Lesson Plans

Education In Action

Check out lesson plans for culturally sustaining instruction and healthy classroom conversations about this nation’s past and present. Over time, we will add original and curated lesson plans with topical and grade filters.

Check out our newest original lessons!

IDRA’s School Resource Hub features over 120 lesson plans, instructional best practices and historical resources to support teachers in delivering culturally-sustaining classroom lessons. See a PDF list of over 120 lessons and teaching tools available on this hub (as of May 2023).

Within these lessons, IDRA created a set of innovative original classroom lessons using a new “America Is Me” (AIM) framework for teaching intercultural skills: solidarity, social awareness, social-emotional wellness, sociocultural exchange, and social change. These skills are transferable across academic content areas.

IDRA has created modifications for emergent bilingual learners for each of the AIM lessons. 

See a list of our AIM lessons and learn about the framework.

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 America Is Me Framework

For the We All Belong – School Resource Hub, IDRA created a set of innovative original classroom lessons using a new “America Is Me” (AIM)

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Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students will work in pairs and use expert reading strategies to analyze the Court’s ruling in Hernandez v. Texas. After participating in a carousel discussion, students will write a three-minute paper describing how the United States would be different if the Court had reached an alternate conclusion.

Lesson Plan

In the late 1800s, the United States began an educational experiment that the government hoped would change the traditions and customs of Native Americans. Special boarding schools were created in locations all over the United States with the purpose of educating American Indian youth. Most of these schools sought to suppress any sign of students’ tribal heritage and to “Americanize” them. Thousands of Native American children were sent far from their homes to live in these schools and learn the ways of white culture. Many struggled with loneliness and fear away from their tribal homes and familiar customs. Some lost their lives to the influenza, tuberculosis and measles outbreaks that spread quickly through the schools. Others thrived despite the hardships, formed lifelong friendships and preserved their tribal identities. Through primary source documents, students explore the experiences and perspectives of individuals involved in Native American boarding schools.

Lesson Plan

Nazism emerged in Germany during the era of “Jim Crow” in the United States (a period after the Civil War in which segregation was legal throughout the country). Nazi leaders, including Adolf Hitler, wrote admiringly of American racist practices. Racist ideas were treated as “scientific” during this time: biology linked to physical appearance supposedly determined what people were capable of and what limited them, while “selective breeding” was promoted as a way to eliminate physical and mental disabilities in the population The pseudoscience called eugenics emerged in the late 19th century and became a global movement, providing a veneer of respectability to ideas about “racial purity.” By the 1930s this pseudoscientific approach had found its way into laws in the United States and Europe. While eugenics and racism were present in many countries, this lesson is a case study examining Nazi Germany and the United States during the 1930s. While racism and racist laws existed in both societies, these histories are presented within their own national and historical contexts.

Lesson Plan

Was George Washington a man of his time, a slaveholder in a state where 40% of the population were slaves? Was George Washington a conflicted abolitionist, searching for a solution to the slavery dilemma? In this 21-page lesson published from Project Tahoe, students will watch videos, read essays, quotes and speeches and discuss George Washington’s conflicted past.

Lesson Plan

The Trail of Tears was the result of many decades of struggle for the Cherokee Nation and other American Indian tribes. Since the early 1800s, the Cherokee Nation tried to protect their lands by assimilating into the European-American culture as much as possible. However, when Andrew Jackson became president in 1828, that tactic rapidly changed. In this lesson students will analyze a variety of primary and secondary sources to explain the actions of President Jackson and Congress in the establishing the Indian Removal Act of 1830. And students will analyze a variety of primary and secondary sources to explain the positions of the Cherokee regarding removal, as well as those who supported the Cherokee in their resistance to removal.

Lesson Plan

Although different in many ways, antisemitism in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and anti-Black racism in Jim Crow-era America deeply affected communities in these countries. While individual experiences and context are unique and it is important to avoid comparisons of suffering, looking at these two places in the same historical period raises critical questions about the impact of antisemitism and racism in the past and present.

Lesson Plan

The Geography of Racism: Housing Policy features a 12-minute video that shows students how racism has affected the built landscape and physical infrastructure of U.S. cities, and how experimental voucher programs have been used to relocate Black families from poor neighborhoods to more prosperous ones. Using data to explore how geography can become destiny for many young people, the video helps students see the intersection of racism and urban planning in American cities. Useful for lessons focused on how values and culture become embedded in the landscape of urban areas, the video shows how geographic data can be used to inform policy decisions. Content Advisory: This video shows protesters using racist language.

Lesson Plan

On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall uprising took place. It began in the early morning at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. As was typical during that time period, police officers entered the bar and arrested employees for selling alcohol without a liquor license, roughed up customers, cleared the bar and arrested customers for not wearing at least three articles of “gender-appropriate” clothing. While raids like this happened regularly, this time the LGBTQ+ community (patrons and neighbors) had had enough and engaged in what began as a spontaneous, violent demonstration that spawned additional demonstrations over several days. Though LGBTQ+ rights activism existed prior to 1969, many view Stonewall as the beginning of the organized gay rights movement and it is also seen as a symbol of resistance to social and political discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

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Using a video featuring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, students compare legal and historical interpretations of seven women in Supreme Court history.

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students will compare a firsthand account of the Civil Rights Movement with their preconceptions of it. Specifically, they will (a) know pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement, (b) understand the relationship of grassroots action with congressional action, (c) compare their preconceptions and textbook with a primary source, and( d) use appropriate questioning strategies to understand a source.

Lesson Plan

Emmett Till was a 14-year-old African-American boy from Chicago, Illinois who went to visit his family in Mississippi in 1955 before the start of a new school year. In this lesson, students will view videos to hear eyewitness accounts of what occurred while he was visiting with them, from working in the cotton fields, to the fateful trip into Money, Mississippi. Students will learn about the timeline of events, how they unfolded and the subsequent trial for the men involved. Students will also consider the impact this had on the Civil Rights movement and the legacy.

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students learn about important leaders and events throughout LGBTQ American history. They hear stories about Francis Bacon, a noted gay man who coined the term “masculine love”(1623), brilliant trans women of color, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who led the revolution at Stonewall (1969), and when Audre Lorde, a critically acclaimed novelist, poet and fierce civil rights activist is named as the state poet of New York (1991). Students are each given a History Card with an important event from LGBTQ history and are asked to guess their place in chronological order. This activity allows for the sharing of these often untold stories and also facilitates a much needed discussion about the erasure of LGBTQ history in what is considered American history, and the value of critical thinking in history classes. After examining the LGBTQ visibility (or invisibility) in their current history curriculum or textbooks, students proactively create newspaper articles to highlight the stories of LGBTQ leaders and bring them into the classroom.

Lesson Plan

In August 2019, The New York Times Magazine published The 1619 Project, an ongoing initiative that aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative. In this lesson, you will read an essay that uses primary sources as a point of entry to making sense of the history of slavery in the United States. The primary sources were selected by Mary Elliott, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The featured article was written by both Ms. Elliott and Jazmine Hughes, a New York Times writer and editor.

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Students will learn about the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression and about censorship by looking at the examples of banned children’s books. Then they will get a taste of the effect censorship has on free expression by creating two murals — one created freely and one censored.

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In this lesson, students who have watched Love, Simon will compare Simon and Blue by creating life-sized character studies of each, decorating them with character traits and identity terms. As a class, students will discuss identity characteristics and the idea of “invisible identities.” Students will write to the characters, showing support for them and sharing ways that they are similar and different from them. To conclude, students generate a list of suggestions for supporting LGBTQ people who want to be out and visible in their schools, but may not yet be comfortable to do so.

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As an enslaved person, Sally Hemings struggled to improve her family’s prospects as she labored under the institution of slavery. By dividing her life into four major stages, students will encounter the difficult choices forced upon enslaved women by an evil institution.

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Students will be introduced to the concept of Founding principles based on natural law and natural rights as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. They will then analyze primary source documents to determine the extent to which the writing of the Declaration of Independence contributed to the quest to end slavery in the United States in the Founding era.

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A study of a new curriculum will test a new approach to learning about race: studying it in biology class. In this lesson, you’ll learn about misconceptions related to race and genetics — and why correcting them matters.

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How can we understand the conflicts and issues afflicting the United States prior to the outbreak of the Civil War by examining the Lincoln Douglas Debates? This lesson, geared for 7th, 8th, and 11th graders, will examine and analyze primary source documents. Students will compare viewpoints of Republicans and Democrats during the 19th century and understand the conflicts that led to a growing feeling of sectionalism prior to the Civil War. Additional Lincoln-Douglas Debates can be found at the House Divided Lincoln-Douglas Debates Digital Classroom at https://housedivided.dickinson.edu/debates/lesson_plans.html

Lesson Plan

Héctor P. García was an especially effective and significant advocate for civil rights in the United States. His grassroots efforts began with fighting for the rights of Latino veterans after World War II. Founder of the activist organization the American GI Forum, García emphasized that securing rights such as voting, serving in the military, and receiving a good education would elevate the status of Latinos and grant them the broader civil rights to which all Americans are entitled.

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students will explore and discuss the history and context around the Juneteenth holiday in the United States. Topics explored will include the history of racial injustice in the United States, the Civil War and the limitations of the Emancipation Proclamation. Additionally, students will be encouraged to explore the modern significance of Juneteenth and its long-term impact.

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What was the World War II experience like for the thousands of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast? The activities in this lesson are designed to provide a window into the war years. Using primary sources, students will explore a period in U.S. history when 120,000 Japanese Americans were evacuated from the West Coast and held in internment camps.

Lesson Plan

This unit for secondary emergent bilingual students (easily adaptable for reluctant readers) is designed to develop students’ confidence and sense of autonomy in reading through the intellectually substantive graphic novel Maus. Maus deals with the traumatic history and enduring legacy of the Holocaust through multiple narratives of a father, mother and son. Ongoing lesson activities involving vocabulary study and reading strategies support students’ comprehension of the novel. Since Maus is the story of a son telling his father’s story, students make personal connections to the text as they interview a family member and retell a story about that person’s past. Students use websites listed in the lesson resources for research into World War II, the Holocaust and human rights. Structured discussion encourages students to relate human rights concepts to events in the novel, historical events and events in their own experience.

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This lesson plan guides students in exploring a special kids’ section of The New York Times titled “Why You Should Know About the Year 1619.” Students will analyze historical timelines and construct timelines of their own.

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Protest songs serve as a means to combat social ills and cover a wide array of topics, including racism, sexism, poverty, imperialism, environmental degradation, war and homophobia. This lesson makes a connection to popular culture by asking students to work in pairs to research and analyze contemporary and historic protest songs.

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Any work is potentially open to attack by someone, somewhere, sometime, for some reason. This lesson introduces students to censorship and how challenges to books occur. They are then invited to read challenged or banned books from the American Library Association’s list of the most frequently challenged books.

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Structured as game questions, this activity challenges students to identify cities, states and geographical features whose names tell the story of the Indigenous, Spanish and Mexican settlement that pre-dated the United States. The investigative questions can be used alone as a geography trivia game, as a matching activity or in conjunction with analysis of historical maps.

Lesson Plan

Explore the early days of the United Farm Workers of America under the guidance of César Chavez and Dolores Huerta. See the conditions that led to the organization of a farm labor union and the initial challenges to its work: the strike in Delano and the march to Sacramento. Contrast the leadership styles of its leaders and examine the movement’s use of symbols.

Lesson Plan

In this lesson plan drawing on material from Latino Americans, students learn about how regions, such as Texas, New Mexico and California, had established Mexican and Indigenous communities already in place as the United States expanded westward. Students review the different ways that Mexican citizens come to terms with the expansion of the United States and the ways in which they became foreigners in their own lands within a very short time.

Lesson Plan

Students view a clip on the situation of Mexican American students in Los Angeles in the 1960s, and how self-concepts and expectations began to change during the Chicano Movement. Students can respond individually or in small groups, in writing or through discussion. Two extensions offer options for connecting the history to current student activism.

Lesson Plan

There are many preconceptions and stereotypes about Latinos and how they have come to the United States. In this activity, students will examine some of the myths and compare these to actual demographic data. A reflective pre-activity is followed by analysis of statistical graphs from the Pew Research Center.

Lesson Plan

There are many preconceptions and stereotypes about Latinos and how they have come to the United States. In this activity, students will examine some of the myths and compare these to actual demographic data. A reflective pre-activity is followed by analysis of statistical graphs from the Pew Research Center.

Lesson Plan

Latinos have come to be part of the United States through many different avenues: immigrants seeking a better life, refugees driven by war, and those who did not move at all, but who found themselves on the other side of redefined borders as the United States expanded. Students will document details of historical characters from the program and plot their movements on a map. In this activity, students will trace the varied stories of becoming Latino in the United States and dispel common generalizations. In addition, they will compare and contrast these stories with the arrival experiences of their own families.

Lesson Plan

This lesson drawing on content from Latino Americans examines the evolution of Latino electoral participation with specific reference to the growth of voter participation in South Texas and New York in the 1950s to 1970s, as well as the impact of Latino voters in major elections of the early 2000s. Students will explore early efforts to mobilize disenfranchised voters, examine watershed campaigns and elections and consider major issues, including the politics of immigration. They will reflect on the major paradigm shifts that have occurred within the last 60 years.

Lesson Plan

Who are Latinos? What does the term Latino American reference? In this quick, introductory activity, students consider their own preconceptions of Latinos, view a trailer for the documentary series Latino Americans and identify new topics questions to investigate further.

Lesson Plan

This three-part, six hour series examines this country’s response to one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the twentieth century. Americans consider themselves a “nation of immigrants,” but as the Holocaust unfolded in Europe, the United States proved unwilling to open its doors to more than a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of desperate people seeking refuge. Through firsthand testimony of witnesses and survivors, the series delves into the tragic human consequences of public indifference, bureaucratic red tape, and quota laws.

Lesson Plan

This lesson is the first lesson of the series The Color of Law: The Role of Government in Shaping Racial Inequity. In this lesson, students examine the local, state and federal policies that supported racially discriminatory practices and cultivated racially segregated housing.

Lesson Plan

Recently, Texas schools and those in dozens of other states banned books deemed inappropriate by politicians and a few parents, although many have been in school libraries for years. Why are books — especially those about people of color and queer individuals — now being banned? Watch the video clip below from NBC News and use this banned books lesson plan to work through discussion questions and exercises.

Lesson Plan

In this lesson on eugenics, students will analyze original images and documents from the American eugenics movement. They will also discuss how genetics can be used to enhance people’s lives and ways to prevent it from being used as a new form of eugenics. Lastly, they will make connections between the American Eugenics Movement and other historical events, such as the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II.

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students explore the complexities of race, violence and vigilante justice in early Los Angeles. In 1871, the population of Los Angeles was 6,000 people. This diverse population participated in the lynching of nearly 20 Chinese in Los Angeles. Why did the Chinese Massacre of 1871 happen? And what does that tell us about early American Los Angeles? That is the question students must answer through watching a segment of Lost L.A., then reading and analyzing documents to develop their own answer. This lesson works best when students have background knowledge about two key historical trends: lynching and anti-Chinese sentiment in the West.

Lesson Plan

This lesson examines the incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry during WWII. Students will analyze primary sources to learn about the consternation caused by the questionnaire that was used to determine the loyalty of the Japanese and Japanese Americans incarcerated in War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps, and the subsequent removal of “disloyals” to the Tule Lake Segregation Camp.

Lesson Plan

According to many social studies state standards, students will study the development of the nation up to 1850, with an emphasis on the people who were already here, when and from where others arrived, and why they came. However, Asian American histories or contributions are not specifically mentioned in the standards that could inaccurately lead students to believe that Asian American communities did not exist during this time period. In fact, Asian Americans, specifically Filipino Americans, settled in the U.S. as early as 1763. Asian Americans were here at the formation of the United States. Filipino sailors arrived in California as early as 1587. In 1763, Filipino sailors settled in a Louisiana bayou, and became the first Filipino immigrants to settle in the United States, known as “Manilamen.” Along with enslaved people and other people of color, the Filipino immigrants built a small fishing village called Saint Malo. The Manilamen made many contributions, including revolutionizing the shrimping industry.

Lesson Plan

This lesson explores the events and legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Students will view C-SPAN video clips of historians and residents of Tulsa to learn what occurred and how it was remembered. Students will use this information to discuss the importance of learning about events like the Tulsa Race Massacre. Video clips in this lesson contain images and descriptions of events that may be disturbing to some students.

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students examine efforts made by African slaves in the New World to resist slavery. The lesson would ideally follow a unit on the colonization of the New World. Students begin by reviewing the geography of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and identifying colonies held by different European powers around the year 1750. They then view segments of the PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross to compare several attempts at resistance and revolt.

Lesson Plan

Students will watch three episodes of the UNLADYLIKE2020 series of 26 short films and explore the similarities in issues affecting these women while also identifying the qualities that made them unique. The lessons are about finding common threads between the women and also between the past and the present. This student-centered lesson follows the ‘5E’ instructional model. Students will explore the lives of these incredible figures through a gallery walk, discuss their findings, research events of the present and create their own gallery walk to present their research.

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Learn about Zitkála-Šá, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a Yankton Sioux author, composer and indigenous rights activist. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about actress Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star, producer and one of the most influential style icons of her time. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Students learn about Lois Weber, the first woman director of a feature film, and her impact on silent film and early Hollywood. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Maggie Lena Walker, the first Black woman to found a bank in the United States. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Mary Church Terrell, daughter of former slaves and one of the first Black women to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, who became a national leader for civil rights and women’s suffrage. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

Lesson Plan

Tye Leung Schulze became the first Chinese American woman to work for the federal government and the first Chinese American woman to vote in a U.S. election, in 1912. Learn how this inspiring woman resisted domestic servitude and an arranged child marriage to provide translation services and solace to Asian immigrant victims of human trafficking in San Francisco. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn how Rose Schneiderman, an immigrant whose family settled in the tenements of New York City’s Lower East Side, became one of the most important labor leaders in U.S. history. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn how Jeannette Rankin became the first woman in U.S. history elected to the U.S. Congress, representing the state of Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about the life and scientific achievements of botanist, explorer and environmentalist Ynés Mexía. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first American Indian physician and the first to found a private hospital on an American Indian reservation. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Annie Smith Peck, one of the first women in America to become a college professor and who took up mountain climbing in her forties. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Queen Lili‘uokalani was the first sovereign queen, and the last monarch, of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. At the time of her reign, a new Hawaiian constitution imposed by white Americans had reduced the voting rights of Hawaiian citizens and much of the monarchy’s powers, transferring power to U.S. business owners and missionaries. Learn how Lili‘uokalani fought to restore native Hawaiian rights. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

Lesson Plan

Sissieretta Jones was heralded as one of the greatest singers of her generation and a pioneer in the operatic tradition at a time when access to most classical concert halls in the United States were closed to Black performers and patrons. Learn more about this trailblazing classical performer. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series..

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Learn about Jovita Idar, a teacher, journalist, nurse and civil rights activist who grew up in Texas and endeavored to expose segregation, lynching and other injustices endured by Mexican Americans in the early 20th century. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about the pioneering industrial engineer and psychologist, Lillian Moller Gilbreth. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about artist Meta Warrick Fuller, forerunner to the Harlem Renaissance. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Williamina Fleming was a trailblazing astronomer and discoverer of hundreds of stars who paved the way for women in science. Learn about her contributions to the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about record-breaking swimmer Gertrude Ederle who rocketed to international stardom in 1926 at the age of 20, as the first woman to swim across the English Channel. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Explore how Bessie Coleman became the first female Black pilot and the first Black person to hold an international license to fly. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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In 1916, Margaret Chung became the first U.S.-born Chinese female doctor. Throughout her career, Chung persevered against discrimination based on her race, gender, and presumed sexuality. Learn about Chung’s inspiring career in medicine and her contributions to the U.S. war effort during WWII. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Sonora Webster Carver became one of the most famous horse divers in the world, diving 40 feet on horseback into a tank of water. Webster was blinded after one of her performances in 1931 but continued to dive horses for another 11 years. Learn how this inspiring woman persevered, undaunted by her blindness. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Martha “Mattie” Hughes Cannon, an accomplished physician, suffragist and the first woman state senator in the United States, elected in 1896 in the state of Utah. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn how Louise Arner Boyd defied expectations and gender roles to become a world famous Arctic explorer. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about the trailblazing, gender non-conforming performer Gladys Bentley with this digital short from Unladylike2020.

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Learn about Charlotta Spears Bass, a crusading newspaper editor and politician who was one of the first Black women to own and operate a newspaper in the United States. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Examine the life and legacy of the health, labor and immigrant rights reformer Grace Abbott in this resource from Unladylike2020. Born into a progressive family of abolitionists and suffragettes in Nebraska, Abbott made it her life’s work to help those in need, focusing on fighting for the rights of children, recent immigrants, and new mothers and their babies

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Dr. Rolando Avila, in this collection of 40 lesson plans, brings the era of the American Civil War in the opportunity to understand the significant role the region played in the larger conflict.

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From Porciones to Colonias: The Power of Place- and Community-Based Learning in K-12 Education redefines culturally relevant learning in today’s diverse classroom. By integrating an interdisciplinary approach, including anthropology, archeology, biology, geology and history, the CHAPS Program presents an effective method in supporting teachers of the Rio Grande Valley in creating culturally relevant curriculum, while meeting the demands of state and federal mandates. This resource includes eight lesson plans that cover K-12 grade levels.

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This collection of lesson plans and classroom activities was created by educators who participated in the CLAS 2015 Summer Institute in Focus: Latin America Through Film. They were inspired by the film Al Otro Lado (2006), a documentary about the tradition of corridos, a genre of narrative folk ballads developed in Mexico during the 1800s that share about historical events, figures and socially topics.