More Investigations in American History

Expanding the course materials:

Materials for learners in Investigating American History (formerly the American History Handbook) will not fill the time available for the typical American history course. For those teachers or mentors who wish to use additional (or alternative) active-learning investigations, we've provided supplementary investigations and units, described below. As with all our materials, these are available at no cost to teachers or mentors for use with their own students.

In the spirit of open-source, we invite others to generate similar American history materials for posting here, or improvements to the materials below, or even identification of effective additional primary sources. See "Contact" on the menu line, or the discussion page for "More Investigations in American History" (box on right).

Supplementary units: (To download a unit, click on the selected title.)


Additional Notes for Teachers and Mentors

An overview of the optional additional American history units and their recommended sequence. Includes two introductory activities--an investigation of the principles of history writing, and procedures for generating a simple "history context" timeline.

Columbus and the Natives, 1492-1493

Materials in this unit may be used as in introduction to the entire course. The primary historical source is Columbus's letter to Spanish officials describing his voyage, and the mental process used by learners is inferring, probably the most basic skill needed in dealing with primary sources. 

An additional, optional "Right Here, Right Now" investigation introduces a major issue in historical reporting, and gives a subtle introduction to the main systems elements in the Model.

Colonial Exchange Patterns, 1725-1765

This unit is intended to follow introduction of the complete Model. If it's used with the activities suggested by Investigating American History, the best place to insert it would be after the sixth section, “Native American Patterns of Action.” The unit introduces the concept "economic exchange," and focuses on the growing economic issues dividing England and the Colonies, one of several disagreements that led to the American Revolution.

Stamp Act; Colonials React, 1765-1766 

When a group's shared values are threatened, their emotions are aroused, which in turn leads to reactions such as petitions, demonstrations, boycotts, and even violence. This unit introduces the Stamp Act, and the range of reactions by Colonials, to illustrate the significance of value-based emotions and reactions. This unit is a paradigm for escalating English and Colonial reactions leading to Revolution.

Biased Reporting/Boston Massacre, 1770 

Four primary sources report what came to be called the "Boston Massacre."This unit deals with selective perception (which causes unconscious bias) and with deliberate "spin" in accounts of emotion-laden events.  (Note: These two intensely important subjects are covered nowhere in the conventional curriculum.)

Constitution/Bill of Rights, 1787-1791

This unit examines the functions and powers of government, and control and limitations on those powers. The effects of shared ideas on government, and effects of government on action patterns are particular foci.

Northeastern Region, 1800-1850

The first of three units investigating major regions of the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century. Learners use the four main components of the systems Model (setting, demography, action patterns, and shared ideas) to analyze the region. This enhances Model-based analytical skills, and provides background for understanding of both the Civil War and present-day American society. In chronology and conceptual sequence, the units are designed to follow student materials in Part 7 of Investigating American History.

Southern Region, 1800-1850

The second of the three units investigates southern society. One section of this unit gives learners insight into the slave experience during this period.

Western Region, 1800-1850

The third of three units focuses on the area called "west" during the historical period, now considered "Middle West." Note that additional primary sources (for Ohio) are part of student materials in Part 8 of Investigating American History, and the sources there and those given in this unit may be analyzed together, before moving on to the investigation of systemic relationships in Part 8.

Comparing Regions, 1800-1850

This unit "puts the pieces together" from  the three units investigating regional differences in society. It's designed to be used after completion of the "system change" investigations in Part 8 of Investigating American History.

Slavery and Polarization, 1819-1860

An expansion of student materials in Part 9 of Investigating American History, with primary sources for Abolitionists, contention over slavery in new states, and the failure of compromises. Illustrates growing emotion, ideology, stereotyping and related aspects of polarization.

Native Americans, 1840-1900

When differing societies come into contact, the differences often cause conflict (and, too often, tragedy). This unit explores the societies and culture of Native Americans, particularly in the Great Plains, the contrasting culture of White settlers, the loss of Native American autonomy, and destruction of much of their culture. The unit "fits" best after learners have investigated reactions to the loss of autonomy. See part 10 of Investigating American History.

Industrial Change, 1865-1890

Growth of industry after the Civil War led to a cascading series of changes in American life. Many of the changes occurred because industry had major impact on the autonomy of many Americans. They reacted in a wide variety of ways, all with historical implications. The unit is designed to be used after learners complete investigations in Part 10 of Investigating American History.

African-Americans, 1865-1910

The period after the Civil War was one of continued problems for freed slaves. This unit focuses on the ways they were deprived of autonomy during this period, and their reactions to this deprivation.

Immigrants, 1870-1920

This unit investigates elements of cultural interaction--the effects on ways of acting and ideas when differing groups come into contact, and the effects of this interaction on autonomy. Both groups are affected, sometimes with adverse consequences. The unit is designed to be used after learners complete investigations in Part 10 of Investigating American History, which looks at reactions to thwarted autonomy as systemic triggers of historical change.

Boom & Depression, 1920-1940

Understanding economic change requires an historical approach, along with application of systems theory. Learners investigate the changes between the 1920s and the Depression years of the 1930s using primary data. They identify systemic relationships between unemployment, wages, prices, manufacturing, attitudes toward the future, and other common elements of the U.S. economy. This unit is designed to follow student materials in Part 11 of Investigating American History.

System Change/Cities, 1945-1990

This unit expands learner ability to analyze and diagram systemic change. It focuses on the profound changes in America's cities after World War II. It may be used as the basis for learner activities for a week, a month, or more.