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Art and Social Studies Activity

Students design a commemorative coin for Central and South America.



  1. Explain to students that they are going to design a commemorative coin that will be representative of Central and South America. Explain that a commemorative coin does not have a face value and is not meant to be spent. As its name suggests, it commemorates an important place, person, or event. Its value is both in its emotional and economic significance to collectors. It is often made of a valuable mineral, such as gold.

  2. Divide students into design teams. Tell them that they are to choose a place, person, or event related to Central and South America that they wish to see represented on a commemorative coin. After researching their choices, teams debate which would be most suitable. Make sure students have solid research to back up their debating points about why their choice deserves to represent the region.

  3. Once the class has made its choice, hold a design competition for the coin. Remind students of the commemorative nature of the coin, pointing out that the design of the reverse side of the coin should reflect that purpose as well.

  4. Have the class choose the winning design. Make it the center of an informative display about the place, person, or event honored in the design.


Since sometimes commemorative coins are issued in series, students might have three or four related choices. For example, the coins could commemorate three or four geographical sites recognized for their beauty. Or they might show several heroic people. Each team would design one of the coins, and all teams would coordinate their designs.

Have students design the packaging for the coin. The packaging should not only display the coin attractively (so that both sides are visible) but include information on the subject matter.

If possible, invite a coin collector to speak to the class about the hows and whys of collecting commemorative coins.

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