Teaching with Historic Places: National Park Service Providing New Education Resource on American Indians and Cultural Assimilation

American Indian history, children’s history, and the theme of cultural assimilation are subjects of a new National Park Service lesson plan, The Carlisle Indian Industrial School: Assimilation with Education after the Indian Wars. The lesson explores the origins of the off-reservation boarding school system in the United States at the historic site of Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The site is a National Historic Landmark and now home to the U.S. Army War College.

Student marching band playing on a field
Carlisle Indian Industrial School Marching Band on school grounds, 1909.

Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections (via NARA)

Developed by the Park Service's Cultural Resources Teaching with Historic Places education series, the lesson plan is online and free to download.


In the lesson, students will learn how the abandoned grounds of an old military base became the site of an experimental school for American Indian children. The resource offers primary and secondary sources for anyone to investigate the lives of over 10,000 children who attended Carlisle between 1879 and 1918, and to study how school administrators forced them to abandon their indigenous cultures once they arrived. Post-lesson activities provide opportunities to investigate local history, make global connections, and to memorialize the students who died at the school after examining the spread of infectious disease.

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School lesson was written by historical anthropologist Maria Lee, a National Council for Preservation Education intern, and historian Katie Orr, the Education Coordinator for NPS Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation & Education. It is the 163rd Teaching with Historic Places online lesson plan.

This National Park Service education series promotes the power of places listed in the National Register of Historic Places to enrich traditional classroom instruction and other educational programming in history, social studies, civics, and other subjects.

Find lesson plans, professional development, and other resources to use historic places in education at all levels at Teaching with Historic Places online:

Last updated: September 29, 2016