Social Studies



The Social Studies program in Madison believes that all students must be compassionate, contributing members of a community. Through the study of social studies, students will understand that an informed, engaged citizenry is vital to our rights and liberties. Humanity thrives and struggles together. Students’ inquiry based, authentic experiences with history will build character and train judgment, allowing for innovative problem-solvers actively improving their communities. Student learning is consequential as classes focus on real world challenges and informed action. We are a human family and the power of empathy only improves the human condition. Every question may not have an answer, but the journey of seeking solutions allows students to explore, create, and develop their strengths and passions.

Social studies is a living program, with global perspectives intertwined with local connections. Understanding our diverse world requires a deep analysis of the community around us. Communities are continually defined, from the family unit and classroom, to the tenets of United States and global citizenship. A complete social studies education begins with broad-based studies in the earliest years of elementary school and continues through to focused themes and disciplines in a student’s secondary courseload. Teachers of social studies are supported through collaborative partnerships with families and the community, business and industry, and museums and cultural organizations. As schools strive to foster a more peaceful, compassionate world, social studies curricula and instruction bear the responsibility of creating opportunities for students to model those essential capacities required to allow this vision to become a reality.


Effective social studies instruction requires teachers of social studies to apply strong historical content knowledge to local, national, and global contemporary challenges. Social Studies instruction will be meaningful, integrative, value-based, challenging, and active. Teachers must encourage and facilitate a student-centered environment, driven by deep student inquiry. As student “react to the past” and “interact with their historical peers”, they should leave a class seeking answers to more compelling questions. Instructional time will be focused on active engagement where the classroom will come to life as students grapple with messy problems, weigh the information, determine the impact on the individual and community, gain insight from innovators and “upstanders”, and consider choices. Assessment in the social studies most often takes the form of a problem-solving event, where learning is applied and demonstrated through a student’s capacity to take informed action. Core themes and disciplines of k-12 social studies allows the teacher to facilitate an environment where students value the importance of active citizenship, community, and compassion.


The Madison Social Studies curriculum is created with the district priorities represented in the mission statement, the 21st Century Capacities matrix, aligned with the CSDE C3 Standards from the Connecticut Elementary and Secondary Social Studies Frameworks, and informed by the Common Core Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12. The integration of these standards, at both the national and local level, guided the development of K-12 Transfer Goals, which are all aligned with specific district 21st century capacities and are most frequently revisited and assessed in curricular units throughout a student’s academic career:

Social Studies Transfer Goals
Students will be able to…

  1. Evaluate how creation and participation in an economy impacts groups of people and their world
  2. Analyze how geography impacts people and people impact geography
  3. Apply geographic reasoning of earth’s physical and human features to better understand problems, predict outcomes, and/or develop solutions
  4. Evaluate diverse sources and points of view to determine what really happened
  5. Trace key events, statistics, and development of ideas/innovations over time to determine patterns
  6. Apply historical knowledge to develop connections to other eras/situations or provide insight into a contemporary issue
  7. Understand roles in communities and how to propose and/or create change in communities based on important issues
  8. Respectfully and responsibly work with others through the exchange and evaluation of ideas to achieve a common objective
  9. Pose and pursue question(s) to better understand an issue and draw conclusions or seek patterns based on a synthesis of evidence
  10. Develop and communicate an informed argument/explanation using illustrative details and examples based on audience and purpose
  11. Apply psychological reasoning to individual issues to better understand problems, predict, and/or develop solutions

The capacities are embedded and assessed in each unit design. Every content area is unique, and some have clusters by the very nature of their discipline.

Social Studies - 21st Century Capacities

Guiding Documents



Unit 1

Me in My Classroom

The initial unit in Kindergarten Social Studies complements the ELA workshop launch unit and serves to establish the foundations of citizenship, community, and compassion. Students will focus on introducing themselves and getting to know each other, being a member of a class community and the class environment, learning about their classroom, and the school. Using resources from The Responsive Classroom, themes of focus will include safety, classroom procedures and rules, and working with others. Students will understand different sets of rules relating to the cafeteria, bathroom, playground, Bus, hallway, and other areas of the school building. Rules also include consequences and actions, often times based on a behavior chart. Students will begin to think about what a role model looks and acts like, and the importance of their choices and understanding of socially appropriate behaviors. This introductory unit will also explore concepts of citizenship and the qualities and characteristics of a good citizen (friend, classmate, etc.) and how this connects to friendship. Participation, perseverance, and risk-taking will all be encouraged as students learn to be active participants in their classroom community. The unit will culminate with a role-playing activity where students will be presented with a classroom scenario and will need to describe what actions a model citizen would take to solve problems.

21st Century Capacities: Decision Making, Citizenship

Unit 2

Traditions and Celebrations

"Family Traditions and Celebrations" focuses first on foundational understandings of the family unit and family structures. Students will learn about what different roles and responsibilities a family member could have. Other questions include: "What does it mean to be a good family member?" and "Do families have rules that members need to follow?" Overarching lessons will focus on the importance of accepting and appreciating everyone as good citizens, celebrating many traditions, and respecting the diversity of other families. As students begin to learn more about their family and family's history, they will understand the definition and significance of a tradition. A family story can come to life through the exploration of unique journeys, cultural components, and traditions. These will be realized through each family member and some extended family members.

The unit will transition to popular American traditions and celebrations, especially those that include themes of Americanism, patriotism, citizenship, and freedom. Students will better understand the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem and other national songs, and the importance of Election Day. Through each concept, terms such as patriotism, citizenship, freedom, choice, and active participation will all be defined using examples. Some of the more traditional American holidays are also explored, including Thanksgiving and Veterans' Day. These celebrations help students connect their community to the past.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing

Unit 3

Me in My School Community

This unit expands upon the student's immediate environment and introduces the student to the community beyond the classroom, helping to define the entire school as another community. Students will learn and experience what it means to be a productive member of a school community. Students will consider what their individual and collective roles are as members of a school community. Students will realize that they are representatives of their school community and their actions and behaviors reflect the values and mission of the school community. They will discuss school pride and the school logo, mission, and mascot, understanding why it is important to have school pride. They will determine how to best represent their school community as model citizens.

As citizens of these different communities, students will begin to learn of their roles and responsibilities. Specific character traits will be explored and students realize the importance and impact of helping others. Through philanthropy, or the importance of giving, students will learn about different ways to contribute to a collective cause and the reasons for helping others in the community that may live with special needs.

The Unit will culminate with an introspective look at leadership. A focus will be on school leadership, the desired qualities of every leader, and why leaders are admired. Examples and models will be present through the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents' Day. This will allow students to recognize leaders in both history and the school community.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Decision Making

Unit 4

Tiger Pride in the Madison Community

In the final unit of the Kindergarten Social Studies course, students, as community members, are ready to explore Madison. This unit will begin with an investigation of what makes up a town community, including important services, buildings, resources, jobs/roles in town, and why they are important. Students will familiarize themselves with the geography of Madison, identifying and visualizing important features, locations, buildings, and other landmarks in the town community. This will help students to learn more about the resources and local environment. Areas such as Bauer Park or a Maple Syrup farm may be explored to understand the availability and responsible use of resources. Students will experience how and why Madison citizens are using, sharing, and protecting environmental resources and persevering special places.

As students gain a better understanding of the town of Madison and its history, different jobs, and resources will be explored. Students will be able to determine how a variety of Madison citizens contribute to the local economy. As students develop an appreciation for Pride in one's hometown, they will deepen their understanding of community. They will then be able to share this pride with others. By taking information and developing a clear summary argument to convince others, students will create a product which promotes a favorite place in Madison. This will reveal to their classmates their personal "Tiger Pride".

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Product Creation

Grade 1


Unit 1

My Rules and My School Community

In this roll-out unit students will be reflecting on their kindergarten rules and developing rules for their new experience while discussing why we have rules and what it means to be an active participant in a larger community (family, classroom, school, bus, hallway, cafe, specials). Students, as classroom community members, will discuss why it is important to be respectful of others and to be active listeners during turn and talk, lessons, stories, and other interpersonal activities. They will be discussing what happens when a member of a community does not follow the rules and the reasons for consequences associated with such actions. Mentor texts will be utilized to help the teacher emphasize lessons in citizenship and other local and global issues. Additionally, embedded in the unit will be a concept which focuses on the celebration of certain holidays and how they connect to citizenship and community.

21st Century Capacities: Collective Intelligence, Citizenship

Unit 2

The Family Unit

In 'The Family Unit," students will explore their heritage, culture, and family traditions. Historically, students will ask and answer questions about the general family structure, history of their own family, and changes to their family throughout time. As family members, students learn about the diversity of families and cultures and how other families are the same and different from their own families. Examples of different traditions and celebrations can be identified as examples. Through alternative perspectives, students gain appreciation and respect for families' differences. Students, as family members, will bring in the thread of the first unit about being a member of a community and discuss their family as a "micro-community." As members, they will also seek to define and understand what their role is in their family. They will discuss and explore how family roles have been defined and have changed throughout history. As another link from Unit 1, they will be revisiting the importance of being an "active" and "respectful" participant in their family "community", as well as respecting the differences in other families. Additionally, embedded in the unit will be a concept which focuses on the celebration of certain holidays and how they connect to both family heritage and their communities.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 3

What I Need vs. What I Want

Questions and concepts surrounding "Needs vs. Wants" will be guiding students into thinking about what they need to survive, how they get what they need, and how that differs from what they may want. The students will also draw on their understanding of being a responsible member of a larger community and how that guides them in contributing to the collective needs of the group. The students will also have the opportunity to learn about economics and resources, especially how the resources available to them in their community affect how they live (and vice versa). Additionally, embedded in the unit will be a concept which focuses on the celebration of certain holidays and how those events connect to needs and wants.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Decision Making

Unit 4

Me on the Map

In this unit, the students will employ maps as a means of better understanding the resources and characteristics of their community and the relationships and interactions that shape them. Map literacy will help them determine important features and items to include on a map of their bedrooms, houses, neighborhoods, town, and school. They will learn about a map key, symbols, and what information the key represents. They will be constructing and discussing their own maps of familiar places while thinking about how a geographical location determines what is available in that location. (ie. Madison has a green and a beach; what does that mean for people in this area?) They will be discussing what maps tell us about the way people live in Madison. They will discuss how geography impacts people and people impact geography. They will also discuss how their parents use maps to inform their lives.

21st Century Capacities: Product Creation, Engaging in Global Issues

Grade 2


Unit 1Town as Community and Community as Town

Second Grade Social Studies focuses on the town, broadening the first grade view of community beyond the family, classroom, and school. Different types of communities, such as urban, suburban, and rural, will be introduced, including the varying structures and characteristics. Guiding questions may include what makes a community and what unique features exist in different types of communities. Experiences and activities will help students understand their role as a citizen of a community and their rights and responsibilities. As they "become community members", they will experience different roles or jobs and how all community members need to work together to make decisions and resolve local issues. Town government will also introduce students to local rules and how they benefit the whole community. The initial unit also begins to look at what resources are available or provided in a community, as well as other economic decisions which best serve the community.

21st Century Capacities: Problem Identification, Citizenship

Unit 2Madison Then and Now

Studying the history of Madison helps students explain and understand how historical events and developments have shaped our community. Madison's geography, native peoples, and colonial development have all contributed to the nearly four century story of this classic New England shoreline community. Throughout the unit, students will explore historical events, local landmarks, and key figures to provide additional insight into changes in the Madison community over time. Tracing key events over time will help students determine cause and effect of change in local history impacting citizens' lives today.

Through historical sources, photographs, and other evidence, students will consider how life in Madison has changed over time (education, business, employment, housing, transportation, recreation, etc.). Students, as historians, will also use their initial exposure to Madison maps to understand the influences of geographic location and environment on the development of the community and lives of its members. Other resources will help students understand how historians use historical information to learn about the importance of the past and its influence today. As a culminating PBA, students will be referencing unit concepts on Madison's history to develop an updated crest which blends the town's history with its present day culture.

In each concept, teachers should utilize the Smart Board lesson as guide for discussion.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Product Creation

Unit 3Madison, USA

Throughout the study of Town as community, students will question and explore what "Madison" can look like in other geographic regions of the United States. Students will be introduced to Madison, WI as a way of comparing and contrasting geographies, climates, and lifestyles. The geographic, economic, and cultural elements of different regions will then be explored through investigations of other towns and cities, especially as those elements affect the people living there. Students will be able reflect on those factors which make each region unique. Students will compare the similarities and differences between Madison Connecticut and other towns in different regions. Maps and map skills will facilitate this by helping students identify and understand relative location, proximity, use of natural resources, topography, climate, population density, and other pertinent information; students will synthesize information gained through maps in order to develop hypotheses about life in different places.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Presentation

Grade 3


Unit 1Our Connecticut: The Citizens, The Geography, and The Environment

Third grade social studies begins by expanding the definition of student's community to the state of Connecticut.

Through a geographical introduction to Connecticut, students will build their understanding and knowledge of how state residents impact and are impacted by their environment. Using maps as a vehicle, students will discover how people of Connecticut use their land and resources, what business and industry rose up as a result, and what would be ultimately produced. Historical investigations will include a look at the development of Connecticut's borders and the location of indigenous populations. Students will be asked to explore the diverse qualities of regions in Connecticut's, as well as characteristics of environment and climate. Students will investigate and analyze how and why people live in urban, suburban and rural communities.

The unit will culminate with an exploration of environmental and geographic issues facing the people of CT. Students will identify environmental issues that would arise regarding the Connecticut River and work together to generate solutions to these problems.

21st Century Capacities: Problem Identification, Collective Intelligence

Unit 2Connecticut History

In the second unit, students will investigate and apply historical knowledge to better understand Connecticut's story. Beginning with the first settlements by indigenous populations, students will analyze the initial encounters native peoples had with Europeans. Students will understand the establishment and growth of the Connecticut Colony and its first government by exploring this period through multiple perspectives. This foundation will serve students as they investigate historical figures, early economic developments, early transportation systems, and the relationship between these and Connecticut's history. Students will discover how the movement of populations into Connecticut related to these available regional opportunities. Examples from both a historical and contemporary perspective will allow students to understand how the settlement of Connecticut by diverse populations has contributed to the state's cultural heritage. Through a synthesis of multiple sources of evidence, students will begin to develop claims about historical concepts and construct valid arguments.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Product Creation

Unit 3Connecticut’s Government

In this third unit of study, students will learn about Connecticut's government from the perspective of state leadership and the way in which they represent and serve the citizens.

Students weigh individual rights with the common good by examining government power and fairness. Students will explore the ways in which government has direct effects on Connecticut legislation(law-making) and justice, taxation and funding, safety, education, and community resources.

Equally important to the civic process is the active participation of Connecticut citizens. Through legal responsibilities, tax obligations, jury duty, and voting, our state's citizens must all fulfill an important role in Connecticut's governmental system. Authentic activities will allow students to experience how the state government has an impact on their lives. Through inquiry, investigation of evidence, and development of claims, students will investigate the reason behind a law. Other scenarios will be presented to students, helping them understand how ideas can become movements and issues can be solved by informed action. Students will reflect on the government process and develop innovative solutions based on the concepts throughout the unit.

21st Century Capacities:Citizenship, Decision Making

Grade 4


Unit 1

Historians Exploring the Past

This unit's focus on native peoples and their settlements will help to establish the foundation for students' understanding of the yearlong theme of "How people's choices and actions affect others." The class will use an introductory lesson to explore how choices and actions lead to both problems and solutions in the students' own community. As students begin to understand the social studies and historical thinking/investigation through an identification of the types of resources and evidence historians use, they will be introduced specifically to the field of history and what it means to be a historian. They will explore cultural components of the eastern woodland native people including the Wampanoag, Pequot, and Iroquois and how these tribes used their natural resources to survive and thrive in a particular location and environment. This will help to determine how a geographic location contributes to the way in which people live. Students will also have the opportunity to look at the European peoples, from Columbus to the Pilgrims, journeying to this new land and interacting with the native peoples. Evaluating multiple primary source artifacts and other resources will help students accurately ask and answer questions about various peoples, settlements, and significant events. Students will also investigate, through different viewpoints and perspectives, the interaction among colonial European settlers and native peoples in order to begin to develop arguments and support claims as part of the process of understanding how people's choices and actions affect others.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing

Unit 2

Let Freedom Ring

The concept of liberty forms the foundation for the rebellious birth of the United States. Students will be guided by unit themes which consider the questions, "How do people's actions and choices affect others?" and "What is freedom?" This unit will highlight the thirteen colonies, with a focus on mapping the geographic, economic, and religious differences. This knowledge will help students understand why colonists settled in various regions and the cultural and environmental impacts of those settlements.

Students will also analyze the multiple causes and precursors of the American Revolution (including the French & Indian War, various imposed taxes, and acts of protest against the British Crown), questioning the necessity of the fight. Much of the focus will center on disagreements that led to the American Revolution and the reasoning and motivation as to why colonists chose to speak out against the British Crown. Students will use primary source documents and other resources to evaluate the "truth" of the Boston Massacre and other key events leading to conflict between the British Crown and the Colonies. Through an investigation into these causes, students will see that historians must consider why colonists were willing to suffer through terrible hardships and years of war in their quest for independence. Using "Argument Protocol", students will debate the benefits and risks of being Loyalists or Patriots. This ultimately reveals how various groups of people are able to impact history. At the individual level, students will also be investigating important battles and heroes/heroines of the war. Through a final reflection (and exit slip) students will look back at the concept of freedom and wonder whether it is worth the fight.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 3

A Recipe for Democracy

The theme of this unit continues with the larger course theme which considers "What is freedom?" Students will make the connection between the Declaration of Independence, freedom, and the purpose of government. Looking through this document, students will need to both understand and critique the colonial argument for Independence. Referencing concepts from the previous unit, including the challenges and opportunities of the colonial citizens, students will learn about the difficulties of state vs. federal power when establishing a new nation's Constitution. Students will investigate the Articles of Confederation, the Constitutional Convention and its writers, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights to better understand the structure and function of the federal government and a Constitutional Republic. US government, through the three branches of government and some of the elements in place to check and balance power, will be dissected by the students. Ultimately, students will be able to see how some of the initial concepts and purpose of a representative democracy result from citizens looking to balance personal freedoms with the common good. All this can be realized through an analysis of the Bill of Rights and selected Amendments which help to define today's "We the People". With a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of citizenship, fourth graders will demonstrate the importance of civic duty and its role in communities. These young Americans will be asked to demonstrate the true meaning of freedom and examples throughout this nation's history which have helped to define, for different groups, this unalienable right. Putting these lessons into action, the class may take on a local issue or evaluate a law and look at the role of government in the process.

21st Century Capacities: Collective Intelligence, Product Creation

Grade 5


Unit 1

Westward Expansion

The introductory fifth grade unit will look at the effects of the Manifest Destiny in relation to the attitude prevalent during the 19th century period of American expansion. This is a time when the United States not only could, but was destined to, stretch from coast to coast. This attitude helped fuel western movement and settlement, Native American removal, and war with Mexico. Students will dissect and question the factors which led to both the expansion and interactions of peoples in 19th century America.

Students will look at the opening, exploration, and settling of the West and how this affects many diverse populations of people. These groups include the Mexicanos, Chinese immigrants, 49ers, Mormons, Oregon Pioneers, Cherokees, and the Nez Perces. Students will investigate a variety of reasons why people headed west, including the search for gold, abundant land, religious freedom, employment (such as the working on the Transcontinental Railroad), and adventure. The experiences of each group will help students gain perspective on the movement of particular individuals and societies. It will be important to consider how the value of resources play a role in both the opportunities and conflicts that resulted. Students will seek to discover and develop a working definition of the term "Manifest Destiny" throughout the unit.

Through introductions to their historical peers, students will role play in cooperative groups, making decisions and writing diary entries as their wagon makes its way west, facing many challenges along the journey. Students will, through the analyzing of primary sources (such as journal entries) and works of art, "travel" with Lewis & Clark, exploring newly acquired land, charting the land and resources, and encountering challenges while searching for a passage to the Pacific. Students will develop an understanding, from multiple perspectives, of how change can be challenging and rewarding.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 2


The focus of the unit is for students to understand the origins of slavery in America. Students learn about Africa before and after the arrival of Europeans and the increasing demand for slave labor in America. Several economic aspects will help students understand different resources and economic conditions which related to the trading of slaves. Students will also have the opportunity to learn more about what life was like in Africa for several tribes in the 1500s prior to the slave trade. Through exposure to the Middle Passage and experiences of life as a slave in the colonies, students will focus on three dilemmas Africans faced:

1. Trading Slaves for Guns

2. Surviving the Middle Passage

3. Living as a slave in the Colonies

There will be a concentrated emphasis on forms of resistance including the Underground Railroad and the Abolitionist Movement. Students will participate in various simulations including the Middle Passage and Mission-US Flight to Freedom. Students will analyze primary sources including images, runaway slave posters, auction broadsides, song lyrics, poetry, diary entries, and speeches. Students will connect key concepts from the unit to elements of the slave trade in New England and Connecticut. Students will develop an understanding that people need to stand-up to injustices, voice their concerns, and fight for change.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing

Unit 3

A House Divided

This unit will ask students to look more deeply into the causes of the Civil War, including some fundamental differences between the North and South, the Missouri Compromise, Abolitionists and the Underground Railroad, the Compromise of 1850, Bleeding Kansas, the publishing of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the election of Abraham Lincoln. The escalation of tensions surrounding many of these issues all led to the development and secession of the Confederacy.

Students, as historians, will investigate and compare the life of Union and Confederate soldiers, key battles, military tactics and advancement of war technology, combat conditions, medical care, life on the battlefield and the homefront, and the end of the war. Students will work together to develop a deeper understanding of specialized and specific roles of those citizens living during this divided time in US History.

Students will analyze many primary sources including photographs, letters, journals, and maps. Students will select a topic of interest and develop a guiding question to further research, analyze a variety of materials, and design a product. Students will develop an understanding that there are alternate and competing perspectives with every argument.

Through this investigation of evidence and alternate perspectives, students will identify with history through a connection to young Americans from the 19th century that experienced life during the Civil War. They will work together to question what is worth fighting for and whether or not war can be avoided. The unit will culminate in a writing experience which applies their understanding of life during the Civil War.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 4

Industrialization and Innovation

This Industrialization and Innovation unit will focus on how 19th and early 20th century industrialization revolutionized the economic and social conditions in the United States. Changes began in the late 1700's when innovation impacted both how products were made and how Americans lived and wanted to live. After the Civil War, further advances would occur in the areas of technology and transportation, changing the economic landscape of the nation. An exploration of how and why the Industrial Revolution began and "gained steam" in late 19th century America will help to introduce major concepts in the unit. Student learning will focus on innovation, inventions, and industrialization and their impact on citizens' lives. Students will be asking and answering questions based on how nations use resources to achieve their goals and how industrialization changed the way Americans lived. Examples in New England and Connecticut will help students make local connections to this time period. Along with industrial growth came many social and economic issues tied to labor and the rights of workers. This increased demand for workers led to child labor and unsafe working conditions. The life of a child laborer will serve as a model which allows students to understand the time period directly from their historical peers. Students will experience life in a New England factory as an example of this experience of an industrial worker. Photography and other primary sources will also expose students to many of the realities of the industrial age in America. Students will be asked to connect their understanding of this massive progression in 19th and 20th century industry, technology, and society to the rapid changes that are occurring in the United States today. As a transition to the subsequent themes in the course, students will make the connection between the need for labor and an expanding economy with waves of immigration in the later part of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Through an analysis and presentation of information and ideas, students will promote a collective understanding of the continuing influence of this period in American history.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Presentation

Unit 5

A Nation of Immigrants

The study of "A Nation of Immigrants" will be an introspective look at the lives and experiences of families and individuals arriving and assimilating to the United States. Students begin by looking at the reasons why someone would emigrate to America, what their expectations might be, and how they maintained their cultural ties and/or assimilated to their new home. Students will identify the various challenges immigrants faced when transitioning from their homelands to the United States. Teachers should find relevant examples from Connecticut to help students make meaningful connections with local communities. As part of this learning experience, students will also understand the impact of geography and environment as it relates to resettlement of immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th. Additionally, as the unit makes connections to the present, students will read about how immigrants continue to move to America for a number of reasons. These more recent immigrants continue to impact and contribute to the culture and society of the nation. Students will analyze many primary sources including photographs, letters, journals, and maps. Through personalized stories, students will develop an understanding about sacrifice, challenges and obstacles, taking risks, opportunities, and potential rewards. Students will gain an appreciation for the opportunities, freedom, and diverse cultures of America. Students will develop a sense of empathy and gain an appreciation for the differences of people and their immigrant experiences. Students will compare and contrast as they develop a knowledge base of key people, places, and figures associated with the topic of immigration. As a culminating experience of the unit, students will connect to their historical peers through an exploration of the immigrant experience of their ancestors, conveying this experience to a public audience. Reflection on this product and process will also allow the student to build a better understanding of present-day immigration in America.

21st Century Capacities: Presentation, Engaging in Global Issues

Grade 6

Unit 1: Access to Food

Our first unit on food asks students to grapple with the global issue of hunger and the question of why, when there is enough food being produced, so many people are going hungry. Students will conduct inquiries into how humanity moved from hunting/gathering into agriculture, and explore how this revolution allowed for the specialization of labor and development of complex societies. We will examine how our geography impacts food availability and explore different conceptions of "responsible food choices." The unit will conclude with students examining their own behaviors and choices surrounding food, and develop a plan of action for how they might make responsible individual choices that will help alleviate this problem.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Citizenship

Unit 1

Unit 2: Water Changes Everything

Water is an essential resource, not only because it impacts food production. Access to water can impact economic and educational opportunities as well as health and well being. In short, this unit is about the ways that complex societies rely on, fight over, and work together to secure access to water.

After an introduction to the unit in which students explore the modern extent of water scarcity around the world and develop an understanding of the sources of the problem, students will conduct a historical inquiry into how early civilizations dealt with getting access to water and make judgments about water as a source of conflict or cooperation. Students will then conduct a second inquiry in which they explore the modern "costs" of water and make judgments about which cost is the greatest.

After conducting these inquiries, students will use the interpretations developed in order to identify and advocate for an existing product that might help to alleviate water shortages. Students will adopt the perspective of a stakeholder in an area of water shortage, find a solution that aligns with their interpretations of whether water is a source of conflict or cooperation, and develop a pitch to the World Bank seeking funding to further develop the product.

21st Century Capacities: Presentation, Decision Making

Unit 2

Unit 3: Access to Education

The third unit of this course turns the focus to equity in education around the globe, and continues the theme of exploring the historical forces behind modern inequalities. Just as students conducted inquiries into how the history of agriculture helps us to understand modern hunger, and how the history of early river valley civilizations helps us to understand modern conflicts over water, in this unit they will explore how the history of colonization and imperialism can help us to understand modern inequalities in access to and quality of education. Students will then investigate modern obstacles that stand in the way of greater educational equality around the world, and will conclude the unit by participating in an "International Education Action Symposium."

21st Century Capacities: Collective Intelligence, Engaging in Global Issues

Unit 3

Grade 7


Unit 1The Challenge of Global Citizenship

"What does it mean to be a global citizen in an increasingly interconnected 21st century world?"

The entire Grade 7 social studies course is framed by this challenge, introducing students to an exploration of natural rights and responsibilities of global citizenship. To start this work, this unit invites students to explore global organizations such as the United Nations, as well as other non-governmental organizations dedicated to improving understanding of different beliefs, allowing for all people to settle in a safe environment, and opening economic opportunities for all. The class will practice collective intelligence to develop a common understanding of their mission as global citizens, to explore what actions are required to improve the human condition, and to further their understanding of how to create more equitable opportunities for all of the world's people living in one large community.

Embedded throughout are the teaching of key reading and notetaking skills required in the research process that students will draw upon throughout the course. The unit will culminate in a performance task in which students are asked to apply their understandings of global citizenship to create a product designed ot inspire others to action.

21st Century Capacities: Collective Intelligence, Citizenship

Unit 2Human Rights, Equality, Governance

This unit is about acceptance and understanding of various cultures, religions, and belief systems throughout the world using the events of 20th century Europe as a lense. Through this lense, students will analyze the complexities of human rights, equality and governance. It will be important for students to consider examples when belief systems have been, and continue to be, manipulated by individuals or groups in order to maintain power and control. The students will critically analyze the role of propaganda and divisive language to manipulate the masses.

Students will explore how valuable education is today in breaking down these barriers and dispelling misconceptions. With this in mind, students will consider the historic significance for the need for the development of the League of Nations and the United Nations with applications and connections to modern day. Specifically students will hypothesize how to develop religious acceptance and understanding for the purpose of community building and coexisting as allies.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 3Conflict, Peace, and Security

This unit builds on students' learning in the previous two units, continuing to explore the question "What does it mean to be a global citizen in an increasingly interconnected 21st century world?" Students will continue to develop their understanding of the importance of being informed, active, global citizens and use knowledge previously gained from the "Challenge of Global Citizenship" unit to help justify their positions.

Specifically, students will explore to what degree it is possible, and why has it been difficult, for the UN to maintain peace between hostile groups in a region. To do this, students will look more deeply at the role and responsibilities of the United Nations as an actor in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. Students will be able to demonstrate deep understanding of the historical factors that have led to present day conflicts. Students will analyze patterns in history in order to to critically identify, evaluate and predict future areas of global concern. They will be introduced to violent and nonviolent conflicts and movements in order to understand how hostilities and rebellion lead to regional and global disharmony.

The intent of each concept is to engage students as active, informed, and participating citizens, understanding their roles in the global community. In the end, students will be able to cite appropriate evidence to justify conclusions.

21st Century Capacities:Problem Identification, Decision Making

Unit 4Overcoming Inequality

"How can we be active and effective global citizens?"

This unit is designed to be the culmination of the 7th grade learning experience. Students will consider how global partners have worked to overcome social, economic and political inequality around the world. In order to prepare students for their culminating performance based assessment related to global citizenship in action, students will identify and analyze specific successes from South Africa. Students will use examples of past success to connect to future situations. Students will also consider the United Nations sustainable goals and use them as a guide to develop a plan of action to address a global rights issue. The goal is to empower students to apply their learning from the course to consider and work to become a more informed and effective global citizen.

In this final project, students will investigate a specific human rights abuse occurring today. In this investigation, they will evaluate the extent to which the abuse stems from a failure of governance, a failure to maintain peace in security, and a failure to promote economic opportunity; in doing so, students will conclude the course by seeing how often these three elements are tightly intertwined.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Citizenship

Grade 8


Unit 1

Defining Democracy: US Citizenship

The purpose of the Government and Civics unit is for students to develop a historical and philosophical definition of the United States federal government. Students will be investigating the purpose of government and origins of US democratic system. They will question the concept of citizenship and what makes a good citizen in a healthy democratic society. As the Constitution and US government are dissected, the student begins to understand the framework of the federal system through concepts such as the roles of the three branches, separation of powers, checks and balances, and how a bill becomes a law. Various Constitutional issues will guide this unit as the student gains a deeper understanding of the challenge of balancing personal freedoms with the common good.

The intent of each concept is also to engage the students as active, informed, and interested citizens, understanding their roles and responsibilities as contributing members of their local, state, and national communities. They will be introduced to social and political movements, understanding what triggers change in law and policy. While researching, students will also develop a deeper understanding for the research process, evaluating sources, and validating evidence. Through a final, performance-based assessment, students will evaluate the definition of the "citizenship standard" in Madison Public Schools, applying content and concepts they have learned throughout the unit. Finally, the foundational understanding from this unit will serve as a basis throughout the rest of the course as democracy is continually "re-defined" to determine if the American system is functioning as intended by its founders.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Presentation

Unit 2

Redefining Democracy: Social and Political Change

The purpose of the "Redefining Democracy: Social and Political Change" unit is for students to develop a framework for understanding the changing role of citizenship in the United States as the nation experienced industrialization and immigration in the early 20th Century. Students will develop an awareness of the changing roles, duties, and responsibilities of both the federal government and its citizens. Students will compare the ideals of the Constitution with the practices of the US government in the mid to late 19th and early 20th centuries. This unit will also establish a foundation for students to understand and analyze social, political, and economic reform in the 20th Century.

Specifically, through the inquiry process and Socratic seminar, students will analyze how individual citizens and groups created change in our society. Students will be asked to consider questions such as; What is the role of government in a changing society? How does the government balance personal freedom with the common good? How do people and/or groups impact history? How does one craft an argument to convince others to see a particular point of view? Student will also need to develop their own questions regarding government action and its impact on society as they develop opinion/argument papers which use evidence and sourcing to justify a claim.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Product Creation

Unit 3

Redefining Democracy: The Economic Rollercoaster: 1920s and Great Depression

Continuing with the theme of "Redefining Democracy", students will evaluate the economic impacts of a post-WWI democratic system where the US has entered the world stage and will enjoy the peace and prosperity of the time. The aim of the "The Economic Rollercoaster" unit is to foster student understanding of the complex interaction between global economic forces, communities, and policy makers. Students will evaluate Americans' standard of living and question the government's reaction to the high peaks of prosperity during the roaring 1920's. Included in this is an analysis and inquiry into how overproduction and speculation led to economic collapse and what the government's role would become as a result. An evaluation of the government's interventionist response to the economic depression and New Deal policies of the 1930s will help students determine the appropriateness of this remedy. Students will be asked these compelling questions based on their knowledge of Constitutionally established limitations in government power. Essentially, was the New Deal a good deal for all Americans, both past and present? This question will be weighed in the face of other essential questions focused on the distribution of wealth in America, citizens' expectations for a standard of living, and the political regulation of the marketplace. The unit will culminate with an economic summit in which students will be asked to explore, research, and debate a contemporary economic issue, arguing their policy recommendations, course of action, and impact on the American people.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Decision Making

Unit 4

Redefining and Evaluating a Democratic Culture

The global impact of the Great Depression on Europe would ultimately result in examples of totalitarian leadership. A post-WWI United States and its political leaders would shift from isolationism to interventionism in a dire quest to preserve democracy and freedom at home and abroad. As a focus for this unit, which helps to define democracy during wartime, students will understand the impacts of mobilization on socio-cultural elements of America.

The emphasis for the unit will be on the home front where it will be important for students to recognize how there was a clear shift in attitudes as intervention in global conflict seemed imminent. They will evaluate the impact of the war on such topics as the economy, women, immigrants, and minorities. With the attack on Pearl Harbor and declaration of war, all aspects of society would be affected. Looking at multiple sources for evidence, students will understand how the balancing of security and freedoms played a role in democracy's guarantee of basic human rights.

After the previous unit was focused on exploring how citizens responded to major social issues during the progressive era and the government reacted to the crisis of the Great Depression, students will investigate how the nation as a whole struggled to meet the demands of the largest war in world history. Students, as historians, will consider the growth of the nation's economy as a result of the overnight needs brought about by the war effort.

The learning in the unit will lead to a culminating opinion/argument digital reflection which asks students to evaluate a contemporary continuation of their course-long selected theme (socio-cultural, political, or economic issue). They will evaluate the entire theme, considering its historical, and contemporary components in relation to the Constitutional promises at the heart of our Nation's founding. In order for students to prove and present their thesis, research and conclusions, they must answer the course-long question: Have we made progress?

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Presentation

Grade 9


Unit 1Belief Systems

In this introductory unit, students will begin to explore the theme upon which this course is built: competing conceptions of justice and the common good. This exploration starts with inquiry into the various belief systems that exist in the modern world, and the ways in which each of those systems express the notion of the common good in similar and different ways. Providing context to many of the conflicts that students see in the world around them. The learning activities in stage 3 provide numerous metaphors, stories, and exercise that should be used to support students as they build basic understandings of each belief system and interpret key texts. The unit will conclude with students transferring their learning to the development of an interfaith religious center that could be built in the Olympic village in order to promote communication and understanding between religious identities while respecting the unique qualities of each.

21st Century Capacities: Imagining, Collective Intelligence

Unit 2Exploration and Imperialism

In this second unit of study, students will extend their thinking about competing conceptions of the common good to questions of exploration and imperialism. By evaluating the motivations behind imperialism and the consequences of it, both positive and negative, students will evaluate whether or not imperialism has been, or could ever be, a force for the common good. Students will then apply their learning to an the XPrize competition, in which teams from around the world compete to develop solutions to some of the developing world's most pressing problems. By evaluating the solutions and their implementation, students will consider the possible impacts of these competitions and these outside influences on the people they are designed to help.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 3Revolutions of Thought

In unit 3, students will explore competing conceptions of the common good as it relates to science, technology, and economics in the modern world. Through investigating the historical eras of the Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, and Industrial Revolution, students will examine how their historical peers have grappled with fundamental questions surrounding humanity's increasing ability to control and exploit the natural world, the extent to which the benefits outweigh the costs, and the extent to which human advancement has wrought unforeseen consequences. Additionally, students will be challenged to understand competing ideas about how humanity should divide and share the wealth created by this advancement. Similar to other units in this course, students will be asked to empathize with people, in both the past and present, who may have answered these questions very differently from themselves and the society in which they've grown up.

21st Century Capacities: Problem Identification, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 4Political Revolutions

After exploring various revolutions in human thinking during the span of modern world history, students will shift to the concept of political revolution in unit 4. In a 21st century in which more and more nations are experiencing electoral surprises, government upheaval, and political violence, it is critical for students to explore and develop an understanding of how these modern revolutions are part of a continued debate in human history about how governments can best serve the common good. As students conduct inquiries into the reign of Louis XIV, the Enlightenment, the French and Russian Revolutions, and the forces of nationalism and totalitarianism, they will seek patterns that exist in why people choose to revolt against their governments, the complexities that exist during these revolutions, the potential outcomes, and whether or not these revolutions were "good." Throughout the unit, students will be asked to evaluate forms of government that differ from the participatory democracy in which they live, and assess whether or not there are cases in which these other forms might better serve the common good. The unit will culminate in a performance task where students will research a current, ongoing political revolution, and predict the outcome based on their learning.

21st Century Capacities:Analyzing, Synthesizing

Unit 5Global Conflict

Though there are exceptions, for most of human history wars have been fought over land and resources, and have been limited in their scope and their impact on humanity. However, the modern age has brought with it ideological wars, the notion of total war, and has given humanity the ability to destroy itself in just a few hours. In this unit, students will explore how different societies and cultures have grappled with questions of why wars should be fought, how they should be fought, and how does war have the power to ultimately serve the ideas of the common good?

At the end of the unit, students will be thinking as historians by creating an authentic product meant to preserve history for future generations.

21st Century Capacities: Product Creation, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 6Human Rights and Common Good

This unit will deeply explore human rights and the challenges of defining genocide. Using the Holocaust as the example, the unit will focus on 8 outlined stages of genocide. Most importantly, students will learn the value of cultural understanding and how to take positive action when considering their contributions to their community and the common good. Students will be expected to use the 21st century skills of imagining and synthesizing to create a meaningful monument to a lesser known genocide.

21st Century Capacities: Engaging in Global Issues, Citizenship

Grade 11

High School Electives



Unit 1

The Free Market

The first unit of the economics course is designed to introduce students to the basic principles of supply, demand, and the idea of free markets. Through experiential learning activities, students will develop a definition of what a free market is, learn the laws of supply and demand, and conduct experiments to see how those laws interact to determine the price of a good and the quantity produced/consumed. Students will then apply this understanding to tackle the complex problem of the gender wage gap, and view that issue through the lens of an economist. The learning activities in this unit also ask students to grapple with one of the most authentic challenges faced by economists - how to communicate arguments based on economic principles to audiences with little or no understanding of economic principles.

21st Century Capacities: Citizenship, Decision Making

Unit 2Free Trade

Students will learn about the concept of opportunity cost and how economists have applied this concept to better understand the potential benefits and costs of free trade and globalization. After learning about the economic theories underpinning free trade agreements, students will then go on to evaluate the effects those agreements have and whether or not their benefits are worth the costs.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Decision Making

Unit 3Quality of Life

Students will explore the concept of "quality of life" through the lens of economists. When studying the causes and effects of different behaviors and policies, economists are challenged to quantity the effects on people's quality of life or standard of living; how do they do this? Students will learn how to use three basic tools (GDP, CPI, and unemployment) to measure quality of life, along with the limitations of each of those tools.

21st Century Capacities:Imagining, Presentation

Unit 4Recessions, Depressions, and the Federal Reserve

In this final unit of study, students will investigate the nature of recessions, depressions, and the role of Federal Reserve in the economy. Most Americans are unaware of the massive role that the Federal Reserve plays in how the nation's economy performs; student inquiry throughout this unit will uncover the how the money supply impacts demand for goods and services, how the Fed manages this money supply, and how the Fed's actions can create winners and loser in the economy.

21st Century Capacities: Decision Making, Collective Intelligence

Modern Middle East


Unit 1Identity in the Middle East

In the first unit of the course, students will explore the many questions surrounding identity in the Middle East. The complexities of identity in the region are numerous, and a key to developing a greater understanding of the region is to overcome stereotypes by investigating the historical religious, ethnic, and tribal roots of people who live in the region. Once students have developed this understanding, they will then learn about the mandate system imposed after WWI, which placed many people with deep, historical conflicts into artificially created nations. The performance task asks students to do a deep inquiry into the creation and conflicts that exist within one nation in the Middle East, with the aim of better understanding the nation's internal conflicts.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Presentation

Unit 2Israel and Palestine

The second unit of the course invites students to investigate the deep and complex history of Israel and Palestine in order to build an understanding of how the conflict between people in these nations is linked to broader tensions across the Middle East. Ultimately, the goal of this unit is not to assign blame or debate solutions, but to develop empathy for the multiple perspectives of people who have lived and continue to live through this seemingly intractable struggle. Students will begin by learning about the historical ties that both Jewish people and Palestinians have to the land, and will grapple with questions of fairness related to the creation of Israel after the Holocaust as a permanent home for the world's Jewish population. Then, students will explore significant turning points in the conflict during the 20th and 21st centuries. The performance task for this unit will be a journal kept from the perspective of one of four possible perspectives: a Zionist, a moderate internationalist Israeli, a moderate Palestinian, or a militant, Hamas-influenced Palestinian.

21st Century Capacities: Engaging in Global Issues, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 3Inquiries about the Middle East and West

In this third and final unit, students will take more independence for their learning as they construct inquiries in order to explore the tensions between the Middle East and the West. The teacher will lead the class through a collaborative model of this process with the Iranian Revolution, and then students will work in small groups to design and conduct inquiries around other instances of Western involvement in the Middle East. Students will share their findings in a simulation of the UN Security Council as it grapples with the problems posed by Syrian refugees, and considers whether or not Western nations bear enough responsibility for the crisis that they should be required to accept Syrian refugees.

This unit also challenges students to take collective responsibility for their learning. Success on the PBA requires that students successfully complete inquiries and also that they engage when other groups are sharing/presenting. While we often expect students to present findings, this unit also asks students to consider how they can learn from their peers in this setting.

21st Century Capacities: Collective Intelligence, Decision Making



Unit 1Epistemology

The first unit seeks to answer the guiding epistemological question, how do we know? We will first explore methods of forming logical arguments. This concept will be based on analysis of cause and effect statements (syllogisms), the art of forming an argument (rhetoric) and debate strategy. We will then apply these means of examination to competing schools of thought with an emphasis on the nature/nurture argument, also classified as rationalism vs. empiricism. We will then consider the extension schools of positivism, which emphasizes certainty of knowledge, and its opposite, skepticism, with doubt of proof as its underlying premise. At each turn, students will be encouraged to examine their societal assumptions in their own lives, specifically world religions and belief systems, through these philosophical lenses. Throughout the unit, students will keep a journal in which they reflect on key questions related to epistemology.

21st Century Capacities: Decision Making, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 2Ethics

The Ethics Unit focuses moral and ethical issues. It seeks to provide students with understandings of the various bases of thinking about what is wrong and right including relativism, objectivism, utilitarianism and religious-based ethical codes. Students will then refine how each ethical mode of thought is most suited toward various aspects of society including politics, economics, and civic responsibility. Students will be confronted with contradictions within ethical frameworks and challenged to deal with them. In a final performance task, students will be asked to construct ethical dilemmas and then rely on their learning to make sound ethical decisions "on their feet".

21st Century Capacities: Citizenship, Perseverance

Unit 3Aesthetics

Aesthetics is an exploration of how to define beauty in both art and the wider world. Each philosophical approach has its own interpretation of what is beautiful. Is that tree beautiful because of the fruit it bears, because of its classic symmetry, or because Charlie Brown chose it instead of those at the store? Beginning with the ancient Greek approach of creating criteria for evaluating beauty students will then extend their investigation of cultural perspectives worldwide. As a final challenge, students will find a way to recognize/portray something that's beautiful in ways that are unexpected.

21st Century Capacities: Collective Intelligence, Analyzing

Unit 4Metaphysics

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy which focuses on what is beyond the physical world, or that which is perceived by the 5 senses. Thus, metaphysics focuses on the nature of ideas. In this unit, students will analyze and deconstruct the meanings of various ideas, attributes, and beliefs to arrive at an understanding of their true essence. To that end, students will analyze readings from Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Immanuel Kant, Franz Kafka, and others to engage in discussions on the meaning of liberty, courage, fear, existence, etc. Students will then use this acquired knowledge to defend the essence and meaning of what it means to be a student as a practical application of metaphysics.

21st Century Capacities: Collective Intelligence, Analyzing

Sports & American Culture


Unit 1Race

This first unit in Sports and American Culture focuses on the role of race in the development of American professional sports. Throughout the past century, courageous minorities opened many areas in sports for other minorities to follow. People like Jackie Robinson, Venus and Serena Williams, and Tiger Woods proved that African Americans could play sports just as well, and in many cases, better than white athletes. Since entering the public arena, many black and minority athletes have used their new status to push for social change, and serve as positive role models for their communities. At the same time, many struggle with the expectations that accompany their newfound fame and making choices that potentially could compromise their future. At a macro level, the power structure in professional sports mirrors the social power structure of American society. This observation, which highlights socioeconomic and race related disparities is an issue that needs to be investigated and understood.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Citizenship

Unit 2Gender

Historically, men have dominated professional athletics. As our society continues to evolve, so must our understanding of what ǵender really means, and how it enables or bars individuals from participation in athletics at the local, national, and international levels. In this unit, students will explore the complex relationship between gender, athletics, and societal expectations.

Students will develop an understanding that even though many have been discouraged from participating in male dominated sports, women have continued to break the stereotypical and cultural barriers. As traditional gender roles were challenged by feminist movements in the 1960s and 1970s, the federal government passed the law known as Title IX to encourage opportunities for women, but this has also caused backlash from men's athletics. Students will also investigate the ways that female athletes are branded and marketed, and how that marketing reflects persistent stereotypes and expectations of both femininity and masculinity. Finally, students will conduct an inquiry into whether or not female athletes in a given sport should be paid the same as their male counterparts, and will conclude the unit with a performance task in which they design a marketing campaign for a female athlete, team, or league.

21st Century Capacities: Product creation, Imagining

Unit 3Sports and Capitalism

The third unit of Sports and American Culture focuses on the commercialization of professional sports and the ways in which society is affected. It is impossible to ignore the heavy role of advertising, the increasingly expensive experience of fandom, and the seemingly ever-increasing salaries of professional athletes. Connected to this Sports, media, and business are all interlinked. The media uses sports to gain viewership and increase advertising revenue. Businesses pay large sums of money to the media to gain access to the large consumer audience that views sporting events. Sports generate roughly 14 billion dollars a year due to consumerism. Fantasy football, attending events, and representing fan favorite teams with clothing all provide fuel to the fire in the sports industry. The presence of a professional sports team can do great things for the local economy of a major city, providing jobs and boosting consumer spending, but what happens to that local economy when a team decides to move to a different city? Historically, the path to success and achieving the American dream is through hard work, perseverance, and education...unless you are a minority living in/around a major city. For many of these young people, the path to success and escaping the cycle of poverty is a lucrative sports contract. Does this reflect a great disparity in access to opportunity and economic inequality in American major cities?

21st Century Capacities:Imagining, Product Creation

Unit 4Sports and Identity

The final unit will focus on the ability of sports to both mirror and define our cultural and national identities. Students will begin the unit by exploring the psychology of sports fandom, and how athletic events can cause fans to behave in ways they ordinarily wouldn't, including carrying out violent acts against others. Then, students will investigate how sports can also inspire a sense of unity between drastically diverse segments of society, especially when a sporting event is elevated to new meaning by global conflicts or politics. Students will conclude the unit by undertaking the challenge of applying their learning to the design of a "perfect" pep rally, which maximizes the positive psychological and cultural elements of sports fandom while minimizing the negative effects.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Imagining

World Traveler


Unit 1Considering Culture

Life devoted to travel can profoundly shape one's personal view of the world and politics. Thoughtful travel can broaden every person's perspectives, challenge outdated assumptions, and create a force for peace in the world. In this first unit of study, students will thoughtfully consider the purpose of travel, the meaning of culture, and what they hope to get out of experiencing other places. Students will begin by exploring different ideas about why people travel, and consider how traveling to grow and learn is fundamentally different from traveling for leisure. Then, students will investigate the meaning of culture; when people travel to learn about or immerse themselves in a different culture, what exactly are they learning about? After developing a list of cultural "non-negotiables" that they seek to learn about through travel, students will complete a performance task in which they will apply these understandings in order to evaluate a travel guide for a place they are already familiar with, and consider the strengths and limitations of the guide in giving the traveler an authentic cultural experience.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 2Cultural Sensitivity

In the second unit of the course, students will continue to grapple with the question of how to appreciate the cultures of different places around the world by considering how to authentically represent those cultures without slipping into stereotypes. Students will explore more deeply how the architecture, food, music, sports, geography, etc. of a place are representative of that place's history and cultural identity. Then, students will investigate the nature of stereotyping and why people are prone to use stereotypes in order to develop a set of guidelines for how to avoid presenting those stereotypes. Those guidelines will be used as students engage in a performance task which asks them to represent the culture of a place as authentically as possible by designing a new pavilion for inclusion in Epcot's World Showcase. The performance task engages students on three levels of thinking - thinking about how to represent cultures with resorting to stereotypes, thinking about how a traveler can seek out greater understanding of another culture through those experiences, and thinking about the obstacles to truly understanding another place without actually going there.

This unit and those that follow will largely be driven by performance tasks and the associated choices and inquiries that go along with them. As a level 1 course, teachers should embrace opportunities to let students explore independently, grapple with difficult decisions, and take intellectual risks.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Imagining

Unit 3Travel vs. Tourism

Whereas unit one and two deal with misperceptions of cultures and possible outcomes of a traveling experience, unit three allows students to prepare for travel abroad in detail. Students will be expected to thoughtfully consider a destination aligned with either their own personal goals or with an eye towards a growth area for the school community, to consider all the logistical elements of international travel, and prepare to defend the design of their itinerary. Students will consider the value of effective design and decision making when considering locations and methods of transportation. Ultimately, the intended outcomes of the unit are to make students aware of the complex elements of safe and meaningful travel but most importantly to get students comfortable with planning and enjoying world travel.

Learning in this unit is driven primarily by the performance task. Teachers should ensure that they are finding opportunities to give students individualized and meaningful feedback as they go through the process of designing the trip.

21st Century Capacities:Decision Making, Design

Unit 4Parts Unknown

Where previous units have asked students to explore cultures with greater breadth, this final unit will asks students to explore a selected region of the world much more specifically and deeply. In this culminating experience, students will be asked to create an audio tour of a place off the beaten path - a residential neighborhood in a city filled with tourist sites, or a site located for from any major transportation hubs, as examples. The goal is for students to consider travel in its most immersive form, and to learn about how a place that has not been made more accessible for outsiders might offer the most authentic representation of culture and the most meaningful experience for the traveler.

Asking students to explore a place that is more obscure than a typical tourist destination poses a unique challenge to students: how can they learn about a place, in great depth, without actually going there? This unit encourages students to think about ways of learning from and connecting with people using 21st century technologies, invites them to think about how to learn in the absence of easy-to-find information, and asks them to consider the limitations of learning about a place without actually going there.

Like units 2 and 3, this unit is driven by the performance task - as the final unit of a level 1 course, students are expected to take higher levels of responsibility for their own learn while enjoying more independence in pursuing their own interests. Teachers should make sure to carve out time for student conferences and give meaningful, individualized feedback.

21st Century Capacities: Presentation, Design