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.

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  • Public Health, Philadelphia, and the World

    Public Health, Philadelphia, and the World

    Now in the 21st century, Philadelphia's medical connections stretch fully across all areas of the city, the greater Delaware Valley, and the globe, spanning several health care and research sectors. In fact, from the colonial era into modernity, Philadelphians have been involved in public medical matters that have reached across the globe, as well as in the development of important institutions that have become landmarks of both history and medicine
    Grade Level: 
    Middle School, High School
    Standards: 
  • Rebels of the Revolution

    Rebels of the Revolution

    During the American Revolution, the colonies were divided between patriots and Loyalists. Many of the Loyalists were those whose livelihoods depended on the trade with the British Empire. Loyalists and those thought to be loyalists faced harsh persecution by their patriot counterparts for their loyalty to the crown.
    Grade Level: 
    Middle School
    Standards: 
    5.3.5.G, 8.3.7.B, CC.8.5.6-8.B, CC.8.5.6-8.F, CC.8.5.6-8.G
  • Evolution of African American Music in Pennsylvania

    Evolution of African American Music in Pennsylvania

    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.
    Grade Level: 
    Middle School
    Standards: 
    8.2.8.A., 8.2.7.B.
  • Drafting the Nation

    Drafting the Nation

    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.
    Grade Level: 
    High School
    Standards: 
    5.1.12.D , 5.1.9.C , 5.1.12.D , 5.1.12.B
  • History in Advertising

    History in Advertising

    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.
    Grade Level: 
    High School, College
    Standards: 
  • Arguing Against Slavery; Ending Slavery

    Arguing Against Slavery; Ending Slavery

    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.
    Grade Level: 
    Middle School, High School, College
    Standards: 
  • Children's Aid Society

    Children's Aid Society

    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).
    Grade Level: 
    Middle School, High School
    Standards: 
    8.2.9D, 8.2.9A
  • Camp William Penn

    Camp William Penn

    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.
    Grade Level: 
    High School
    Standards: 
    8.2.9-12 B, 8.2.9-12 D
  • All the World's a Fair

    All the World's a Fair

    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.
    Grade Level: 
    High School
    Standards: 
    8.1.9B, 8.1.12C
  • Jewish History of Philaelphia

    Jewish History of Philaelphia

    This unit explores the lives of Jewish immigrants that settled in Philadelphia between the late-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries.
    Grade Level: 
    Middle School, High School
    Standards: 
    8.4.W.A , 5.3.C, 8.1.U.C
  • World War I: the Home Front and Abroad

    World War I: the Home Front and Abroad

    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.
    Grade Level: 
    Middle School, High School
    Standards: 
  • Teaching LGBT Rights

    Teaching LGBT Rights

    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.
    Grade Level: 
    High School
    Standards: 
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