Unit Plans

Unit Plans

Need new ideas on how to teach American history? Search our database of plans to discover plans aligned to  Common Core Standards and the Pennsylvania State Standards (SAS).    Big Ideas, Essential Question, Concepts and Competencies are outlined for you. 

Unit plans link to lesson plans that fit class periods.  Each lesson includes learning objectives, vocabulary, and background material for students and teachers as well as primary sources from our collection.



Catholicism has a long and noteworthy history in Philadelphia, from the first recorded Mass celebrated in 1707 to the 200 parishes established between 1844 and 1924 and the founding of our nation’s first seminary. It is estimated that currently 35 percent of the population of greater Philadelphia are baptized Catholic, making Catholicism the single largest religious denomination in the area. Now, as the location of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, all eyes are on Philadelphia as it welcomes Pope Francis.

High School
8.4.4.B, 8.4.6.B, 8.4.8.B
Capitalism and the American nation have long been bedfellows; after all, they are both the children of eighteenth century Neo-Classical Liberalism.  It is worth noting that both the “Declaration of Independence” and Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” were presented to the public in the same fateful year of 1776. 
High School
8.1.12.A, 8.1.12.B, 8.1.12.C, 8.1.12.D, 8.3.12.B

The Bank of North America: Our Nation’s First Central Bank, is comprised of three lessons that work as an interdisciplinary unit on economic history, math, and financial literacy. The lessons in this unit take students through the history of the bank, how to use a bank, and the history of our currency. It follows the financial literacy standards for the 4th and 8th grade benchmark, although the history and economics activities can be adapted for all grade levels.

Grade School, Middle School
8.3.5.B, 8.3.9.B, M3.A.1.2.1, M4.A.1.1.1, M5.A.1.5.1

Throughout the history of our country, immigration has been a much debated and heated issue. From the “Irish Need Not Apply” signs, to the Chinese Exclusion Act, to the current issues surrounding illegal immigration, our nation has not always welcomed immigrants with open arms. This unit will explore attitudes towards immigration in the 19th century and encourage students to explore the similarities and differences between them and present-day attitudes and polices about immigration. 

Middle School, High School
8.1.8.B, 8.3.8.D

Observing science textbooks of the 1800s gives students the opportunity to learn the historical roots of their scientifical lessons. One way to accomplish this lesson is through botany. The following lesson combines history with language arts and science in order to learn the parts of a plant, poetry, and how to create a herbarium using 19th century textbooks specifically designed for women.

Middle School
8.3.6-8A, 8.3.6-8B, 1.4.6-8A, 3.1.6A5

Political cartoons were a popular source of information during the Civil War and created an excellent way to disperse a political or social opinion to a wide audience. The Lesson in this Unit features almost twenty political cartoons ranging from 1860-1868 that capture the spirit of the Civil War and help students to learn the multiple opinions and perspectives of those living through it.

High School
8.1.5A, 8.1.9A, 8.1.12B & C, 8.3.9C & D

The Lesson in this Unit discusses the Progressive Era from the late 1890’s through the 1912 Presidential Election. The political cartoons provided allow students to analyze opinions  and economic changes that took place. 

High School
8.1.12A, 8.1.12C, 8.3.9B

Propaganda played an important role in influencing popular culture and national pride during World War I.  The National War Garden Commission, started by Charles Lathrop Pack in 1917, used it to advance their message. This lesson will talk about Propaganda during WWI by focusing on War Gardens and their role in society.

High School
8.1.9.A, 8.1.12B

Few disease outbreaks in the history of early America proved as tragic as the Philadelphia Yellow Fever epidemic of summer, 1793, and fewer still have lingered longer in historical memory.  A bustling center of international trade and commerce that welcomed people, goods, and pathogens from around the world, Philadelphians were well-acquainted with infectious disease prior to the 1793 outbreak.  The city had even known sporadic Yellow Fever outbreaks at various points throughout the eighteenth century.  But that feared disease returned to Philadelphia with a vengeance in summer, 1793, via

Middle School
8.1.8 A, 8.2.8 A + B, 2.5.8 A

In the 19th century, both Southwark and Kensington became home to large Irish communities. The Kensington neighborhood was also home to American-born, mostly Protestant workers, and artisans. In 1844, the Protestant “native” Americans and the Catholic Irish immigrants of Kensington clashed violently for three days during the infamous “Bible Riots.”

High School
1.4.12.C, 1.5.12.B, 8.2.9.C-D, 8.2.12.C-D