Aztecs Find a Home: The Eagle Has Landed

WEB LESSON The lesson considers the history of the Aztec people of Mexico and their capital, Tenochtitlan. Once a nomadic people, the Aztecs began to build permanent settlements about A.D. 1325. According to their tradition, they were told by one of their gods to settle where they saw an eagle perched on a cactus, eating a snake. After a hundred years of wandering, they finally found this sign. They saw the eagle, the cactus, and the snake on a small reed-covered island in the shallow waters of Lake Texcoco. In obedience to the god's instruction, they started to build there the city of Tenochtitlan.Elem-MS

Renaissance Man Comparison Poster

WEB LESSON This lesson is based on Video Three of the PBS video series Islam: Empire of Faith, though it may be adapted if the video is not available. Students will learn about both the Sultan Suleiman (b. 1494 AD) and another Renaissance character and make comparisons. They will then create a poster showing the accomplishments and many facets of Suleiman and another character's life that make them worthy of the term "Renaissance Man." MS

Akbar's Debate: Mughal Empire, 16th-17th Centuries CE

WEB LESSON Using new weaponry, the Mughals swept into India and easily defeated the ailing Delhi Sultanate. The Mughals established an empire that reached all but the southern tip of India. Akbar was the most acclaimed Mughal emperor, both for his military successes and spiritual leadership. He understood that religious and cultural differences between the peoples of India would undermine the stability he hoped to maintain. He pursued policies of religious tolerance and became a student of all religions. His attempt to fuse the basic tenets of the major Indian belief systems into a new religion never gained popularity and disappeared soon after his death.

Legacies and Transfers: Story of the Transfer of Knowledge from Islamic Spain to Europe

WEB LESSON This lesson emphasizes the translation effort and the legacy of Islamic Spain for the European Renaissance and modern science. It traces the origins of the ancient and classical traditions and follows their preservation in 8th to 10th century Muslim civilization, and the flowering of learning in Muslim societies, including Spain. The reading describes the process of translation and transfer of the heritage of Greek and Arabic learning to Western Europe through Spain in the 11th and 12th centuries, and its impact on cultural life in Europe that led to the Renaissance and Scientific Revolution. A primary source activity and a map activity reinforce and deepen engagement with the content. MS - HS

Scholarship and Learning in Islam

WEB LESSON In this lesson, students look at several aspects of the long tradition of Islamic learning. They are introduced to the Islamic religious school known as the madrasah, where students begin their religious education by studying the Qur'an. A video segment from the PBS series Religion & Ethics Newsweekly (free registration required) features Dr. Roy Parvis Mottahedeh, a scholar who presents a madrasah in operation today and speaks about the historical evolution of madrasahs. Another Religion & Ethics video segment describes the history of the mosque at Timbuktu which, in the fourteenth century, was a vibrant center of Islamic scholarship. A third video segment links astronomy to the annual celebration of the religious holiday of Ramadan. As a culminating project, students develop graphic presentations about scholarship and learning in Islam. MS

Achievements and Contributions of Al-Andalus: Exploration of Material Culture and Science

WEB LESSON During the more than 700 years of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula, Muslim culture was both a center for receiving influences from other Muslim lands, and a center of innovation and adaptation in material culture and the sciences. Through an interface either on the Cities of Light web pages, or through a system of handouts printed from the web site at and made available to the class for study, students will use select readings and images that introduce them to a range of arts, sciences and technologies that contributed to the material culture of al-Andalus and its dissemination to other cultures.MS-HS

The Protestant Reformation 1300 - 1570

WEB LESSON The Reformation was a movement that aimed at reforming the Roman Catholic Church. Instead, it resulted in a tumultuous schism that put an end to the unity of the Western Christian world. The Protestant Reformation led to a restructuring of the social system of Europe and changed the face of Christianity. The Reformation is the root of all the branches of modern-day Protestantism. In nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, Martin Luther, a Catholic monk and teacher, hoped to draw attention to what he saw as corruption in the Church. In particular, he objected to the selling of indulgences. Luther also objected to the Church's teachings on a more fundamental level. He had come to believe that salvation was obtainable only through faith and was not something that could be granted by the Church. Luther's actions began the movement that became known as the Protestant Reformation. MS - HS

The Long Reach of the Major Religions 1500 - 1800 CE

WEB LESSON This unit presents several case studies regarding the extension of Christianity and Islam and their interactions with the societies of the new areas where they traveled. These two faiths have been called "universal" because membership in them is open to anyone who wants to accept their teachings and follow their instructions. In fact, both faiths actively seek to attract new members. This unit seeks to describe the spread of Islam and Christianity into new areas and to see religion generally as an integral-factor of change during the period 1500-1800. One of the major challenges facing those who wished to spread their faith was determining what its relationships should be with the various states and societies where it took root. The carriers of these two universal faiths had to figure out how much to insist on the purity and orthodoxy of each of their faiths and how much they should adapt and broaden their religion's beliefs and practices to include many local cultural elements. This tension is the underlying theme of this unit. MS - HS

Geography and History of the Arabian Peninsula, and Overview of Islam

WEB LESSON This activity provides students with background information on the context of the Arabian Peninsula during the sixth and seventh centuries of the Common Era. The background lesson asks students to think about the influence of religion on personal life and the larger society.

Shari'ah: An Islamic Law Simulation

WEB LESSON This simulation by Joan Brodsky Schur is designed to help students understand the origins of Shari'ah, or Islamic law, and the kind of legal thinking and scholarship that went into formulating it during the Abbasid caliphate (749-1258 C.E.). In the simulation students play the roles of judges, claimants, and defendants. After hearing a case presented to them, the qadis (judges) must pass judgment on it by consulting a variety of Islamic sources. The simulation does not go into the differences among the various schools of Islamic law nor does it pretend to help students arrive at "right answers" to legal questions posed in the simulation. Rather it is meant to help students understand the process by which Shari'ah developed and its import in molding a civil society across a vast geographical area. MS - HS

Journey Along the Silk Road: Writing Your Own Rihla, or Travel Journal

WEB LESSON This lesson plan ties together the subjects of history, geography, religion, art and economics as students make up a 13th - 15th century character and write a Rihla, or Travel Journal describing their journey from their home to one of the great Islamic cities known for its grand markets and universities. Since people traveled primarily along the great trade routes, students will learn about the Silk Road as well as the Islamic world as they work on this project. The students can write their travel journal as if they're traveling for the sake of trade, education, or religious pilgrimage, or even a combination within those options, since people often combined things like trade and intellectual pursuits on one trip. MS - HS

St. Thomas Aquinas, Natural Law, and the Common Good

WEB LESSON In this Constitutional Rights lesson, students examine St. Thomas Aquinas, a medieval Roman Catholic scholar, who reconciled the political philosophy of Aristotle with Christian faith. In doing so, he contended that a just ruler or government must work for the "common good" of all. MS - HS

Not Everyone Lived in Castles During the Middle Ages

WEB LESSON This EDSITEment 3-lesson unit of study on the Middle Ages features one on life in early medieval monasteries. The lesson links to images of some a famous monasteries with descriptions of how the rooms were used. The Rule of Saint Benedict is described along with the history of the Benedictine Order. Upper Elementary - MS

The Inquisition: Looking into the Human Soul

WEB LESSON This Constitutional Rights lesson explores how the issue of heresy was handled by the Church in the Middle Ages. It demonstrates what breeches of justice might happen when trials are conducted where there is no protection for the rights of the accused. Students try to discern what would have been different had the rights in the Bill of Rights been applied at that time. MS-HS

Canon Law: Medieval Europe's Legal System

WEB LESSON This Bill of Rights in Action article and lesson activity by the Constitutional Rights Foundation discusses the origins, basic principles, and impact of the Christian-based legal system in medieval Europe. The lesson is free but to access the material, users must register. HS

Oliver Cromwell: The Lord Protector

WEB LESSON Oliver Cromwell is one of the most controversial figures in English history. During the English Civil War in the mid 17th c. he abolished the monarchy and set up Puritan rule. That rule tolerated other Protestants but allowed no rights for Catholics. With no king or parliament, Cromwell made himself "Lord Protector." This Constitutional Rights Foundation BRIA lesson asks students to evaluate the life and rule of Cromwell. Scroll to the second lesson in the booklet; requires free registration to access. MS-HS

Dark Ages, The

WEB LESSON In this multi-day Stanford History Education Group lesson, students question the validity of using "Dark Ages" to describe Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. In the process, students examine a variety of primary and secondary religious, political, and economic sources highlighting different social, political, economic, cultural, and environmental facets of life in Europe during this period.

Moctezuma and Cortes

WEB LESSON The popular idea about the meeting between Emperor Moctezuma and conquistador Hernan Cortes is that Moctezuma mistook the Spanish invaders for gods. How does this compare to what the historical record tells us? In this lesson, students read from two 16th century sources and one contemporary historian's interpretation of the event to answer the questions: What happened when Moctezuma met Cortes? What role did religion play? MS-HS

Black Death, The

WEB LESSON The bubonic plague of the 14th century ravaged communities across three continents. The plague left long lasting consequences and ultimately helped transform the social order of Europe. In this Stanford History Education Group lesson, students compare two documents written in 1348 to consider how people experienced and understood the plague and how religion influenced their thinking. MS-HS

Martin Luther

WEB LESSON The writings of Martin Luther helped spur the Reformation and inspired the rise of Protestantism in the 16th century. Luther gave different reasons for his break from the Catholic Church at different times in his life. This Stanford History Education Group lesson features two sources attributed to Luther - an excerpt from the letter he wrote that accompanied what came to be his 95 Theses and part of a talk he gave later in life. Students compare the documents and consider how to weigh contrasting accounts of history written by the same person. MS-HS

Atahualpa and the Bible

WEB LESSON The meeting between Atahualpa, emperor of the Inca Empire, and Francisco Pizarro, Spanish conquistador, was a defining moment in Latin American history. In this Opening Up the Textbook Stanford History Education Group lesson plan, students read a textbook account of the event followed by two primary sources to answer this question: Did Atahualpa hold the Bible to his ear? MS-HS

Queen Elizabeth I: Religion & State

WEB LESSON Queen Elizabeth tried to establish her vision of an official Protestant Church. She faced many obstacles: Catholic plots, Protestant Puritans, a rival Catholic queen, and even the question of who would succeed her on the throne. This CRF lesson requires registration but is free.MS-HS

Spain and America: From Reqonquest to Conquest

WEB ACTIVITY - READING GUIDE In the early 700s, Moors had conquered nearly all of the Iberian Peninsula. Over the following seven and a half centuries, the Christian kingdoms to the north gradually retook control of the peninsula. The Reconquista, or Reconquest of Spain by Christians was not complete until 1492. The Reconquista was a brutal conflict. In al-Andalus, the Arabic name for Muslim controlled Iberia, Christians and Jews had significant religious freedom. Once Spain was reconquered, Muslims and Jews were forced to convert to Christianity or be expelled from Spain. This Learn North Carolina Reading Guide helps students understand the key events, people, geography, and religious motives in the struggle for Spain and American land. MS

Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire

WEB RESOURCE & LESSON This CRF Bill of Rights in Action article describes the life and beliefs of Genghis Khan and how he expanded the Mongol Empire into one of the largest in world history. Genghis Khan believed that he had been given the divine mission of conquering and ruling wherever the "blue sky" extended but he did not impose his religious beliefs on others. One of his laws said that "All religions must be treated with deference and not discriminated against." As he conquered he moved people around the empire thus transmitting new ideas, art and cultural styles, scientific knowledge, political skills, and varied religions around a huge area. After reading the article, students assess the life and rule of Genghis Khan.

Spread of Islam (634 - 750 CE)

WEB LESSON Select Unit E from this section of the curriculum on Ethnic Relations and Political History Along the Silk Roads. The spread of Islam from Arabia to the rest of the Middle East and beyond is one of the great military and political achievements of the ancient world. The story begins with the Hijra (Arabic for "Migration") in 622 CE, when Muhammad (c. 570-632) and his followers went from Mecca to Medina to escape powerful enemies and forge new alliances. See the primary documents that guided people about the religious reasons for pushing Muslim expansion.

"Go Boldly!" - Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years War

CONTENT RESOURSE & CLASSROOM ACTIVITY Religion and and government have come in conflict throughout history but never more dramatically than in the story of Joan of Arc in the late Middle Ages. She believed she heard voices from God that said she should act to prevent the English from taking over the French monarchy. In this CRF activity, students evaluate primary sources to determine the validity of the resources used in her trial for heresy. Though she was convicted by the Inquisition for violating Catholic Christian teachings, this was later reversed and she was made a saint.

Martin Luther and the Suppression of the Peasant Revolt

E-BOOK and LESSON This is an activity based on primary sources highlighting Martin Luther's ideas and the interpretation of them by peasants during the Protestant Reformation in Germany in the 16th c. The material and activity is in "Critical Thinking Using Primary Sources in World History" by Wendy S. Wilson and Gerald H. Herman, Walch Publishing, now an e-book of Social Studies School Service.

Oliver Cromwell and the English Civil War

E-BOOK & LESSON ACTIVITY This lesson is a mock trial of Oliver Cromwell based on primary sources in 'Critical Thinking Using Primary Sources in World History.' The bookis availabel from Social Studies School Service.

"Church Convicts Galileo, The" in Document-Based Activities The Scientific Revolution

PRIMARY SOURCE LESSON This Social Studies School Service Document-Based Activity uses primary source materials for students to analyze the decision by Galileo to publish scientific conclusions contrary to Catholic Church doctrine in the 17th c. and the consequences.

Of Codes and Crowns - The Development of Law

TEXT & LESSON BOOK This brief volume explores the development of law from the ancient world to the Renaissance including contributions by the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Jews, and the Romans, the Muslims, the English,and the Catholic Christian Church.

The Reformation: Using Primary Sources and the Internet

LESSON BOOK This Document-Based Activity book The Reformation focused on primary sources on Martin Luther, the responses by the Church, the Reformation in France and England, and the impact of the Reformation.

Religion, Political Power, and the Thirty Years' War

WEB RESOURCE & LESSON This is an article and lesson from CRF Bill of Rights in Action (Winter 2017). It begins with a short article about the causes, course, and resolution of the religious wars in Europe in the 16th c. The students read the article and then use it for evidence to answer the question: Was the Thirty Years War about Religion or Political Power?