• Pioneer Values in Willa Cather's "My Antonia"

    Portrait of Willa Cather from the Carl Van Vechten collection,

    Students learn about the social and historical context of Willa Cather’s My Antonia and work in groups to explore Cather's commentary on fortitude, hard work, faithfulness, and other values that we associate with pioneer life.

  • Lesson 3: James Madison: Raising an Army: Balancing the Power of the States and the Federal Government

    James Madison.

    Not everyone in the U.S. supported the War of 1812. What events during Madison's presidency raised constitutional questions? What were the constitutional issues? Where did Madison stand?

  • Lesson 3: The Monroe Doctrine: A Close Reading

    Thomas Jefferson played a role in the development of the so-called Monroe  Doctrine.

    To what events in United States and European foreign affairs does the Monroe Doctrine refer? What was the primary purpose behind the Monroe Doctrine?

  • Lesson 2: The Monroe Doctrine: President Monroe and the Independence Movement in South America

    An early portrait of James Monroe.

    How did conditions in Europe relate to the independence movements in South America? What reasons did President Monroe give for recognizing the independence movements in South America?

  • Lesson 2: Slavery's Opponents and Defenders

    Idyllic cartoon of slaves thanking their master for taking care of them

    This lesson plan will explore the wide-ranging debate over American slavery by presenting the lives of its leading opponents and defenders and the views they held about America's "peculiar institution."

  • William Penn's Peaceable Kingdom

    William Penn, Founder of the English colony of Pennsylvania

    By juxtaposing the different promotional tracts of William Penn and David Pastorius, students will understand the ethnic diversity of Pennsylvania along with the “pull” factors of migration in the 17th century English colonies.

  • Lesson 3: The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854: Popular Sovereignty and the Political Polarization over Slavery

    Stephen A. Douglas

    Popular sovereignty allowed the settlers of a federal territory to decide the slavery question without interference from Congress. This lesson plan will examine how the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 affected the political balance between free and slave states and explore how its author, Stephen Douglas, promoted its policy of popular sovereignty in an effort to avoid a national crisis over slavery in the federal territories.

  • Pearl S. Buck: "On Discovering America"

    American author Pearl S. Buck spent most of her life in China. She returned to  the U.S. in 1934 and became an advocate for immigration.

    American author Pearl S. Buck spent most of her life in China. She returned to America in 1934, "an immigrant among immigrants…in my native land." In this lesson, students will explore American attitudes toward immigration in the 1930s through Pearl S. Buck's essay, "On Discovering America." They will explore the meaning of the term "American" in this context and look at how the media portrayed immigrants.

  • Images of the New World

    Detail of an engraving by Theodor De Bry (printed 1590)

    How did the English picture the native peoples of America during the early phases of colonization of North America? This lesson plan will enable students to interact with written and visual accounts of this critical formative period at the end of the 16th century, when the English view of the New World was being formulated, with consequences that we are still seeing today.

  • Lesson 1: On the Eve of War: North vs. South

    Created July 17, 2010
    A Confederate artillery battery at Charleston, South Carolina

    This lesson will examine the economic, military and diplomatic strengths and weaknesses of the North and South on the eve of the Civil War. In making these comparisons students will use maps and read original documents to decide which side, if any, had an overall advantage at the start of the war.