Thelma Pearl Howard Foundation

Land Acknowledgment

The Autry Museum of the American West acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). We recognize that the Autry Museum and its campuses are located on the traditional lands of Gabrielino/Tongva peoples and we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

The Autry Museum in Griffith Park

4700 Western Heritage Way

Los Angeles, CA 90027-1462
Located northeast of downtown, across from the Los Angeles Zoo.
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