Detroit History Curriculum – Elementary School

  • The District released its new Detroit History curriculum for students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade in February of 2019. Students across the District experience social studies in a new way through the delivery of this curriculum: it is relevant, interactive, and promotes curiosity and critical thinking.

    Each unit is designed to take one to two weeks of instruction. Teachers have access to teacher manuals, student materials, accompanying lesson materials, and professional development on the curriculum. Units were developed in conjunction with District teachers and staff, along with local partners.

    Units in grades 6–8 are currently in development. Grade 8 will be released in spring 2023 and grades 6 and 7 in the 2023–2024 school year.

    Below are unit overviews for each grade level.

    Detroit History K–5 Topics

    Grade Topic Compelling Question Unit Overview
    K Detroit-Past, Present & Future How has Detroit changed? This unit will look at Detroit’s roads, modes of transportation, and population. Students will engage with maps, pictographs, and pictures to help them answer how Detroit has changed and get a sense of what it could be.
    1st Detroit Family Life: Then and Now Where do families make memories in Detroit?

    First graders will explore life in the past and the present in the city of Detroit. Students will learn about significant places and activities Detroit families enjoyed in years past and compare those to places and activities Detroit families enjoy today. Through the examination of photographs, brochures, flyers, and video students identify similarities and differences in family activities in the city of Detroit, past, and present.

    2nd History of Detroit Neighborhoods What makes a neighborhood?

    While examining a given neighborhood, students will seek to answer the questions: How has the neighborhood changed? How has the neighborhood stayed the same? Who lives in, works in, and/or visits a neighborhood? Their findings over the course of the unit will serve as evidence to support the answer to the compelling question. Students will conclude the unit by imagining what a select Detroit neighborhood could look like in the future. Students will have to use evidence of how neighborhoods grow and change to support their work.

    3rd The History of Early Detroit How are Detroiters, resilient people?

    Over the course of this unit, students will learn about the founding of the city, it’s early growth, and how it rebuilt itself after the Great Fire in 1805. Students will use early maps of the city, images, and excerpts to learn about life in early Detroit, challenges faced by early Detroiters, and explore the theme of resilience as it relates to the city and its people.

    4th The People of Detroit  Who makes Detroit, Detroit?

    Over the course of the unit, students will examine the push and pull factors that brought specific groups of people to Detroit. Through the analysis of primary sources, students will work to answer the question “Who makes Detroit, Detroit?” Students will analyze documents and listen to the stories of immigrants and migrants to answer questions such as: Why do people move? How do people decide where to settle? How do people help shape a city? Ultimately, students will use evidence to make a claim about the people who define Detroit. 

    5th Untold Stories of Early Detroit Who built Detroit?

    This unit will explore two major concepts: the life of enslaved and free Africans in early Detroit, and their contributions to the development of the city and the life of indigenous people in early Detroit. Students will explore various accounts of history and other primary sources to help them answer the question: Who built Detroit?



    Detroit History Curriculum – High School

    The District released its newest Detroit History Curriculum unit in 10th grade Civics in the fall of 2021. This material is called the Citizen Manual. The DPSCD Citizen Manual and the corresponding workbook modernizes the District’s previous work in Detroit: A Manual for Citizens, last published in 1968. The Citizen Manual and the workbook are designed to collectively help users develop a deeper understanding of the history of Detroit, its government, government roles and responsibilities, and how citizens of the city can work within the government system to bring about change. This material was created with generous support from The Skillman Foundation and CitizenDetroit. You can view the digital material here.

    New units in 9th grade U.S. History, 10th grade Economics, and 11th grade World History are slated for release soon. Also slated for release is a high school elective course: Detroit History: The People and The Movements. Check back for more information soon!