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Teaching Modules

The Teaching Modules in this section use documents and records from the Rockefeller Foundation that offer new dimensions to historical topics typically covered on Social Studies classrooms grades 8-12. It is our hope that these activities and documents will stimulate new ways of learning about standard topics among both educators and students.

Each module offers what we call a “Common Core Cornerstone” activity in which a challenging, thought-provoking document has been formatted for student use following the Revised Publisher’s Criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy, Grade 3-12, by David Coleman and Susan Pimentel. Note that each Common Core Cornerstone reading is offered in two formats – one with the numbered paragraphs added and a vocabulary column, the other includes specific content- based questions for each numbered paragraph. Teachers may thus choose to introduce the readings with or without scaffolding questions. Each Cornerstone is accompanied by a graphic organizer that can be used to assist students in subsequent writing activities based on the reading. Each of the Common Core Cornerstones may be used as an introduction to the activities to follow, or by itself, depending on the teacher’s needs.

After the Cornerstone readings, teachers are offered a detailed lesson plan with suggested activities that helps students answer one or two essential questions. Lesson plans include a brief historical introduction and rationale, connection to courses and standards, student objectives, schedules and procedure guidelines. Each lesson plan also contains links to the documents that will be used. The lesson plans, all the documents, as well as the Common Core Cornerstone readings and graphic organizers are available in PDF format for easy downloading.

Teachers are encouraged to modify the lesson plans, use all or some of the documents, or browse through the other documents contained in the Rockefeller Foundation Centennial site to meet their specific needs and those of their students.

The Teaching Modules:

1. The Impact of Total War on Civilian Populations: Assessing Conditions Faced by Displaced Civilians in Belgium, Poland, Serbia and Armenia during World War I.

As the first “total war” in world history, World War I created new destructive phenomena of a scope and degree never before experienced in human history, especially on innocent civilian populations. The goal in this teaching module is to both understand conditions created by total war, and to use descriptive evidence from first-hand accounts to offer suggestions to a hypothetical hearing before High Commission on Refugees, organized by the League of Nations in 1921.

Essential Questions: In what ways and to what extent were the civilian populations of Europe affected by the "total warfare" of World War I? Do the efforts made by private charitable organizations provide a useful model for dealing with these serious problems in the future?

2. Responding to Totalitarianism in Europe: A Case Study - The Rockefeller Foundation's Refugee Scholar Program During World War II

The rise of fascism and totalitarianism in the decades after World War I created new and distinct forms of oppression from which civilian populations sought refuge. Beginning in 1933 and continuing as conditions worsened after 1940, the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) responded to the new threats in Europe by creating, supporting and operating a refugee scholar program. The purpose of this series of activities is to use the example of the RF’s Refugee Scholar Program as a way to investigate ways in which the refugee issued is defined and how a relief program is carried out. Hopefully, this investigation will provide some insight to today's students who will soon be tomorrow's world citizens.

The Essential Question: How effective are private, independent organizations in assisting refugees displaced by global conflict?

3. Should the United States Government Have Developed and Used the Atomic Bomb During World War II?

The Contemporary Debate Public debate over the use of atomic weapons against Japan began as soon as they were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The debate among contemporaries raised important questions for Americans and their government on the eve of the Cold War, questions that persist to today. Documents used for this module’s two Common Core Cornerstones reveal essential elements of this debate and can be used as stimuli for a student debate on the subject. Interestingly, these two documents were created by officials of the Rockefeller Foundation and raise tantalizing questions about the role of private organizations in creating the atomic bomb that offer students a chance to play the role of “historian-detective.” Using a “history as mystery” approach, this teaching module allows students to consider the degree to which the Rockefeller Foundation supported the development of the atomic bomb.

Essential Questions: Should America have built the atomic bomb? Should the U.S. government had used the bomb against Japan’s civilian populations? What impact would the use of this bomb have on the future of America and the world?

4. Roots of the Green Revolution: Norman E. Borlaug, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Origins of the Green Revolution in Mexico in the 1940s.

The Green Revolution was arguably one of the most significant developments in world history in the decades following World War II.  Unfortunately, when the subject is presented in most textbooks, the typical narrative obscures an accurate understanding of how it all began. The purpose of the activities in this Teaching Module is to focus on the origins of the Green Revolution by concentrating on when it first started: with the creation of the Mexican Agricultural Program in 1943.  As students examine the underlying factors that led to this program, they will also understand how cooperation between the governments of the United States and Mexico, and private organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation, contributed to this momentous event; this unique combination of efforts by the public and private sectors is an aspect of history that is typically overlooked. 

The Essential Questions: Why did the Green Revolution begin in Mexico in the 1940s?  What were the different roles played by government and private foundations in bringing these new advancements to Mexico?