The Roadmap

The aim of the Roadmap is to provide guidance that shifts content and instruction from breadth to depth by offering an inquiry framework that weaves history and civics together and inspires students to learn by asking difficult questions, then seeking answers in the classroom through facts and discussion for a truly national and cross-state conversation about civics and history to invigorate classrooms with engaging and relatable questions.

The Seven Content Themes map out the disciplinary and conceptual terrain, as well as the skills and dispositional learning needed to support healthy civic participation.

The Five Design Challenges span the seven themes and state honestly and transparently some of the rich dilemmas that educators will encounter as they work with the content themes and instructional guidance.

Civic Participation

This theme explores the relationship between self-government and civic participation, drawing on the discipline of history to explore how citizens’ active engagement has mattered for American society and on the discipline of civics to explore the principles, values, habits, and skills that support productive engagement in a healthy, resilient constitutional democracy.

This theme focuses attention on the overarching goal of engaging young people as civic participants and preparing them to assume that role successfully.

Civic Participation

Overarching Thematic Questions

History

  • How have Americans come together in groups, made decisions, and affected their communities, the country, and the world?
  • How can that history inform our civic participation today?

Civics

  • What are the responsibilities and opportunities of citizenship and civic agency in America’s constitutional democracy?
  • How can I participate?
Civic Participation

Key Concepts and Questions by Grade

K-2
3-5
6-8
9-12
Grades K-2

Key Concepts

  • Learn and evaluate the characteristics of leadership
  • Define components of a healthy community and the rights and responsibilities of community members
  • Participate in a community through building relationships, making change, and problem-solving
  • Learn about civic friendship and the benefit of compromise
  • Develop media literacy skills to evaluate evidence and weigh claims

History Driving Questions

How have I helped my class or family?
How do people describe who they are? How do I describe who I am?
How have people made our community better?(2 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

What are stories of when/how people have changed the community for the better?
How have changes created new problems or made communities better?
How do you evaluate leaders? What makes an effective leader?
What makes a community fair?
How have individuals in stories contributed to making a fair community?

Civic Driving Questions

What does it mean to be a part of a group?(1 Resource)
When/how do we speak up about something?(2 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What groups am I a part of? How do I know I am a part of a group?
What are my responsibilities to my group? What are others’ responsibilities to me?
If I disagree with a decision, how do I help change it?
Who has the power to make changes in my community?
Why is it important to speak up when you are trying to make something better?
Civic Participation

Explore Resources

What is the difference between then and now?
Grades K–2:
 
Unit Plan
Source: History's Mysteries Historical Inquiry for Elementary Classrooms
How do communities make good decisions?
Grades K–2:
 
Unit Plan
Source: History's Mysteries Historical Inquiry for Elementary Classrooms
How do we celebrate our shared traditions?
Grades K–2:
 
Unit Plan
Source: History's Mysteries Historical Inquiry for Elementary Classrooms
Grades 3-5

Key Concepts

  • Learn and evaluate the characteristics of leadership
  • Define components of a healthy community and the rights and responsibilities of community members
  • Participate in a community through building relationships, making change, and problem-solving
  • Learn about civic friendship and the benefit of compromise
  • Develop media literacy skills to evaluate evidence and weigh claims

History Driving Questions

Why and how do people take action in order to solve problems that affect them and others?(17 Resources)
What kinds of challenges arise when people decide to take action to try to solve problems?(7 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

What have people done when they thought something was wrong in their community? in their state? in the United States?
What have people done when they disagreed with their community members, teammates, or leaders? What are some examples of citizens, residents, or leaders who disagree but who have been able to work together on behalf of the common good?
What have people done from positions of disempowerment to achieve change?
What or who are some great exemplars of civic action or constructive dissent in the United States?
What has tended to motivate people to engage in civic action throughout history?

Civic Driving Questions

Why might we want to make changes at local, state, or national levels? How can we promote change in an effective way?(11 Resources)
Why might you question decisions that are made for/in your community?(1 Resource)
How can we work with others (even those who disagree with us) to help make change in society?(4 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What does public service and leadership look like locally, in a state, or nationally? (e.g., civil, religious, elected, official, or non-official)
What forms can civic action take? (e.g., voting, running for office, participating in a social movement or political party, working on community problem solving, researching a problem and using your voice to advocate a solution, using expertise to offer policy guidance)
What qualities of character, virtues, or values make a good citizen, resident, and/or leader?
How can we ensure our and others’ opinions are both authentic and informed?
Civic Participation

Explore Resources

Assessing Access
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Learning for Justice
My Town & the Three Branches of Government: The Mayor Needs Help
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Constitutional Rights Foundation
Cooperative Comics
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Learning for Justice
Grades 6-8

Key Concepts

  • Analyze leadership through past and present examples of change-makers
  • Analyze strategies and examples of civic participation, including instances of participation by those without full political rights
  • Engage as active community members and examine the tensions between personal interests and civic responsibilities
  • Build civic friendship through informed civil dialogue and productive disagreement
  • Analyze the past and present role of the media in shaping civic participation, including the importance of using credible sources

History Driving Questions

When and where have leaders and change-makers emerged in American history? What has motivated them and prepared them for civic engagement?(6 Resources)
What forms does civic participation take? Who has access to different forms of participation, and how has that access changed over time?(12 Resources)
How has civic participation changed throughout American history? How has it stayed the same?(5 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

How do we evaluate success and failure in leaders?
What civic roles have been available to all Americans, not just those who have been civic or political leaders or elected officials?
How has voting related to other forms of civic participation over time?
What civic roles have been available to those without full political rights?
How have people without full political rights helped to shape the kinds of women and men who have been leaders in the United States?
Why does the Declaration of Independence close with the signers stating they “mutually pledge” their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor”? Why does Lincoln ask Americans to be “dedicated” to ensuring “a new birth of freedom”? Why did many abolitionists, women’s suffrage advocates, and civil rights advocates not lose faith in what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the American dream” of equal justice even when they long had been denied justice? What other examples of civic participation, in the United States or elsewhere, inspire you?

Civic Driving Questions

What matters to me and why? How can I make what matters to me be about more than myself?(2 Resources)
How do civil dialogue, investigation and analysis of issues, and civic action that is authentic, informed, and responsible strengthen our American constitutional democracy?(8 Resources)
How can I take advantage of digital tools for civic participation safely and productively?
How can I engage as a member of my local, state, national, and global community? What opportunities for participation do I already have, and how can I engage with them?(8 Resources)
What are "citizenship" and "civic agency" in general? in America's constitutional democracy? How does voting relate to other forms of civic agency?

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What are essential values or virtues of active civic participation? How can individuals and groups demonstrate these values and virtues in their actions every day? What might be some shared American values across contexts and communities?
How can I investigate my issue and find high-quality information? What are the root causes of the problem I am investigating?
How does digital information, including social media, make it easier to stay informed and to be civically engaged? In what ways do social media and other forms of digital information make it harder to stay informed and be civically engaged?
How can I analyze power and understand the different methods people have for challenging power?
When and how should we debate contested matters of value or principle in civil and reasonable ways?
When and how should we express dissent? participate in protest?
How do I think change is brought about? What is my theory of change?
How do I want to participate, and how can I get started?
How can I find others to work with me to address the issues I care about?
How can I connect with policymakers at the local, state, or federal level to implement long-term solutions to compelling problems/issues?
What is the virtue or value of civil disagreement?
What role do experts have in political and policy debates?
How can we feature “the better angels of our nature” while disagreeing with and listening to our fellow Americans?
What fundamental sources or documents guide me? What sources have community and political leaders invoked, or do they invoke today?
Civic Participation

Explore Resources

Jim Crow and Segregation: Primary Source Set
Grades 6–8:
 
Resource Collection
Source: The Library of Congress
Eagle Eye Citizen
Grades 6–8:
 
Games + Interactive
Source: Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
Joining the Struggle: Young Activists in Birmingham, 1963
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Grades 9-12

Key Concepts

  • Analyze leadership through past and present examples of change-makers
  • Analyze strategies and examples of civic participation, including instances of participation by those without full political rights
  • Engage as active community members and examine the tensions between personal interests and civic responsibilities
  • Build civic friendship through informed civil dialogue and productive disagreement
  • Analyze the past and present role of the media in shaping civic participation, including the importance of using credible sources

History Driving Questions

How did past generations of Americans understand and answer calls to civic duty in civil society, religious communities, and politics?(18 Resources)
How have changes in the media affected American civic experience?(7 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

How have Americans in the past balanced their individual desires and rights with commitments to larger groups of family, kin, community, faith, and nation?
When and why did Americans in the past challenge obligations they thought were unjust? How did they do this and what did they do?
How and why did they form coalitions with those of like mind and persuade those who disagreed?

Civic Driving Questions

What is "civil society"?(2 Resources)
Why do some great advocates of constitutional democracy (e.g., Tocqueville) argue that this arena for participation is just as important for a healthy American democracy as our political institutions and laws?(6 Resources)
What is the shape of civil society in the U.S.?(5 Resources)
What are the opportunities and responsibilities of citizenship and civic agency in the 21st century?(15 Resources)
What practical opportunities for participation are available to me?(10 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What is the role of the press in a free society?
How have new media and digital technology changed civil society?
How have new media and digital technology changed the operations of representative government?
How can I use communication tools available to me to express what matters to me and why?
What pathways of participation can I choose in order to exert positive influence?
Why are civil disagreement and toleration of differing views important?
What is civic friendship?
How can people in the United States be civic friends across divergent views of principles and values?
To what extent can we all share the aims of the Preamble to the Constitution and the aim of equal liberty in the 14th Amendment?
How can we be reflective patriots, seeking reform while still loving America, its complex forms of politics and civic life, and its still-unrealized ideals?
What values, virtues, and principles should guide my engagement in civic and political discussion in person and online?
Civic Participation

Explore Resources

Theodore Roosevelt and the 1912 Election
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: The Shapell Manuscript Foundation
Personal Narrative
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: High Resolves
How the Separation of Powers Levels the Playing Field in Sports
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

Our Changing Landscapes

This theme begins from the recognition that American civic experience is tied to a particular place, and explores the history of how the United States has come to develop the physical and geographical shape it has, the complex experiences of harm and benefit which that history has delivered to different portions of the American population, and the civics questions of how political communities form in the first place, become connected to specific places, and develop membership rules.

The theme also takes up the question of our contemporary responsibility to the natural world.

Our Changing Landscapes

Overarching Thematic Questions

History

  • How has our geographic, social, economic, and political landscape changed over time?
  • How has the land we inhabit—from our local community to states and territories to the American republic—changed over time, and how have we shaped it?

Civics

  • What different perspectives are there on those changes (see History Thematic Question), and on the benefits and costs of those changes?
  • What principles and values do Americans invoke in our debates about these issues?
Our Changing Landscapes

Key Concepts and Questions by Grade

K-2
3-5
6-8
9-12
Grades K-2

Key Concepts

  • Examine personal, familial, and societal connections between people, place, and history
  • Understand personal connections to the values and norms that define various political communities
  • Understand Indigenous histories and community connections to land
  • Examine how land and people shape each other

History Driving Questions

What is a community?(2 Resources)
How do communities shape the land? How does the land shape communities?(2 Resources)
How do communities name and talk about places?(4 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

What are different types of communities?
What are the smallest and the biggest communities that we belong to?
How have communities changed over time? Why have they changed? What is the evidence for change?
What makes places (e.g., human and physical geography) different?
How do I know I belong to a community?

Civic Driving Questions

How do communities change?(1 Resource)
How and why do people live together?(3 Resources)
What makes people move from one place to another?(1 Resource)
How am I a part of a community?(2 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What constitutes a family?
What are the reasons that people choose to live somewhere, or choose to move to or away from a place or kind of place?
What are some important landmarks in my community and what do they represent?
Why do communities mark important places? Why might people disagree about the importance of these places?
Our Changing Landscapes

Explore Resources

Part of a Community Online
Grades K–2:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Learning for Justice
Honoring Original Indigenous Inhabitants: Land Acknowledgement
Grades K–2:
 
Resource Collection/Teacher Resource
Source: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
Native Life and Food: Food is More than What We Eat
Grades K–2:
 
Resource Collection/Teacher Resource
Source: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
Grades 3-5

Key Concepts

  • Examine personal, familial, and societal connections between people, place, and history
  • Understand personal connections to the values and norms that define various political communities
  • Understand Indigenous histories and community connections to land
  • Examine how land and people shape each other

History Driving Questions

Why should we learn about the history of the land we inhabit?(7 Resources)
How did different groups of people understand and express their connections to the land?(4 Resources)
How did land change the ways people live, govern, and migrate? And how did people's choices change the land?

History Sample Guiding Questions

Who lived on the North American continent before the United States existed? What kinds of evidence helps us learn their histories?
How does the earlier history of the continent and its diverse peoples persist and remain visible?
How did different North American environments (e.g., natural and geographic) shape the ways that colonies and, later, states developed?
How did various communities decide (or not) where and when to migrate and settle?
What was life like on the continent of North America before the United States existed?

Civic Driving Questions

How does the environment impact my life and community?(1 Resource)
What are my responsibilities for the land that I live on?
How has the concept of what it means to be a "people" changed over time?(3 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

Who are the peoples that live on the North American continent? What connects and/or separates them?
How do different people build community and engage with the land (e.g., country, state)?
What does "Indigenous" mean? How does it relate to other terms such as “Native American,” relevant tribal area names, etc.?
What obligations does the term “Indigenous” carry, both from and to America's Native peoples?
How do we define and organize our land in terms of political and economic structures?
Our Changing Landscapes

Explore Resources

The Creek War of 1813-1814: What Would You Do?
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan/Teaching Strategy
Source: David Mathews Center for Civic Life
Exploring Personal Identity
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Autry Museum of the American West
Haudenosaunee Guide for Educators
Grades 3–5:
 
Unit Plan/Resource Collection/Teacher Resource
Source: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
Grades 6-8

Key Concepts

  • Examine how borders change over time and the consequences of U.S. territorial expansion
  • Compare and contrast the characteristics of political communities and societies (e.g., laws, religions, rights, economic structures, cultural norms)
  • Analyze Indigenous understandings of land stewardship, economic activity, property, and prosperity
  • Analyze the impact of people, policy, and cultural norms on landscape and climate

History Driving Questions

How do borders change over time, and why?(6 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

How did the United States come to have its current borders?
What other peoples and nations have shared borders with the U.S. over time? How have their societies compared to the U.S.? And how did they engage with the U.S. on the issue of its changing borders?
How was the founding and territorial expansion of the United States shaped by ideas of political and economic liberty, of political and economic equality—and for whom?
What trade-offs were involved in the process of expansion?
How did enslavement interact with the addition of new states?
How did Latino and Latina populations come to be part of and grow in the U.S.? Asian American populations? other populations?
What roles were played by U.S. national self-interest and power, balanced with American views of justice, in both founding and expansion?
Which religious communities have been prominent in American social and political life? And why in the 21st century are there so many religions in the United States?

Civic Driving Questions

What gives societies their identities?(4 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

How do different societies make laws?
What religions do different societies have?
How do markets, agriculture, and consumption work in different societies?
How do different ethnic groups come to play a part? What sorts of relationships emerge among them?
Our Changing Landscapes

Explore Resources

Bending Lines: Maps and Data from Distortion to Deception
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan/Resource Collection
Source: Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center
Oregon Boundary Dispute in 1845
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Model Diplomacy
Annexation of Hawaii
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Stanford History Education Group
Grades 9-12

Key Concepts

  • Examine how borders change over time and the consequences of U.S. territorial expansion
  • Compare and contrast the characteristics of political communities and societies (e.g., laws, religions, rights, economic structures, cultural norms)
  • Analyze Indigenous understandings of land stewardship, economic activity, property, and prosperity
  • Analyze the impact of people, policy, and cultural norms on landscape and climate

History Driving Questions

How have different groups of Americans taken responsibility for the landscape of the United States? How has that changed over time? How do they do so now?(7 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

How have different peoples and groups in the United States asserted rights to the places they call home?
How have ideas of property, citizenship, and the different levels of our federal system interacted with those assertions of rights?
What ideas of stewardship of the natural environment do Indigenous peoples have? And how do those shape different ideas of economic activity and what “prosperity” means?
What have some Americans meant by “the frontier”—in political and economic senses—and how has the meaning of that idea changed across centuries?

Civic Driving Questions

Who wins and who loses when a country expands? Is territorial expansion a zero-sum game?(3 Resources)
What domains of policy (e.g., economic, climate, transportation, housing) impact the landscape of the North American continent and its territories?(7 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What are the costs and benefits, and how are these defined, to different ideas of economic prosperity, liberty, and equality—for different peoples within the United States, and for the natural landscape?
What are the costs and benefits, and how are these defined, to different ideas of climate sustainability—for different peoples within the United States, and for the natural landscape?
How have land, labor, capital, and markets interacted to shape the North American landscape?
How have different experiences of belonging shaped the range of conceptions of “the people” we find in the contemporary U.S.?
Our Changing Landscapes

Explore Resources

Seventh Generation
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: High Resolves
America Transformed: Native Viewpoints on 19th Century Westward Expansion
Grades 9–12:
 
Resource Collection
Source: Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center
Dawnland Teacher's Guide
Grades 9–12:
 
Unit Plan
Source: Upstander Project

We the People

This theme explores the idea of “the people” as a political concept--not just a group of people who share a landscape but a group of people who share political ideals and institutions. The theme explores the history of how the contemporary American people has taken shape as a political body and builds civic understanding about how political institutions and shared ideals can work to connect a diverse population to shared processes of societal decision-making.

The theme also explores the challenge of e pluribus unum: forging one political people out of diverse experiences.

We the People

Overarching Thematic Questions

History

  • Who are “We the People of the United States” and how has the nation’s population changed over time?
  • What does our history reveal about the aspirations and tensions captured by the motto E pluribus unum?

Civics

  • Why does constitutional democracy depend on the idea of “the people”?
  • What values, virtues, and principles can knit together “We, the People” of the United States of America?
We the People

Key Concepts and Questions by Grade

K-2
3-5
6-8
9-12
Grades K-2

Key Concepts

  • Explore the diversity that makes up the American community
  • Discuss why we have government, and explore the relationship between people and their government
  • Examine definitions of citizenship
  • Explore the history of inclusion and exclusion of “the people” and access to citizenship
  • Learn about the conflicts and histories of oppression and power, and explore constructive ways to discuss hard histories

History Driving Questions

What kinds of stories (including non-European perspectives) tell us who we are and where we are from?(2 Resources)
How have these stories helped individuals and families create, influence, or change institutions (e.g., political, media, faith communities, etc.)?

History Sample Guiding Questions

What is my origin story?
Why do people tell their origin stories?
How do stories and artifacts shape who I am?
How did my family come to be here?
What is the origin story of someone with a different background from myself?
How do all of our stories weave together to form a fabric of our community?

Civic Driving Questions

How do people become a community?(2 Resources)
Why do we have rules?
How does a community decide on its rules? Who gets to make rules?
What makes a "good" rule?

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What are our classroom rules?
What are the characteristics of a good rule?
What makes a rule fair?
What makes a rule work well?
How do we make decisions about our classroom rules?
Why would we have to change our classroom rules?
What are our responsibilities and obligations to each other in our classroom community?
We the People

Explore Resources

Home at Mount Vernon
Grades K–2:
 
Lesson Plan/Resource Collection
Source: George Washington's Mount Vernon
Unit: Why do people move? (Migration)
Grades K–2:
 
Unit Plan
Source: History's Mysteries Historical Inquiry for Elementary Classrooms
Grades 3-5

Key Concepts

  • Explore the diversity that makes up the American community
  • Discuss why we have government, and explore the relationship between people and their government
  • Examine definitions of citizenship
  • Explore the history of inclusion and exclusion of “the people” and access to citizenship
  • Learn about the conflicts and histories of oppression and power, and explore constructive ways to discuss hard histories

History Driving Questions

How has the U.S. population changed over time? How have push-pull factors changed the U.S. population over time?(4 Resources)
How have different groups (e.g., religion, race, ethnicity) shaped our society?(11 Resources)
How do we engage with hard histories (e.g., enslavement, genocide, terrorism)?(9 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

How have definitions of “citizenship” [a "citizen"] changed over time?
Where, when, and why have people from different parts of the world come to the U.S.? What were the consequences of those migrations, forced and free?
What was the experience of Indigenous Americans before, during, and after the formation of the United States?
How and why did people support, perpetuate, resist, or combat enslavement in U.S. history and society?
How have ideas about political, religious, and economic liberty and about race affected the shape of those migrations over time?
How do the stories of Indigenous Americans, African Americans, Euro- Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos and Latinas help us better understand who we are?

Civic Driving Questions

What does it mean to be "a people"?(1 Resource)
Why do societies have governments?(1 Resource)
How are people involved in different kinds/levels/parts of government?
How does sharing a government contribute to forming a people at the local, state, and national levels?(3 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What do people want (or not want) government to do for us? What principles or values do Americans invoke when debating these issues?
What is a citizen? A resident?
What makes a good government? for citizens? for residents?
What does the Pledge of Allegiance ask Americans to promise and why?
The nation’s motto is E Pluribus Unum. How can we be one people when we are also citizens, members, or residents of towns, cities, states, and tribal nations?
We the People

Explore Resources

The Creek War of 1813-1814: What Would You Do?
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan/Teaching Strategy
Source: David Mathews Center for Civic Life
Why do people celebrate on the Fourth of July?
Grades 3–5:
 
Unit Plan
Source: History's Mysteries Historical Inquiry for Elementary Classrooms
Haudenosaunee Guide for Educators
Grades 3–5:
 
Unit Plan/Resource Collection/Teacher Resource
Source: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
Grades 6-8

Key Concepts

  • Explore what it means to say that “the people” rule in a constitutional democracy
  • Cultivate understanding of personal values, principles, commitments, and community responsibilities
  • Explore the challenges and opportunities of pluralism, diversity, and unity within the U.S. and abroad
  • Examine the values, civic virtues, principles, and role of the people in creating good governance at various levels
  • Analyze the impact of enslavement, Indigenous removal, immigration, and other hard histories on definitions of and pathways to citizenship
  • Explore the causes and consequences of different groups’ marginalization from participation in the polity
  • Evaluate the extent to which marginalized groups have won incorporation into “the people” and advanced the shared values and principles of the U.S.

History Driving Questions

In what ways and to what extent have the diverse people of the U.S. become one nation and faced challenges to that?(11 Resources)
How did the institution of enslavement and practices of Indigenous removal and even extermination affect national unity in the U.S., and to what extent have we addressed their impact over time?(2 Resources)
How have mechanisms of majority vote interacted with minority-protecting mechanisms over time?(3 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

How did different communities in colonial America and the United States make common cause?
How have different groups become U.S. citizens?
How has the definition of who is an American changed over time?
What is my story of the meaning of “American”—whether I am a citizen or a resident?
When and how have religious groups been excluded from civic and social life? How have they gained the right to participate in American constitutional democracy, and at what cost?
How was the phrase “the people” used in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?
How have the many dimensions of diversity pertained to the challenges and opportunities involved in forging one people out of many? (Dimensions of diversity that might be considered include race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, religion and spiritual experience, political viewpoint, socioeconomic status, immigration status, geographic origins and language, disability, family structure, and family participation in the military.)

Civic Driving Questions

What is pluralism, and how is it relevant to the American experience?(5 Resources)
Who am I, and what are my values and principles?(3 Resources)
Who am I, and which groups or communities do I belong to, by choice or by ascription?(3 Resources)
What does it mean to say that American constitutional democracy is of, by, and for the people?(7 Resources)
What are the leading principles and values guiding our ideas of good governments and what they do?(7 Resources)
What texts and resources best help you answer questions like these? What gives those texts authority or credibility?(6 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What is a social contract?
What rights and duties do citizens of the United States of America have?
What is meant by Article IV (section 4): “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government”? Why was it important to "guarantee" such a system in every existing or potential state?
What rights and duties do non-citizens have?
How do state constitutions and other membership charters, in addition to the federal Constitution, define who “we, the people” are?
How do the principles of liberty and equality contribute to defining the American people?
How can we ensure “liberty and justice for all”?
How and why does marginalization happen?
What values and virtues does the Pledge of Allegiance ask us to think about?
What key texts and songs help us understand the values and virtues of citizenship and civic participation?
How do historical and political meanings of “the people” compare with and relate to each other? Which “peoples” am I a member of?
What is significant about the final sentence of the Declaration—for the founders, and for us today?
How do the many dimensions of diversity continue to pertain to the challenges and opportunities involved in forging one people out of many? (Dimensions that might be considered include race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, religion and spiritual experience, political viewpoint, socioeconomic status, immigration status, geographic origins and language, disability, family structure, and family participation in the military.)
We the People

Explore Resources

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow
Grades 6–8:
 
Unit Plan
Source: New-York Historical Society
Stereotypes
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: High Resolves
Women & the American Story: A Nation Divided, 1832-1877
Grades 6–8:
 
Unit Plan/Resource Collection
Source: New-York Historical Society
Grades 9-12

Key Concepts

  • Explore what it means to say that “the people” rule in a constitutional democracy
  • Cultivate understanding of personal values, principles, commitments, and community responsibilities
  • Explore the challenges and opportunities of pluralism, diversity, and unity within the U.S. and abroad
  • Examine the values, civic virtues, principles, and role of the people in creating good governance at various levels
  • Analyze the impact of enslavement, Indigenous removal, immigration, and other hard histories on definitions of and pathways to citizenship
  • Explore the causes and consequences of different groups’ marginalization from participation in the polity
  • Evaluate the extent to which marginalized groups have won incorporation into “the people” and advanced the shared values and principles of the U.S.

History Driving Questions

How does the United States' kind and degree of pluralism compare with pluralism elsewhere in the world?
What distinctive challenges have accompanied race relations in the U.S., compared with other countries around the world?(9 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

What are distinctive features of American pluralism in contrast to pluralism in other countries?
What have been the benefits and the challenges of our pluralism over time?
How did people on this continent think about political membership and unity prior to the founding of the U.S.?
In the wake of the formal founding through the Declaration and Constitution, how have understandings of American membership and unity changed over time?

Civic Driving Questions

What are my personal values, principles, and commitments? What fundamental sources do I look to or invoke for these? What gives those sources their credibility and authority?(10 Resources)
How do my personal values, principles, and commitments relate to the shared values, principles, and commitments that define "We the People of the United States of America"?(14 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What role is played in my own life and in American society by values and virtues such as patriotism, civic duty, toleration, respect, dignity, civil disagreement, civic friendship, courage, justice, initiative, service, and volunteerism?
How do I understand the perspectives of others and build bridges between different points of view?
How does the diversity of civil society organizations help sustain the fabric of American society?
Why do some people from other societies seek to become United States citizens?
When and why do Americans sometimes choose to give up their membership in this people and to seek citizenship somewhere else?
We the People

Explore Resources

9/11 and the Constitution
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Center for Civic Education
Constitutional Conversations and Civil Dialogue
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan/Resource Collection
Source: National Constitution Center
Women & the American Story: Growth and Turmoil, 1948-1976
Grades 9–12:
 
Unit Plan/Resource Collection
Source: New-York Historical Society

A New Government & Constitution

This theme explores the institutional history of the United States as well as the theoretical underpinnings of constitutional design.

A New Government & Constitution

Overarching Thematic Questions

History

  • How did the U.S. government form and how have civic participants changed its shape over time?

Civics

  • What is a constitution and what is its purpose?
  • What is power?
  • What are rights (natural rights, human rights, civil rights, etc.)?
  • What is law?
  • What is constitutional democracy?
A New Government & Constitution

Key Concepts and Questions by Grade

K-2
3-5
6-8
9-12
Grades K-2

Key Concepts

  • Explore the experiences and interests of various groups before and during the American colonial period
  • Analyze arguments for and against U.S. independence from Great Britain
  • Examine the principles/purpose of constitutional democracy and the extent to which U.S. constitutional democracy has lived up to those principles
  • Explore concepts of fairness, unfairness, freedom, and equality in classrooms, communities, and governments.
  • Explore why the U.S. form of government is so complex, embracing several levels and parts of government

History Driving Questions

Why were there conflicts between different groups of people when they got together for the first time?
What happened between different groups of people during their first interactions?

History Sample Guiding Questions

Why would some people think that some rules are unfair?
How do different groups of people share their sides of the story throughout history?
What happens when different cultures come into contact with each other (negative or positive) for the first time?

Civic Driving Questions

How do we decide to become a community?
What are the benefits and costs of being a part of different communities? (e.g., neighborhood, local, state, or national)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What prevents people from getting along with one another?
How can people work together even if they disagree with one another?
How do you solve conflicts with others?
When do we decide to leave groups because of conflicts?
Grades 3-5

Key Concepts

  • Explore the experiences and interests of various groups before and during the American colonial period
  • Analyze arguments for and against U.S. independence from Great Britain
  • Examine the principles/purpose of constitutional democracy and the extent to which U.S. constitutional democracy has lived up to those principles
  • Explore concepts of fairness, unfairness, freedom, and equality in classrooms, communities, and governments.
  • Explore why the U.S. form of government is so complex, embracing several levels and parts of government

History Driving Questions

Why did various groups compete for territory in North America?
Why did the colonists disagree on fighting for independence from Britain?(6 Resources)
How did different groups of people (e.g., enslaved peoples, Indigenous peoples, Britain, France, Spain, etc.) react to the colonists' fight for independence?

History Sample Guiding Questions

What were different reasons the colonists had for separating from Great Britain? Why did some colonists choose to remain loyal to Britain or neutral in the conflict? What were the risks and benefits of such choices?
What new ideas for government did the British colonies come up with?
What were the various perspectives of colonists (e.g., French, Spanish, British, land-owning and indentured, etc.) and non-colonists (enslaved people and Native Americans) on the Revolution?
How have religious beliefs influenced our political and economic ideas, debates, and laws?
How did debates over enslavement and immigration affect the choices made in the Constitution?

Civic Driving Questions

How does our particular form of government support freedom and equality?(5 Resources)
How does our government embody a social contract?
How do people governed by a constitution make decisions?

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

Why are the concepts of representation, majority vote/minority rule, and rule of law important for a democracy?
Why do our governments not decide all issues by elections or majority popular vote?
How does the Constitution protect people’s rights?
How can a document inherited from the founders be a document for all citizens and non-citizens? How does the U.S. Constitution include all races, gender identities, and marginalized groups?
How did the Declaration of Independence make the case for self-government?
How did Prince Hall’s petition for the abolition of slavery (1777) make the case for self-government?
A New Government & Constitution

Explore Resources

Why do people celebrate on the Fourth of July?
Grades 3–5:
 
Unit Plan
Source: History's Mysteries Historical Inquiry for Elementary Classrooms
The American Revolution
Grades 3–5:
 
Unit Plan/Lesson Plan
Source: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Battle of Lexington
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Stanford History Education Group
Grades 6-8

Key Concepts

  • Analyze the ideas and debates about rights, power, civic participation, and decision-making that shaped the Revolution and the framing of the Constitution
  • Evaluate the changing relationship between the U.S. Constitution and treaties with Indigenous nations
  • Explore past and present efforts to adapt and redesign the U.S. Constitution and political institutions over time
  • Explore the relationships between equality, equity, justice, freedom, and order in American constitutional democracy
  • Develop an understanding of the purpose, processes, strengths, and weaknesses of U.S. government and politics
  • Analyze the role of groups without formal decision-making power in influencing change in the U.S. government

History Driving Questions

How did ideas and debates about rights shape the American Revolution and drafting of the Constitution?(6 Resources)
How did ideas and debates about power shape the American Revolution and drafting of the Constitution?(5 Resources)
What was the nature of the U.S. government when it was new? What were its central ideas? What were its shortcomings?(6 Resources)
What did the US Constitution as ratified in 1788, and the state constitutions of the founding era, say about how different groups of people could express their political will?(1 Resource)
How did debates about the new U.S. government play out among those who were not formally incorporated in decision-making?(1 Resource)

History Sample Guiding Questions

How did the founders of the United States draw on the history of prior experiments with free government around the world and over history as they pursued the Revolution and designed the Constitution?
What historical precedents (classical, British, Native, and other) shaped the founding documents of the United States?
How unified were the rebellious British colonies and the early United States?
What did the words of the Declaration of Independence mean in 1776? Was the nation founded on equality or inequality?
What is meant by “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” and by the “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence? What other ideas of religion, philosophy, or law are invoked in the Declaration?
What trade-offs were involved in declaring independence and establishing the Articles of Confederation, state constitutions, and the U.S. Constitution?
Who was included in/excluded from public debates about the Constitution?
What happens to local and regional distinctions within a federal union?
Where and how were voices raised criticizing the limitation of political rights to white men with property?

Civic Driving Questions

What is power? How is power reflected in your lived experiences?(5 Resources)
What is the concept of sovereignty?(3 Resources)
What is federalism, and what principles define it? What is its value, and what are its challenges?(5 Resources)
How is the U.S. Constitution designed to ensure that the country simultaneously has an "energetic government" (Federalist Papers) and protects rights?(2 Resources)
How is the U.S. Constitution designed to support reform and redesign over time? Why does the Constitution make the amendment process challenging?(1 Resource)
Which rights have been most prominent in American thinking and debates?(2 Resources)
What new ideas of rights have been advocated and debated?
What sort of ideas about all of these questions were articulated by people who did not have a role in formal decision-making?(1 Resource)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

How did, or does, the Declaration of Independence relate to the Constitution?
Why is majority rule an important principle? Why are mechanisms to protect minorities (whether racial, sexual, religious, ideological, or cultural) also important?
Why do we have three branches of government, or separation of powers? What are the roles of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches?
What is the idea of checks and balances, how is it supposed to function, and what does it take to make this work?
Why do we have both federal and state constitutions? How do local and state governments share power with the federal government? What was the “three-fifths” compromise?
What is the relationship of tribal treaties to the U.S. Constitution?
How do courts operate? How does a bill become a law?
How do elections work?
What is the purpose of the Bill of Rights? And what is its relation to the rest of the Constitution?
What is the purpose of the amending process?
How are equality, equity, and justice related? How are freedom and equality related? How are freedom and order related?
A New Government & Constitution

Explore Resources

The Constitutional Convention
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: C-SPAN Television Networks/C-SPAN Classroom
The Constitution: Primary Source Set
Grades 6–8:
 
Resource Collection
Source: The Library of Congress
State and Local Government
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Bill of Rights Institute
Grades 9-12

Key Concepts

  • Analyze the ideas and debates about rights, power, civic participation, and decision-making that shaped the Revolution and the framing of the Constitution
  • Evaluate the changing relationship between the U.S. Constitution and treaties with Indigenous nations
  • Explore past and present efforts to adapt and redesign the U.S. Constitution and political institutions over time
  • Explore the relationships between equality, equity, justice, freedom, and order in American constitutional democracy
  • Develop an understanding of the purpose, processes, strengths, and weaknesses of U.S. government and politics
  • Analyze the role of groups without formal decision-making power in influencing change in the U.S. government

History Driving Questions

Was the American Revolution a civil war?(2 Resources)
What efforts have been made over time to build a "more perfect union" upon the one forged in 1776 and redesigned by the U.S. Constitution in 1787-88? How do perspectives on this question differ depending on whether people have or have not had access to political rights?(6 Resources)
How have the efforts to bring change by those without formal political rights played a role?(3 Resources)
Does the US Constitution and its amendments, together with major reform legislation like the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and its ongoing interpretation by the Supreme Court, adequately guarantee the right to vote?(5 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

When has the union of the United States that declared independence in 1776 been threatened or shattered and how has it recovered?
What do you see as the significance of the Bill of Rights?
How did the early American republic address the tensions of religious liberty? And how have those tensions and responses to them changed over time?
What compromises were necessary to achieve the Declaration of Independence and Constitution and how do we distinguish between good and bad compromises?
What major amendments to the Constitution do you think are the most important, and why?
What principles of the Constitution have been fundamentally retained, and which ones have changed?
How do majority-rule and minority-protecting mechanisms work together in American constitutionalism?
What important political or civil society institutions have developed that are integral to the functioning of American constitutional democracy, yet not explicitly named in the Constitution (e.g., religious communities, political parties, trade unions, media entities, social media technologies, etc.)? How do they impact the shape and nature of American constitutional democracy?

Civic Driving Questions

What does it mean to describe the U.S. as a constitutional democracy or democratic republic?(4 Resources)
How flexible and adaptable are the political institutions of the U.S.?(9 Resources)
How do the political institutions of the U.S. interact with its economic structure?(2 Resources)
How do the political institutions of the U.S compare to those of other societies?(1 Resource)
Which rights does the Constitution and its amendments express as affirmative rights (freedom to do something) and which as negative rights (freedom from domination or from government interference)?(3 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

How do people experience self-government through the vehicle of the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions?
How does the U.S. Constitution put limits on majority rule? Is the Supreme Court an “anti-democratic” element of the Constitution?
Where and how does U.S. constitutionalism protect liberty and equality and where and how does it fail to do so?
In a constitutional democracy, what are the roles for institutions and procedures, and what are the roles for virtues, values, and good citizenship?
In what ways and to what degree were liberty and equality present in 1619, 1620, 1776, 1789? Where were they absent? How did the relation between them change over time?
In addition to the amending process, what other mechanisms are there for changing how political institutions operate?
How does the U.S. Constitution differ from other constitutions around the world?
How have various economic traditions (free market philosophies, Keynesianism, trade protectionism, public investment) shaped our political, social, and economic development?
How have digital technologies changed the functioning of the American constitutional system?
How does the U.S. compare to parliamentary democracies, constitutional monarchies, autocracies?
A New Government & Constitution

Explore Resources

America Transformed: Native Viewpoints on 19th Century Westward Expansion
Grades 9–12:
 
Resource Collection
Source: Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center
Separate and Unequal in 1963
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan/Teaching Strategy
Source: David Mathews Center for Civic Life
9/11 and the Constitution
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Center for Civic Education

A People in the World

This theme explores the place of the U.S. and the American people in a global context, investigating key historical events in international affairs,and building understanding of the principles, values, and laws at stake in debates about America’s role in the world.

A People in the World

Overarching Thematic Questions

History

  • What does it mean to be a nation among nations?
  • How has the United States dealt with different types of external relationships (conflictual and cooperative) across its history?
  • What is our influence in the world—diplomatic, economic, military, and cultural—and how has the wider world shaped the United States?

Civics

  • How do American constitutional principles influence the conduct of foreign policy?
  • How has United States foreign policy changed across our history?
  • How was the role of the executive branch changed across our history?
A People in the World

Key Concepts and Questions by Grade

K-2
3-5
6-8
9-12
Grades K-2

Key Concepts

  • Examine the causes and consequences of U.S. cooperation and conflict with other nations (past and present)
  • Develop capacity to see international conflicts and their consequences from multiple perspectives
  • Analyze various strategies for working with or against other nations (e.g., international orgs, military intervention, diplomacy)

History Driving Questions

How and why has the United States interacted with other nations and regions of the world?
How do our actions impact the world and how do things that happen in the world impact us?

History Sample Guiding Questions

How have your actions affected others in your family or school community? How have your actions affected people outside of your family or school community?
How have other people’s actions affected you?
How have you connected with other people in your family, school community, or the world?
Where do things we eat and use come from, and how do they get here?
Why should we learn about the world?

Civic Driving Questions

How do people make sense of other cultures in the world?
How do we understand different people from the world?
How do our actions today affect our relationship with others in the future?

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

How do we describe our place in the world?
How do our experiences and communities shape who we are?
How can we learn about the characteristics of other communities?
Grades 3-5

Key Concepts

  • Examine the causes and consequences of U.S. cooperation and conflict with other nations (past and present)
  • Develop capacity to see international conflicts and their consequences from multiple perspectives
  • Analyze various strategies for working with or against other nations (e.g., international orgs, military intervention, diplomacy)

History Driving Questions

How have nations cooperated in the past? What are the costs and benefits of cooperation?
What have nations had conflict over in the past? What were the consequences of these conflicts?(3 Resources)

History Sample Guiding Questions

How have the actions of the United States helped and harmed other nations?
Why has the United States cooperated with other countries in alliances and international organizations (e.g., IOC, NATO, UN, WHO) in the past? How have these instances of cooperation shaped our history and government?
Why do conflicts arise between the United States and other nations? How have past conflicts shaped our history and government?
What kinds of sacrifices have members of the military made in the past? Why did they make those sacrifices?
When and why has our military been praised and/or criticized?

Civic Driving Questions

How do we work with and against other nations?(1 Resource)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

How does the United States work with other countries, economically and politically?
In what ways does the United States cooperate with or have conflict with other countries today? What are the costs and benefits of this cooperation and conflict?
Where are U.S. diplomats, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines currently serving abroad?
A People in the World

Explore Resources

One Survivor Remembers: A Call to Action
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Learning for Justice
A Sailor's Life for Me
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan/Games + Interactive/Resource Collection
Source: USS Constitution Museum
Beyond the Battlefield: Virtual Field Trip feat. Author Lauren Tarshis
Grades 3–5:
 
Multimedia
Source: Museum of the American Revolution
Grades 6-8

Key Concepts

  • Analyze various strategies for working with or against other nations (e.g., international agreements, diplomacy, international trade, protectionism, war)
  • Examine the roles of national interest, human rights, and notions of justice when countries interact
  • Explore how the U.S. has acquired and used its power and influence in the world, both positively and negatively
  • Analyze how America’s founding principles and constitutional structures, and revisions to these over time, shape foreign policy
  • Develop understanding of contemporary debates about how the U.S. should exercise its power and influence around the world and balance domestic and international interests

History Driving Questions

Why do countries trade?(2 Resources)
Why do countries go to war — for what political, economic, territorial, and ideological reasons?(2 Resources)
What have treaties and other international agreements done across our history in addition to settling conflicts?(1 Resource)

History Sample Guiding Questions

How did the territorial expansion of the U.S. relate to military conflict and diplomacy?
How has the global trading system changed over time, and why? What political and economic ideas have motivated U.S. policies on global commerce and trade?
Which foreign wars have had the greatest impact on the development of the United States?
Who fights in the wars waged by the United States, and how do we recognize those who serve our country in the military and in other ways?
What different kinds of roles have been played by different branches of our military over time?
How have our networks of alliances changed over time?

Civic Driving Questions

What does the idea of "national interest" mean?
How do we balance American ideals of justice with our national interest?(2 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

What structure did the Constitution establish for the three branches to cooperate in managing foreign relations?
How did the American Revolution impact international law?
What vision for foreign relations did Washington set out in his Farewell Address?
How has the cooperation among the three branches on foreign policy changed over time?
What global issues matter for America’s role in the world?
When people say the U.S. should not be the world’s policeman, what do they mean? When they say the U.S. is the leader of the free world, what do they mean?
What are nationalism, isolationism, imperialism, humanitarianism, multilateralism?
A People in the World

Explore Resources

The Zimmerman Telegram in 1917
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Model Diplomacy
Oregon Boundary Dispute in 1845
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Model Diplomacy
NAFTA
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Stanford History Education Group
Grades 9-12

Key Concepts

  • Analyze various strategies for working with or against other nations (e.g., international agreements, diplomacy, international trade, protectionism, war)
  • Examine the roles of national interest, human rights, and notions of justice when countries interact
  • Explore how the U.S. has acquired and used its power and influence in the world, both positively and negatively
  • Analyze how America’s founding principles and constitutional structures, and revisions to these over time, shape foreign policy
  • Develop understanding of contemporary debates about how the U.S. should exercise its power and influence around the world and balance domestic and international interests

History Driving Questions

How and why has the U.S. acquired its power and influence in the world?(3 Resources)
When and why has the United States advocated for freer and expanded global trade? When and why has the U.S. advocated for protectionism?(1 Resource)

History Sample Guiding Questions

How has war shaped the formation and growth of the United States?
When and how have wars been unifying or divisive within the United States?
When and how have war and trade been related in the history of the U.S.?
What political, economic, and cultural ideas have informed our foreign policies and debates?
How do economic policy and foreign policy interact with each other?
When, where, how, and why has the United States played a leading role in building a peaceful and lawful international order in world affairs?
When does American influence in the world become imperialism?
How do we evaluate whether the U.S. has ever been an imperial power?

Civic Driving Questions

How should the U.S. exercise its power and influence, and why? With what limits, and invoking what ideas?(7 Resources)
How should American foreign policy balance the interests of the U.S. and those of other states?(4 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

When the U.S. promotes a global market and ideals of democracy and justice, are we projecting our self-interests or our ideals—or both—and are we improving global interests and justice?
What is the relationship between the core founding ideals of the U.S. and its role in world affairs?
What can we learn about the U.S. role in the world from statements by American presidents or Secretaries of State?
In what ways does the United States value peace or conflict with other peoples as a fundamental principle or aim?
How does the U.S. relate to the United Nations and other global governance institutions (e.g., WTO, IMF, WorldBank, NATO, WHO)?
How does the international human rights framework relate to our domestic rights regime?
How can citizens and civic agents engage in debates around war and peace?
A People in the World

Explore Resources

What is the best approach to US foreign policy in the 21st century?
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: C-SPAN Television Networks/C-SPAN Classroom
Documents and Debates Vol.1 Ch1: Early Contact
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan/Resource Collection
Source: Ashbrook/TeachingAmericanHistory
Uighur Repression in Xinjiang
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Model Diplomacy

A People with Contemporary Debates & Possibilities

This theme explores the contemporary terrain of civic participation and civic agency, investigating how historical narratives shape current political arguments, how values and information shape policy arguments, and how the American people continues to renew or remake itself in pursuit of fulfillment of the promise of constitutional democracy.

Contemporary Debates & Possibilities

Overarching Thematic Questions

History

  • How does knowledge of the American past—including of our constitutional forms and principles, as amended—help us to think about important political and economic debates today, including climate change and conservation, mass incarceration, individual rights and liberties, property and taxation, societal health and order, and political polarization?

Civics

  • What are key current events and policy debates in our constitutional democracy?
  • What values and principles underpin different positions on them? How do people engage with issues they care about?
  • How can we ensure our sources of information about these questions are accurate and fair? What effects can misinformation have on contemporary debates?
Contemporary Debates & Possibilities

Key Concepts and Questions by Grade

K-2
3-5
6-8
9-12
Grades K-2

Key Concepts

  • Explore elections and understand the reasons why individuals run for office
  • Understand contemporary debates around the purpose and role of government and civic participation, including voting
  • Explore debates and perspectives on how we tell our personal, community, and national histories and why they are important
  • Analyze the relationship between individual perspectives and public debates

History Driving Questions

Why do people talk about the past?(2 Resources)
Why do we need to know about the past?
Why do we tell stories about the past?

History Sample Guiding Questions

How does learning about the past help me learn about the present and prepare for the future?
How do stories about the past change over time and why?
How can we tell if some stories about the past are more accurate than others?

Civic Driving Questions

How do we know what our leaders believe and if/how they would improve our community or country?(1 Resource)
How does learning about the past prepare me to act in the present?(1 Resource)
Why is it important that people are able to say what they think, even if others might not like what is said?(1 Resource)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

How and why do we use stories to tell others about who we are in the world?
How do different people’s stories impact how I think about myself or others?
Why is it important to listen to different people’s stories and ideas?
How can we get along with people who disagree with us?
Contemporary Debates & Possibilities

Explore Resources

Part of a Community Online
Grades K–2:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Learning for Justice
Honoring Original Indigenous Inhabitants: Land Acknowledgement
Grades K–2:
 
Resource Collection/Teacher Resource
Source: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
How do communities make good decisions?
Grades K–2:
 
Unit Plan
Source: History's Mysteries Historical Inquiry for Elementary Classrooms
Grades 3-5

Key Concepts

  • Explore elections and understand the reasons why individuals run for office
  • Understand contemporary debates around the purpose and role of government and civic participation, including voting
  • Explore debates and perspectives on how we tell our personal, community, and national histories and why they are important
  • Analyze the relationship between individual perspectives and public debates

History Driving Questions

How do we evaluate and reflect on the actions of people in the past?(2 Resources)
How do we acknowledge failures and accomplishments of people and leaders while respecting their humanity?

History Sample Guiding Questions

What does it mean when people say that aspects of our nation’s past were better than the present, or that our current moment has greatly progressed from times past?
How can we learn to evaluate claims made about the past?
What kinds of evidence are necessary to sustain historical claims?
Why is it important to learn about the successes and failures of different kinds of leaders (e.g., diverse, lesser-known, and under-represented)?
What can we learn from historical leaders even when we disagree with their actions and values?

Civic Driving Questions

Why do people running for office tell different stories about America, what America has been, and what America might become?(2 Resources)
How can we assess and challenge leaders when we see the need for change?(2 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

Who are the people running to be leaders in your community this year? What do they say about their life and the issues they care about? How do these issues impact your life?
What kinds of evidence do we need to assess whether a speaker’s claims are accurate?
Why does respect for one another matter in a diverse society? What does respect look and feel like in different contexts?
Why is it important to deeply understand ideas and opinions that may be different than our own?
How can we express our disagreements and suggest change while maintaining our ability to work together?
Contemporary Debates & Possibilities

Explore Resources

Assessing Access
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Learning for Justice
Cooperative Comics
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: Learning for Justice
Students 'Sit' for Civil Rights
Grades 3–5:
 
Lesson Plan/Teaching Strategy
Source: Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Grades 6-8

Key Concepts

  • Explore the relationships between hard histories and contemporary debates
  • Cultivate an understanding of personal interests, motivations, and decisions as civic agents
  • Build strategies for learning about current events, issues, and debates
  • Explore the role of bias, truth, and the media in becoming informed civic participants
  • Understand how fundamental American principles—and continuing debates about them—shape current policy debates

History Driving Questions

What issues in current elections or local, state, national, or international decision-making are of most interest to you?(37 Resources)
How can you learn about their historical roots, particularly if history books haven't been written yet to cover the most recent decades of U.S. history?

History Sample Guiding Questions

Why do particular current events and issues matter to you and how can you learn more about them?
Are there moments, themes, or principles in United States history to which you can connect those issues?
Have the American people ever faced a similar problem before? How did they solve it, or make it worse?
Has another country ever faced a similar problem? How did they solve it, or make it worse?
What sorts of evidence are necessary to sustain a claim about what another country is like? How do we assess the caliber of information about other countries? How do we assess and interpret statistical data, graphs, and charts?

Civic Driving Questions

What issues in current elections or local, state, national, or international decision-making are of most interest to you?

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

Why do particular current events and issues matter to you and how can you investigate the issues or news stories that interest you?
What are your sources of news, and how do you judge whether they are credible, accurate, and fair?
How does digital information, including social media, help us to get information, but make it hard to get reliable information?
Why is it important as a United States citizen or resident to seek out differing views about important issues and stories?
What values or principles guide your thinking about the issues you care about?
What fundamental sources and texts in American constitutionalism and history do you invoke to help you understand current events? What gives those sources credibility and authority?
What range of values or principles guide the thinking of others who support different policy positions?
What sources of news and information are credible, fair, and accurate, and which are not?
Contemporary Debates & Possibilities

Explore Resources

Bending Lines: Maps and Data from Distortion to Deception
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan/Resource Collection
Source: Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center
Perceptual Set
Grades 6–8:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: High Resolves
Student-led Civic Digital Workbook
Grades 6–8:
 
Resource Collection
Source: The Democratic Knowledge Project - Harvard University
Grades 9-12

Key Concepts

  • Explore the relationships between hard histories and contemporary debates
  • Cultivate an understanding of personal interests, motivations, and decisions as civic agents
  • Build strategies for learning about current events, issues, and debates
  • Explore the role of bias, truth, and the media in becoming informed civic participants
  • Understand how fundamental American principles—and continuing debates about them—shape current policy debates

History Driving Questions

How can your learning from U.S. history suggest strategies for how to address our shared contemporary problems?(17 Resources)
To what extent have political parties both transformed American political institutions and also maintained the status quo?(2 Resources)
How have the ideologies of America's political parties changed over time?

History Sample Guiding Questions

What historical mistakes will you and your allies seek to avoid?
Did people at the time know they were making mistakes?
How can we use history to investigate contingency and fallibility as they are relevant to our own civic participation?

Civic Driving Questions

What issues in current elections or local, state, national, or international decision-making are of most interest to you?
What specific methods have Americans developed for adapting or preserving their society, and what are the strengths and limitations of each as we look toward challenges in the future?(13 Resources)
How are American political debates today informed by the aims in the Preamble of the Constitution? By the aims of equal liberty in the 14th Amendment? By tensions between these two sets of aims?(5 Resources)

Civic Sample Guiding Questions

Why do particular current events and issues matter to you and how can you investigate the issues or news stories that interest you?
What role does news coverage play in helping you identify which events and issues matter to you?
How can we combat confirmation bias, personalized algorithms/suggestions (filter bubbles), bad actors (trolls, disinformation agents), and other influences that diminish our ability to think carefully about political issues, find common ground, or to sustain civil disagreement and civic friendship?
What role do our own biases play in our information habits?
What is reflective patriotism? How can we balance critical and constructive engagement with our society, our constitutionalism, and our history, and still be proud to be Americans?
To what degree is living in a constitutional democracy essential to you?
Contemporary Debates & Possibilities

Explore Resources

Smithsonian National Youth Summit on Teen Resistance to Systemic Racism
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan/Resource Collection/Teaching Strategy
Source: Smithsonian National Museum of American History
World101: Global Era Issues
Grades 9–12:
 
Resource Collection
Source: World 101 from the Council on Foreign Relations
Personal Narrative
Grades 9–12:
 
Lesson Plan
Source: High Resolves
See Educator Resource Library
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We the People

This theme explores the idea of “the people” as a political concept–not just a group of people who share a landscape but a group of people who share political ideals and institutions.

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Institutional & Social Transformation

This theme explores how social arrangements and conflicts have combined with political institutions to shape American life from the earliest colonial period to the present, investigates which moments of change have most defined the country, and builds understanding of how American political institutions and society changes.

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Contemporary Debates & Possibilities

This theme explores the contemporary terrain of civic participation and civic agency, investigating how historical narratives shape current political arguments, how values and information shape policy arguments, and how the American people continues to renew or remake itself in pursuit of fulfillment of the promise of constitutional democracy.

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Civic Participation

This theme explores the relationship between self-government and civic participation, drawing on the discipline of history to explore how citizens’ active engagement has mattered for American society and on the discipline of civics to explore the principles, values, habits, and skills that support productive engagement in a healthy, resilient constitutional democracy. This theme focuses attention on the overarching goal of engaging young people as civic participants and preparing them to assume that role successfully.

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Our Changing landscapes

This theme begins from the recognition that American civic experience is tied to a particular place, and explores the history of how the United States has come to develop the physical and geographical shape it has, the complex experiences of harm and benefit which that history has delivered to different portions of the American population, and the civics questions of how political communities form in the first place, become connected to specific places, and develop membership rules. The theme also takes up the question of our contemporary responsibility to the natural world.

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A New Government & Constitution

This theme explores the institutional history of the United States as well as the theoretical underpinnings of constitutional design.

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A People in the World

This theme explores the place of the U.S. and the American people in a global context, investigating key historical events in international affairs,and building understanding of the principles, values, and laws at stake in debates about America’s role in the world.

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The Seven Themes

The Seven Themes provide the organizational  framework for the Roadmap. They map out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students should be able to explore in order to be engaged in informed, authentic, and healthy civic participation. Importantly, they are neither standards nor curriculum, but rather a starting point for the design of standards, curricula, resources, and lessons. 

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Driving questions provide a glimpse into the types of inquiries that teachers can write and develop in support of in-depth civic learning. Think of them as a  starting point in your curricular design.

Learn more about inquiry-based learning in  the Pedagogy Companion.

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Sample guiding questions are designed to foster classroom discussion, and can be starting points for one or multiple lessons. It is important to note that the sample guiding questions provided in the Roadmap are NOT an exhaustive list of questions. There are many other great topics and questions that can be explored.

Learn more about inquiry-based learning in the Pedagogy Companion.

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The Seven Themes

The Seven Themes provide the organizational  framework for the Roadmap. They map out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students should be able to explore in order to be engaged in informed, authentic, and healthy civic participation. Importantly, they are neither standards nor curriculum, but rather a starting point for the design of standards, curricula, resources, and lessons. 

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The Five Design Challenges

America’s constitutional politics are rife with tensions and complexities. Our Design Challenges, which are arranged alongside our Themes, identify and clarify the most significant tensions that writers of standards, curricula, texts, lessons, and assessments will grapple with. In proactively recognizing and acknowledging these challenges, educators will help students better understand the complicated issues that arise in American history and civics.

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Motivating Agency, Sustaining the Republic

  • How can we help students understand the full context for their roles as civic participants without creating paralysis or a sense of the insignificance of their own agency in relation to the magnitude of our society, the globe, and shared challenges?
  • How can we help students become engaged citizens who also sustain civil disagreement, civic friendship, and thus American constitutional democracy?
  • How can we help students pursue civic action that is authentic, responsible, and informed?
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America’s Plural Yet Shared Story

  • How can we integrate the perspectives of Americans from all different backgrounds when narrating a history of the U.S. and explicating the content of the philosophical foundations of American constitutional democracy?
  • How can we do so consistently across all historical periods and conceptual content?
  • How can this more plural and more complete story of our history and foundations also be a common story, the shared inheritance of all Americans?
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Simultaneously Celebrating & Critiquing Compromise

  • How do we simultaneously teach the value and the danger of compromise for a free, diverse, and self-governing people?
  • How do we help students make sense of the paradox that Americans continuously disagree about the ideal shape of self-government but also agree to preserve shared institutions?
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Civic Honesty, Reflective Patriotism

  • How can we offer an account of U.S. constitutional democracy that is simultaneously honest about the wrongs of the past without falling into cynicism, and appreciative of the founding of the United States without tipping into adulation?
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Balancing the Concrete & the Abstract

  • How can we support instructors in helping students move between concrete, narrative, and chronological learning and thematic and abstract or conceptual learning?
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Each theme is supported by key concepts that map out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students should be able to explore in order to be engaged in informed, authentic, and healthy civic participation. They are vertically spiraled and developed to apply to K—5 and 6—12. Importantly, they are not standards, but rather offer a vision for the integration of history and civics throughout grades K—12.

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Helping Students Participate

  • How can I learn to understand my role as a citizen even if I’m not old enough to take part in government? How can I get excited to solve challenges that seem too big to fix?
  • How can I learn how to work together with people whose opinions are different from my own?
  • How can I be inspired to want to take civic actions on my own?
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America’s Shared Story

  • How can I learn about the role of my culture and other cultures in American history?
  • How can I see that America’s story is shared by all?
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Thinking About Compromise

  • How can teachers teach the good and bad sides of compromise?
  • How can I make sense of Americans who believe in one government but disagree about what it should do?
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Honest Patriotism

  • How can I learn an honest story about America that admits failure and celebrates praise?
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Balancing Time & Theme

  • How can teachers help me connect historical events over time and themes?
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