Unit Plans

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Unit Plans

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



In this unit, students will expand their learning and knowledge of the significance of African and later African American music, as a strategy of survival, work motivation, community building, and an emotive vehicle of both joy and sorrow during the times of the Triangular Slave Trade and legalized slavery in the United States (including Pennsylvania). Students will ultimately gain knowledge and understanding about the impact and evolution of African American music upon the world right up to the present.

Middle School
8.2.8.A., 8.2.7.B.,

As the Framers drafted different versions of our founding documents, their ideas of what it meant to be a republic also changed. In this unit, four lessons based on the drafts of the Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, held at the collection at HSP, allow students to explore the language and ideas behind these pivotal documents. Starting with the Declaration of Independence, students will discover how language and words can represent larger ideas while trying to figure out how Jefferson wanted this masterpiece to be heard aloud.

High School
5.1.12.D , 5.1.9.C , 5.1.12.D , 5.1.12.B

How (and why) did images of African Americans and of women in advertising change during the 1900s? The lesson plans in this unit draw on the rich Balch Institute Ethnic Images in Advertising collection to ask students to consider what ads from the past can tell us about the changing roles and perceptions of African Americans and women in American society.

High School, College

What arguments did abolitionists make against slavery? How did abolitionists propose to end slavery? These historical questions are at the center of this two-lesson unit focused on seven primary documents. In engaging with these questions and these documents, your students will consider the impacts and the limits of abolition, a social movement that spanned hundreds of years.


Middle School, High School, College

In the collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania are the records of a novel effort to rescue Philadelphia’s poor and orphaned children, the Children’s Aid Society of Pennsylvania (CAS).

Middle School, High School
8.2.9D, 8.2.9A

Camp William Penn is a significant site in the history of the Civil War due to the fact that more African American soldiers trained there than any other training camp. Unfortunately, not much of the site remains. Situated in Cheltenham PA, what was formerly the largest training camp for black troops, is now about half a dozen urban blocks in north Philadelphia. Currently, the Camp William Penn Museum, in conjunction with Historic LaMott, is working to stimulate interest in the former site of the camp.

High School
8.2.9-12 B, 8.2.9-12 D

In celebration of the United States’ one-hundredth anniversary of independence, the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures, and Products of the Soil and Mine took place in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Popularly known as the “Centennial Exhibition,” this exhibition brought millions of people from across the world to Philadelphia, where they witnessed the accomplishments and advancements of the United States, and achievements of other contributing countries.

High School
8.1.9B, 8.1.12C

This unit explores the lives of Jewish immigrants that settled in Philadelphia between the late-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries.

Middle School, High School
8.4.W.A , 5.3.C, 8.1.U.C
The United States was reluctant to join the “Great War,” or World War I, due in part to its belief that this was a European conflict, as well as resistance from many German immigrants in the United States. After several years of neutrality, the United States joined the war in April, 1917, on the side of the Allied Powers. However, in order to become involved, we first needed to bolster our military recruitment, war industry, and, most importantly, support from citizens.
Middle School, High School

The history of equal rights for members of the LGBT community is something often overlooked in classroom curriculum. With the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, it is important to look back at the men and women who fought for equality, especially right here in Philadelphia. Events, such as Reminder Day, are examples of how we can remember the contribution of men and women in the community who fought for their rights as citizens.

High School