Students will investigate the daily events of early April 1861 though the online archives available from the New York Times and other papers of that era. They will then post relevant articles in the classroom to form a timeline. From these students will gain an understanding of how many different factors came together to provoke the firing at Fort Sumter. As the students proceed, they will begin to draw larger conclusions about how conflicts originate and what trends and themes bring conflicts about. The major themes of the Civil War they identify will probably include:
Profitability of Slavery
Political Realignment and the Birth of the Republican Party
Emergence of Urban Areas and Industrialization
After the outline completing the timeline and extracting the extraction of themes, groups of students will explore and trace the origins of and leaders involved with and figures of each movement. Students will break out of April 1861 for this portion, taking their investigations as far back in time as they think appropriate and investigate the whole theme and how it developed. They will need to discuss and discover the ideological origins, the particular points and ideas they argued in Antebellum America and the people who pushed and promoted it in America. For instance, the groups investigating State's Rights and Westward Expansion will find Stephen Douglas as a major advocate of that movement and they might debate whether the crisis starts with the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Great Compromise of 1850, or the Kansas–Nebraska Acts of 1854. and "Bleeding Kansas". They can also reach back into the past and connect such individuals as John C. Calhoun, Stephen A. Douglas, or John Brown to these events and their aftermaths to the ideas of State's Rights. This segment drives students to see The students will discover, through this exercise, show their particular theme pushes the nation towards the Civil War.
This part of the project offers students the chance become historians. The task of researching the origins and evolution of a particular set of trends will demand a lot from the students, not only in terms of their research capacity, but also their ability to apply and test their analytical conclusions. Choosing Lincoln over John Brown to represent Abolitionists, for example, would force an argument about the nature of the movement. Students will be engaging the material in a compelling and comprehensible way that will advance their understanding of history as they debate who to include and who to omit.
After making these decisions, students will take part in a simulation which will return them to the initial point of contact with early April 1861. Having examined a particular long–term cause of the Civil War, each team will role–play the leaders they've identified, interacting both with the simulated leaders of other causes and with the day–to–day events of those critical weeks. These activities will build empathy, higher order thinking, and a deep understanding of the crises the United States experienced at the time. The crises will unite divergent learning that occurred through the research into a single classroom experience.