Curricular Unit Information

Unit Title: The Washington Mall: Center for Change
Course: DC History and Government
Grade Level: 12
Unit Length: 4 Inquiry-Based Lessons, 2 days for Summative Assessment
Length of Class Period: 80 Minutes

Personal Stake:

I believe that the most effective way for students to learn is by relating the past to the present. I also think that our students need more opportunities to establish a sense of agency through social justice education. This will also serve to ensure that future generations have access to the best opportunities regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality, or religion. 

This unit allows students to become familiar with the fight for social justice through the examination of the Civil Rights Movement and the use of the Mall as a national stage. Students will be able to assess the ways people have asserted themselves in the fight for equality, and to apply these methods to the present.

Unit Topic:

Through this unit, students will be able to identify and expain how and why the Mall has been an important landscape in American social and political history. With a focus on the Civil Rights Movement, students will relate to the past through the analysis of primary and secondary sources revealing the Mall's history as a national stage. Students will evaluate the Mall as place for demonstrations of common American causes in the past, in order to create a plan for it's use in the present.

By connecting the content of the Civil Rights Movement to a place, students will be able to bring significant moments in history alive.  The assessment of various primary documents will unfold the story of the Movement, the city, and climate of the nation. By studying the actions, words, and images of others, students will be challenged to apply historical documents to the creation of their own plan for a demonstration of a present day by evaluating the methods, ideas, and experiences of the past. 

Methods of Inquiry: The following frame how evidence and data are collected, examined, and reported within this unit. 

Primary Document Based Instruction

  • Change Over Time - Students will trace the changing landscape and use of the Mall through archived newspapers, photographs, maps, and ephemera.
  • Chronology - Students will construct an understanding of the past through formative lessons and apply their understanding of the past through a summative assessment in which they must defend why they have placed documents in a particular order.
  • Sourcing - Students will identify the author, audience, time of creation, and the intended purpose. They will also consider which sources they believe create the clearest picture of the Mall as a center for change.  
  • Contextualization - Students will consider why the document was created and how people would have reacted to it at the time they were created. 
  • Knowledge Limits / Questioning - Students will ask further questions and pursue indepdent research.

Formative Activities:

  • New American Lecture w Guided Note Taking
  • Small Group and Class Discussion
  • Case Study
  • Document Analysis
  • Reciprocal Teaching
  • Stations
  • Socratic Seminar 
  • Writing to Learn
  • Peer Review

Final Assessment

  • Argument Construction, Writing - Students use sourcing and contextualization in order to defend the chronology of documents based. Then, students will determine which document would be most useful in creating a plan for a demonstration in the present day.
  • Questioning - Students consider why they placed the documents in a particular order and which documents would be most helpful in guiding their demonstration plan.
  • Connecting Student will connect old uses of the Mall with current uses in order to create a plan for a modern demonstration.


This unit is designed to help students contextualize the Mall as a national stage.  As a place that continues to change in landscape and use, students will be able to describe how and why it should continue to play this role. Students should be able to relate to the struggles of Americans in the quest for social justice throughout history.  It is my hope that this leads to a greater sense of individual agency in the ability to affect change. 

Essential Questions:

How is Washington the center for national change?

  • How has the use of the Mall changed over time?
  • What can we find out? How can we evaluate the evidence? 
  • Why have people chosen the Mall as a 'national stage'?
  • How have people used the Mall as a 'national stage'?
  • How did people of the past view their world?
  • Who was involved in the events on the Mall?
  • What values, skills, and forms of knowledge did people need to succeed?
  • How can the past help us understand the present?
Assessment of Student Learning: 
For each category below, the described indicators or evidence will demonstrate student learning of content, skills, and attitudes outlined above.

Diagnostic Assessment:

Students will be given a pre-test consisting of multiple choice and short answer questions to assess their understanding of the content, along with a selecton of documents to analyze in order to answer a culminating question to assess their historical thinking skills.

Formative Assessment:

Throughout the unit, there will be multiple opportunities for the students to demonstrate understanding and growth through:

  • Class and Group Discussion
  • Document Analysis
  • Socratic Seminar
  • Writing to Learn 

This will be used to determine their mastery of content and skills in order to guide instruction to best facilitate learning.  

Summative Assessment: 

Part I:

Students will be provided a set of documents. They will be asked to place the documents in chronological order and justify their decision using historical thinking skills practiced throughout the unit.

Part II:

Students will choose documents from those provided in Part I and the rest of the unit to explain how they would use these documents in the process of planning a demonstration in the present day. 


Learning Styles: Students will practice learning using audio, visual, kinesthenic, and interpersonal modalities.

Scaffolding: Students at varying levels will be provided with differentiated scaffolds including the documents they assess in formative assessment through chunking, annotations, and editing.

For a more rigorous approach, documents with excerpts may be assigned for completion outside of class. 

Community and Cultural Resources: 
Daily Instruction:
Lesson 1Physical Space of the Mall    
Lesson 2The National Mall in a Segregated City   
Lesson 3History of Demonstrations   
Lesson 4Climate Change on the Mall   
Lesson 5Assessment   

Historical and Social Studies Skills

  • 9-12.HCI.1: Students compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past events and decisions and determining the lessons that were learned.
  • 9-12.HCI.3: Students show the connections, causal and otherwise, between particular historical events and larger social, economic, and political trends and developments.
  • 9-12.HCI.4: Students recognize the complexity of historical causes and effects, including the limitations on determining cause and effect.
  • 9-12.HCI.6: Students interpret past events and issues within the context in which an event unfolded rather than present-day norms and values.
  • 9-12.HREP.4: Students construct and test hypotheses; collect, evaluate, and employ information from multiple primary and secondary sources; and apply it in oral and written presentations.

Common Core Standards (connections):

Reading for Literacy in Social Studies Standards

  • 11-12.3. Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
  • 11-12.7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Writing for Literacy in Social Studies Standards

  • 11-12.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • 11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.