WASHINGTON, D.C.—National History Day® (NHD) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are pleased to announce the release of Building a More Perfect Union, a new collection of lesson plans and essays in support of the NEH’s special initiative to advance civic education and the study of U.S. history and culture in preparation for the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. These classroom materials will help middle school and high school social studies teachers engage students with unique primary sources and themes of democracy and citizenship throughout United States history.

Through two introductory essays and 15 primary source-rich lesson plans, this book explores events, legislative accomplishments, and civic actions across U.S. history—from foreign policy to civil rights to debates surrounding citizenship—that have collectively moved the country toward a more perfect union. The lesson plans were written and prepared by 15 teachers from 12 NHD affiliates, and every lesson plan includes compelling and guiding questions, inquiry-based activities, opportunities to consider multiple and competing perspectives, and supplementary materials, including graphic organizers and rubrics. Each lesson also includes ideas for how to connect relevant themes and concepts to other lesson topics presented in Building a More Perfect Union to support integration across curricula.

“This collection of resources is unlike anything we have ever put together,” said Dr. Cathy Gorn, National History Day Executive Director. “The bedrock benchmarks of NHD classroom materials shine through in every lesson plan; but further, thanks to our longstanding partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the guiding principles offered by its ‘A More Perfect Union’ initiative, we have the unique opportunity both to further our own mission of improving the teaching and learning of history, and to support the NEH’s enduring commitment to tell America’s story.”

“An understanding of civics and our nation’s history is vital to a healthy democracy,” said NEH Acting Chairman Adam Wolfson. “As we prepare to mark the United States’ 250th anniversary, the National Endowment for the Humanities is pleased to partner with National History Day to make these lesson plans and resources on U.S. history, culture, and government widely available at NEH’s EDSITEment website to help engage and inform young citizens.” 

Building a More Perfect Union and its supporting materials are available for free download via National History Day’s website at nhd.org/250 and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ EDSITEment website here. The 15 educators chosen to contribute lesson plans represent NHD affiliates in California, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Korea, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The two introductory essays are authored separately by Dr. Serena Zabin, Professor of History, Carleton College, and Adrienne Whaley, Director of Education and Community Engagement, Museum of the American Revolution. More information about the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “A More Perfect Union” initiative is available at neh.gov/250.

About National History Day® (NHD)

NHD is a non-profit organization based in College Park, Maryland, which seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history. The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than half a million students every year in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Students present their research as a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. Projects compete first at the local and affiliate levels, where the top entries are invited to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD is sponsored in part by HISTORY®, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, Southwest Airlines, the Crown Family Foundation, The Better Angels Society, and the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. For more information, visit nhd.org.

About EDSITEment

EDSITEment is a National Endowment for the Humanities project that offers free resources for teachers, students, and parents searching for high-quality K-12 humanities education materials in the subject areas of history and social studies, literature and language arts, foreign languages, arts, and culture. EDSITEment provides multimedia resources including the “Ask an NEH Expert” video series, access to databases and archives to assist with student research, and a range of other resources in support of every National History Day theme and project type. For more information, visit edsitement.neh.gov.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at neh.gov.

March 8, 2021 •

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