Imperialism Social Studies Curriculum Inquiry

by Kameelah Rasheed and Tim Lent for New Visions for Public Schools

The New Visions Social Studies Curriculum ( is a free online resource that includes full-course instructional materials in Global History I, II, and US History. It integrates rich primary and secondary texts, maps, images, videos, and other reputable online sources into materials that meet the New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework’s objectives and provide students an opportunity to improve literacy skills by focusing on thinking critically while reading, writing, and speaking like historians. We understand that teachers may use resources differently, so we have created and curated high-quality Open Educational Resource (OER) materials as Google Docs; we encourage teachers to make their own copies of resources and thoughtfully modify them to make them useful for their individual needs.

Document Investigation Directions: For each document, complete the prompts below.

Document B: The Crime of the Congo is a 1909 book by British writer and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) about life for Africans in the Congo Free State under the rule of the King of the Belgians, Leopold II. Source: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Crime of the Congo, Double Day, Page, 1909.
There are many of us in England who consider the crime which has been wrought in the Congo lands by King Leopold of Belgium and his followers to be the greatest which has ever been known in human annals. […]
There have been massacres of populations like that of the South Americans by the Spaniards […] I am convinced that the reason why public opinion has not been more sensitive upon the question of the Congo Free State, is that the terrible story has not been brought thoroughly home to the people […]
Should he, after reading it, desire to help in the work of forcing this question to the front, he can do so in several ways. He can join the Congo Reform Association (Granville House, Arundel Street, W. C). He can write to his local member and aid in getting up local meetings to ventilate the question. Finally, he can pass
this book on and purchase other copies, for any profits will be used in setting the facts before the French and German public […]
Mr. Murphy [an American missionary] says: “The rubber question is accountable for most of the horrors perpetrated in the Congo. It has reduced the people to a state of utter despair. Each town in the district is forced to bring a certain quantity to the headquarters of the Commissary every Sunday. It is collected by force; the soldiers drive the people into the bush; if they will not go they are shot down, their left hands being cut off and taken as trophies to the Commissary. The soldiers do not care whom they shoot down, and they most often shoot poor, helpless women and harmless children. These hands — the hands of men, women and children — are placed in rows before the Commissary, who counts them to see the soldiers have not wasted the cartridges. The Commissary is paid a commission of about a penny per pound upon all the rubber he gets; it is, therefore, to his interest to get as much as he can.”

Document C: King Leopold’s Soliloquy is a pamphlet written by Mark Twain (1835-1910) regarding Belgian King’s rule of the Congo Free State. It is a satirical and fictional monologue of Leopold II speaking in his own defense. Source: Mark Twain, King Leopold’s Soliloquy, Boston: The P. R. Warren Co., 1905, Second Edition.
“But enough of trying to tally off his crimes! His list is interminable, we should never get to the end of it. His awful shadow lies across his Congo Free State, and under it is an unoffending nation of 15,000,000 is withering away and swiftly succumbing of their miseries. It is a land of graves; it is The Land of Graves; it is the Congo Free Graveyard. It is a majestic thought: that this, this ghastliest episode in all human history is the work of man alone; one solitary man; just a single individual–Leopold, King of the Belgians. He is personally and solely responsible for all the myriad crimes that have blackened the history of the Congo State. He is the sole master there; he is absolute. He could have prevented the crimes by his mere command;
he could stop them today with a word. He withholds the word. For his pocker’s sake. […] it is a mystery, but we do not wish to look; for he is king, and it hurts us, it troubles us, by ancient and inherited instinct to shame us to see a king degraded to this aspect, and we shrink from hearing the particulars of how it happened. We
shudder and turn away when we come upon them in print.”

Document D: Alice Seeley Harris was a missionary and documentary photographer. Her photos of the Congo were used in lantern lectures presented by the Congo Reform Association in the UK, Europe and America. Seeley Harris used one of the world’s first portable cameras, a Kodak Brownie to document the Congo Free State under the rule of King Leopold II. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Document E: In 1907, a Brussels-based publishing house published An Answer to Mark Twain, a 47-page book written in English in response to Mark Twain’s King Leopold’s Soliloquy (1905). Its author is unknown. Source: An Answer to Mark Twain, Brussels : A. & G. Bulens Bros., 1907.
Two years ago, an infamous libel against the Congo State was published in America under the title of “King Leopold’s Soliloquy” […] According to this book, all the Belgians who are in the Congo under the direction of their King, are nothing but vile murderers shedding the blood of the natives in order to ring rubber out of
them. Every pound of rubber, writes Mark Twain, costs a rape, a mutilation or a life. And the lies and slanders are accumulated […] The natives are illtreated and overtaxed. A lie! The natives are mutilated by the State. A lie! The State provides nothing for the country. A lie! The State establishes a worse form of
slavery right in Africa. A lie!
Truth shines forth in the following pages, which summarily show what the Congo State is — not the hell as depicted by a morbid mind — but a country which twenty years ago was steeped in the most abject barbary and which to—day is born to civilization and progress.
No soliloquy will prevail against the real state of things in the Congo . . . Mark Twain’s sympathy is exclusively extended to the Congo natives. He is not in the least interested in a better understanding between blacks and whites in the United — States, he takes no interest in the people of India who are clamouring for more freedom, nor in the Egyptians who are claiming self-government, nor in the natives of the British colonies.
The fact is, that the Congo Reform Association, of which Mark Twain is the mouth-piece, is not in quest of the happiness or the negroes, but is simply endeavouring, by all possible means, to overthrow the Congo Government, and with this object in view, has set up a fabric of imag-inary crimes and lies, in the hope, by dint of slander, to reach its distinctly revolutionary ends.

Document F: Photographs from An Answer to Mark Twain used to defend Belgium’s colonial policy in the Congo

Carpentry School
Sewing School
Native Teacher
Technical School

A History of Climate Change Science and Denialism

David Carlin

Reposted from the History News Network, 1/5/2020 (

The girl got up to speak before a crowd of global leaders. “Coming here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future. Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come.” She continued: “I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see. Did you have to worry about these little things when you were my age? All this is happening before our eyes.” She challenged the
adults in the room: “parents should be able to comfort their children by saying “everything’s going to be alright’, “we’re doing the best we can” and “it’s not the end of the world”. But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore.”

No, these were not Greta Thunberg’s words earlier this year. This appeal came from Severn Suzuki at the Rio Earth Summit back in 1992. In the 27 years since, we have produced more than half of all the greenhouse gas emissions in history.

Reading recent media reports, you could be forgiven for thinking that climate change is a sudden crisis. From the New York Times: “Climate Change Is Accelerating, Bringing World ‘Dangerously Close’ to Irreversible Change.” From the Financial Times: “Climate Change is Reaching a Tipping Point.” If the contents of these articles
have surprised Americans, it reveals far more about the national discourse than then any new climate science. Scientists have understood the greenhouse effect since the 19th century. They have understood the potential for human-caused (anthropogenic)
global warming for decades. Only the fog of denialism has obscured the long-held scientific consensus from the general public.

Who knew what when?

Joseph Fourier was Napoleon’s science adviser. In the early 19th century, he studied the nature of heat transfer and concluded that given the Earth’s distance from the sun, our planet should be far colder than it was. In an 1824 work, Fourier explained that the atmosphere must retain some of Earth’s heat. He speculated that human activities might also impact Earth’s temperature. Just over a decade later, Claude Pouillet theorized that water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere
trap infrared heat and warm the Earth. In 1859, the Irish physicist John Tyndall demonstrated empirically that certain molecules such as CO2 and methane absorb infrared radiation. More of these molecules meant more warming. Building on
Tyndall’s work, Sweden’s Svante Arrhenius investigated the connection between atmospheric CO2 and the Earth’s climate. Arrhenius devised mathematical rules for the relationship. In doing so, he produced the first climate model. He also recognized that humans had the potential to change Earth’s climate, writing “the enormous combustion of coal by our industrial establishments suffices to increase the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air to a perceptible degree.”

Later scientific work supported Arrhenius’ main conclusions and led to major advancements in climate science and forecasting. While Arrhenius’ findings were discussed and debated in the first half of the 20th century, global emissions rose. After WWII, emission growth accelerated and began to raise concerns in the scientific community. During the 1950s, American scientists made a series of
troubling discoveries. Oceanographer Roger Reveille showed that the oceans had a limited capacity to absorb CO2 . Furthermore, CO2 lingered in the atmosphere for far longer than expected, allowing it to accumulate over time. At the Mauna Loa observatory, Charles David Keeling conclusively showed that atmospheric CO2
concentrations were rising. Before John F. Kennedy took office, many scientists were already warning that current emissions trends had the potential to drastically alter the climate within decades. Reveille described the global emissions trajectory as an
uncontrolled and unprecedented “large-scale geophysical experiment.”

In 1965, President Johnson received a report from his science advisory committee on climate change. The report’s introduction explained that “pollutants have altered on a global scale the carbon dioxide content of the air.” The scientists explained that they “can conclude with fair assurance that at the present time, fossil fuels are the only source of CO2 being added to the ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system.” The report then discussed the hazards posed by climate change including melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and ocean acidity. The conclusion from the available data was that by the year 2000, atmospheric CO2 would be 25% higher than preindustrial levels, at 350 parts per million.

The report was accurate except for one detail. Humanity increased its emissions faster than expected and by 2000, CO2 concentrations were measured at 370 parts per million, nearly 33% above pre-industrial levels.

Policymakers in the Nixon Administration also took notice of the mounting scientific evidence. Adviser Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote to Nixon that it was “pretty clearly agreed” that CO2 levels would rise by 25% by 2000. The long-term implications of this could be dire, with rising temperatures and rising sea levels, “goodbye New York. Goodbye Washington, for that matter,” Moynihan wrote. Nixon himself pushed NATO to study the impacts of climate change. In 1969, NATO established the Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society (CCMS) partly to explore environmental threats.

The Clinching Evidence

By the 1970s, the scientific community had long understood the greenhouse effect. With increasing accuracy, they could model the relationship between atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and Earth’s temperature. They knew that CO2 concentrations were rising, and human activities were the likely cause. The only thing they lacked was conclusive empirical evidence that global temperature was rising. Some researchers had begun to notice an upward trend in temperature
records, but global temperature is affected by many factors. The scientific method is an inherently conservative process. Scientists do not “confirm” their hypothesis, but instead rule out alternative and “null” hypotheses. Despite the strong evidence and
logic for anthropogenic global warming, researchers needed to see the signal (warming) emerge clearly from the noise (natural variability). Given short-term temperature variability, that signal would take time to fully emerge. Meanwhile, as research continued, other alarming findings were published.

Scientists knew that CO2 was not the only greenhouse gases humans had put into the
atmosphere. During the 1970s, research by James Lovelock revealed that levels of human-produced chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were rapidly rising. Used as refrigerants and propellants, CFCs were 10,000 times as effective as CO2 in trapping heat. Later, scientists discovered CFCs also destroy the ozone layer.

In 1979, at the behest of America’s National Academy of Sciences, MIT meteorologist Jule Charney convened a dozen leading climate scientists to study CO2 and climate. Using increasingly sophisticated climate models, the scientists refined estimates for the scale and speed of global warming. The Charney Report’s forward stated, “we now have incontrovertible evidence that the atmosphere is indeed changing and that we ourselves contribute to that change.” The report “estimate[d] the most probable global warming for a doubling of CO2 to be near 3°C.” Forty years later, newer observations and more powerful models have supported that original estimate. The researchers also forecasted CO2 levels would double by the mid21st century. The report’s expected rate of warming agreed with numbers posited by John Sawyer of the UK’s Meteorological Office in a 1972 article in Nature. Sawyer projected warming of 0.6°C by 2000, which also proved remarkably accurate.

Shortly after the release of the Charney Report, many American politicians began to
oppose environmental action. The Reagan Administration worked to roll back environmental regulations. Obeying a radical free-market ideology, they gutted the Environmental Protection Agency and ignored scientific concerns about acid rain, ozone depletion, and climate change.

However, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts had already meaningfully improved air and water quality. Other nations had followed suit with similar anti-pollution policies. Interestingly, the success of these regulations made it easier for researchers to observe global warming trends. Many of the aerosol had the unintended effect of blocking incoming solar radiation. As a result, they had masked some of the emissions-driven greenhouse effect. As concentrations of these pollutants fell, a clear warming trend emerged. Scientists also corroborated ground temperature observations with satellite measurements. In addition, historical ice cores also provided independent evidence of the CO2 temperature relationship.

Sounding the Alarm

Despite his Midwestern reserve, James Hansen brought a stark message to Washington on a sweltering June day in 1988. “The evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.” Hansen led NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies(GISS) and was one of the world’s foremost climate modelers. In his Congressional testimony, he explained that NASA was 99% certain that the
observed temperature changes were not natural variation. The next day, the New York Times ran the headline “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate.” Hansen’s powerful testimony made it clear to politicians and the public where the scientists stood on climate change.

Also in 1988, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World
Meteorological Organization (WMO) created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC). The IPCC was created to study both the physical science of climate change and the numerous effects of the changes. To do that, the IPCC evaluates global research on climate change, adaptation, mitigation, and impacts. Thousands of leading scientists contribute to IPCC assessment reports as authors and reviewers. IPCC reports represent the largest scientific endeavor in human history and showcase the scientific process at its very best. The work is rigorous, interdisciplinary, and cutting edge.

While the IPCC has contributed massively to our understanding of our changing world, its core message has remained largely unchanged for three decades. The First Assessment Report (FAR) in 1990 stated “emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases.” Since then, the dangers have only grown closer and clearer with each report. New reports not only forecast hazards but describe the present chaos too. As the 2018 Special Report (SR15) explained: “we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes.

Wasted Time

As this story has shown, climate science is not a new discipline and the scientific consensus on climate change is far older than many people think. Ironically, the history of climate denialism is far shorter. Indeed, a 1968 Stanford University study
that reported “significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000 and these could bring about climatic changes,” was funded by the American Petroleum Institute. During the 1970s, fossil fuel companies conducted research demonstrating that CO2 emissions would likely increase global temperature. Only with political changes in the 1980s did climate denialism take

Not only is climate denialism relatively new, but it is uniquely American. No other Western nation has anywhere near America’s level of climate change skepticism. The epidemic of denialism has many causes:

 The result of a concerted effort by fossil fuel interests to confuse the American public on the science of climate change

 free-market ideologues that refuse to accept a role for regulation

 The media’s misguided notion of fairness and equal time for all views

 the popular erosion of trust in experts

 Because the consequences of climate change are enormous and terrifying.

Yet, you can no more reject anthropogenic climate change than you can reject gravity or magnetism. The laws of physics operate independently of human belief.

However, many who bear blame for our current predicament do not deny the science. For decades, global leaders have greeted dire forecasts with rounds of empty promises. James Hansen has been frustrated the lack of progress since his 1988
testimony. “All we’ve done is agree there’s a problem…we haven’t acknowledged what is required to solve it.” The costs of dealing with climate change are only increasing. Economic harms may run into the trillions. According to the IPCC’s SR15, to avoid some of climate change’s most devastating effects, global temperature rise should be kept to below 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. That would likely require a
reduction in emissions to half of 2010 levels by 2030, and to net-zero emissions by 2050. Had the world embarked on that path after Hansen’s spoke
on Capitol Hill, it would have required annual emissions reductions of less than 2%. Now, according to the latest IPCC report, the same goal requires annual reductions of nearly 8%. 1.5°C appears to be slipping out of reach.

We have known about the causes of climate change for a long time. We have known about its impacts of climate change for a long time. And we have known about the solution to climate change for a long time. An academic review earlier this year demonstrated the impressive accuracy of climate models from the 1970s. This is no longer a scientific issue. While science can continue to forecast with greater geographic and temporal precision, the biggest unknown remains our action. What we choose today will shape the future.

The Beginnings of the Religion in America Class at Pascack Hills/Valley Regional District

Hank Bitten

This article is based on interviews with Marisa Mathias, teachers, and students of the Pascack Hills/Valley Regional District. Hank Bitten is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies.

The intent of this course was to introduce students to the more pluralistic world that they are likely to encounter. For much of human history most people lived in a world where they were likely to come across people much as themselves: that is all
of their contacts would be with people of a similar ethnic, racial, social and religious background. As the world has become more interconnected students are likely to have to deal with people who have differing world views and the intention of this course was to use the study of religion as a vehicle for students to explore the diversity of religious belief and to see how religion can be a unique and distinct
explanation of the human experience.

The goal of the course was to show how religion supports our understanding of how the world operates. Just as the physical and social sciences add to our understanding of how we experience life, so does religion but it does it in a way that that is unique
to the core ideas of this discipline. This course was designed to explore the terms and language of religion so that it speaks to the listener on the termsthat most suits its distinctive message.

One of the guiding posits of this course is best summed up by the words of Ludwig Wittgenstein, 20th century Austrian philosopher:

“It is a grave mistake to make religious belief a matter of evidence in the way that
science is a matter of evidence because theological language works on an entirely
different plane. If religious language is interpreted symbolically it has the power to
manifest a transcendent reality in the same way as the short stories of Tolstoy. They
reveal a reality too wonderful for words.”

This course permits students to examine religion through the prism of myth and symbol, distinct from an emphasis on creed and ritual, for as Francesco Petrarch said in his 14th century treatise, On Religious Life:

“Theology is actually poetry, poetry concerning God, effective not because it
‘proved’ anything, but because it reached the heart.”

Religion is not supposed to provide answers to questions that lay with the reach of human reason. There are other disciplines that are designed for that.

Religion’s task, closely allied with that of art, it helps us live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there are no rational explanations and for problems for which there are no easy explanations: mortality, pain, grief, despair and outrage at the injustice and cruelty of life. Actually, the study of religion motivates inquiry, discovery, and exploration. When reason is pushed to its limits,
we can arrive at a transcendence that may permit us to affirm our suffering with serenity and courage.

Interpreting religion through the use of myth and symbol opens up a new avenue of understanding religious stories that is not reliant on the historical validity of those stories. Those stories have something timeless to tell us about the human experience that transcend our ability to validate them as historical fact.

While there may be some who may doubt that which is neither apparent of the senses nor obvious to our intelligence, I would direct you to the words of Albert Einstein who said in Living Philosophies in 1931:

“The most beautiful emotion that we can experience is the mystical. It is the sower of
all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger is all but dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself to us as the
highest wisdom and most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of all true religiousness.”

This is what we hope to convey to our students. That through a study of religion with the aid of an understanding of the myth and symbol we too may receive a glimpse of the divine nature of our world. Finally, Carl Jung concluded that

“Science … is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures our insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is.”

From a Teacher of the Religion in America Class:

When Dom started this elective course over 30 years ago, both his insight and perspective were brilliant. He held two master’s degrees, one in American History and one in Myth and Religion. Challenging students to examine religion through
the prism of myth and symbol offered the opportunity to see beyond creed and ritual. This focus allowed for a second, most important objective to be met for students – to help them understand individually why they believe what they
believe. From my experience, this is what students appreciated most from the class. Dom and I have always believed in the art of discussion and have both witnessed throughout our careers that students became empowered when we created a comfortable atmosphere for them to listen, think, question, discuss and grow. This has been and continues to be the beauty and strength of the course.

In 2007, when I began teaching the class, I looked to Stephen Prothero, Religious Scholar and Professor at Boston University. In his book, Religious Literacy, he revealed that most of his students had no understanding of religious concepts.
His belief was and continues to be that his students as well American citizens in general need to be religiously literate. Religious literacy, according to Prothero is, “a skill to engage in public conversations about religion” and requires “knowledge of world religions, empathetic understanding, critical engagement, and comparative perspective”.

Our course at Pascack Valley is entitled Religion in America where we offer students a comparative study of World Religions as well as the opportunity to understand why they believe what they believe. And all of it is done through the fostering of lessons in empathy and critical engagement. Inviting guest speakers in to our class from various religions was yet another brilliant idea of Dominic when he began the course and it continues to be the highlight for students. We study religion through the understanding of myth and symbol and learn about multi-religious beliefs from
those who practice.

Dominic, myself and now Marisa believe that religion matters and that students cannot make sense of global or American history or America or the world today without it. At a time when ‘information civility’ is waning and in dire need of
resurrection, this course espouses it. And the great benefit for students is that they ultimately gain a better understanding of why they believe what they believe.

Comments from final reflection papers by students:

 Before taking Religion in America, I held the belief that religion is a form of guidance which allows its followers to feel a sense of purpose in life. This course has reinforced my understanding of religion but I realized there is a lot more to explore and dissect when it comes to religion. The comparative nature of this class has allowed me to find commonalities and debunk preconceived notions about certain
religions, which has fostered a stronger sense of open-mindedness within myself. Now I see the concept of religion as having different layers or components: spiritual, structural, and psychological. Moreover, this course has allowed me to analyze my own personal connections to religion and how they have altered my thought processes and behaviors. Despite the fact that I do not presently identify with any religion, this class has had a positive impact by allowing me to apply certain practices and tenets of other religions to my own life.

 “As each speaker came in and I listened to them speak so passionately about their religion and my eyes were really opened. Everyone was so humble and surprisingly open to other religions. All the stereotypes I once believed were immediately thrown out the window. I no longer believed that religion is merely for the purpose of worship and control of the masses. It’s about love, community, and giving up yourself for a higher power and cause. Whether it is through community service or the small everyday good deeds you can do.”

 “Now at the end of this course, if you ask me whether I believe in God or not, I will still say no, but I will tell you all about how there is something out there for everyone. There is some way to make life worth living, the experience may not be able to take all the bad out of the world, but it will be able to balance it out with
the good. It took me a long time to understand why the dark in this world is so necessary, and with the help of this class I finally understand it is completely necessary so that each and every one of us can experience the good in extremes. I
now understand that all we can do to live a healthy and happy life is to exist in the present at all times, forgive and forget, and make mistakes. Everybody may not be able to agree with me, but that is okay because religion is not just one thing, it can be anything you believe it to be.

 My time spent learning about religions in this class was not time wasted. I feel that I really did learn a lot about the beliefs of the world, the people who believe in them, and the cultures surrounding them all. I value the time I spent learning about all of this, and I feel it was something good for me to have experienced. I’m happy that I have, and I will take the information I’ve gathered this semester with me through the rest of my life. I hope to use it to become a better person, someone who’s more
equipped to be more accepting of people no matter what they believe, even if I don’t think it is something I personally could ever subscribe to.”

 “After every single speaker that came in, I went home and couldn’t wait to tell my mom, dad, and sister about what I learned.”

 “I’m excited to come to class every day. This class genuinely made me a happier and more accepting person.”

 “This class is great because you not only learn about the different religions, and different parts of the world, but also about different cultures and the diversity within them.”

From: Visualizing Lived Religion: Placing Doctrine in Context by Thomas Sharp, Holland Hall School, Tulsa, OK

I teach sixth grade social studies in an independent Episcopal school. The course explores a narrative history of the Atlantic world beginning with the European Age of Exploration, particularly examining the theme of colonialism as it unfolds in
Latin America/the Caribbean and Africa. The content of the course moves between the historical narrative and current global issues that, in some way, tie into that narrative. A major goal of the course is building global citizenship and empathy
among the students. The course includes a standalone unit on world religions with the goal of attaining a basic degree of religious literacy and understanding the religious components of the historical narrative and current issues we discuss.
Another main objective is helping students develop a respectful understanding of and empathy toward diverse religious traditions. This project articulates
the beginning point of the unit on world religions by starting with the concept of lived religion. Because sixth graders need to develop the basic content knowledge of major religious traditions as a starting point, it is important to precede any discussion of the “basic facts” of any religion with the explanation that each tradition is characterized by astounding internal diversity. Using this preliminary discussion as a starting point, students can then move into the discussion of each faith tradition understanding the nuances that there is no such thing as a “pure” example of any tradition.

How can we move beyond a monolithic treatment of religious traditions when introducing religious studies to middle school students? This is the main question behind this project. The NEH Summer Institute, “Religious Worlds of New York,” has emphasized the concept of “lived religion” as an alternative approach to the more traditional model of focusing primarily on basic beliefs and practices as a way to learn about religious traditions. Rather than treating these traditions as monolithic or unchanging, the lived religion or cultural studies approach sees religion as a dynamic, constructed reality in the lives of practitioners that is situated in a particular historical context and, therefore, infinitely diverse in its expression.

The challenge I attempt to undertake with this project is how to communicate essential information about the world’s most influential faith traditions to middle school students in a way that acknowledges the staggering internal diversity of
human experiences of these traditions.

I have been persuaded by many of the readings and speakers in this institute of the value and need for the lived religion approach. In particular, Dr. Ali Asani, one of the foremost scholars of Islam in the United States, argued that treating religions monolithically is a cause of ignorance and dehumanization, which of course lies behind many of the religious conflicts we are experiencing in today’s world. Clearly, there is an imperative to teach from a lived religion or cultural studies approach given my overall course goals of global citizenship, empathy and respect. However, in my context teaching sixth grade in a relatively religiously homogeneous community, I am starting from “square one” in terms of introducing these faith traditions for the first time. There is a clear tension between the task of learning the “basic facts” about each tradition and understanding religious life in context of the lived religion approach.

In thinking through how to alleviate this tension, I propose a new way of framing how I introduce the study of world religions for my sixth graders. Instead of launching into learning about history, beliefs, practices, geography, etc. for each
religion, I will begin by introducing the concept of lived religion as a way of demonstrating the internal diversity of each faith tradition and the enormous
complexity of factors affecting its expression in the “real world” where we live. In short, I want my students to approach the study of each tradition with the caveat that there is no such thing as the “pure” expression of that tradition.

What I propose in this project is a visual model or template for thinking about lived religion. I will use the graphic resource I have created here to explain the concept of lived religion and to caution against projecting the basic facts of any tradition onto any individual practitioner, faith community, denomination, or entire religion. I will use this concept as a way of setting the tone for our study of religion as one of what Robert Orsi calls “radical empiricism” – that my students can approach the study of each tradition as a detached observer rather than a devotee, expert, or theological critic. This will allow us to explore the basic facts of each tradition in the context that these facts have no “pure” expression in the real world. Then, as we examine real examples of lived religion in our community through field trips and ethnographic research, students can explore questions surrounding the extent to which the examples they have encountered reflect the basic traditions we have discussed.

In addition to my emphasis on lived religion as an alternative approach to understanding religious studies, I will include some discussion of how the study of religion ties into the broader theme of colonialism, a major theme of our sixth-grade
course. The very idea of “religion” is itself a cultural construct of westerners imposed on nonwestern contexts (Asani, Orsi, Paden, Diner, Hawley, and others we have read or heard from as guest speakers in this institute have emphasized this point). This graphic will help me return the discussion to the theme of colonizer and colonized as we study religions by looking at colonialism as one component of the historical context through which we must filter our study of religion as a lived

I hope that through this careful framing of our discussion of the idea of lived religion, my students will understand that the basic facts of the traditions are an important starting point for understanding religions in the world today, but
never are they representative of the religious reality of lived experience.

C3 Framework on Religious Studies (

Steps to Begin an Elective Course in Your School

1. Develop interest and support from teachers in your department or school and supervisor.

2. Develop an objective, mission statement, and curriculum outline for a semester

3. Identify resources and speakers in your community. (museums, colleges, places of
worship, demographic profile from the U.S. Census.) ( )

4. Identify online resources or cost of books and resources.

5. Present plan to your principal.

6. Present plan to your Director of Curriculum.

7. Engage interested students who might sign up for this elective course in one and or two years. (Focus on freshman and sophomore students or middle school students.)

Benefits and Advantages for Students:
○ Colleges value the course for its emphasis on research, understanding of the cultural experiences of students from diverse populations, and the inherent qualities for inquiry and critical thinking

○ Social Emotional Learning connections support sensitivity to the experiences and
beliefs of other students, emphasize ethical and moral discussions, and listening to a variety of perspectives.

○ Relevance to the content in the subjects of U.S. History, World History, English

Steps to Support your Course Proposal:

Organize public discussion groups
o Present an outline of an elective course on world religions to students and document their questions and statements about offering a course. What do they want to know, why do they want to know about religious teachings, do they have any experiences with the subject of different religious beliefs, etc.

o Arrange for a discussion with teachers in your department and school about an outline for an elective course. Is this something that should be taught by one department, involve an interdisciplinary course offering (literature, science, art, music, etc., be structured around team teaching, etc.
o Provide an opportunity for the public (parents and community leaders) to
comment on the proposal.

Discuss the proposal with your school or district’s Curriculum Team
o First, arrange for an informal discussion with your supervisor and building principal about the need, support, scheduling, and budget.
o For example, is this a course that would be taught for a semester or a full year? Should this course be taught during the school day or offered online, after school, on Saturdays, etc.

o Is the primary focus of this course content, enrichment, or exploratory?

o Are there any concerns within the school or community?

o Second, arrange for an informal or formal presentation with your supervisor and
principal to your Director of Curriculum and Superintendent.

o At this time, present the course outline, C3 Framework Religious Studies Companion document, examples from other schools, list of possible speakers, textbooks or online
resources, the goals and objectives for this course, where it is most likely to fit in the
schedule, a summary of your research, professional development and training for
teachers, the course description for the Program of Studies, and a timeline for

Steps to Support your Course Proposal:

Appendix A:

Scholarly Research on Teaching Religion from the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute (2019) Goldschmidt, Henry. (2013). From world religions to lived religion. In V.F. Biondo & A. Fiala (Eds.), Civility, Religious Pluralism, and Education: Routledge.

● Warren Nord – “[Even] if students acquire a basic religious literacy as a result of their courses in history and literature, they are unlikely to develop any significant religious understanding … This kind of inside understanding requires that religion be studied in some depth, using primary sources that enable students to get inside the hearts and minds of people within a religious tradition” (p. 178)

● Goldschmidt – “This sort of empathic understanding is an essential prerequisite to civic engagement, and civil dialogue, among Americans of diverse religious and secular backgrounds” (p. 178)

● “What they need, I think, is an introduction to what scholars in the humanities and social sciences have taken to calling “lived religion.” They need to study popular beliefs and practices, in addition to canonical doctrines and rituals. They need to explore the process of interpretation – tracing how sacred texts may shape, and be shaped by, the practical concerns of contemporary communities. They need to
question the boundaries of established religions, and the definition of “religion” as such. And they need to pay very close attention to the diversity within religious traditions and communities, by tracking the doctrinal debates that divide every community, as well as the relationships between religion and other forms of identity, such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality … They need to know how their
experiences of American society may be radically different – and not so different at all – from the experiences of their peers living in different religious worlds” (p. 183)

● “I’m afraid world religions curricula may reinforce the divides among religious communities themselves, by painting an oversimplified portrait of these communities as internally homogenous and clearly bounded – wholly unified by their doctrinal commitments and hermetically sealed by their doctrinal differences” (p. 182)

Orsi, R. (1997). Everyday miracles. In D.D. Hall (Ed.), Lived Religion in America – Toward a History of Practice: Princeton University Press:

“The focus on lived religion … points us to religion as it is shaped and experienced in the interplay among venues of everyday experience …, in the necessary and mutually transforming exchanges between religious authorities and the broader communities of practitioners, by real men and women in situations and relationships they have made and that have made them” (p. 9).

Orsi, R. (2003) Is the Study of Lived Religion Irrelevant to the World We Live In? Special Presidential Plenary Address, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Salt Lake City, November 2, 2002. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42 (2), 169-174:

“The study of lived religion situates all religious creativity within culture and approaches all religion as lived experience, theology no less than lighting a candle for a troubled loved one, spirituality as well as other, less culturally sanctioned forms of religious expression. Rethinking religion as a form of cultural work, the study of lived religion directs attention to institutions and persons, texts and rituals, practice and theology, things and ideas – all as media of making and unmaking worlds. They key questions concern what people do with religious idioms, how they use them, what they make of themselves and their worlds with them, and how, in turn, men and women, and children are fundamentally shaped by the worlds they are making as they make these worlds. There is no religion apart from this, no religion that people have no taken up in their hands” (p. 172)

Paden, W.E. (1994). Religious worlds: The comparative study of religion. Beacon Press.
● “Like the study of music, which is not limited to examining a sequence of composers but also considers the special world of musical categories such as rhythm and harmony, so the study of religion is not limited to analyzing historical traditions such as Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity but also
investigates the religious “language” common to all traditions, the language of myth, gods, ritual, and sacrifice – in short, the language of “the sacred” (p. 1)
● “Many Westerners have found a “perennial philosophy” – as in the title of Alous Huxley’s book on the subject – embodied in mystical experience and writings around the globe. Huxley stressed that the mystics of all religions express a common unity of vision because they have all alike experienced the one reality “beyond name and form.” Innumerable religious sects have maintained versions of the idea of a traditional wisdom that underlies all historical religions and have emphasized the great difference between parochial, literal interpretations of religion, on the one hand, and mystical or symbolic representations on the other.
● In the 20th century, Carl Justav Jung (1875-1961) developed a psychological approach to religion and mythology that stressed the role of universal, collective archetypes embodied in every psyche. The myths and gods here represent typical functions of the unconscious that get reenacted over and over again in similar ways in individual lives. Everywhere we find versions of the great mother, the hero, the
tyrant father – all representing structures of the relationship of the go and the unconscious. The archetypal self that is in all of us is “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” as Joseph Campbell puts it in the title of his widely read book. The stages of the journey of the human spirit follow the same patterns, with but local variations, everywhere” (p. 32)

The Truth about Holocaust and Stalinist Repression

Annual Student Literary Award
Ludmila Prakhina

People of the world,
Rise up for a minute
And awaken yourselves
And ask yourselves
Have I done everything I could?
For my children, grandchildren
And great grandchildren
That they never forget and
Always remember.

January 27, 2005 was marked as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day adopted by UN General Assembly. ”

To commemorate this day and honor innocent victims of the Nazi genocide and Stalinist repression during the era of Cult of Personality, the Prakhin Foundation established The Annual Literary Award “Truth about the Holocaust and Stalinist Repression” for the best literary work revealing the tragedy of that period.

The First Annual Literary Award Ceremony took place on January 27, 2008 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Living Memorial of the Holocaust in New York City. “We used to do the ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage during 10 years, but in the last three years we have held it at Bergen Community College to make it more convenient for local adults and students to attend. Center for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation and its Office of Multicultural Affairs in Bergen Community College
were among the event’s co-sponsors. To involve young people, who should learn about the history of our ancestors and give them the green light and an opportunity to make a significant contribution by carrying the legacy through future generations we established new development of the Prakhin Foundation “Yang Generation Always Remember(YGAR ) and Annual Student Literary Award in 2010.

The “Young Generation Always Remembers” mission is not only to repay a debt to the previous generations who perished and to those who survived through the horrors of those terrible years, but also, to help our youth to get to know their history and role models, because they give children of all ages a sense of the basic need of belonging, a sense of their place in the world.

The Gala-concert “New generation always remembers – Past, Present, Future” will recognizes the achievements of talented children who participate or would like to participate in charity work.

In addition, this event is an important communication platform between generations by fusing together the wisdom and memory of the older generation with the talents and energy of the young generation for a brighter future. We invite aspiring performers of all ages, students from schools, academies, or youth organizations to
participate in our Gala-concert. Since 2010 we received more than 250 submissions from middle and high school students. Teachers and students are using the curriculum resources of “Holocaust and Genocide” and “Stalin and his Repressive Regime” created by the Prakhin Foundation in conjunction with the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education. We strongly believe that young generations need to be aware of THESE dark times in HUMAN history. If people forget, history tends to repeat itself.

This year we received fifty-seven submissions from several NJ schools, Weehawken HS, Bayonne HS, Englewood HS, Passaic Academies HS, Fair Lawn HS, Summit HS, and North Bergen HS. Teachers and students have studied the very serious issue of
“Truth about Holocaust and Stalinist Repressions” and produced outstanding art, prose, and poetry. We appreciate all of them who submitted their creative work and sent everyone a certificate directly to the school or presented during Award Ceremony. We are grateful to all the teachers for their educational efforts.

Examples of entries that received awards are:
 Diana Mendoza, Bayonne HS student for the art piece: Children on the fence
 Amy Arogue Irigoyen, North Bergen HS student, for the art piece Murder Factory
 Sabrina Fong, Weehawken High School for the poem The Holocaust
 Gabriel Matthew Luyun, Fair Lawn HS student for the article Stalin’s Genocide That Few Remember
 Ayla Teke, Passaic County Technical HS, for the poem Holocaust and Stalin

This year’s invited guests to our awards program were Tekla Bekesha, director of Preili (Latvia) history museum, Nora Shnepste, Latvian high school principal, Pastor Klaus Peter Rex from Germany, Sami Staigmann, survivor and educator, Bernard Storch, veteran War II, and Frank Malkin survivor.

Our Foundation and YGAR continues to reach out to young writers, artists, musicians, and students alike by involving high schools, colleges, and universities in teaching students about human values, such as compassion, awareness, and forgiveness. We continue to encourage students to submit their work reflecting the Holocaust and Stalinist Repression in efforts to preserve the memories of our ancestors and inspire awareness among our youth.

Letter from Students “Yang Generation Always Remember”
Erica Linnik, Fair Lawn HS student, YGAR development of Prakhin Literary Foundation

Dear friends,
As time progresses, the necessity of preserving the history of those before us that experienced the truth of the Holocaust and Stalinist Repression grows stronger. The number of these witnesses grows less and less as time passes, and we cannot let their
memories and wisdom perish with them. The lessons of those before our time only grows more relevant in our changing world, where the generation of our youth must understand the dangers of a fascist regime and the destructive nature of ignorance. Anti-Semitism and other discriminatory acts are still present today, and by
promoting awareness among our youth, we can work towards a peaceful future. With every passing year, the challenge of keeping alive the memory of victims from the Holocaust and Stalinist regime grows more complex, and the necessity of preserving tolerance more urgent. However, with active students around the globe, such a difficult goal can be steadily achieved.

With the gracious aid of teachers and the establishment of our organization, we all take one step towards an enlightened future by remembering and learning from our not-so-distant past. A mistake as large as the atrocities of the Nazi and Stalinist regime repeated once more in our society risks turning into a habit. Such habits must be uprooted from our world through education and by never forgetting what those before us have experienced.

Although the hardships that the victims of the Holocaust and the Stalinist Regime are nearly impossible to completely comprehend for those that did not witness them, it is the duty of the youth to preserve the memories and teachings of their ancestors. To allow the suffering and pain from the Holocaust and the Stalinist Repression to be
forgotten is dangerous, for we then run the risk of allowing such atrocities to reoccur once more.

The Annual Award Ceremony grants awards to young writers and artists that produce work under the subject of the Holocaust and Stalinist Repression. The awards granted to our young writers and artists both honor the memories of those
who have perished before us and also serve as validations of hope for a promising future.

An example of a talented recipient is Daniel Mezhiborsky, who received an award for his poem “Gone.”
My sister –
Where is my sister?

We stepped off the railcar like they said
We waited in the long line and smelled the smoke
My mom cried.
My arms ached.
And the people all were quiet.
Where is my sister?
She is here. I can see her.
I hold her hand. She is shaking.
The line is narrowing
And I see the man in the white coat.
My sister’s crying
And I stop to hold her.
“Bewegung.” Move, the guard says.
Our mother’s behind us as we step up to the man.
He points to one of the lines behind him.

Where’s my sister? I feel her hand.
We walk carefully to where the man pointed
And my sister’s shaking calmed.
But then, a shout – and another hand pulling on my sister’s arm.

I didn’t have time to scream before he had her
Before the guard took her away.
But make no mistake. It came soon after.
I screamed like I have never screamed before.
I looked to see my sister –

On her face I saw the most excruciating of expressions,
The most cursed of looks,
The most painful of cries.
In her eyes I saw fear,

I saw confusion,
I saw sorrow,
I saw pure terror.
But then the crowd closed around them
And I was left standing alone.
The world around me moved, but I stood still.

The pang of uselessness, the surge of anguish that
flooded me…
I felt my soul Crumble.
My knees weakened.
I fell.

Daniel Mezhiborsky was an award recipient from the 13th Annual Award Ceremony. The next Annual Award Ceremony will be held on January 28, 2021 and the deadline for all submissions is on December 30, 2020.

Next year’s Award Ceremony will be held on January 28, 2021. The submission deadline for all types of works is on December 30, 2020.
Contact information: Phone: 201-741-0833,

Connecting Humanitarianism to the Next Generation – the Rise of Humanitarian Educators

Amanda McCorkindale

Dr. Amanda McCorkindale is a New York State certified social studies who now teaches in the Humanitarian Education and Conflict Resolution Institute at Manchester University in the United Kingdom. This was originally published in the
University of Manchester blog.

How do we engage with the next generation effectively when trying to tackle and understand humanitarian responses?

Are we relying on their innate ability to evolve towards being a ‘humanitarian’ based on engagement through charity fundraisers?

Do humanitarian organizations have a responsibility towards educating young people?

These questions have been at the forefront of my mind since I trained as a secondary Social Studies teacher in the United States over twelve years ago. During my time as a teacher in the U.S., Scotland and England I was fascinated by what motivated young people to engage with charities and humanitarian endeavors. I found time and again that students were eager and enthusiastic to participate with humanitarian initiatives, and they were far from apathetic, but too often they failed to understand how their efforts were helping or to see the wider picture. This led me to the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) where I went on to study a PhD jointly with the Manchester Institute of Education at the University of Manchester into humanitarian education.

Throughout this research I found that students did want to engage with humanitarian topics and help their local and global communities and that their enthusiasm was at times boundless. Key themes from this research have gone on to
form HCRI’s brand new CPD unit in Humanitarian Education, which explores how we can engage young people with humanitarian topics through key pedagogical and humanitarian methods.

One key theme that developed from my research was how young people engage with ‘the other’, the concept where an individual is perceived by the group as not belonging. I found throughout the interviews, observations, and endless document analysis that students engaged with through feelings of empathy and ‘feeling with’ the other. Building on this, using student voice, agency and empowerment educators can help engage students towards empathizing with the people and organizations they are trying to help or develop a greater understanding of the humanitarian
response they are studying. Creating a lasting connection for students that will resonate with them for years to come.

What does it mean to be a Humanitarian Educator? A core finding within my research was the role of humanitarian educators — humanitarians who are working as educators, whether this is in a classroom or informally through youth work. One of the pillars of this approach is exploring the ways in which the core humanitarian
principles may be internalized by educators and reflected within their teaching practices, ultimately being humanitarians working within the educational field.

Humanitarian organizations have been producing resources to aid this transition and there have been recent movements coming from the International Federation of the Red Cross to ‘operationalize’ the principles (Beeckman, 2016) or to ‘teach humanity’ through Project Humanity. These approaches provide the groundwork towards being a humanitarian educator and this rising trend within humanitarianism. This is something that sparked my interested in developing a short online program to help guide educators and practitioners in humanitarian education.

Recognizing the qualities of being a humanitarian educator and internalizing them, will help you to gain a better understanding of how to engage young people with these topics and support you when teaching, what are at times, challenging topics. The online University of Manchester Humanitarian Education Continuing Professional Development helps educators identify how best to approach current humanitarian events and responses to best reflect the humanitarian principles as well as encourage students to empathize with others.

The world is currently having to adapt their educational perspectives in response to the global pandemic of Covid-19. The importance of education and understanding the role of humanitarianism and understanding the human connection to ‘the other,’ is more important now than it has ever been before.

If you’re interested in having the skills and methods to educate and support students to engage with these topics in a meaningful way, contact Amanda McCorkindale at

Youth Voices and Agency in Democratic Education

Julie Anne Taylor

I’ve learned you are never too small to make a
difference. And if a few children can get headlines
all over the world just by not going to school, then
imagine what we could all do together if we really
wanted to. But to do that, we have to speak clearly,
no matter how uncomfortable that may be.

(Thunberg, 2018, n.p.)

Inspired by the Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, middle and high school students around the world are participating in school strikes on Fridays to draw attention to global warming and to call for policy changes. In light of this movement, high school students in Detroit wrote political speeches on environmental issues, two of which were sent to their congresswoman in the United States House of Representatives. To raise funds as well as awareness of environmental matters, the students also participated in an art-based, service-learning project in the community. Concerned about environmental issues, today’s
youth value participatory, democratic learning experiences. This article examines teaching practices that encourage youth voices and agency.

The theoretical framework of this study was shaped by Deweyan ideas of democracy and education (Dewey, 1916/2012). John Dewey argued that democracy requires the participation of all people in defining the values that govern social life (Dewey, 1937). Recognizing the importance of educational institutions, he advocated for democratic methods in social relationships. The work of Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy (2015) also influenced this article; they concluded that engaging students in political deliberation is fundamental to civic education. Students must learn how to persuade with evidence, grapple with diverse perspectives, and participate in decision-making. Preparing students for participation in democratic life requires the cultivation of skills and dispositions (Fay & Levinson, 2019; Hansen, Levesque, Valant
& Quintero, 2018).

At the core of the guiding framework for social studies education in the United States is the Inquiry Arc, which calls for students to communicate conclusions and to take informed action (National Council for the Social Studies, 2013). The framework is designed to promote the skills and competencies that active and engaged citizens require. When youth believe that their voices are being heard, school experiences become more meaningful and relevant (Quaglia & Corso, 2014). Student-voice initiatives foster youth agency and leadership (Mitra, 2008). Dewey (1916/2012)

A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of
associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. The extension in space of the number of individuals who participate in an interest so that each has to refer to his own action to that of others, and to consider the action of others to give point and direction to his own, is equivalent to the breaking down of those barriers of class, race, and national territory which kept men from perceiving the full import of their activity.
(p. 94).

This study’s uniqueness lies in its interdisciplinary approach to civic engagement.
Through artistic design and persuasive writing, students applied their knowledge of global and local environmental issues. They communicated artfully to effect change. Pedagogically, the methods in this action-research study were constructivist. Learners transferred knowledge as they created relevant products (Pellegrino, 2015; Zhao, 2015). By emphasizing critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving, deeper learning supports student agency and collaboration (Bellanca, 2015; Trilling,

The School and students

The 28 students, who participated in this IRB approved study, attended a public secondary school in Detroit. The school is the only all-boys, public school in the state of Michigan. At the time of the study, about 165 students were enrolled. The
majority of the students were eligible for the National School Lunch Program. About 98.5% of the young men were African American. The school has a college preparatory focus.

The participants in this study were engaged in an enrichment program that is the outcome of a long-term partnership between the school and a
regional university. The program explores project and inquiry-based learning as well as arts integration in the social studies. Offered through the school’s World History and Geography course during the 2018-2019 academic year, the program examined the human impacts on the environment and democratic practices for realizing change. The student participants spanned three grade levels. Five students were in the twelfth grade, 22 were in the eleventh grade, and one was in the tenth grade.
Parental and student permissions were given to include first names and photographs in this article.

The two-fold project

To increase their knowledge of how humans are affecting the environment, the students engaged in a videoconferencing series on environmental topics with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, the Lee Richardson Zoo, Zion National Park, the Buffalo Zoo, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Canada. In addition to participating in interactive lectures and viewing videos, the young men conducted research to learn about environmental issues such as climate change, plastic pollution, the extinction and endangerment of animals, and water quality. Thirteen students built upon their knowledge of human impacts by
participating in guided tours of the Huron River watershed. To communicate their ideas, the students designed mugs with persuasive, environmental messages for local use, and they wrote speeches for their congresswoman in the U.S. House of Representatives. The experiential project taught students about civil discourse and civic engagement.

Persuasive design and civic engagement in the community

Before designing mugs with environmental messages, the students analyzed eight green, political posters from Siegel and Morris’ (2010) collection, Green Patriot Posters: Images for a New Activism. Created by contemporary and international graphic designers, the posters were selected because of their foci on diverse and current environmental issues as well as their use of persuasive techniques. Designed for a global audience, the Green Patriot Posters collection was inspired by the work of New Deal artists, who were employed by the Works Progress Administration in
the United States during the Great Depression and World War II.

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) were used to engage students in discussions (Yenamine, 2013). VTS is based on three questions: a) What’s going on in this picture?; b) What do you see that makes you say that?; and c) What more can you find?. Additionally, questions from the Poster Analysis Worksheet of the National Archives and Records Administration (n.d.) fostered critical analysis: a) Who do you think is the intended audience? and b) Why was it created? The students examined the meaning and impact of colors and symbols. While identifying written and visual messages, they considered the artists’ intentions. They also evaluated the overall effectiveness of the posters.

The analysis of green art led to an exchange of ideas about politics, the environment, and free artistic expression. In discussions, the students commented on the dramatic image of an inverted human figure with smoke-stack legs in Frédéric Tacer’s (2007) poster, Global Warming (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Global Warming, Frédéric Tacer, 2007,
Courtesy of the artist

The poster sparked conversations about industrial
carbon emissions, climate change, and rising water levels. The students recognized and pondered Will Etling’s (2010) adoption and modification of the Black Power fist in Sustain (Figure 2); Etling’s green fist is clenching a carrot.

Figure 2. Sustain Figure, Will Etling, 2010 Courtesy of the artist

With his message, “Push a pedal for the planet,” Jason Hardy (2009) offered the students a fitting example of alliteration in his poster, Let’s Ride (Figure 3).

Let’s Ride, Jason Hardy, 2009
Courtesy of the artist

Individually or in pairs, the students selected environmental topics of particular concern or interest. In addition to drawing images with colored pencils, they wrote relevant messages. As they were drawing and writing, the students kept their
primary audience in mind: adult customers at a popular, local café. They concluded that their customers would probably use the mugs at home or
at work. To scaffold the students’ artistic work, stencils were made available.

The drawings were uploaded to and edited on a retail corporation’s photography site for production as mugs. Each student’s drawing was rendered on a mug for him to keep. Six drawings were selected by educators based on the quality of the artwork and the persuasiveness of the messages. Multiple copies of mugs with those designs were produced for sale at the café for fundraising purposes. The state chapter of the Sierra Club, to support the fundraiser, posted images of the drawings and mugs to its website. Profits from the sale of the mugs were used to purchase peach trees and lilies for the school.

Creating environmental mugs taught students how to influence people in the local
community through design. With the funds raised by the sale of their products, the young men “greened” their school. When students are empowered to shape their school environments, they gain a sense of ownership (Mitra, 2008). The students agreed that fruit trees should be planted because they yield food; they wanted the produce to be available to students as well as people in the local community. They opted to plant lilies because of their hardiness and tendency to multiply. During
and after the planting of the trees and flowers, the students made comments which suggested an increased connection to the school setting. “We are making this place look nice,” said one young man. “The flowers brighten the school,” observed
another. “The cafeteria will make something good to eat with the peaches,” stated a third student.

After the greening of the school grounds, the students were ready for the next level: the use of complex language and data to influence policymaking at the national level. Thunberg’s (2018, 2019) work on the global stage served as their inspiration for political speechwriting. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Thunberg was the recipient of the Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award. She was named one of the most influential people by Time magazine, which featured her on its cover in 2019.

Persuasion through political speechwriting at the national level

“The political orator is concerned with the future: it is about things to be done hereafter that he advises, for or against,” observed Aristotle (350 B.C.E./2015, p. 14). In this study, the students embraced democratic praxis by composing and delivering political speeches on environmental issues of their choice. The format for their speeches was Monroe’s (1935/1943) Motivated Sequence (MMS). MMS includes the following steps: “1) getting attention; 2) showing the need: describing
problem; 3) satisfying the need: presenting the solution; 4) visualizing the results; and 5) requesting action or approval” (p. 94).

The students considered persuasion through oratory (Leith, 2012). Effective speechwriters often use vivid language, repetition, alliteration, active verbs, short sentences, transitions, compelling quotations, metaphors, and rhetorical questions
(Lehrman, 2010). When appropriate, they integrate humor. Speakers determine when to pause for effect, project their voices, and make eye contact (Leith, 2012). Model texts for the speechwriting assignments included Thunberg’s (2018) speech on
climate change at the United Nations Climate Change COP24 Conference, which the students viewed and examined in the form of a transcript, as well as a four-minute excerpt of Thunberg’s (2019) speech to leaders of the European Union, which the
students viewed only.

To respect different styles of working, the young men had the option of crafting their speeches independently or in small groups. The students, who opted to work collaboratively, selected their own groups. Prior to writing, the young men completed a template. Monroe’s (1935/1943) Motivated Sequence was slightly modified to add an impactful closing statement or clincher.

To find evidence for their own speeches, the students visited websites such as those of NASA (2019), the United States Geological Survey (2019), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (n.d.). They also culled information on
sustainability and data from books by Margaret Robertson (2017) and Leslie Paul Thiele (2016). In their speeches, the students integrated evidence, and they related stories about how environmental issues adversely affect people today. They identified how governments could take action to protect the environment. Using a portable public address system, the young men delivered their speeches before their classmates and educators (Figure 4). The independently prepared speeches were
comparable in quality to those crafted in groups.

Figure 5. A student delivers a speech on climate change

Selected by educators, written copies of two speeches were sent to a U.S. congresswoman. With an encouraging letter, the representative responded;
she addressed environmental issues in Detroit, and she urged the students to continue to be civically engaged. Her letter was read to the class by student
volunteers. Copies were posted in the media center and front office, not far from the desks of the administrative staff and educators, who were using the students’ environmental mugs.


Action research is a systematic and participatory process to gain understanding of issues or problems (Stringer, 2014). Action research challenges educators to be methodical and reflective in examinations of innovative teaching and learning
practices (Mills, 2011). Through data gathering and inquiry, educators gain insights that can lead to positive changes (Mertler, 2014; Mills, 2011). In this action-research study, mixed-methods were employed. Suitable for interdisciplinary investigations, the mixed-methods approach invites diverse perspectives and viewpoints (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Inquiry through mixed methods offers insights into complex phenomena; the methods capture additional data that lead to deeper understandings of context (Greene, 2007).

An optional and anonymous eight-item survey, with an embedded design, was administered in hard copy when the program concluded. The survey was designed to capture students’ concerns and voices on the environment. In addition, the survey was written to measure the students’ sense of their own preparedness to communicate effectively through political speechwriting and design. Of the 28 participants, 21 opted to complete the surveys, yielding a 75% response rate. The students were invited to write comments after each of the following five Likert-scale items:

  1. I am concerned about climate change and the environment.
  2. The environmental concerns and interests of today’s youth are being adequately
    addressed by policymakers.
  3. The interests of future generations should be taken into account when environmental policies are made.
  4. Preparing a political speech increased my understanding of how to persuade others
    through rhetoric.
  5. By designing and selling mugs for Earth Day, our class raised awareness of environmental issues in the community.

The following open-ended, sixth and seventh items on the survey were designed to promote reflection on the service-learning aspect of the environmental mug project. The eighth item invited comments.

  1. This year, you and your classmates designed Earth Day mugs to raise money for fruit trees and flowers. You also wrote political speeches. What are other ways you could
    raise awareness of environmental issues and/or live sustainably?
  2. What did you learn about the human impact on the environment?

The students’ responses on the surveys were entered into a cloud-based tool, SurveyMonkey, for data analysis. The congresswoman’s letter, in response to the students’ speeches, arrived after the surveys had been distributed. For this reason, the students were asked to share their thoughts in a discussion of her letter, and field notes were taken. In addition to an analysis of the students’ designs and speeches, the conclusions in this study were supported by the field notes and observations.


The findings of this action-research study indicate that high school students are concerned about the environment. They believe that the interests of
young and future generations should matter, and they find value and relevance in art-based, service learning and political speechwriting. With the statement, I am concerned about climate change and the environment, 85.71% of the respondents
strongly agreed (76.19%) or agreed (9.52%). About 14% were neutral. In their comments, multiple students wrote about the urgency of the climate change crisis. One student stated, “The earth is getting worse each day, and we can change that.”
Another wrote, “Fixing [climate change] as soon as possible should be a top priority.”

The students’ responses to the item, The environmental concerns and interests of today’s youth are being adequately addressed by policymakers, were mixed. Granted, these survey responses were collected before the congresswoman’s letter arrived. Over 47% of the students indicated that they were neutral. About a third of the students either disagreed (23.81%) or strongly disagreed (9.52%). About 19% agreed. A student wrote, “I believe that some lawmakers consider the youth in their decisions. Not everyone.” Another commented on the importance of youth activism in politics: “If more youth take action, the concerns and interests will be addressed.”

Most students thought that the interests of future generations should be taken into account when environmental policies are made—over 76% either strongly agreed (57.14%) or agreed (19.05%). About 19% were neutral, and one student disagreed
(4.76%). A student wrote, “We should leave a good, healthy plant for our children.” Another stated, “These decisions determine our kids’ future.”

Preparing speeches honed the students’ communication skills. With the statement,
Preparing a political speech increased my understanding of how to persuade others through rhetoric, 85.72% of the students either strongly agreed (42.86%) or agreed (42.86%). Two students (9.52%) were neutral, and one disagreed (4.76%). One student wrote, “Preparing a political speech helped me improve my writing.”

In their speeches, the students wrote about climate change, air and water quality, and the threat of plastic pollution to wildlife. To gain the audience’s attention, some students told stories. In a speech on plastic pollution, a small group of students began by integrating a story that they had read in the news: “Recently a whale washed up on a beach. The whale died due to the 48 pounds of plastic found in its stomach in Sicily.” Adhering to Monroe’s (1935/1943) Motivated Sequence, they offered evidence of the scale of plastic pollution. In their clincher, they respectfully dared their
classmates, “We challenge you guys to recycle each piece of plastic you use and see.”

In another speech, a student wrote and spoke skillfully about air pollution and global warming. He recommended the adoption of solar, wind, and geothermal power. His introduction and clincher conveyed urgency:

Air Pollution and Global Warming

Air pollution is destroying our planet faster
than we know it.
There are different kinds of air pollution.
Some come from natural resources, but most of it comes from humans.
When we release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, they raise the earth’s temperature.

We release them by burning fossil fuels.
Gasses cause the climate to change.
If the air pollution continues to get worse, we will have more smog.
Smog reduces visibility and has serious health effects.
Smog is a type of severe air pollution.
It can be very dangerous to breathe in too much smog.

According to NASA, the planet’s temperature has risen about 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1 degree Celsius) since the late 19th century.

The most basic way to reduce air pollution is to move away from fossil fuels and use
more alternative energies like solar, wind, and geothermal.
It is impossible to explain all the actual damage caused by all forms of air pollution.
It’s up to us to protect this planet because it’s burning down quicker than we think.

The students were delighted and surprised to receive a response to their speeches from their congresswoman. No student had ever received correspondence from an elected official. With its official heading and words of encouragement, the letter made the students realize that their ideas and concerns mattered. Because the letter arrived after the administration of the surveys, the students were verbally asked what they thought about the letter. They shared comments such as, “I am honored,”
“I’m shocked,” and “It’s awesome.” One student stated, “She is from here, so she understands.”

On the survey, 95.24% of the students strongly agreed (47.62%) or agreed (47.62%) that their class had raised awareness of environmental issues in the community by designing and selling mugs for Earth Day. One student (4.76%) was neutral. This finding should be understood in light of the students’ awareness of the promotion of the fundraiser and its purpose by the café, the school, university faculty, and the Sierra Club. The students knew that images of their environmental mugs were circulating on social media, and the mugs were prominently displayed in the café. They noted that people had purchased the mugs because of their messages, which were primarily about climate change, pollution, and water quality (Figures 5 and 6)

The students shared useful ideas about other ways to raise awareness of environmental issues and/or live sustainably. They recommended using social media, YouTube, the radio, and television. “We could start trends that take care of our environment. Ex. #Cleanup. #Stop the pollution,” suggested a student. Others wrote about recycling, reducing consumption, and picking up trash. They
suggested holding additional fundraisers. One student proposed establishing a charity whose mission would be to educate and to manage environmental projects.

When asked what they had learned about the human impact on the environment, the students responded that their awareness of how human affect the environment had increased. They commented on the potential to make positive changes. One student wrote, “I learned (about) our effect on this planet, and it opened my eyes.”
Another commented, “The human impact on life tells me that people should do better.”

Discussion and Implications

Making art is a way to respond to and participate in events (Kerson, 2009). In democratic societies, through designs in public spaces, artists express diverse social and political perspectives (Triantafillou, 2009; Freedman, 2003). When it has a persuasive purpose, art can powerfully influence thoughts and behaviors (Welch, 2013). Handmade, accessible designs appeal to viewers (MacPhee, 2010). The creation and sale of environmental mugs afforded students the opportunity to
communicate through design and to take informed action.

Two students created designs to raise awareness of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan; many pipes in the city have not been replaced yet Next to his drawing of the Flint water tower, one young man wrote, “Pay attention to warning signs, even when they don’t seem important.” The students have been directly affected by issues of water quality. Due to high levels of lead and other toxins, the water fountains in most schools in Detroit have been shut off (Nir, 2018). Water, in five-gallon jugs, is delivered and dispensed at stations in the schools. Additionally, air pollution
has been linked to poor lung function among asthmatic children, the majority of whom are African American (Lewis, Robins, Dvonch, Keeler, Yip, Menzt…Hill, 2005).

In discussions, the students related international issues of environmental degradation to their firsthand experiences. “…citizenship education should not
only focus on young people as isolated individuals but on young people-in-relationship and on the social, economic, cultural and political conditions of their lives,”
wrote Gert J.J. Biesta (2011, p. 15).

Meaning, ownership, and creativity are important elements of democratic education
(Laguardia & Pearl, 2005). The young men, who were involved in the design of environmental mugs, took an entrepreneurial, product-oriented approach to the greening of their school (Zhao, 2015) (Figures 7 and 8). Service-learning increases
students’ sense of agency and responsibility (Butin, 2010; Cipolle, 2010; Furco, 2002; Webster, 2007). Through this experiential form of civic education, students apply classroom learning to the real world (Carter, 1997).

The art of persuasion, rhetoric is a practical skill in a democracy. Monroe’s (1935/1943) Motivated Sequence has been successfully used by professional speechwriters in United States politics (Lehrman, 2010). The format is suitable for
classroom use because it engages students in the process of inquiry. Students learn content as they utilize complex, presentational language (Zwiers, 2014). The classroom becomes a forum for the exchange of ideas in light of the common good
(Beyer, 1996). The students, in this project, considered how rhetoric is used to influence and to achieve goals. At a time when public argument is often vituperative, their speeches were evidence based, rational, and civil (Duffy, 2019). In a speech on climate change, students drew attention to the extent to which individuals and industries pollute. They described the effects of global warming:

Climate Change

Good afternoon, our names are Dorean, Marcel, and Donivan, and we attend
(school’s name). The problem with the planet earth is global warming and the
deterioration of the ozone layer.

People today pollute the environment like it’s a new trend; everybody does it. Not too
many people think about the consequences of their actions.

According to Sea Stewards, there are about 14 billion pounds of waste that get dumped into the oceans annually. Americans generate 10.5 million tons of plastic waste a year, but only recycle 1-2% of it. That shows how much people care about the

Car exhaust, factories, and production plants all have one thing in common: They
each release harmful gasses that erode our atmosphere. With our atmosphere’s deterioration, the radiation from the sun is seeping onto our planet, causing global warming.

Global warming will likely increase the intensity of meteorological activity, such as
hurricanes, which cause flooding and storm damage, as well as other forms of extreme weather, such as severe, prolonged drought.

With those dangers lingering and waiting to happen, we need to cut back on pollution and gas-powered machinery.
Marcell, Donivan, and Dorean

While writing their speeches, the students considered how adhering to ethical standards in rhetoric promotes inclusivity and dialogue (Duffy, 2019). Studying issues such as climate change fostered a global perspective. Focused on the
welfare of people and nature, the students weighed and communicated responsible actions (National Geographic Society, 2018). Problem-solving, on the basis of evidence and reason, is integral to democratic education (Pearl & Knight, 1999; Terry
& Gallavan, 2005). Knowledge of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence and rhetorical devices prepares students to write persuasively as well as to recognize how politicians and community leaders seek to influence the thoughts and behaviors of their audiences.

Shawn Ginwright (2009, p. 18) wrote, “Robust and healthy democratic life requires
debate, contestation, and participation, all of which signal social well-being.” In addition to engaging students in art-based service learning and political
speechwriting, social studies educators could facilitate student involvement in other forms of democratic action such as debates and simulations. Public deliberation of political issues by an informed citizenry is essential in a democracy (Hess & McAvoy, 2015). Constructive, experiential learning has the potential to foster civic-mindedness and political intentionality (Levine, 2012; Levinson, 2012a).

Democratic praxis could narrow the “civic empowerment gap” that affects political
participation by African American, Latinx, and lowincome youth in the United States (Levinson, 2012b, p. 32). In light of structural, socioeconomic inequalities, Kevin Clay and Beth Rubin (2019) advocate for critically relevant civics (CRC). In CRC, students examine and build upon their lived experiences in society, and they utilize community resources (Clay & Rubin, 2019). As they engage in informal learning outside the classroom, they reflect on social change (Clay & Rubin, 2019).


Visual art and rhetoric are powerful forms of communication that foster youth expression and agency. Innovative uses of these forms to advance civic engagement and global competence merit consideration by educators. Through creative design and speech, the students in this study engaged in the “practice of identification with
public issues” that is vital to citizenship (Biesta, 2011, p. 13). One young man wrote, “Humans have a huge impact on the environment. We harm the earth. We can really change that, if we come together.”


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Axis of Evil or the Great Satan? Untangling the U.S./Iranian Relationship

Anthony Pellegrino, James Fichera, and Megan Walden

In 2002, President George W. Bush referred to the Islamic Republic of Iran as being part of an “Axis of Evil”; an assertion which resulted in Iranian officials’ condemnation and a retort that the United States was “the Great Satan.” Clearly, at the time, there was caustic antipathy between these two nations, each of whom played a significant role in the persistently delicate affairs of the Middle East in
the wake of the Cold War. Relatedly, each also exercised imperialistic tendencies in the region through proxy conflicts and engaging in opposing alliances, causing increased animosity and distrust. But how did the relationship devolve to that point?
How has the relationship fared since? What are the prospects for the future of this region given that both nations have deep geopolitical interests and often opposing ideologies?

As social studies teachers in the U.S., we have considered these questions as important in our roles to help learners understand the complex world
in which we live and the role of the U.S. in it. We have also recognized that addressing abstract and dynamic concepts surrounding international affairs
is especially challenging for teachers and students. With that in mind, we assert that by applying practices related to historical thinking in concert with employing principles of foreign relations, students can come to understand how events,
ideologies, and circumstances have led us to the current state of affairs. Moreover, we believe that this integrated approach can help students learn to take informed civic action based on analysis of evidence and understanding perspective.

To that end, we present an Inquiry Design Model (IDM) lesson to encourage students to grapple with the strained yet indispensable relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran as a means to understand contemporary foreign policy matters more broadly. In this two-day lesson, students will think historically about tensions between these two nations since the early Cold War and deliberate
about foreign policy postures to determine which best addresses the relationship. As a transition to the lesson, we present readers a primer on recent history between the U.S. and Iran followed by a brief overview of prevalent foreign policy stances and pedagogical perspectives that will be considered in the lesson activities.

Recent U.S./Iranian Relations: A Primer

To understand the complex relationship between the United States and Iran, one must look to the past for clarification. Today’s association begins during the tumultuous years of the Cold War when American and British intelligence effectively
overthrew the democratically-elected government of Iran. This was in part because of an oil nationalization program undertaken by Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq and by perceptions that his government was becoming more closely
aligned with the Soviet Union (Leebaert, 2003). After installing the pro-U.S. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the following two and a half decades brought America and Iran together into a new political partnership. Iran gained a powerful ally and for the U.S., an indispensable partner in the Middle East. During those years, Iran’s future would be determined without the consent or consideration of the Iranian people as Pahlavi initiated Iran’s conversion to a modern, secular nation.

Along with modernization, Iran’s energy policies moved in concordance scientifically when a U.S.-sponsored nuclear program began there in 1957. The “Atoms for Peace” initiative, whose stated mission included making available “peaceful, civilian nuclear technologies in the hope that they wouldn’t pursue military nuclear programs” (Inskeep, 2015, para. 6), provided a reactor for civilian purposes. Furthermore, Pahlavi signaled his espousal of Western ideological philosophies in
1962 by vowing to eschew communist influence with the understanding of continued support for his regime from the U.S. and its allies (New York Times, 2012). The following “White Revolution” ushered in a campaign of modernizing industrialization bolstered by massive oil revenues. Although these initiatives benefited many Iranians, rampant corruption accorded Iran’s elite colossal
rewards. Combined with other economic complications, this led to an emerging opposition. Amongst them were Shi’a clergy whose influence was being eroded by secular reforms. As arrest, torture, and murder of opposition forces became defining features of Pahlavi’s regime, he dissolved Iran’s two political parties. Nevertheless, America maintained political ties with the Shah, which did pay some dividends. As a U.S. ally, Iran, for example, chose not to participate in OPEC’s oil embargo following 1973’s Yom Kippur War (Myre, 2013). Thereafter, the U.S. indicated its interest in
furthering Iran’s nuclear program by allowing the purchase of a nuclear reactor and materials for itsoperation (New York Times, 2012).

Accompanying emerging economic issues and dismissal of calls for democratic reforms, Iranians erupted into revolt. Growing protests were answered with brutal reprisals, inciting further protests. Among those hostile to Pahlavi was cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. His antagonistic denunciations had made him the most prominent face of the regime’s opposition. Khomeini’s return from exile in early 1979, precipitated by the Shah’s fleeing of Iran, gave rise to the Islamic Republic. With anti-American sentiment also running deep, huge protests were staged outside the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Relations deteriorated as dozens of
diplomats were taken hostage in reaction to news of Pahlavi’s asylum claim in the U.S. Even after the release of the hostages, negotiated by President Carter, but not executed until his successor, Ronald Reagan came into office, a new era of tense relations between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic was underway.

Early in his rule, Khomeini mothballed Iran’s nuclear program, partly out of apathy to programs undertaken by the Shah, but also declaring it contrary to the teachings of Islam (Leebaert, 2003). To defend those same teachings, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah were created. Their commitment to promoting popular revolution in the region however, was not entirely welcomed by Iran’s neighbors. Anticipating plans for exporting those ideas, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein attempted to weaken Khomeini’s hand by preemptively launching an attack on Iran in 1980.
This decision ignited a decade-long conflict that would include the use of chemical weapons and result in massive casualties.

Further complications arose from clandestine U.S. operations providing aid to Iran’s
religious and geopolitical rival, Iraq. Later, Hezbollah-backed bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and of American military personnel elsewhere in Lebanon in 1983 only mired the U.S. further in the crisis. Additionally, Iranian-backed forces opposing Israel in Lebanon and Palestinian territories pushed the U.S. and Iran further apart on nearly all issues in the region. After denouncing Iran as a “state sponsor of terror”, Iranian-supported organizations took more American hostages late in White House officials reacted, despite an arms embargo, by secretly selling weapons to Iran
to secure their release while channeling resulting funds to anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua, thus prompting the firestorm of controversy known as the Iran-Contra Affair (Byrne, 2017).

As Hussein pursued his own nuclear program, Khomeini secretly restarted Iran’s.
Henceforth, the U.S. would actively seek to impede these efforts. As hostilities continued, America and Iran became embroiled in a phase of the conflict known as the “Tanker War” when Iraqi and Iranian forces targeted oil vessels. Iran soon expanded targets to include ships of Iraqi supporters Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (Ishaan, 2015). In the ensuing campaign, an American naval vessel was attacked
by Iranian forces and another was struck by an Iranian mine. American retaliations struck several ships and oil platforms, but hostilities took a tragic turn when an Iranian passenger jet was mistakenly shot down. Despite this intensifying violence, the conflict would not escalate any further. This wearisome and fruitless war finally came to a conclusion in 1988. Less than a year later Ayatollah Khomeini, the man who famously defied and denounced the United States as “the Great Satan,” died.

The next year, Saddam Hussein, who was recently aided in an effort to keep Iran in check, became motivated to invade neighboring Kuwait. When the ultimatum to leave went unheeded, the ensuing Gulf War resulted in a decisive military victory for the U.S. and coalition forces, but became a political quagmire. Iran remained officially neutral in the conflict, but their nuclear ambitions and persistent involvement in regional proxy wars ensured their relationship remained contentious. In a rare instance however, U.S. and Iranian interests aligned following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The Taliban in Afghanistan had long been an enemy of Iran, but only more recently were they and al Qaeda of primary concern to the U.S. Iranians assisted U.S. efforts in Afghanistan by providing intelligence to seemingly improve their relationship (Sharp, 2004).

This brief thaw in relations was short-lived once President Bush denounced Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil” in his State of the Union Address four months later. By year’s end, disclosure of active nuclear facilities in Iran seemed to confirm many U.S. officials’ worst fears. Despite denials for decades, many remain convinced that Tehran’s intention is weapons development with the United States’ staunch ally, Israel, as a target. This currently remains another vexing issue and additional basis for the differing diplomatic postures the U.S. may take in the future, ranging from coercion to containment to engagement as noted by U.S.-Iran relations scholar Mark Gasiorowski (CSPAN, American History TV, 2019). Present relations between the United States and Iran remain a diplomatic minefield fraught with uncertainty,
inflated rhetoric, and direct attacks on military and economic assets. The basis for this lesson begins with the 2002 State of the Union address and allows students to gain a sense of the complexity in the history entangled in this relationship as they
consider ways to manage it moving forward.

Pedagogical Framework

The pedagogical basis for this lesson is drawn from a combination of historical thinking and fundamental foreign relation practices. Historical thinking allows us to situate the relationship between the U.S. and Iran in its recent historical context while providing space for learners to challenge traditional narratives of the role the U.S. plays in its geopolitical relationships. In 2011, history education scholar Keith Barton distilled components of historical thinking into tenets of perspective, interpretation of evidence, and agency. Together, these complementary ideas informed the way this lesson draws upon the study of the past. According to Barton (2011), students learn about the past through examining a person, event, or
phenomena using multiple perspectives. In so doing, students must analyze a variety of sources and question how each may support or challenge their understanding of a traditional narrative. In the process, students must also interpret evidence in sources based on audience, context, and intent; thus, requiring further corroboration to best understand the subject (Drake & Nelson, 2005). Finally, Barton (2011) advocates that when students utilize any historical source in these ways they develop agency and the notion that every piece of evidence holds some power to foster understanding. Agency manifests in how they recognize the role each source plays to inform the whole. Certain texts may have more value than others, but in order to gain the
deepest possible understanding, one must consider all available evidence as useful. Through recognizing the agency in evidence and in one’s ability to interpret evidence a democratization of the process begins to occur since it is no longer one
perspective that dominates the voice of all others. In this lesson for example, recognizing the perspectives of Iranians in concert with those we most often hear from the U.S. is critical to the process. Further, when students gain the knowledge
and skills necessary to recognize agency in the sources they use to learn, they also foster their ability to see how their own roles as investigators gives them power to form evidence-based interpretations (Doolittle, Hicks, & Ewing, 2004).

Foreign Policy Postures

In terms of these tenets of historical thinking, examining fundamental stances related to foreign policy postures offers students the opportunity to consider the ways individuals with varying perspectives and experiences use historical evidence to make inferences and evaluations that guide decisions. In 2019, Mark Gasiorowski offered three general postures of foreign policy aimed at bringing fundamental change to Iran, or at least restricting Iran’s “objectionable behavior.” All three
postures have been employed at various times in the relationship between these two nations (C-SPAN, American History TV, 2019). For us, they served as a framework around which we developed this lesson that asks students to determine foreign policy objectives and actions the U.S. may take in its relationship with Iran.

The first of these positions is engagement, whereby the United States enters into a dialogue with Iran and others, if need be. The aim is to come to a mutual agreement that will encourage restraint on the part of Iran. The second stance is coercion.
By these means, the United States attempts to change Iran’s behaviors through the use of aggressive actions such as use of military force, economic sanctions, or other threatening measures in an effort to forcefully intimidate, and curtail undesirable conduct from Iran. The last posture, containment, is notably the only one not seeking to enact fundamental changes upon Iran. Instead, this stance aims at constraining Iran’s undesirable actions but with no realistic expectations of realizing any consequential changes as the other two postures seek to achieve.

Lesson Overview

This lesson provides students the opportunity to understand these fundamental
approaches to foreign policy by studying the example of U.S./Iranian relations through an inquiry process as articulated through the C3 Framework by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). Ultimately, students will draw upon historical and contemporary evidence to help determine which foreign policy posture is most appropriate to address tensions between the U.S. and Iran and present their recommendations to the President of the United States. We have developed a website to house resources and additional detail to execute this lesson (Axis of Evil or the Great Satan? Untangling the U.S./Iranian Relationship Since 1953).

Grounded in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the momentous “axis of evil” sentiment expressed in the 2002 State of the Union speech by President George W. Bush, this lesson calls on learners to ultimately devise a presidential advisory document to help forge a foreign policy path with Iran. In keeping with Dimension 1 of the C3 Framework, which focuses on developing and parsing compelling questions, this lesson is guided by provocative statements
made by both sides in this relationship: President Bush including Iran in the “axis of evil” and Iranian leadership referring to the U.S. as “the Great Satan.” Together, these comments underscore the divide between these two nations and allow students
the opportunity to examine evidence and foreign policy perspectives on the nature of this geopolitical relationship (NCSS, 2013).

From the introductory question, the first activities draw on Dimensions 2 and 3 of the C3 Framework, which call on learners to use disciplinary tools and concepts as well as evaluate sources and evidence (NCSS, 2013). Students begin by watching an excerpt from the 2002 State of the Union speech that introduced the idea that an “axis of evil” of nations actively sought to undermine democratic values across the globe. Working backwards from the speech and a brief discussion of the context and its message (15-20 minutes), learners will gather into small groups to assemble and annotate a timeline with pivotal events that have occurred between the U.S. and Iran since the 1953 coup d’état, which saw the U.S. and Britain support the ouster of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, creating considerable animosity between
Iran and the U.S. (30-40 minutes). A completed task will include placement of each event in chronological order, inclusion of a brief summary of the event, and a statement regarding how the event changed the relationship between these two nations.

Next, four-person student groups will be provided two sources that offer differing
perspectives on the animosity between these nations (20-30 minutes). The first is a resource articulating examples of Iran acting nefariously in foreign affairs. The second describes Iranian reactions to the “axis of evil” comment from President Bush. Student groups will use this material to inform their position on whether Iran belongs in an axis of evil or whether the U.S. is unfairly targeting Iran as a “bad actor” on the world stage. In the spirit of a structured academic controversy model, teachers may leverage the group makeup to ask that individual members concentrate on only one source and share their expertise with others, who, in turn,
share information from their source. The deliberation on these perspectives will inform their final task of advising the president on the path forward for U.S. relations.

Day two begins with the penultimate activity in this lesson. To begin this day, student groups will pivot to general foreign policy considerations by exploring the fundamental foreign policy postures of coercion, containment, and diplomacy (20
minutes). To better understand the differences between these postures, each student will complete a Frayer model graphic organizer for each posture,
which calls on students to include characteristics, examples, and non-examples of each concept.

The summative performance task consists of two parts. The first asks each group to imagine themselves as a presidential advisory team meeting just after the 2002 State of the Union Speech and the backlash that has come from Iran. This activity includes completing an online simulation (found on the lesson website) that walks students through ramifications of each posture. Students will use the graphic organizers they previously completed to inform the choices they make in this activity. From that perspective, and the information they have gathered from the previous class, they are to draft an artifact advising the president of the most appropriate foreign policy posture to take (30-40 minutes). As an extension to their work as a presidential advisory team, their final task is to find a more recent event involving the U.S. and Iran to analyze. Each group will revisit their advisory document in light of this new event to determine which posture was ultimately chosen and how it has fared in recent decades. Students can also revise their posture to chart a new path forward in
U.S./Iranian relations in light of the recent developments they find (20-30 minutes). The IDM Blueprint lesson plan is provided in the following sections.


In this lesson, we have attempted to provide an opportunity for learners to explore the complexities of the intersection of history and foreign affairs through the example of the relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. We believe that this particular relationship epitomizes certain unique
challenges as well as enduring features of foreign affairs. In the context of the Cold War, the U.S. engaged in covert operations that contributed to the emergence of the Shah. One can draw a direct line between the autocratic tendencies exhibited by the
Shah’s regime and the 1979 Islamic Revolution that sought to shed all Western influence. The 1980s saw the U.S. pivot toward Iran’s neighbor and enemy, Iraq, even when that meant supporting its tyrannical leader, Saddam Hussein. Through the
1990s, crippling economic sanctions and calls for regime change from the U.S. led to increased tensions even among Iranians who have protested their own government in increasingly vocal ways (BBC News, 2020). In the early twenty-first century, Iran felt the pressure of the vast U.S. military who now had many thousands of troops
stationed to their east in Afghanistan, and to their west, in Iraq. Yet, even with the antagonistic sentiments vehemently expressed from both sides since the Revolution and the events of September 11, 2001, each nation understood the geopolitical
importance of the Middle East and their respective roles in the region.

More recently however, tensions have again raised the possibility of more open conflict between the U.S. and Iran. Accusations of Iran’s involvement in attacks on U.S. military bases in Iraq were followed by a U.S. airstrike on January 2, 2020, which killed Qassem Soleimani, a top general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (Al Jazeera, 2020). This event was followed closely by thus far unheeded calls for the U.S. to ease economic sanctions on Iran during the 2020 global pandemic (The Guardian, 2020). Both events in this new decade portend a future with continued interactions
between both nations, some of which may be overtly or covertly positive, but more are likely to reflect deep-seated animosity and distrust.

Exploring the ways these two nations have coexisted offers students the chance to understand perspective and complexity in foreign affairs, and to apply fundamental approaches to geopolitical relationships in an authentic inquiry. Whether students decide Iran belongs as part of an “Axis of Evil” or that the United States resembles “the Great Satan”, this lesson requires learners to try to untangle the historical context and overall messiness that is foreign affairs as a means to better understand the relationships we have with our allies, enemies, and those who fall somewhere in between. In doing so, we believe students will be better able to understand the importance of foreign relations and more likely to engage in informed civic action.


Al Jazeera, (2020, January 3). Who was Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s IRGC’s Quds Force leader? Al Jazeera. Retrieved from

Barton, K. C. (2011). History: From learning narratives to thinking historically. In W. B. Russell, (Ed.), Contemporary Social Studies: An Essential Reader (pp. 109-139). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

BBC News (2020, January 16). Iran protests: Who are the opposition in the country? BBC News. Retrieved from

Byrne, M. (2017). Iran-Contra: Reagan’s scandal and the unchecked abuse of presidential power. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

C-SPAN, American History TV (2019). U.S.- Iranian Relations featuring Professor Mark
Retrieved from

Doolittle, P., Hicks, D., & Ewing, T. (2004). Historical inquiry: understanding the past.
Historical inquiry: Scaffolding wise practices in the history classroom.
Retrieved from

Drake, F. D., & Nelson, L. R. (2005). Engagement in teaching history: Theory and practices for middle and secondary teachers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

The Guardian (2020, April 6). Former world officials call on U.S. to ease Iran sanctions to fight covid-19. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Inskeep, S. (2015, September 18). Born in the USA: How America created Iran’s nuclear program. Retrieved from

Ishaan, T. (2015, April 2). The key moments in the long history of U.S.-Iran tensions. Washington Post. Retrieved from

Leebaert, D. (2003). The fifty-year wound: How America’s cold war victory shapes our world. Boston, MA: Back Bay Books.

Myre, G. (2013, October 16). The 1973 Arab oil embargo: The old rules no longer apply. National Public Radio. Retrieved from

NCSS. (2013). The college, career, and civic life framework for social studies state standards: Guidance for enhancing the rigor of K-12 civics, economics, geography, and history. Silver Spring, MD: Author.

New York Times. (2012, April 7). Iran, the United
States and a political seesaw.
Retrieved from

Sharp, J. (2004, October 28). The U.S. and Iran part IV – hostile relations. Public Radio International. Retrieved from

“Us” and “Them:” Using the Inquiry Design Model to Explore the Nanking Massacre

Timothy Lintner

Social studies has an image problem particularly among students. For decades, students have decried the subject’s lack of relevance to their daily lives and the formulaic, predictable, and often uninspiring ways in which it is presented (Beck,
Buehl, & Taboada Barber, 2015; Chiodo & Byford, 2004; Schug, Todd, & Beery, 1984; Zhao & Hoge, 2005). To change this paradigm of disconnection and boredom, social studies teaching and learning needs to be innovative, challenging, inspiring, and
ambitious (Grant & Gradwell, 2010; Ucus, 2018) and grapple with topics and concepts that are challenging, compelling, and appropriately controversial (Hess, 2009; Linowes, Ho, & Misco, 2019). In order to create such powerful opportunities, inquiry needs to be at the center of social studies instructional design and delivery.

This article explores how to teach the Nanking Massacre using the Inquiry Design Model in middle school social studies classrooms. Students first explore the topic through diverse perspectives and then demonstrate their understanding(s) through
multiple means. Lastly, students are asked to situate the Nanking Massacre by looking at contemporary examples of wartime atrocities and resultant injustices and advocate their position on both accounts.

The Inquiry Design Model (IDM)

The College, Career and Civic Life (C3) for Social Studies State Standards (National Council for the Social Studies, 2013), provides a blueprint for designing and teaching engaging, transformative, and ambitious social studies. At its theoretical and practical core, the C3 Framework moves instruction away from textbook/note-taking
to a pedagogy rooted in the ubiquity of inquiry. “[I]nquiry lies at the heart of social studies and that the crafting of questions and the deliberate and thoughtful construction of responses to those questions can inspire deeper and richer teaching and learning” (Grant, Lee, & Swan, 2015, p. 7). The key to doing so lies in the Inquiry Arc. The Inquiry Arc is a series of four dependent, interlocking elements or dimensions: 1) developing questions and planning inquiries; 2) applying discipline concepts and tools; 3) evaluating sources and using evidence; and 4) communicating conclusions and taking informed action. Foundationally, the Inquiry Arc spurs, supports, and sustains teacher-generated and, ultimately, student generated questions and conclusions (Grant, 2013; Swan, Lee, & Grant, 2015).

To this end, Grant, Lee, and Swan (2015) have developed a structured model of inquiry design premised on the Inquiry Arc. The Inquiry Design Model (IDM) is a conceptual template that allows social studies teachers to plan instruction that links together the Inquiry Arc’s four dimensions. By doing so, social studies teaching and learning become processional, relational, and relevant. In the following sections of this article, the C3 Frameworks Inquiry Arc and the accompanying Inquiry Design Model (IDM) are used to explore an unspeakable outcome of Japanese imperialism in
the mid-20th century, the Nanking Massacre.

An Overview of the Rise of Japanese Imperialism (1850-1945)

In 1850, Japan was a feudal society with little nationalist fervor. While other Western
countries, most notably the United States and Great Britain, were exerting their influence throughout Asia proper, Japan was viewed by such powers as inert and backward, ripe for exploitation. By 1868, the Meiji Restoration, which ended the preceding Tokugawa shogunate, sought to both militarily and economically strengthen Japan, thus affording a measure of security and self-determination.
Believing that their security was directly tied to the security of the Asian mainland, by 1881, Japan had both a political and military presence in Korea and would soon turn her sights to China. In 1885, Japan declared war on China for control of the Korean peninsula. Easily pushing the Chinese out of Korea, Japan was flush with imperialistic visions of military and cultural superiority (Hilldrup, 2009; Mann, 2012).

By the early twentieth-century, Japan’s economic base was growing; so, too, was her
population. This rapid population growth stretched thin Japan’s natural resources and food supplies, spurring the country’s leaders to look beyond its borders to meet such industrial and domestic demands. Ultranationalist groups now advocated for
territorial acquisition, not only to supplement and suffice Japan’s resource needs, but to fulfill her imperial and ideological ambitions of placing Japan squarely at the center of Asian economic and cultural dominance. Imperialism was framed, not
only as an economic necessity, but as a cultural obligation to both enrich and enlighten her (inferior) Asian brethren. In an effort to cull essential resources while concomitantly exerting her nationalistic hegemony, Japan would again turn her
attention westward towards China, her perceived economic storehouse and perennial cultural subordinate (Beasley, 1987; Facing History and Ourselves, 2019).

The Nanking Massacre

With the exception of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the pillage of Nanking may very well be the most egregious human atrocity in the Asian theatre of the Second World War. Though the city of Nanking did not hold the military importance of Shanghai, with its bustling port and economic vitality it did, by the 1920’s, serve as the seat of China’s newly formed republic.

After their victory in the Battle for Shanghai, the Japanese advanced to Nanking. When Nanking ultimately fell in December, 1937, the Japanese unleashed a torrent of relentless destruction. Buildings, businesses, and homes were robbed then subsequently burned. Spanning a seven-week period, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 Chinese – mostly innocent civilians – were brutally and mercilessly raped and/or murdered (Heaver, 2017). Though never fully articulated, it was felt that the atrocities committed by the Japanese sprung from a volatile mix of revenge for the heavy losses suffered during the Battle for Shanghai and an imperialist “us” and “them” dehumanization of a Chinese people and culture perceived to be less refined and, hence, less worthy (Chang, 2011; Li, Sabella, & Liu, 2015).

During this seven-week period – and certainly thereafter – members of the Japanese
government and select media were well aware of the events transpiring in Nanking. Yet both the government and media remained silent. For Westerners living in Nanking, the prevailing choices were clear: resist, remain silent, or leave. A
small contingent of Western business and religious leaders stayed to help. They ultimately created what became known as the Nanking Safety Zone, a demilitarized area located in the city center. Here, some 250,000 Chinese sought shelter and received medical and provisionary assistance. It was in the letters sent abroad and the personal diary entries made by these individuals that gradually illuminated
the range and magnitude of atrocities committed during the Massacre of Nanking (Chang, 2011; Facing History and Ourselves, 2019; Li, Sabella, & Liu, 2015).

With the Japanese surrender in 1945, General Douglas McArthur was charged with
establishing what would be known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, a military court designed to seek accountability for Japanese atrocities. Ultimately, 28 Japanese military and civilian leaders were charged with war crimes
and crimes against humanity, including General Iwane Matsui who orchestrated the capture of Nanking. Yet questions remain of who, besides Matsui, should have been tried. Questions of culpability, denial, and wholesale concealment of the truth confounded efforts to provide restitution for and reverence of the thousands of Chinese who lost their lives during the Massacre of Nanking.

The Inquiry Design Model

The Inquiry Design Model (IDM) provides teachers with a template for structuring student learning premised on inquiry, evidence, application, and action. Specifically, the IDM Blueprint includes the following components: the Compelling
Question, Supporting Questions, Formative Performance Tasks, Featured Sources, Summative Performance Tasks, including Argument and Extension, and Taking Informed Action. Below is an overview of how middle school teachers can
design a unit on the Nanking Massacre using the IDM model of instruction.

Compelling Question: The Compelling Question frames the entire inquiry process. It is broad, accessible, provocative, engaging, and has multiple plausible answers (Grant, 2013; Jourell, Friedman, Thacker, & Fitchett, 2018). As Grant (2013) posits, “there is a big difference between using questions to check for student understanding and using questions that frame a teaching and learning inquiry” (p. 325). “Can Actions be ‘justified’ in a time of war?” demands more than a patent “yes or no” response; it roots resulting answers both in historical context and personal (student) conviction.

Supporting Questions: Such questions emanate from and extend the Compelling Question. They structure learning by providing a scaffold of inquiry whereby questions build in complexity and relevance. Simply, Supporting Questions “tease out” the content-based inquiry strands embedded in and derived from the Compelling Question.

 Supporting Question 1: In Japan, how did a “us” and “them” attitude towards the
Chinese lead to the Nanking Massacre? To understand the road to the Nanking Massacre is to understand the power of perception: How did the Japanese perceive
the Chinese? This question provides the perceptual premise of Japanese attitudes
towards the Chinese that “justified,” if you will, the atrocities committed during the
Nanking Massacre. Additional questions may ask, “How do we view ‘difference?’”
“What makes countries feel “exceptional?”

 Supporting Question 2: What were the individual, group, and national responses to the Nanking Massacre? Here, students explore and, ultimately, rationalize or rebuke the actions people, groups, and nations took (or failed to take) during the
Nanking Massacre. Sub questions generated may be, “Was silence a means of survival?” “What, really, can be done during wartime?” “What would other nations have gained by rebuking the Nanking Massacre?”

Supporting Question 3: How can justice be achieved for those wronged during
wartime? This question asks students to wrestle with the often blurry concept of
justice during (and after) wartime, particularly holding individuals accountable
for crimes committed in the name of military action. It may also spur feelings of
frustration, where justice is seen as elusive and ultimately futile. Additional questions may range from “Do conventional rules apply during war?” to “Should someone be held accountable for simply ‘following orders?”

Formative Performance Tasks

The IDM Blueprint includes multiple opportunities for teachers to evaluate and students to demonstrate their understanding of social studies content. Formative Performance Tasks allow students to “answer” Supporting Questions, based on the Featured Sources provided, in a variety of engaging, creative ways. Ultimately, Formative Performance Tasks are designed to guide students towards designing a coherent, evidence-based argument and delivering a focused, deliberate action
point. The IDM includes both Formative and Summative Performance Tasks, with additional opportunities for Extension activities and Taking Informed Action (Swan et al., 2015).

Formative Performance Task One: Create a political cartoon that depicts Japanese self-proclaimed military and/or cultural superiority over China. Here, students demonstrate their understanding of Japanese perception(s) of “superiority” (either militarily or culturally) over the Chinese by creating their own political cartoon. Teachers need to be explicit in defining, both in content and presentation, what is an “appropriate” cartoon for middle school students.

Formative Performance Task Two: As a
Western missionary in Nanking, write a persuasive letter to the American Red Cross
depicting what you have witnessed and what their response should be. Referencing
material regarding the individual, group, and/or national responses to the Nanking
Massacre, students will write a letter to the Red Cross. The letter should include what
has been witnessed as well as a detailed and descriptive call to action.

Formative Performance Task Three: Roleplaying as a family member, record a two-minute video in which you argue for the rights of your deceased relatives lost during the Nanking Massacre. Using technology as their medium, students have a degree of creative latitude in designing and delivering their two-minute taped role-play. Students can display an array of emotional responses; create and use backdrops; dress accordingly; and incorporate video and/or music within their recording. Students can use the recording features found on most smartphones as well as simple, accessible video capturing tools such as Screencast,-omatic, Yuja, or Snagit.

(Please reference Appendix A for titles and links to the list of Featured Sources attached to each Formative Performance Task).

Formative Performance Tasks

The IDM Blueprint includes two Summative Performance Tasks: Argument and Extension. The Argument is the culmination of students researching the featured sources and then demonstrating resultant understanding(s) through their Formative
Performance Tasks. The Argument is tied directly to the Compelling Question and has students address and answer it. In this example, middle school students are asked to construct an argument – in the form of a petition or a protest poster – that
both states their answer to or perspective on the Compelling Question while acknowledging counterarguments to their claim. Correlated to the Argument, the Extension allows students to continue the inquiry process through conducting additional research or by supplementing and/or complimenting the information presented in the Argument. In this case, not only were students asked to create a petition or protest poster regarding their thoughts relevant to the Compelling Question (Argument), they are additionally asked to create a PowerPoint or Prezi
that summarizes their conclusions by using a different visual medium (Extension).

Taking Informed Action

A cornerstone to powerful social studies is the ability of students to take informed action premised on research-based inquiry. The key here is that student action is informed. To this end, the IDM model asks students to build knowledge and
understanding before engaging in social action (Swan et al., 2015). Taking Informed Action is divided into three segments:

Comprehension: Students are asked to “transfer,” if you will, their new-found
understandings into contemporary contexts. Are there contemporary examples where justice during wartime remained (or remains) elusive?

Assess: Here, students search for patterns, look at alternate arguments, and research relevant scenarios that offer additional insight into their chosen topic. In the example provided, students create a list of contemporary injustices and indicate if/how they were or were not resolved.

Action: A seminal strand woven throughout the C3 Framework is the imperative for students to be participatory, to take action. Taking action can be simple or complex. It can be locally or internationally contextualized. It can come in many forms but essentially serves one essential function – allowing students the opportunity to be actively engaged in their own learning by “taking a stand.” For this project, middle schoolers will make a simple presentation to their classmates.


There are events in history that beg not to be forgotten. The atrocities committed by the Japanese army in Nanking allows historians, teachers, and students alike rich and varied opportunities to explore issues of motive, justification, response, and
the elusiveness of restitution. The Nanking Massacre also allows students to examine how an “us” and “them” mindset impacted and shaped Japan’s imperialistic actions that led to one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century. We wrestle with the past to better understand our present.

The Inquiry Design Model structures learning by which events in history – celebrated or scorned – can be explored, understood, and contemporarily contextualized. Questions are asked. Research is conducted. Knowledge and
understanding are demonstrated. Though the example of the Nanking Massacre is geared for middle school students, the concepts and structures of the Inquiry Arc and the IDM Blueprint can be used within any social studies classroom. Good social studies – inquiry driven and action-based – allows students to scratch their heads in thought, raise their hands in action, and take a stand.


Beasley, W.G. (1987). Japanese imperialism: 1894-1945. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Beck, J.S., Buehl, M.M., & Taboada Barber, A. (2015). Students’ perceptions of reading and learning in social studies: A multimethod approach. Middle Grades Research Journal, 10(2), 1-16.

Chang, I. (2011). The rape of Nanking: The forgotten holocaust of World War II. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Chiodo, J., & Byford, J. (2004). Do they really dislike social studies? A student of middle and high school students. The Journal of Social Studies Research, 28(1), 16-26.

Facing History and Ourselves (2019). Teaching the Nanjing atrocities. Retrieved from

Grant, S.G. (2013). From Inquiry Arc to instructional practice: The potential of the C3
Framework. Social Education, 77(6), 322-326.

Grant, S.G., & Gradwell, J.M. (2010). Teaching history with big ideas: Cases of ambitious teachers. New York, NY: Rowan & Littlefield.

Grant, S.G., Lee, J., & Swan, K. (2015). The Inquiry Design Model. Retrieved from:

Heaver, S. (2017). The Nanking Massacre: Why Hong Kong and the world downplayed atrocity, distracted by a New Year’s Eve party, and a minor incident. Retrieved from:

Hess, D. (2009). Controversy in the classroom: The democratic power of discussion. New York, NY: Routledge.

Hilldrup, P. (2009). The reasons for Japanese imperialism (1895-1910). Retrieved from:

Jourell, W., Friedman, A.M., Thacker, E.S., & Fitchett, P.G. (2018). Getting inquiry design just right. Social Education, 82(4), 202-205.

Li, F. F., Sabella, R., & Liu, D. (Eds.). (2015). Nanking 1937: Memory and healing. New York, NY: Routledge.

Linowes, D., Ho, L-C., & Misco, T. (2019). Exploring controversial issues in elementary social studies. Journal of International Social Studies, 9(2), 35-55.

Mann, M. (2012). The sources of social power. Global empires and revolution, 1890-1945. (Vol. 3). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

National Council for the Social Studies. (NCSS) (2013). College, career, and civic life (C3) framework for state social studies standards. Silver Springs, MD: Author.

Schug, M., Todd, R. & Beery (1984). Why kids don’t like social studies. Social Education, 47(5), 382-387.

Swan, K., Lee, J., & Grant, S.G. (2015). The New York state toolkit and Inquiry Design Model: Anatomy of an inquiry. Social Education, 79(5), 316-322.

Ucus, S. (2018). Exploring creativity in social studies education for elementary grades: Teachers’ opinions and interpretations. Journal of Education and Learning, 7(2), 111-125.

Zhao, Y., & Hoge, J.D. (2005). What elementary students and teachers say about social studies. The Social Studies, 96(5), 216-221.

Geographical Context and Prior Knowledge Inference Activity – Companion Document to American Imperialism and Indigenous Nations by Janie Hubbard

Janie Hubbard Link to article on American Imperialism and Indigenous Nations

Sitting Bull (c.1830-1890) was named war chief, leader of the entire Lakota nation, a title never before bestowed on anyone. As a leader, Sitting Bull resisted the United States government’s attempt to move the Lakota to reservations for 25 years (Nelson, 2015, pp. 48-52). Sitting Bull clung to his belief that the Lakota were a free people meant to live, hunt, and die on the Great Plains (Nelson, 2015, book cover).

Timeline to Explore:

1. Late 1600s – Lakota live on land now known as Minnesota

2. 1776 – Lakota take Black Hills

3. Late 1700s-early 1800s – Lakota have horses and guns – follow buffalo

4. 1803 – Louisiana Purchase

5. 1832 – Missouri River steamboat travel into Lakota land

6. 1840s – Great Plans natives supply buffalo hides to traders

7. 1845 – Manifest Destiny

8. 1848 – California Gold Rush

9. 1851 – Treaty of Ft. Laramie

10. 1854 – Grattan Fight

11. 1855 (September 3) Blue Water Creek Battle AKA Battle of Ash Hollow

12. 1861-1862 – American Indian Wars

13. 1861-1865 – U.S. Civil War

14. 1862 – Gold discovered in Montana

15. 1862 (August 17) – Lakota Uprising AKA Dakota War of 1862

16. 1863 – Sitting Bull and Hunkpapa band strike temporary truce with Arikara (AKA Rees in North Dakota)

17. 1863-1864 – Gen. John Pope orders Gen. Alfred Sully to establish more forts along Missouri River and eastern Dakotas

18. 1864 (July 28) – Battle of Killdeer Mountain

19. 1864 (September) – Sitting Bull leads Hunkpapa warriors against settler wagons (present-day western North Dakota)

20. 1864 – Sand Creek Massacre

21. 1866 (December 21) – Fetterman Fight

22. 1868 – Sioux City & Pacific Railroad reaches Dakota Territory

23. 1868 (April 29) – Treaty of Ft. Laramie

24. 1868 (November 27) – Battle of the Washita River

25. 1875 – Gen. Phillip Sheridan orders buffalo extermination

26. 1875 (December 6) – Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse refuse to sell Black Hills

27. 1876 (June 25) – Battle of Little Big Horn AKA Custer’s Last Stand

28. 1877 Sitting Bull and Hunkpapa band retreat to Canada

29. 1877 (September 5) – Crazy Horse is killed

30. 1881 (July 20) – Sitting Bull surrenders at Ft. Buford, North Dakota

31. 1882 – Congressional commission wants Great Sioux Reservation

32. 1887 – Dawes Act

33. 1888 – Sioux Act

34. 1890s – Ghost Dance Movement

35. 1890 – Sitting Bull assassinated

36. 1890 – Battle of Wounded Knee AKA Massacre at Wounded Knee.
The Battle of Wounded Knee is the last battle of the American Indian Wars. …Lakotas are nowdependent on the U.S. government for rations” (Nelson, 2015, pp. 48-52).

Directions: Geographical Context

Work in groups (teacher decides number).

Study maps to gain context about where approximately 600 native nations lived before European contact. Gain further geographical context, regarding this lesson, by analyzing early maps that include native territory now known as Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

Prior Knowledge Inference Activity

With your group, read and discuss the list of 36 events above. Use the graphic organizer to decide how events may be placed into categories. Write your inferences/hypotheses/guesses (from reading the words) in the list. Note that all events, on this timeline, have something to do with land. You are not required to research at this time, though you may research a bit if you wish.
Expand the graphic organizer as needed.

Expand Graphic Organizer as needed

Appendix 2: Perspectives and Complexity

It is not enough to simply say the colonists, settlers, and the U.S. government were bad, and the native peoples on the continent were good or vice versa. It is not easy to consider solutions to historical problems. However, gathering evidence to support your ideas is a way to look at different perspectives with a critical eye.


The teacher will place three large pieces of paper on walls around the room. Each paper will have one of these questions from Harvard University’s Project Zero (2017). The strategy is entitled Stories: Uncovering Accounts of Complex Issues: (1) what is the story that is presented? (2) What is left out of the account? (3) What is your story?

Take time to allow groups to read and view the resources provided on this appendix.
Some sources are from indigenous perspectives, and others are from settlers’ perspectives. Note that the 1952 docudrama about pioneers, is wrought with explicit biases.

Student groups discuss their ideas – considering members’ different perspectives.

After discussing the issues, events, people, society, cultures, and historical narratives, groups either write directly on the large papers or use sticky notes to respond to the questions with various ideas. It is not necessary for groups to agree, after their discussions. Individuals should be free to offer their own answers to the questions.

A thorough and civil class discussion regarding answers to these questions should follow, so students may share perspectives and ideas, perhaps, unnoticed by others.

Uncovering Accounts of Complex Issues
Consider how accounts of issues, events, people, society, culture, and historical narratives are presented.
What has been left out, and how you might want to present the account.
What is the story that is presented?
[What is the account that is told?]
What is the untold story?
[What is left out in the account? What other angles are missing in the account?]
What is your story?
[What is the account that you think should be the one told?]
Provide evidence for your ideas.

Appendix 3: Selected Resources for Students’ Research Quotes were taken directly from this article: Library of Congress (n.d.). America at the turn of the century: A look at the historical context, The National Setting Collection: The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898 to 1906. Retrieved from

By 1900 the American nation had established itself as a world power.

  1. The West was won.
  2. The frontier — the great fact of 300 years of American history — was no more.
  3. The continent was settled from coast to coast.
  4. Apache war chief Geronimo had surrendered in 1886.
  5. Defeat of the Lakota at the battle of Wounded Knee in 1891 had brought the Indian Wars to a close.
  6. By 1900 the Indians were on reservations and the buffalo were gone.
  7. Homesteading and the introduction of barbed wire in 1874 had brought an end to the open range.
  8. The McCormick reaper had made large-scale farming profitable.
  9. The first transcontinental rail link had been completed in 1869.
  10. In 1900, the nation had 193,000 miles of track, with five railroad systems spanning the continent.
  11. John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust dominated the world’s petroleum markets.
  12. In the 1880s Andrew Carnegie had constructed the world’s largest steel mill.
  13. Henry Ford had built his first gasoline engine car in 1892 and the world’s first auto race was held in Chicago in 1896.
  14. By 1900, telephones were in wide use.
  15. Cities were using electricity.
  16. Guglielmo Marconi was conducting experiments that would lead to the development of the radio.

Quotes were taken directly from this article: Carter, K. (1997, Spring). The Dawes Commission and the Enrollment of the Creeks. Prologue, 29(1). U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Retrieved from

  1. What can you do when you “discover” a continent, but there are already people living there?
  2. Europeans arriving in North America tried a number of approaches to solve what was often referred to as “the Indian Problem.”
  3. This was dependent on the relative military power of the natives and non-natives.
  4. By the late 1870s most nations had been pushed onto reservations in areas that were generally undesirable and out of the path of settlement.
  5. Many friends of Native Americans became convinced that efforts to isolate and then civilize them were not working.
  6. They believed that assimilating them into the general population would be a better policy.

Quotes were taken directly from this article: Carter, K. (1997, Spring). The Dawes Commission and the Enrollment of the Creeks. Prologue, 29(1). U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Retrieved from

  1. What can you do when you “discover” a continent, but there are already people living there?
  2. Europeans arriving in North America tried a number of approaches to solve what was often
    referred to as “the Indian Problem.”
  3. This was dependent on the relative military power of the natives and non-natives.
  4. By the late 1870s most nations had been pushed onto reservations in areas that were generally
    undesirable and out of the path of settlement.
  5. Many friends of Native Americans became convinced that efforts to isolate and then civilize
    them were not working.
  6. They believed that assimilating them into the general population would be a better policy.

Additional Research Sources
American Experience (2020). The Trail of Tears (Video file). PBS WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved from

Description: Reenactment. Cherokee, assimilation, President Andrew Jackson, Indian Removal Act of 1830.

American Experience (2020). The Transcontinental Railroad: Interview: Native Americans. Retrieved from

Description: This interview is about the West before white settlement, the impact of the railroad on Native American life, and the near-extinction of the American buffalo (para.1).

The Best Film Archives (2016, September 16). How did pioneers conquer the American frontier in the late 1700s (1952 Docudrama). Retrieved from

Description: This is a 1952 black and white film with explicit biases. The background music, costumes, and narration illustrate pioneers as heroes and natives as hostile savages. The film is a relevant teaching tool, though the length is about 20 minutes. Teachers and/or students may wish to show/view the video in shorter increments.

Questions for students to ponder:
a. How are the natives portrayed in this film?
b. How are the pioneers portrayed?
c. Who are named “people” in this film? How do you interpret this?
d. How are the following words and phrases used in the context of this story?
Silent enemy, savage Indians, unfortunate victims, relentless enemies, land for families and freedom, oppression and discrimination, heritage, hostile, exacting a terrible toll, courage, stamina, strength, determined, muscles, power, will, heartbreak, and ever westward.

PBS WGBH Educational Foundation. (2020, February 26). Westward Expansion, 1790–1850. (Interactive Map), Retrieved from

Description: The interactive map covers the following themes via a decade-by-decade “snapshot”:
o Territorial Expansion—States and territories, territorial claims, and disputed land
o Population Growth—Most populous cities
o Exploration and Migration—Trail routes
o Transportation and Trade—Canals, roads, and railroads
o Native Americans—Land cessions, expropriations, and tribal relocation (para. 3).

Schoenheide, Z. (2010, November 23). Far and Away land rush scene (Video file). Retrieved from

Description: 1992 film. Producer, Ron Howard. A young man leaves Ireland with his landlord’s daughter dream of owning land at the big give-away in Oklahoma ca. 1893. See archived photos of the event referenced below.

“Holding Down A Lot In Guthrie.” By C. P. Rich, ca. 1889 (Photograph).Retrieved from
American Archives and Records Administration (2019, October 16). American West photos. Retrieved from

Appendix 4: Comparing Reality and Stereotypes

1. History Matters. (n.d.). “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s hymn to U.S. imperialism. Retrieved from

2. National Archives. (n.d.). Document analysis worksheets. Retrieved from [See Links: Select the Document Analysis Worksheet]

3. Burke Museum (n.d.). Tips for teaching about Native peoples. University of Washington. Retrieved from

4. Ferris University Jim Crowe Museum. (n.d.). Stereotyping Native Americans. Retrieved from


  1. Work in groups of 3-4.
  2. Select the first reference, History Matters, and read it thoroughly. This resource briefly describes the Rudyard Kipling poem, “White Man’s Burden.” The actual poem is also included with this text.
  3. Select the second reference, National Archives. Use the document analysis worksheet, and analyze only the poem. Consider group members’ perspectives and complete the document analysis worksheet together.
  4. Select the third reference, Burke Museum from the University of Washington (State). Within your group, read and discuss the article, Tips for Teaching about Native Peoples.
  5. Select the fourth reference, Ferris University Jim Crowe Museum. Within your group, read and discuss the article, Stereotyping Native Americans.
  6. After discussing the article, complete the Comparison Chart below. You may enlarge the images, type or write inside the third column, or use extra paper for your responses.

Image Credits:

E Artist W. H. Childs’ portrayal of the public execution of 38 Dakota Indians at Mankato in 1862. They were Digital ID: (digital file from original print) pga 03790 Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-pga-03790 (digital file from original print)
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

Summary: Print shows the residents of Mankato, Minnesota, gathered to watch the execution of thirty-eight Dakota Indians, who stand on a scaffold with nooses around their necks, separated from the community by rows of soldiers. Local newspaper publisher John C. Wise commissioned this print to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the event. After the American victory against the Dakota at the
Battle of Wood Lake during the Dakota War of 1862, over three hundred Indians were sentenced for execution, but President Lincoln, after reviewing their cases, commuted the majority of the sentences However, Lincoln ordered the mass hanging of 38 natives, which was the greatest mass hanging in history.

Low, A. P. (Photographer). (1896). Inuit family at Fort Chimo, Quebec. Canadian Museum of History, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Mills, K. (Composer). (1907). Red Wing [Sheet music]. New York. F.A. Mills.
North Dakota Studies — State Historical Society of North Dakota (n.d.). Lesson 2: Making a living. Topic 3: bison hunting (Buffalo chart image). Retrieved from

Proctor and Gamble (1888, January 1). Ivory Soap advertisement. Retrieved from

Summary: Advertisement for Ivory soap in 1888, displaying a couple of native Americans and these verses. “We once were factious, fierce, and wild. To peaceful arts unreconciled; Our blankets smeared with grease and stains From buffalo meat and settlers’ veins. From moon to moon unwashed we went; But Ivory Soap came like a ray Of light across our darkened way. And now we’re civil, kind, and good, And keep the laws as people should. We wear our linen, lawn, and lace As well as folks with paler face. And now I take, where’er we go, This cake of Ivory Soap to show What civilized my squaw and me, And made us clean and fair to see.”

Unknown (Photographer). (Circa 1892). Bison skull pile [digital image]. Retrieved from Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library. Derivative works of this file: Bison skull pile edit.jpg

Summary: 1892: bison skulls await industrial processing at Michigan Carbon Works in Rogueville (a suburb of Detroit). Bones were processed to be used for glue, fertilizer, dye/tint/ink, or were burned to create “bone char” which was an important component for sugar refining.

Unknown author (1868, January 1). Lakota American Indian leaders, Fort Laramie (photograph) . Courtesy Edward Clown Family. Public Domain,

Summary: Left to right: Spotted Tail, Dull Knife (Roaming Noise), Old Man Afraid Of His Horse, Lone Horn, Whistle Elk, Pipe On Head and Slow Bull. – They signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie (or Sioux Treaty of 1868) on their part. Source:

Additional Images

Author (2007). Canada’s first people. Retrieved from

 February, N., Jilchristina, P., & Burchfield, G. (2019, January 16). Bison skulls to be used for fertilizer. 1870. Retrieved from

 Garrison, W. (n.d.). Lincoln ordered the greatest mass hanging in American history. (Archived newspaper article). Retrieved from

 Ghandi, L. (2013, September 9). Are you ready for some controversy? The history of ‘Redskin’ code switch. National Public Radio (NPR). Retrieved from

 Image Credit: AP Creator: Anonymous

 The cover of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Sunday supplement from January 1908 shows William

“Lone Star” Dietz, who in 1916 coached Washington State University to a Rose Bowl victory, in full Indian dress. Some credit Dietz with inspiring the name of the Redskins.

 Grabill, J. H. (1891). A pretty group at an Indian tent. [Photograph]. The Library of Congress. Retrieved from

 Hersher, B. (2016, April 24). Why you probably shouldn’t say ‘Eskimo’. National Public Radio (NPR). Retrieved from

 Hirschfelder, A. & Molin, P.F. (2018, February 22). I is for ignoble: Stereotyping Native Americans. (Photograph) Ferris State University Jim Crowe Museum. Retrieved from

 Ivory Soap Collection, 1883-1998, undated; Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Gift of Procter & Gamble. Retrieved from

Imperialism in the French and Spanish Caribbean: An Application of 21st Century Themes and Skills for Economic Inquiry

Natalie Keefer

The economic consequences of imperialism in the French and Spanish Caribbean have unwittingly made it the poorest region in the Western Hemisphere. Due to the Caribbean’s relative location to the United States, the flow of people between the French and Spanish Caribbean and United States represents a sizeable population.
The majority of Caribbean immigrants have settled, and continue to settle, in the greater New York-New Jersey and Miami metropolitan areas. Approximately 72% of Caribbean immigrants to the United States come from territories and countries
including Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba (Zong & Batalova, 2016). French and Spanish territories and countries in the Caribbean have complicated and deeply entrenched relationships with the countries that historically, economically, politically, and socioculturally oppressed their inhabitants. These
oppressed people include the islands’ indigenous populations and enslaved peoples of African descent that were brought to the islands as involuntary migrants.

As participants in a globalized economy, it is imperative students in social studies classrooms are provided with opportunities to explore abstract economic concepts associated with imperialism in holistic and concrete ways. Furthermore, these concepts should be explored in a manner that is relevant to students as consumers, and in many cases, reflective of the complex identities of students who are immigrants or children of immigrants from the French and Spanish Caribbean
(Ladson-Billings, 2014). Lastly, in today’s evolving educational climate, students need experience applying 21st Century Skills more than ever before. Therefore, the high school curriculum presented in this article offers an amalgamation of the NCSS
(2013) C3 Framework Inquiry Arc and Framework for 21St Century Learning (Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2015) to scaffold students’ knowledge of how historical patterns of economic imperialism have shaped societies in the French and
Spanish Caribbean. Since the nature of education is shifting beneath our feet and becoming more technology-dependent, all aspects of the inquiry based instructional sequence in this article can be accomplished remotely via computer and internet

The National Council for the Social Studies (2013) recognized the symbiotic relationship between social studies education and 21st Century Themes and Skills in its scholarly rationale for the C3 Framework Standards and Inquiry Arc. Overlapping themes and skills among the C3 Framework (NCSS, 2013) and Framework for 21St
Century Learning (2015) include, but are not limited to: civic literacy, global awareness, and economic literacy. Furthermore, many of the “life and career skills listed fall firmly if not exclusively in the social studies: students must be able to work
independently, be self-directed learners, interact effectively with others, and work effectively in diverse teams” (NCSS, 2013, p. 82).

In this sequence, students work interdependently in small groups to conduct inquiry
into imperialism in the French and Spanish Caribbean, to curate internet-based multimedia resources about economics and imperialism, and to construct a multimedia website with images, videos, and articles to respond to compelling and
supporting questions that frame their inquiry. An optional extension activity implores students to investigate the emergence of creole languages as an
economic necessity and product of cultural diffusion in the French and Spanish Caribbean.

An Economic Inquiry Arc

This high school economics curriculum is interdisciplinary in nature and designed to follow the NCSS (2013) C3 Framework Inquiry Arc. Students are likely exposed to content presented in this curriculum in world history, economics, sociology, or anthropology courses. The interdisciplinary nature of this curriculum
strengthens students’ reading, writing, and information and media literacy skills as they consume and evaluate digital resources. In order to frame the direction of this inquiry in a manner that is relevant and intellectually rigorous, students
explore the compelling question (Grant, Swan, & Lee, 2017): What are the consequences of imperialism? Given the present-day economic
situation in the Caribbean, the answer to this compelling question is ambiguous and dependent upon what groups you ask and their status in Caribbean society. For example, more affluent residents of French and Spanish regions of the Caribbean may benefit from the historical legacy of imperialism, while residents who live in poverty may belong to social groups that historically and presently have been exploited through oppressive economic policies. Thus, students need to explore
the history of economic imperialism in the French and Spanish Caribbean in order to understand why people from different social groups in the region might respond differently to the compelling question.

In order to develop a holistic response to the compelling question in this inquiry, and to guide the content focus, students sequentially tackle the following supporting questions:

1. For what economic reasons did France and Spain establish colonies in the Caribbean?

2. How did imperialism impact daily life in the French and Spanish Caribbean?

3. How has the history of imperialism shaped modern economics in the French and Spanish Caribbean?

These questions support the exploration of economic standards in the C3 Framework related to the interdependent nature of the historical and present-day global economy (D2.Eco.14.9-12; D2.Eco15.9-12). Ultimately, students will be able to determine how economic decisions result in policies with a range of costs and benefits for different social groups (D2.Eco.1.6-8.9-12.). While investigating content-driven answers to the compelling and supporting questions, they are required to evaluate digital resources (D3.1.9-12.; D3.2.9-12.) so they can organize reputable evidence to support their findings (D3.3.9-12.; D3.4.9-12.). Lastly, students communicate conclusions from the instructional sequence through a project-based
summative assessment that requires them to construct an informed response to the compelling question with evidence from multiple sources, while also addressing weaknesses in their argument(s) (D4.1.9-12).

21st Century Themes and Skills

The crux of 21st Century learning resides with the notion that there are specific skills students need to master in order to be productive citizens in the world today. In addition to skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and
collaboration, students must also have a sophisticated knowledge of key subject areas and related interdisciplinary themes. The Partnership for
21st Century Learning (2015) acknowledges the importance of the key subjects such as: language arts, world languages, arts, math, economics, science, geography, history, and government and civics.

It is encouraging to note the dominant importance of social studies disciplines in the 21st Century Skills Framework. However, given the importance of global communication and collaboration, social studies students in the United States would benefit from greater exposure to socioeconomic concepts related to world languages. In a social studies context, the dominance of world languages has played a defining, and often oppressive, role in Caribbean imperialism. An exploration of this dynamic will be offered as a socio-linguistic extension for consideration in the
summative assessment in this instructional sequence. After all, the presence of creole languages in the Caribbean is a direct result of the economic necessity to facilitate communication among social groups that spoke different languages during colonization.

21st Century Themes

In order to support students in the development of a sophisticated understanding of
21st Century subject areas, an interdisciplinary approach is warranted. The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (2015) integrated five interdisciplinary themes into their framework. Two interdisciplinary themes in particular are addressed in this inquiry-based curriculum: Global Awareness, and Financial, Economic, Business, and Entrepreneurial Literacy. Within these two themes,
students explore these strands in depth:
Financial, Economic, Business, and Entrepreneurial Literacy
 Understanding the role of the economy in society.
Global Awareness
 Using 21st century skills to understand and address global issues.
 Learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts.
 Understanding other nations and cultures, including the use of non-English languages (Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2015).

As an explicit outcome of this instructional sequence, students develop an awareness of how global economics has impacted the French and Spanish Caribbean. To accomplish this outcome, students consume and evaluate national and international media sources to learn about Caribbean economics and how it influences different social groups and communities. Finally, an understanding of imperialism from multiple perspectives allows students to recognize how economic policies have shaped the socio-cultural and linguistic landscape in the French and Spanish

Imperialism in the French Caribbean

During the 17th and 18th centuries, France established an economic system of plantation agriculture in the Caribbean colonies of Saint Domingue, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. Plantations focused solely on single-crop production of luxury crops such as sugar cane and coffee. These crops were almost exclusively exported to French markets due to the French exclusif mercantile policy that strictly limited trade between plantations and merchants in major port cities in France (Horan, 2010). Shortly after the arrival of Europeans and enslaved Africans, the
biodiversity of flora and fauna were depleted to the extent that it was necessary to import foods to sustain the transplanted population. Thus, throughout the history of plantation agriculture and enslavement in the French Caribbean, malnutrition
and starvation were rampant among the enslaved population. Starvation occurred, in part, because greedy plantation owners chose to enhance their wealth rather than buy adequate amounts of food for the enslaved labor force (Horan, 2010).

The Code Noir of 1685 (See Appendix A) governed the treatment of enslaved people in the French Caribbean. The Code Noir provided a legal framework to regulate the life, death, sale, religious practices, and care of enslaved people. For example,
enslaved people were required to be baptized as Catholics and were prohibited from working on Sundays and Catholic holidays. Enslaved people were also prohibited from owning legal property and had no legal rights. However, plantation owners
were required to cloth and care for enslaved people when they were ill. The Code Noir also governed marriages, burials, punishments, and delineated circumstances when enslaved people could gain their freedom (Buchanan, 2011). As a legal
document that regulated the life of enslaved people and free people of color in the French Caribbean, the Code Noir provides an understanding of the laws that regulated the daily lives of people who worked, lived, and were oppressed as a direct result of European economic policies.

Imperialism in the Spanish Caribbean

The Spanish infamously began to colonize the Caribbean when Columbus arrived in 1492 in search of gold. From 1492 until the 1550s, the Spanish were the lone European power with a presence in the Caribbean. The Spanish conquest brought the first enslaved Africans and diseases that decimated the indigenous population. Initially, the Spanish established small towns on the Caribbean islands of Cuba and Hispaniola. These towns served as launching pads for further exploration into the
Americas. Once the British, Dutch, and French began establishing colonies in the Caribbean, Spain to take notice of the relative importance of the Caribbean for plantation agriculture and the accumulation of wealth (Bassi, 2020). Under their
system of imperialism, the Spanish monarchy regulated all aspects of the plantation economy, including trade, governance, and established laws regulating the lives of people on the islands (Schmieder, 2013).

The daily lives of enslaved people and freed Blacks in the Spanish colonies of Cuba and on the island of Hispaniola were governed by laws, such as the Código Negro Español of 1574. The Spanish laws governing the lives of enslaved and freed Blacks were similar in nature to the Code Noir in French colonies (National Humanities Center, 2006). For example, the Spanish Black Codes and related laws regulated guidelines for punishments, rules for emancipation, standards for food and cloth
allowances, rules for religious education, and civil rights for freed people (Schmieder, 2013). Although comparable to the French Code Noir, laws regulating enslaved people in Spanish colonies often permitted marriages without a master’s
permission and Spanish laws guiding religious practice were laxer and frequently unenforced. Regardless, both French and Spanish colonies were governed by similar systems of economic imperialism and mercantilism that necessitated the brutal enslavement of people of color for the benefit of European coffers. Furthermore, as students conduct inquiry into the legacy of Caribbean imperial, they will be able to see the vestiges of imperialism in the current economic state of modern Caribbean countries and territories.

The Instructional Sequence

In this instructional sequence, students conduct inquiry into the effects of imperialism in the French and Spanish Caribbean. To accomplish this goal, students work in pairs during vocabulary development and strategic reading activities. Then,
pairs of students are combined to form groups of three or four students to conduct research for the creation of a multimedia website with articles, images, and videos they have curated in response to the compelling and supporting questions. All
activities in this instructional sequence can be accomplished remotely via Internet-based means of collaboration including email, Google Documents, and through the use of a free Internet-based platform to create the website for the summative

The following section provides a description of the steps that teachers follow to guide students through this inquiry. In additional to an explanation of the instructional strategies in this sequence, suggestions for resources and ancillary materials are
offered. Many of these resources are located in Appendix A at the end of this article. Teachers are encouraged to modify and adapt these materials to suit their needs and the learning needs of their students.


Throughout the instructional sequence, students continuously deepen their knowledge on imperialism and related economic concepts as applied to Caribbean contexts. In addition to information provided in textbooks, there are
numerous websites students can visit to begin their exploration of the consequences of imperialism in this region. The World Factbook and BBC Country Profiles are perennial favorites for demographic and economic information about countries. BBC also provides relevant news articles for this instructional sequence. However, considering Martinique and Guadeloupe are domestic territories of France,
Caribbean regional news sources provide more tailored and detailed information from within these territories. Plus, regional news from the French and Spanish Caribbean is more likely to be written by people living in these regions. Thus, these outlets provide more representative and accurate perspectives from citizens, as well as economic, social, and historical experts, living within the boundaries of French and Spanish Caribbean countries and territories (see Appendix A). These Internet resources include international and regional resources such as: Caribya!, Caribbean360, CANANEWS, the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), and Caribbean News Now.

Instructional Strategies

The instructional sequence in this inquiry guides students through three instructional strategies: vocabulary development to build background knowledge, strategic reading to prepare for writing, and a News Writing Workshop (Scholastic, 2020). Throughout the instructional sequence, teachers can conduct informal, formative assessments based on the completion of graphic organizers and writing samples students produce to process content. The multimedia website where
students integrate images, videos, and authentic writing serves as a summative assessment where they communicate the conclusions of their inquiry and take action to inform others about the consequences of imperialism in the French and
Spanish Caribbean.

Vocabulary Development

This first instructional strategy addresses the supporting question: For what economic reasons did France and Spain establish colonies in the Caribbean? This initial vocabulary development activity can be completed in pairs. To guarantee
students accumulate background knowledge in an intentional, structured way, teachers can provide them with a graphic organizer that scaffolds their knowledge and maintains focus on the topic. The suggested graphic organizer in Appendix B requires students to define and apply essential concepts such as: imperialism, mercantilism, colony, territory, plantation agriculture, enslavement, imports, and
exports. Based off Marzano’s (2009) steps for vocabulary development, students define each of the terms in the graphic organizer, provide an example in the form of a sentence about the French or Spanish Caribbean, and design an image or symbol for the term. Throughout the inquiry, these terms are be reinforced as students discuss and engage in activities that extend their understanding of the terms as they are applied in Spanish and French Caribbean contexts.

Strategic Reading

While still in pairs, the second instructional strategy requires students to engage in strategic reading to tackle the supporting question: How did imperialism impact daily life in the French and Spanish Caribbean? Whereas the first instructional
strategy focused on vocabulary development to examine the economic rationale and nature of imperialism in the French and Spanish Caribbean, this strategic reading strategy requires students to access and use primary and secondary sources to
explore daily life in this region from the perspectives of enslaved people, people of mixedracial heritage, and plantation-owning families. All resources in Appendix A are appropriate for this strategy although some are provided specifically for this activity. For example, New York University Libraries (2020) has a Caribbean Studies Primary Source website that provides several publicly available leads to many French and Spanish Caribbean archives and databases appropriate for students to conduct their research. Additionally, the Code Noir of 1685 and Spanish Black Code of 1574 are listed as important primary sources for students to familiarize themselves with to understand the legal status of enslaved people and freed people of color in the French and Spanish Caribbean. Although some of these resources are in French or Spanish, students can translate many of the databases using a web browser and museum websites frequently provide English language translations. Alternatively, students who speak French and/or Spanish, or students who are learning to speak these languages, should be encouraged to apply their 21st Century multilingual assets to conduct research.

As students gather information in their quest to determine how imperialism impacted daily life in the French and Spanish Caribbean, they can record their notes in the perspective-taking graphic organizer in Appendix C. Students need to explore
the daily lives of people living in the French and Spanish Caribbean from three perspectives: enslaved people, freed people of color, and plantation owners. In the graphic organizer, they record a minimum of three pieces of information
about daily life for each of these social groups. Students also record information they discover about the role each group fulfilled in the Caribbean economy. After debriefing this activity, pairs of students can be combined into groups of three or
four students to equitably distribute required tasks as they brainstorm, design, and create the content for the summative assessment.

Summative Assessment

In groups of three or four, students create a multimedia website in response to the compelling question: What are the consequences of imperialism? To answer this question, they apply vocabulary from the first instructional strategy with
knowledge they gleaned from the second instructional strategy to research and explain the current state of economic development in a country or territory in the French and Spanish Caribbean. In groups, students select the country or territory they want to focus on for this project: Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, the Dominican Republic, or Cuba. Once they have decided on a country or territory, students assign group members the following roles. If there are four group members, two group
members will be assigned the role of curator:

Webmaster – Assists with brainstorming the website, including layout, website name, and tagline. Contributes an opinion-style article and corresponding image or video in response to the third supporting question. Works with the curator(s) to write the editorial-style article that responds to the compelling question. Proofreads and provides feedback for all articles before they are posted on the website.

Curator (2) – Assists with brainstorming for the website, including layout, website name, and tagline. Contributes an opinion-style article and corresponding image or video in response to the third supporting question. Works with the webmaster to write the editorial-style article that responds to the compelling question. Proofreads and provides feedback for all articles before they are posted on the website.

Multimedia Director – Assists with brainstorming the website, including layout,
website name, and tagline. Contributes an opinion-style article and corresponding image or video in response to the third supporting question. Selects a political cartoon in response to the compelling question. Proof-reads and provides feedback for all articles before they are posted on the website. Posts content to the website in the agreed-upon layout by all group members.

In order to ensure the project is completed interdependently, the roles described above were designed so all group members are responsible for an equitable amount of writing, editing, and selection of visual content. Once it is completed, the website will contain the following elements:

1. A catchy name for the website.

2. A tagline for the website that reflects the compelling question.

3. A reflective, editorial-style article in response to the compelling question.

4. A political cartoon that is related to imperialism in the French or Spanish Caribbean.

5. Three short opinion-piece style articles in response to the supporting questions.

6. Three corresponding images or links to videos for each of the opinion piece articles. These images or videos may include charts, graphic, or maps.

7. An optional extension article that discusses creole cultures and languages in the French or Spanish Caribbean.

News Writing Workshop

To begin the process of creating their multimedia website, students can record their
assigned roles and brainstorm their ideas using the handout provided in Appendix D. Once students have completed Appendix D and received feedback on their plans from the teacher, they can begin researching and writing their articles. Each student
is responsible for writing one opinion-style article in response to the supporting question: How has the history of imperialism shaped modern economics in
the French and Spanish Caribbean?
The teacher should reinforce the importance of researching this question from multiple vantage points in order to support perspective-taking and to ensure the articles are not redundant. This point is reinforced in Appendix D where students must explain how the articles will be written from different perspectives. There are several exemplary resources to
guide students through the process of creating news articles. Scholastic (2020) has a News Writing With Scholastic Editors website to guide teachers and students through this process. The ReadWriteThink (2020) website has graphic organizers for creating
articles for classroom newspapers and reporting tips for writers. Links to these websites are provided in Appendix A

Once students have written, proof-read, and edited their peers’ articles, they can begin to collaborate on the editorial-style article and related political cartoon in response to the compelling question: What are the consequences of
For this last element, the multimedia director is responsible for working in tandem with the curator(s) and webmaster to write an editorial style response to the compelling question and select a corresponding political cartoon. The editorial and political cartoon can focus on imperialism in the Caribbean in general or in the country or territory they selected as a focus for their website.

Extension: The Emergence of Creole Languages as an Economic Necessity

For purposes of differentiation, or to enrich this activity, students may be assigned to create additional sections for their website. One option would require students to create an article and image on the birth of new languages in the Caribbean through the process of creolization. Creolization is a term used to explain how syncretic
languages, religions, and cultures emerge through necessary contact between groups of people who speak different languages (Baron & Cara, 2011). For this article, students would investigate the phenomenon of creolization and how new Caribbean languages emerged as a result of cultural and economic exchanges that necessitated communication between social groups who spoke different languages. Other related topics for extension articles might include the emergence of new forms of music, dance, religion, and cuisines as a result of cultural diffusion in the Caribbean.


Once the webmaster, curator(s), and multimedia director have written, edited, and
polished their articles and curated their multimedia content, they are ready to post their content to a website. There are many freely available websites for posting student-created websites; a top choice for many educators and students is the internet-based platform at (Colorlib, 2020). In this final stage, students widely disseminate the fruits of their economic inquiry in a creative, website format to communicate conclusion and take informed action (NCSS, 2013). As a result of this
inquiry and its summative project, students will have acquired a wealth of content knowledge to help them understand the legacy and present-day economic situation in the French and Spanish Caribbean. Along the way, students applied numerous 21st Century Skills to understand and address economic issues, while at the same time worked collaboratively to learn from individuals who represent divergent perspectives in regional economics (Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2015).


Baron, R. A. & Cara, A. C. (2011). Creolization as cultural creativity. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.

Bassi, E. (2020). Neither a Spanish nor U.S. lake: The Caribbean, a region in its own right. The American Historian. Retrieved from caribbean-a-region-in-itsown-right/

Buchanan, L. (2011). Slavery in the French Colonies: Le Code Noir (the Black Code) of 1685. Library of Congress. Retrieved from

Colorlib. (2020). 24 education websitebuilders for schools & teachers 2020. Retrieved from

Geggus, D.P. (1993). Sugar and coffee cultivation in Saint Domingue and the shaping of the slave labor force. In I. Berlin & P. D. Morgan (Eds.), Cultivation and culture: Labor and the shaping of slave life in the Americas (pp. 80-83). Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press.

Grant, S.G., Swan, K., Lee, J. (2017). Questions that compel and support. Social Education 81(4), pp. 200–203.

Hodson, C. (2007). “A Bondage So Harsh”: Acadian labor in the French Caribbean, 1763-1766. Early American Studies, 5(1), 95-131.

Horan, J. (2010). The colonial famine plot: Slavery, free trade, and empire in the French Atlantic, 1763–1791. International Review of Social History, 55(S18), 103-121

Ladson-Billings, G. (2014). Culturally relevant pedagogy 2.0: The remix. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 74-84.

LaHaye, L. (2019). Mercantilism. The Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved from

Marzano, R.J. (2009). The art and science of teaching: Six steps to better vocabulary instruction. Educational Leadership, 67(1), 83-84.

National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). (2013). The college, career, and civic life (C3) framework for social studies state standards: Guidance for enhancing the rigor of K-12 civics, economics, geography, and history. Silver Spring, MD: Author.

National Humanities Center. (2006). Regulating enslaved and free Africans in Spanish Cuba, 1974). Retrieved from

New York University. (2020). Caribbean studies: Primary sources. Retrieved from

Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (2015). Framework for 21st century learning. Retrieved from

Scholastic. (2020). News writing with Scholastic editors. Retrieved from

Schmieder, U. (2013). Martinique and Cuba Grande: Commonalities and differences during the periods of slavery, abolition, and post-emancipation. SUNY Research Foundation Review (Fernand Braudel Center), (36)1, 83-112.

Zong, J., Batalova, J. (2016). Caribbean immigrants in the United States. Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from

Appendix A
Resources for Teachers and Students

BBC News (n.d.) Latin American and the Caribbean. Retrieved from

CANANEWS. (n.d.). CANANEWSOnline. Retrieved from

Caribbean360. (n.d.) Caribbean 360 News. Retrieved from

News Now. (n.d.). Caribbean. Retrieved from

Caribya!. (2020). History of the Caribbean.
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Central Intelligence Agency. (n.d.). The world factbook. Retrieved from

The Code Noir (The Black Code). (1685). Liberty, equality, fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution. Retrieved from

Crowell, M. (2018). The island where France’s colonial legacy lives on. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC). (n.d.). The Caribbean digital newspaper collection. Retrieved from

France 24. (n.d.). Guadeloupe. Retrieved from

France 24. (n.d.). Martinique. Retrieved from

The John Carter Brown Library. (n.d.). Remember Haiti. Retrieved from

New York University. (2020). Caribbean studies: Primary sources. Retrieved from

ReadWriteThink. (2020). Inverted pyramid format. Retrieved from

ReadWriteThink. (2020). Newspaper story format. Retrieved from

ReadWriteThink. (2020). Reporting tips. Retrieved from

Silva, A.M. (n.d.). Haiti: An Island Luminous (n.d.). Retrieved from

Spanish Black Code: Regulating enslaved and free Africans in Spanish Cuba, 1574. (2006). National Humanities Center. Retrieved from

Scholastic. (2020). News writing with Scholastic editors. Retrieved from