Community Life Feature

Communities in the United States are as diverse as the many peoples, cultures, and natural environments that characterize the nation. To celebrate the central role of community life in America, Teaching with Historic Places has posted a sampling of classroom-ready lesson plans that focus on the individual history and character of each subject community. They vary from American Indian villages to Colonial religious settlements, from early industrial towns to pioneer prairie communities, and from quintessential "home towns" to enclaves defined by ethnic or cultural groups.

TwHP lessons are based on sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Fiftieth Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act lesson is more generic, guiding students to discover the impact of the Act on their own communities. All lessons are free and ready for immediate classroom use by teachers and students in history and social studies classes.

Arthurdale: A New Deal Community Experiment (157)
Welcome to historic Arthurdale, West Virginia, a New Deal village built from the ground-up for coal miners and their families during the Great Depression.

Enduring Awatovi: Uncovering Hopi Life and Work on the Mesa (156)
Learn about traditional Hopi culture and farming at Awatovi, a historic pueblo where enduring Hopi traditions and American archeological research reveal much about this important place. (National Historic Landmark)

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: A Moravian Settlement in Colonial America (59)
Learn why Moravians immigrated to the New World and how the towns they established embodied their religious beliefs.

Castolon: A Meeting Place of Two Cultures (17)
Compare the Spanish and Anglo influences on settlements along the Texas-Mexico border region of the Rio Grande. (National Park)

Chicago's Black Metropolis: Understanding History through a Historic Place (53)
Examine the history of this "city-within-a-city," a self-supporting African-American community that prospered from the late 19th century until the 1930s.

Thomas P. Kennard House: Building a Prairie Capital (149)
Explore early Lincoln, Nebraska, to visit the historic Kennard House and to learn about how this grand building set the tone for a new capital city.

Frederica: An 18th-Century Planned Community (31)
Discover why this British settlement was built and how it functioned as Great Britain and Spain each struggled to control land from Charleston to St. Augustine. (National Park)

Fiftieth Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act
Learn how the National Historic Preservation Act has affected your community in this lesson, written by Teaching with Historic Places staff and prepared for the History Channel's Make History, Save Historyoutreach initiative.

This lesson is an updated version of one published for the 40th anniversary in 2006.

The Freeman School: Building Prairie Communities (80)
Examine this one-room school in Nebraska and consider the important role it played in the community during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (National Park)

Gran Quivira: A Blending of Cultures in a Pueblo Indian Village (66)
Examine the changing lifeways of the inhabitants of this village from the 7th century to the arrival of the Spanish in the early 17th century. (National Park)

Harry Truman and Independence, Missouri: "This is Where I Belong" (103)
Learn why the life of the 33rd U.S. President serves as an example of civic duty and explore the town that helped form his character. (National Park/Includes Harry S Truman Historic District, a National Historic Landmark)

Hopewell Furnace: A Pennsylvania Iron-making Plantation (97)
Explore how Hopewell functioned as the center of a self-contained rural community of 200-300 people, all of whose work was directly or indirectly related to the production of iron. (National Park)

Knife River: Early Village Life on the Plains (1)
Discover the complex culture and trading economy of the Hidatsa and Mandan tribes in North Dakota during the 18th century, as seen by anthropologists and artists. (National Park/National Historic Landmark)

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial: Forging Greatness during Lincoln's Youth (126)
Meet the people and learn of events that influenced the development of Abraham Lincoln's character and personality as a youth on the Indiana frontier. (National Park/National Historic Landmark)

Lincoln Home National Historic Site: A Place of Growth and Memory (127)
Learn how Abraham Lincoln's belief in freedom and democracy, his eloquence, and the support of family and community propelled him to the White House and uplifted him through the turbulent Civil War. (National Park/National Historic Landmark)

Locke and Walnut Grove: Havens for Early Asian Immigrants in California
Understand the experience of early Asian immigrants and the obstacles they encountered as they struggled to make a living and develop their own community in America. (Locke is a National Historic Landmark)

The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House: African American Women Unite for Change (135)
Learn about Mary McLeod Bethune and how she and the organization she founded promoted political and social change for African American women. (National Park)

Mechanics Hall: Symbol of Pride and Industry (87)
Examine how the advent of industrialization in 19th-century America impacted the workforce in New England's Blackstone River Valley, and learn how the hall built for a workers' association became a hub of community life. (Mechanics Hall is included in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.)

New Philadelphia: An Multiracial Town on the Illinois Frontier (130)
Learn about Free Frank McWorter and how archeology can help tell the story of the interracial town he founded in the years before the Civil War.

The No. 2 Quincy Shaft-Rockhouse: 9,240 Feet into the Earth (152)
Enter a historic company town and descend deep into the copper mines of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, where labor unrest upset an industry and changed a community in the early 20th century. (National Park)

The Octagon of Washington, D.C.: The House that Helped Build a Capital (151)
Enter The Octagon of Washington, DC, to discover how a historic brick house offered grandeur and stability to the new capital of the United States in the early 19th century.

Paterson, New Jersey: America's Silk City (102)
Learn how life in a mill town revolved around factory work and about the economic and cultural divides that separated workers and managers. (The Pietro Botto House is a National Historic Landmark. Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park is a National Park.)

Skagway: Gateway to the Klondike (75)
Join the stampede for gold when over 100,000 prospectors set out for the Klondike, and learn about the transformation of one destination into a permanent community. (National Park/National Historic Landmark)

The Shields-Ethridge Farm: The End of a Way of Life (145)
Investigate sharecropping as a way of life in upland Georgia during the early 20th century and examine the efforts of one farm owner to diversify as market fluctuation and urbanization threatened that life.

The War Relocation Centers of World War II: When Fear Was Stronger than Justice (89)
Learn what led the U.S. government to confine nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry to relocation centers in remote areas of the country during World War II, and examine life in these self-contained communities, which were often the largest towns in their isolated areas. (Manzanar is a National Park and National Historic Landmark. Rohwer is a National Historic Landmark.)

Waterford, Virginia: From Mill Town to National Historic Landmark (88)
Examine continuity and change in this rural Virginia town from its founding as a Quaker agricultural community and mill town in the 18th century to today. (National Historic Landmark)

Ybor City: Cigar Capital of the World (51)
Discover how immigrant cigar makers in this Tampa, Florida community adapted to life in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th century while maintaining their ethnic identity. (National Historic Landmark)

To learn more about TwHP's other lessons, visit the Lesson Plan Descriptions page.

Last updated: March 31, 2016

Experience More