Lesson Plan Index: Theme

Teaching with Historic Places has developed more than 160 classroom-ready lesson plans that together range across American history. All are available on the Web. For more information on lessons plans or our program, contact the Teaching with Historic Places program. You can also view the entire collection according to location, topic, primary source, skill, U.S. History Standards, and Social Studies Standards.

Select a Theme Navigation

Civil Rights and Racial Healing


Lightning Lessons

Commerce and Industry

Community Planning and Development

Conservation

  • Bryce Canyon National Park: Hoodoos Cast Their Spell (64) Explore the natural wonders of this once remote area in Utah and learn how it became a popular tourist destination in the early 20th century and finally a national park. (National Park/Includes Bryce Canyon Lodge, a National Historic Landmark)
  • Camp Misty Mount: A Place for Regrowth (47) Inspect a recreational demonstration area (RDA) in western Maryland, created as part of a Great Depression government relief program. (National Park)
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road: A Model of Landscape Engineering (95) Learn about some of the practical problems of constructing roads in difficult terrain and about the added challenge of building in such a way as to enhance, rather than damage, fragile and beautiful places such as Glacier National Park. (National Park/National Historic Landmark/Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • “Making the Desert Bloom”: The Rio Grande Project (141) Discover how the Bureau of Reclamation transformed the arid valley of the Rio Grande by constructing Elephant Butte Dam and the Rio Grande irrigation project and examine some of the problems encountered along the way.
  • Mammoth Cave: Its Explorers, Miners, Archeologists, and Visitors (35) Tour the world's longest cave, a geological wonder, and assess the ways it has been used and preserved as a historic resource. (National Park/UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • Tonto National Monument: Saving a National Treasure (125) Learn about one of the nation's most important conservation laws--the Antiquities Act of 1906--and how its passage preserved important cultural sites such as Tonto National Monument, which preserves remnants of the Salado culture prior to European contact. (National Park)

Education

Entrepreneurs

Family Life

Health and Medicine

Hispanic American/Latino American History

Historic Preservation

Although the following lesson plans were chosen to highlight activities that allow teachers and students to consider the role preservation plays in a community, at least one activity in all of the TwHP lesson plans directs students to research local history and most ask them to look for, and think critically about, historic places in their community. In this way, these activities help students gain an appreciation for local historic resources and promote civic action by getting students involved in their own community. The Fiftieth Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act lesson guides students to discover the impact of the Act on their communities.
  • America's Space Program: Exploring a New Frontier (101) Discover how NASA, private industry, and research institutions across the country cooperated to develop and implement the complex technology that enabled man to land on the moon. Also determine whether equipment such as the launch tower for Saturn V should be considered historic and therefore worthy of preservation, and identify a structure or place in your community associated with a special event and determine its historic value. (National Historic Landmark)
  • Back Stairs at Brucemore: Life as Servants in early 20th-Century America (105) Understand the "servant" experience in early 20th-century America, as well as the pros and cons for women working in factories versus domestic service. Also recognize how building usage may change over time and create a photographic display demonstrating these changes for a local historic site.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park: Hoodoos Cast Their Spell (64) Explore the natural wonders of Bryce Canyon and learn how it became a popular tourist destination and finally a national park. Also debate whether to develop or save (to create a park) a piece of land, and research local resources (a park, historic site, monument, etc.) to find out when and how it was created or set aside for public use, how it's used today, and then develop "advertising" for it. (National Park/Includes Bryce Canyon Lodge, a National Historic Landmark)
  • Chicago's Black Metropolis: Understanding History through a Historic Place (53) Examine the history of this self-supporting African-American community that prospered from the late 19th century until the 1930s. Also understand what makes a place "historic," and nominate a local historic place for a local, state, or national, register of historic places.
  • Chicago's Columbus Park: The Prairie Idealized (81) Learn about a famous landscape artist and his efforts to promote conservation and an appreciation for native plant life. Also design a park or garden for your school or community using native plants and materials and research a historic or natural site, which is endangered, explain what threatens it, and why it is worthy of being preserved in the form of a skit/play or masque (outdoor play).
  • The Emerald Necklace: Boston's Green Connection (86) Learn about Frederick Law Olmsted and his philosophy about parks and cities as well as city life during the Industrial Revolution. Also preserve green space by designing a park or park system in your own community with detailed design elements and submit it to the "Park Commission" for approval. (Includes Arnold Arboretum, a National Historic Landmark)
  • First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence (12) Study personal accounts of soldiers who fought in the first battle of the Civil War, and debate whether the U.S. should maintain historic sites where few substantial remains exist. (National Park) Learn how a classroom teacher uses this lesson.
  • Federal Courthouses and Post Offices: Symbols of Pride and Permanence in American Communities (136) Learn how three buildings restored and maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration illustrate the important role the federal government played and continues to play in communities across the country.
  • Fiftieth Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act Learn how the National Historic Preservation Act has affected your community in this lesson, prepared for the History Channel's Make History, Save History outreach initiative.
  • The Frankish Building: A Reflection of the Success of Ontario, California (43) Analyze how this local landmark came to symbolize the commercial prosperity of a western town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Also identify buildings in your community related to a town founder, and learn how to determine if community sites are of historical significance.
  • The Freeman School: Building Prairie Communities (80) Examine this one-room school in Nebraska and consider the important role it played in the community. Also role-play a citizens' group who just bought (or were given) 5 acres of land on which the abandoned but historic Freeman School is located and decide for their community what to do with this building. (National Park)
  • Glen Echo Park: Center for Education and Recreation (24) Trace the evolution of this Maryland site from a chapter of the Chautauqua movement to a national park. Also create a history of a popular gathering place in your community, and locate successful examples of adaptive reuse. (National Park)
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road: A Model of Landscape Engineering (95) Learn about some of the practical problems of constructing roads in difficult terrain and about the added challenge of building in such a way as to enhance, rather than damage, fragile and beautiful places such as Glacier National Park. Also debate whether parks should restrict the number of visitors to better conserve land and preserve its resources or let visitors (who are taxpayers funding the parks) use the facilities when and how they choose. (National Park/National Historic Landmark/Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • 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. Also understand why Truman felt strongly about preserving history in states, towns, and neighborhoods, and identify and research historic places in your own neighborhood. (National Park/Includes Harry S Truman Historic District, a National Historic Landmark)
  • Independence Hall: International Symbol of Freedom (132) Learn about Independence Hall and about how the international influence of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution led to the designation of the building in which they were adopted as a World Heritage Site. (National Park/UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • Johnson Lake Mine: Mining for Tungsten in Nevada's Snake Range (110) Explore both how tungsten was mined and used at the turn of the 20th century and also how archeologists piece the past together from artifacts and other archeological evidence. (National Park)
  • Log Cabins in America: The Finnish Experience (4) Consider how simple, functional cabins, like those built by the Finns in Idaho, became symbols in American politics and folklore. Also understand why it was important to list them on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Mammoth Cave: Its Explorers, Miners, Archeologists, and Visitors (35) Tour the world's longest cave, a geological wonder, and assess the ways it has been used and preserved as a historic resource. Also identify a site in your community, one that ought to be preserved, but is not yet protected, and devise a conservation plan for that site. (National Park/UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • 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. Also compile a list of historic structures in your community, research their history, and volunteer as a docent at one of the sites. (Mechanics Hall is included in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.)
  • Memories of Montpelier: Home of James and Dolley Madison (46) Visit the Madisons' plantation home and their world of social prominence, and work with a local historical society to develop a special exhibit for the community on a historic site in your area. (National Historic Landmark)
  • A Nation Repays Its Debt: The National Soldiers' Home and Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio (115) Learn about the evolution of a system to honor and care for U.S. veterans and write a biography of a local soldiers life from birth through war to his, or her, final resting place and donate it to the local historical society. (National Historic Landmark)
  • The Old Courthouse in St. Louis: Yesterday and Today (9) Compare historic events that took place at St. Louis's handsome Courthouse. Also identify older public buildings in your community and research their purposes and usage over time, and learn how preservationists determine what should and should not be preserved. (National Park)
  • Paterson, New Jersey: America's Silk City (102) Learn about the causes and effects of a famous silk industry strike and how it affected those who were involved. (The Pietro Botto House is a National Historic Landmark. Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park is a National Park.)
  • The Penniman House: A Whaling Story (112) Meet Captain Edward Penniman, and learn about 19th-century whaling in southeastern Massachusetts and how the whaling industry impacted Penniman's family and life. (National Park)
  • Roadside Attractions (6) Follow the highways of the 1920s and 1930s, exploring the whimsical, extravagant architecture that came with American auto culture. Also investigate the ways in which automobiles changed your community, and find an example of fanciful, vernacular architecture and research what is being done to preserve it.
  • "The Rockets' Red Glare": Francis Scott Key and the Bombardment of Fort McHenry (137) Learn how the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore led to the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and how Key’s song became a powerful symbol for Americans. (National Park) Learn how a classroom teacher uses this lesson.
  • The Rosenwald Schools: Progressive Era Philanthropy in the Segregated South (159) Discover how community activism and a partnership between a white businessman and a leading black educator built 5,000 schools for African American students in the early 20th century.
  • Run For Your Lives! The Johnstown Flood of 1889 (5) Determine how environmental management, technology, and the actions of 19th-century industrialists contributed to a disaster in Pennsylvania that shocked the nation. Also understand why a community spent funds to restore a railway built to save lives. (National Park)
  • Savannah, Georgia: The Lasting Legacy of Colonial City Planning (83) Learn about James Oglethorpe and his enduring city plan from the colonial era. Also debate whether your town's historic area could be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. (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 Siege and Battle of Corinth: A New Kind of War (113) Understand how newly developed technologies affected two military engagements and one tiny town in Mississippi during the Civil War. (National Park/National Historic Landmark)
  • Skagway: Gateway to the Klondike (75) Join the stampede for gold when over 100,000 prospectors set out for the Klondike, and develop a promotional brochure or walking tour from histories of buildings that illustrate your community's development. (National Park/National Historic Landmark) Learn how a classroom teacher uses this lesson.
  • The Spanish Treasure Fleets of 1715 and 1733: Disasters Strike at Sea (129) Learn how Spain established a New World empire based on collecting precious metals and goods from the Americas. La versión en español Las flotas españolas de 1715 y 1733: Desastres en el mar (134)
  • Springwood: Birthplace and Home to Franklin D. Roosevelt (82) Understand how Springwood was the keystone in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's public as well as private life by playing host to some very dramatic events in American history. Also research a local WPA project in your local community. (National Park)
  • Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site: Birthplace of the Modern Presidency (77) Examine how Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States and how he modernized the presidency. Also make a time line with information about a historic structure in your area at various times in its history, including important events that occurred in the United States during that same time. Donate the completed project to the local historical society so others may benefit from your research. (National Park)
  • Two American Entrepreneurs: Madam C.J. Walker and J.C. Penney Examine the historic places associated with two of America's most famous 20th century business people. Also research successful local businesses in your community, and understand the importance of preserving buildings as part of a community's history. (National Historic Landmarks)
  • Waterford, Virginia: From Mill Town to National Historic Landmark (88) Examine continuity and change in this rural Virginia town from its founding to today. Also write a history of your town or neighborhood by researching when it was founded and why, as well its occupational history. (National Historic Landmark)
  • Wheat Farms, Flour Mills, and Railroads: A Web of Interdependence (106) Examine the inextricable connections binding railroads, North Dakota wheat fields, and Minnesota flour mills during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (National Park/Includes Pillsbury A Mill, a National Historic Landmark)

Lightning Lessons

Immigration

International Relations

Labor History

Landscape Architecture/Engineering

Leadership

Lightning Lessons

Maritime History

Military & Wartime History

Revolutionary War

War of 1812

Mexican War

Glorieta and Raton Passes: Gateways to the Southwest (117)
Learn how these remote passes in the mountains influenced the course of the westward expansion of the United States. (National Park/Raton Pass is a National Historic Landmark.)

Civil War

Lightning Lessons

World War I

Lightning Lesson

Discover Colonel Young's Protest Ride for Equality and Country: A Lightning Lesson from Teaching with Historic Places, featuring the historic Colonel Charles Young House (Lightning Lesson 2) Trace the paths an African American cavalry officer took in his life and chart the one he took during World War I, riding horseback from his historic Ohio home to confront racism in Washington, DC.

World War II

Cold War

Other

Philanthropy/Humanitarianism

Pioneer America

Politics and Government

Lightning Lesson

Discover Colonel Young's Protest Ride for Equality and Country: A Lightning Lesson from Teaching with Historic Places, featuring the historic Colonel Charles Young House (Lightning Lesson 2) Trace the paths an African American cavalry officer took in his life and chart the one he took during World War I, riding horseback from his historic Ohio home to confront racism in Washington, DC.

Recreation/Leisure/Tourism

Regional Studies

The South

The West

Religion

Lightning Lesson

Discover the African Burial Ground National Monument (Lightning Lesson 3)
Dig through centuries of Manhattan concrete to uncover a Colonial cemetery in this lesson plan about the African Diaspora, spirituality, and how we honor our origins. (National Park)

Science and Technology

Lightning Lessons

History and science collide in this lesson about a total solar eclipse event that brought the world's leading astronomers to historic Wadesboro, North Carolina, in May 1900.

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Transportation

U.S. Presidents

Westward Expansion

Women's History

Lightning Lesson

Discover the Mary Ann Shadd Cary House (Lightning Lesson 1)
Follow the footsteps a free African American woman who defied an oppressive culture and broke barriers in education, newspaper publishing, and law before and after the Civil War. (National Historic Landmark)

Last updated: September 20, 2022

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