Carving Mount Rushmore
Online Activities & Lessons for Kids

Carving Mount Rushmore

This lesson is all about Mount Rushmore — you know, the mountain with four presidents carved into it. Scroll to learn more about this national memorial and enjoy two coloring pages and one activity: making your own ice cream!

One of America’s greatest symbols of freedom — Mount Rushmore National Memorial and its four presidents — have towered over the Black Hills since 1941. How did they get there?

Planning the Monument

In the 1920s, a South Dakota historian named Doane Robinson brainstormed a monument that would attract more visitors to the pine-covered mountains known as the Black Hills. He contacted sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who was already carving a granite mountain in Georgia. Robinson's original plan was to carve heroes of the American West — like Lewis & Clark and Chief Red Cloud — but Borglum chose to carve popular presidents. After considering several sites, Borglum chose Mount Rushmore and started construction in 1927.

Mount Rushmore
Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center
Mount Rushmore
1939 – Courtesy NPS Mount Rushmore NM/Lincoln Borglum Collection

Why These Presidents?

Before you scroll to find out, can you guess why each president was picked for this historical monument?

George Washington

George Washington

George Washington was our first president and fought for American independence way back in 1776. He represents the birth of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence and inspired democracy around the world. He represents the growth of the United States.

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt fought for the rights of the common working man and doubled the number of sites within the National Park System. He represents the development of our country.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln held our country together during the Civil War and believed that all people should be free. He represents our country’s preservation.


Do you have a favorite person, family member, friend, or pet in mind? Ask your family who they would pick. Print the page below and draw your favorite faces!

Mount Rushmore
Coloring Page
Mount Rushmore

Carving the Mountain

Over 14 years, nearly 450,000 tons of rock were blasted during carving of the 60-foot-tall faces. The work involved the efforts of nearly 400 men and women. Check out some of the jobs below. If you helped, what job would you want?


Cut sticks of dynamite and put them in specially drilled holes to blast away rock.

Carvers and drillers

Drilled holes into the last three to six inches of granite so it could be removed by hand after the dynamite blasts.

Winch operators

Worked cranks to haul the drillers up and down the mountain with 3/8-inch steel cables.

Call boys

Barked instructions to the winch operators, helping them pull drillers up the mountain safely.

Mount Rushmore
1939 – Courtesy NPS Mount Rushmore NM/Lincoln Borglum Collection
Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center
Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center
Gutzon Borglum
Sculpture of Gutzon Borglum

More about Mount Rushmore

The Rushmore Drillers baseball team

The Rushmore Drillers

Many of the workers could swing a baseball bat as well as they could use a jackhammer. They played on the Rushmore Drillers, an amateur baseball team started by Gutzon and Lincoln. The players worked six days a week, practiced during the nights, and played nearby teams on Sundays. In 1939 they won third place in the State Amateur Tournament.

Front Row: Orville Worman, Ted Crawford, Casey James, Glenn Jones, Howard Peterson & Don (Nick) Clifford.
Top Row: Bob McNally, Al Johnson, Otto Anderson, Louis Newell, Merle Peterson.

Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, Mount Rushmore

The Original Plan

The original plan was to carve the presidents to the waist, but a lack of money and the start of World War II ended carving in 1941. The mountain’s history can be found in the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, located beneath the Grand View Terrace, which includes exhibits and a 14-minute film about carving Mount Rushmore.

75 Surprising Facts about Mount Rushmore

Did you know? Dynamite was used to carve 90% of the mountain. The face of Theodore Roosevelt was the last of the four to be completed. Read 73 more surprising facts about this amazing monument.

Mount Rushmore

Shrine of Democracy

The nickname came from comments by sculptor Gutzon Borglum to President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the 1936 unveiling of the face of Thomas Jefferson: "I want you, Mr. President, to dedicate this memorial as a Shrine to Democracy."

Coloring fun

Not only are the four faces on Mount Rushmore some of South Dakota's greatest faces, they are definitely some of the biggest (each is 60 feet tall). Print this page and color the memorial, sky and trees.

Mount Rushmore
Coloring Page

Make Your Own Thomas Jefferson Ice Cream

Thomas Jefferson wrote the first recorded American recipe for ice cream. You can try it for yourself when you visit Mount Rushmore. Until then, ask your parent’s help and make some of your own! Get started with the instructions below.

Things you’ll Need

• 1 gallon plastic storage bag
• 1 quart plastic storage bag
• 1/3 cup salt
• Ice
• 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup milk
• 1 tablespoon sugar


Step 1: Mix the milk, sugar, and vanilla in the quart-sized bag

Step 2: Fill the gallon bag ¾ full of ice and then add the salt

Step 3: Put the smaller bag in the bigger bag. Close them both tight!

Step 4: Shake for 5 minutes

Step 5: Take out the small bag and rinse off before opening

Step 6: Enjoy your ice cream!

Ice Cream
Step 1
Ice Cream
Step 2
Ice Cream
Step 3
Ice Cream
Step 6
Monumental Moments

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