A local educator has contributed to a new classroom resource focused on examining the ideologies that drove the American Revolution.
Alan Birkemeier, who teaches social studies at Central Middle School, is one of the contributors to “Revolutionary Ideals,” a collection of lesson plans and essays created in preparation for the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026.
According to National History Day (NHD), this resource is intended for use by middle and high school social studies teachers. A lesson plan booklet, along with all supporting materials and primary source documents, is now available for free download at nhd.org.
“This resource is designed to start the celebration of our nation’s anniversary by exploring the foundational ideas on which this nation was built,” said NHD Executive Director Cathy Gorn in an official statement. “By engaging expert scholars and historical collections, the teachers produced lesson plans to help teachers across the nation engage their students with the questions and ideas that permeated the founding era while engaging diverse stories that help students see the time period in a new light.”
Birkemeier was one of 30 teachers from across the country chosen to attend the Revolutionary Ideals summer institute, which was organized by NHD and the Rhode Island Historical Society. Support for the program was also provided by Tom Lauer and the Dr. Scholl Foundation. The retreat was held in Providence, Rhode Island this past July.
The program focused on the ideals of the Revolutionary War and how these were or were not put into practice, with teachers having access to a variety of historical resources and experts.
For instance, Birkemeier said that they were able to see where “Common Sense” and other important documents were printed.
“I always tell my students, that’s a war of words,” he said. “You’ve got to talk someone into not being British anymore. And how do you do that? Well, you do it with these documents. It was really interesting, really cool to see all that stuff and be able to bring that stuff back with all these new perspectives. And that’s what a lot of these lesson plans are all about, really.”
According to NHD, participating teachers worked over the course of several months to learn about “the context of the ideals behind the American Revolution and Early Republic.” The program began in February of 2022 with online coursework and culminated with teachers submitting lesson plans related to the ideals of the era.
Birkemeier and Paul Nadeau, a middle school teacher from Rhode Island, co-wrote a lesson plan titled “Party in Philadelphia: Tea, Time, and Troubles,” which focuses on the ideals that fueled the lesser-known Philadelphia Tea Party and how colonists used broadsides for communication and persuasion.
The plan includes a “fun simulation” for students, said Birkemeier.
“I ran it with my kids this year, and they seemed to like it,” he said.