Unit Plans

Need new ideas on how to teach American history? Search our database of plans to discover plans aligned to 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.

Check back often as over the next few months we update and post unit and lesson plans that existed on our previous website.

 

Browse Unit Plans

Philadelphia’s Chinatown, long viewed by policymakers and non-Chinatown residents as a tourist destination and a place to get a good, affordable meal, is a community with a long history. In studying the history of Chinatown, students can gain valuable knowledge about a range of histories, including the history of immigration policy in the United States, the formation of ethnic enclaves in urban environments, and the role of urban neighborhoods in the development of the city.

Grade Level: High School
Standards:
8.1.12.A
8.1.12.B
8.2.9.D
8.3.9.A
5.3.9.G
5.3.12.H

Exploring Nativism in Pennsylvania is a cross-curricular lesson plan that explores anti-immigrant sentiment and stereotyping during the 19th century. Using the Irish as a case study, students learn about the reasons nativism emerges in American life, and how they can apply the lessons of history to critically understand and contextualize attitudes toward immigrants today.

 
     

Grade Level: High School
Standards:
1.4.12.C
1.5.12.B
8.2.9.C
8.2.9.D
8.2.12.C
8.2.12.D

Throughout the twentieth century, blacks in Pennsylvania employed numerous strategies to achieve the civil rights they deserved. Their efforts for to receive their rights began with a strategy of New Deal liberalism in the 1940s and 50s headed by prominent black leaders. When attempts to rewrite the laws using the esablished political system failed, black leaders encouraged more direct action, like boycotts and sit-ins. The movement quickly took on a black nationalist approach.

Grade Level: High School
Standards:
1.2.12.C
1.2.12.D
5.2.12.A
8.1.12.C
8.2.12.A
8.2.12.B

"...they said they would go speak to their Chiefs and come and tell us what they said, they returned and said they would hold fast of the Chain of friendship. Out of our regard to them we gave them two Blankets and a Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect."-- William Trent's Journal, 1763

Grade Level:
Middle School
High School
Standards:
1.6.6.A
7.1.6.A
8.1.7.B
8.2.6.A
8.2.7.B
8.2.8.B

...I hope, therefore, that my beloved countrymen and all Germany will care no less to obtain accurate information as to how far it is to Pennsylvania, how long it takes to get there; what the journey costs, and be sides, what hardships and dangers one has to pass through; what takes place when the people arrive well or ill in the country; how they are sold and dispersed; and finally, the nature and condition of the whole land. I relate both what is good and what is evil...
--Gottlieb Mittelberger's Journey to Pennsylvania, 1754

Grade Level: High School
Standards:
8.2.12.A
8.2.12.B
8.2.12.D
1.1.12.D
1.2.12.B

This activity is designed to introduce students to the environmental consequences of industrial and urban development in the late 19th century. Students will learn about the devastating effects of industrial waste on the drinking-water supply of Philadelphia in the late 19th century and about the solutions employed to improve public health. They will use primary sources published by the Philadelphia Water Department and the Philadelphia County Medical Society in 1885.

Grade Level: High School
Standards:
1.6.12.A
7.4.9.A
7.4.12.A
8.1.9.A
8.2.9.B
8.1.12.B

In the years after the Civil War many people, like Octavius Catto, worked tirelessly to break down racial barriers and ensure that blacks received the social and political rights they deserved. In many places, including Philadelphia, baseball provided a platform through which to do this. Through their talent, intelligence, diligence, and drive both on and off the field, men like Octavius Catto and the players in Pythian's Base Ball Club worked to build strong ties as well as local and national support systems for the black community of Philadelphia.

Grade Level: High School
Standards:
1.6.9.A
8.1.12.C
8.2.9.D
8.2.12.D
8.4.9.C
8.4.12.C

The Gilded Age of the late 19th century is not typically recalled as an age of reform. Characterized by industrialization, urbanization, and rapid population growth, it was an era of remarkable economic expansion. The Gilded Age also saw a dramatic expansion in the size and scope of government—the federal government employed just 53,000 people in 1871, but numbered 256,00 employees by 1900. Patronage politics was the norm, at every level of government.

Grade Level: High School
Standards:
8.1.12.A
8.1.9.C
5.2.9.D
5.3.9.G
5.3.12.C

Students today have experienced the first recession of the 21st century, but they may not be able to compare their emotions and the daily consequences of this economic event to those of the people who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Grade Level: High School
Standards:
8.2.12.A - D
8.1.12.B, C
1.8.12.A, B

Seeking, and finding, a job or career is a top priority for many teens and young adults in today’s world. In this respect, the young people of the 18th century were no different, although their options were more limited and the paths they chose were often set at a very young age. With formal schooling at colleges and academies usually available only to the wealthy or middle classes, many children as young as 12 years of age were expected to pursue a professional apprenticeship with an established tradesman or craftsman.

Grade Level:
Middle School
High School
Standards:
1.2.9.E
8.1.8.B-C
8.2.9.A
8.2.9.C
8.3.8.A & C