Introduction for Educators


Interactive Explorations of Government and Civic Life 


Image by geralt, licenced under CC 1.0

Senior Contributing Authors

Robert W. Maloy, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 

Torrey Trust, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 

Contributing Authors

Irene S. LaRoche, Amherst Public Schools

Lexie Brearley, Gateway Regional School District

Katrina Sherrick, Westfield Public Schools

Amy Cyr, Hampshire Regional School District

Erich Leaper, Springfield Public Schools

Cathering Harding, Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate

Sharon A. Edwards, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Book Designers

Chenyang Xu, Graduate Student, University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Maria McSorley, Graduate Student, University of Massachusetts Amherst

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Public Service Endowment Grant for this project.


Welcome to Building Democracy for All - an interactive, multimodal, multicultural, open access eBook for teaching and learning key topics in United States Government and Civic Life. Open access means these materials are “digital, online, and free of charge” (Billings, 2019). This book is available online to anyone with an internet connection. The eBook can also be viewed and printed as a PDF file. 

Designed as a core or supplementary text for middle and high school teachers and students, this eBook offers instructional ideas, interactive resources, primary documents, and multicultural and multimodal learning materials for interest-building explorations of United States government as well as students’ roles as citizens in a democratic society. It focuses on the importance of community engagement and social responsibility as understood and acted upon by middle and high school students—core themes in the 2018 Massachusetts 8th Grade Curriculum Framework, and which are found in many state history and social studies curriculum frameworks around the country.

Building Democracy for All has been developed by a collaborative writing team of higher education faculty, public school teachers, educational librarians, and college students who are preparing to become history and social studies teachers.  The primary editors and curators are from the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Education.  Contributing teachers come from school districts in the Connecticut River valley region of western Massachusetts (Amherst, Gateway, Westfield, Hampshire Regional, and Springfield). As an open resource, the book is being revised constantly by the members of the writing team to ensure timely inclusion of online resources and information.

Book Overview

Building Democracy for All presents the seven major topics and learning standards set forth in the Massachusetts 8th Grade History & Social Science Curriculum Framework. An additional eighth section (to be completed by the end of 2020) will be devoted to strategies for conducting civic action/community engagement projects with students, as mandated by Massachusetts law S2631: An Act to Promote and Enhance Civiv Engagement

Topic Overview

Each topic includes information and multimodal content organized within the INVESTIGATE, UNCOVER, AND ENGAGE themes, as well as suggested learning activities and online resources for use in class and for online learning.

Suggested learning activities sections feature ideas for interactive explorations of the topic. These activities encourage students to explore, discuss, analyze, interpret, and create knowledge. Many activities feature web-based interactive learning materials and digital tools and apps to support and extend student thinking and learning.

Online resources include digital primary sources, secondary source background materials, historical biographies, multimedia resources, landmark court cases, LGBTQ history resources, women’s history materials, and other online information drawn from reliable and trusted academic and educational sites. Many of the online resources sections feature links to pages in the free resourcesforhistoryteachers wiki, a multimedia/multicultural resource hosted by the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Building Democracy for All is based on our belief that learning will be impactful and lasting when teachers and students act together as pedagogical partners. In this book, we use a framework where students and teachers INVESTIGATE, UNCOVER, and ENGAGE with each of the standards in the Massachusetts 8th Grade Civics and Government Curriculum Framework.

Building Democracy for All Framework

  1. INVESTIGATE offers learning field trips with historical context and online links to primary source materials, historical timelines, biographies of influential people, interactive websites, and relevant factual information to promote awareness and understanding of the principles, values, institutions, and practices of American democracy. Investigating our nation’s governmental history and foundations introduces students to their rights and responsibilities as members of a democratic society.

  2. UNCOVER presents little-known histories and stories of women, African Americans, indigenous peoples, LGBTQIA individuals, children and teens, and others who are under-represented in textbooks, curriculum frameworks and learning plans. These sections connect the struggles of diverse individuals and groups to major events and institutions of United States democracy. UNCOVER invites students to explore deeply the ongoing struggles of individuals and groups to achieve equal status in American society. Students participate in inquiry learning where questions, rather than answers, are the focus of the learning activities (Lesh, 2011).

  3. ENGAGE poses public policy issues and questions for students to analyze through discussion, writing, and civic action projects. ENGAGE questions ask students to think deeply about the choices they face as members of a democracy and then act on their decisions as engaged members of their communities. Researchers have documented that political-based discussions among students in classrooms increase civic knowledge and dispositions while expanding individual perspectives beyond one’s immediate group of family and friends (Hess & McAvoy, 2014; Korbey, 2019).

    How to Use This Book

    This book is designed for teachers and students working together in collaborative learning environments. Topics and standards are accompanied by easy-to-read introductions, designed to interest readers. Links throughout the sections make the book an interactive reading and viewing experience. Learning activities for each module in each standard are written to encourage students to connect with and act on issues facing our democratic society.

    The book may be a core or supplementary text for 8th grade classes. It can also be useful in high school government and history courses, including Advanced Placement (AP) United States Government and Politics. The Table of Contents is organized based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework, but topics presented can be aligned to curriculums in middle and high schools around the country that are teaching government and civic life.

    This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 4.0 International License, which means that you are free to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format. You can also remix, transform, and build upon the material as long as the remixed materials feature a similar Creative Commons license. 


    A list of references to the sources cited throughout the chapters can be found on this Google Doc: Building Democracy for All eBook References

    Student Edition

    We are also developing a Student Edition of Building Democracy for All. Like the Teacher Edition, this edition will address each of the Topics in the Massachusetts 8th Grade Civics and Government curriculum framework in a more interactive and student-accessible format. Standards and modules in the Student Edition will have short written introductions followed by one or two selected learning activities for students to complete, individually or in small groups. This edition will feature multimedia-based activities and interactive learning experiences that stress creative self-expression and critical thinking among students. Like the Teacher Education, the Student Edition will be available online to anyone with an internet connection, free of charge. We anticipate that the Student Edition will be ready in fall 2020. 

    About the Book Team

    Robert W. Maloy, Ed.D is a senior lecturer in the Department of Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he coordinates the history and political science teacher education programs.

    Torrey Trust, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Learning Technology in the Department of Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she is the coordinator of the Learning, Media and Technology master degree program and Digital Media Design and Making in Education online graduate certificate program.

    Irene S. LaRoche, Ed.D. is a teacher and social studies department chairperson at Amherst Regional Middle School in Amherst, Massachusetts, a clinical faculty member in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a 2019-2020 Climate Resiliency Fellow with Shelburne Farms organization in Vermont.

    Lexie Brearley is a middle school social studies teacher at Gateway Regional School in Huntington, Massachusetts.

    Katerina Sherrick is a middle school social studies teacher at Westfield Middle School in Westfield, Massachusetts.

    Amy Cyr is a middle school social studies teacher at Hampshire Regional School in Westhampton, Massachusetts.

    Erich Leaper is a middle school social studies teacher in the Springfield Massachusetts Public School.

    Catherine Harding is a senate education staff member at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston, Massachusetts.

    Sharon A. Edwards, Ed.D. is an author, retired public elementary school teacher and a clinical faculty member in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

    Stephen McGinty is a research librarian at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

    Maria McSorley is a former high school English teacher and doctoral candidate in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

    Chenyang Xu is a doctoral candidate in College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


    We wish to thank the following individuals for their ideas and support with this project: Sadie Perlow, Christopher Oo, Carly Hallp, Jon Galanis, Roshan Price, Oliver Ward, Joel Flores, Chris Martell, Tyler Volpe-Knock, Molly Sullivan, Sydney Turcot, Alex Fossa, Christina Dabek.

    We want to thank Maria McSorley for copyediting and book chapter reviews and Chenyang Xu for ebook formatting. Thanks also to Leah Charifson, Francesca Panarelli, Kelly Marsh, Stephanie Osber and April Muraco for Topic reviews.

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