Student Lessons 2013/14

Inquiry Lessons

Are you looking for a new way to actively engage students in examining important historical questions? Listed below are abstracts and links to lesson plans following the "Inquiry" model. An Inquiry lesson asks students to generate hypotheses addressing an important, but debatable, historical question, and then presents students with relevant data to support or undermine potential hypotheses. Ultimately, students ferret through the evidence and generate a well supported conclusion or answer to the historical question. The inquiry lessons identified below ask students to analyze and interpret the primary and secondary sources, including sources obtained from the Library of Congress' Digital Collections.

These lesson plans were created by students in Dr. James Hartwick's Methods of Teaching Social Studies course at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. If you are interested in using inquiry in your classroom, this website provides you several complete inquiry lessons! Please use and modify these lessons as you see fit.

Image of James Madison

Socratic Seminar: The Federalist No. 10

(click here for corresponding poster)

In the late 1780s, vigorous debate ensued as to what the new Constitution of the United States should look like. In the debate over what the Constitution should look like, two competing parties emerged: the federalists and the anti-federalists. The federalists believed in a strong national government, whereas the anti-federalists were fearful of giving too much power to the national government in the wake of being ruled by the British monarchy. To quell the fear of the anti-federalists, prominent federalists such as James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay wrote 85 anonymous articles for the New York Journal in 1787 and 1788 explaining their position. In The Federalist, Paper No. 10, James Madison articulates why factions are a threat to civil society and also goes on to describe the differences between a direct democracy and a republic, while examining why a republic is better equipped to reduce the threat of powerful factions. The central question of this unit is: Why does James Madison believe factions are a threat to civil society? This Socratic Seminar allows students to discuss not only what factions are and if they feel they are a threat, but it also provides them with a forum for analyzing the differences between a direct democracy and a republic. Additionally, this exercise gives students the opportunity to examine different forms of government and explore their own conception of what a good form of government should look like while utilizing higher order thinking skills and deep knowledge. - Created by Dan Miller
Passenger Pigeon

What caused the Passenger Pigeon's extinction and why did it happen so quickly?

(click here for corresponding poster)

The once most numerous species of bird the world has ever known, who's migrations during the springtime would blacken the midday sky. The Passenger Pigeon was rapidly driven into extinction during the late nineteenth century. How could this have happened and what were the main factors in the Passenger Pigeon's demise and eventual extinction? Prior to westward settlement, the Passenger Pigeon’s migrations in spring were unimpeded. These migration routes were dependent on large food sources to support the great bird numbers, estimated by ornithologists like Wilson and Audubon to be as high as three to five billion. The Passenger Pigeon’s natural characteristics met head on in conflict with America’s population and expansion growth. The Pigeon’s reproductive features allowed only one offspring annually, abandonment during the reproductive process ensured the offspring’s demise, and the reproductive period also left the Pigeon most vulnerable to kill by hunters. As the American population and expansion moved westward, the Pigeon’s habitat became pinched between the western plains and the new agrarian lands by the settlers. At the same time the Pigeon’s natural habits, such as migrating in close proximity and destroying the settler’s agriculture made them an easy target for kill, practically and justifiably. - Created by Daniel Lansing