Lesson Plan: AP World History News Research Project

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Chris Ferraro
Spring Valley High School
Spring Valley, New York

Combining the Modern and the Historic

The purpose of a good world history course is to explain the major turning points and trends of the past that have created the modern world. To prepare students to be effective citizens of the ever-shrinking global world, we simply cannot just "teach the facts" and hope for the best. As high-level students ourselves, we know that certain facts must be memorized in a certain order, but that such memorization can only be one component of this course. As world history teachers, we must create active learners.

The World History News Research Project is the product of the aforementioned thinking. In this project, students select a modern trend and follow it through various media outlets. By choosing articles, analyzing them, and writing about them, students begin to see how their respective trend influences the modern world. This is the first half of the assignment. In the second half, students go back through history and research the same trend in the past. After compiling historical data on the trend, students combine the modern and the historical into a research paper that expresses their new understanding of the world.

A good example of a trend is communications. During the first phase of the project, a student could chart how wireless communications impact businesses as well as individual lives. In the second phase, they could examine how the telegraph and the telephone created similar revolutions in the past. Going further back, they could show how Gutenberg's printing press helped the Protestant Revolution and the spread of knowledge.

I have found that such an assignment is both an enormous and worthwhile undertaking, for several reasons. I first made this assignment as AP World History was replacing the normal Global History II course for high school sophomores. Students had little knowledge of proper research paper construction or bibliography development. Most students were daunted by the idea of such a paper; they had only heard of such papers being written on the college level by older siblings. It took a lot of patience and some hand-holding on my part to get this project off the ground.

The 2001-2002 school year was the first that AP World History was offered at Spring Valley High School. I took two sections through this project and found it to be very rewarding for nearly all students. Many produced college-quality research papers and afterward expressed to me a great sense of accomplishment at having completed the task well. Some of my top students actually imparted to me that they would never look at the world in the same way and that they realized the endless connections that continually influence the modern world. It is for this reason I feel the project has been a success.

If you wish to undertake this assignment, you should be willing to work closely with school or local librarians, as they have access to the resources that are essential to the successful completion of this project. I spent a total of two 42-minute classroom periods developing this project, and seven 42-minute periods in the library with my classes.

Instructional Note: Students brought in one article a week for five weeks along with a one- or two-paragraph analysis. In this way, I knew students were on the right track. At the end of this phase, students developed a rough outline of the modern trend. Then we went into the library for a week so they could begin their historical research. After that, students could bring me drafts for revisions until the due date of the project.

News Research Project


Every day various news organizations report on events and trends that relate to this AP World History course. Careful analysis of such events will give you a better understanding history's recurring themes and the changes over time that have made the world what it is. This project is designed to help you attain such an understanding.

The Assignment

Select one of the following themes in world history to follow throughout this school year. Once you have selected your theme, check with various news outlets to obtain information at least once a week on your topic. You will be required to:

  • Save each article after analyzing it.
  • Paste it onto blank paper.
  • Place all articles into a three-ring binder.
  • Write a multipage, typed paper reporting on the theme and make a calculated prediction as to which way you think it will go in the near future.


  1. Migration/movement of people, refugees. Examples: immigration from Asia to Europe/U.S., immigrants trying to cross the Channel Tunnel, Mexicans heading to the U.S., Africans heading for Europe.
  2. Ethnic/religious conflict. Examples: Northern Ireland/Irish Republican Army, Middle East/Palestine.
  3. Environmental issues. Examples: global warming, pollution, ozone layer depletion, El Niño.
  4. Medical and health issues. Examples: AIDS, cancer, Ebola, stem cell research.
  5. Human rights. Examples: the Balkans/Kosovo/Serbia, Chechnya (Russia), Falun Gong (China), Tibet—OR—gender issues/women's rights.
  6. Communications technology. Examples: communication satellites, cell phones, Palm pilots, satellite phones, Internet communication and business.

Recommended Sources

New York Times newspaper
The Economist magazine
U.S. News and World Reports
Discovery News
British Broadcasting Company


Once you have compiled all the articles and have analyzed them thoroughly, you will probably have noticed several trends or commonalities. Even though the events you found occur at different places throughout the world, you will notice similar trends in a wide variety of locations. An example of this is the impact of AIDS in both Africa and Asia. Though these areas are vastly different culturally, politically, and economically, similarities in how each region faces the problem of AIDS will be easy to spot. If you choose ethnic conflict in Russia and the Middle East, the same parallels will emerge. This should work for any topic you select.

Some historical examples you may wish to consider when comparing your modern trend with the past:

  1. Migration: Irish potato famine, Columbian exchange, Europeans and African slaves in the Western Hemisphere.
  2. Conflict: the Crusades fought between European Christians and Arab Muslims.
  3. Environmental issues: impact of the Industrial Revolution, European crops coming to the New World, New World crops in Africa and Asia, the potato.
  4. Health: the Plague in Athens, Black Plague in Europe and Asia, smallpox in the New World, influenza pandemic after WWI.
  5. Slavery: Arab slavery, Atlantic slave trade, caste system in India.
  6. Communication: Egyptian hieroglyphs and scribes, Battle of Marathon, Great Wall of China, block printing in China, moveable type printer (Gutenberg), telegraph and telephone.


This paper will be handed in with the notebook containing your articles.

Possible Outline

Paragraph 1: Write a thesis statement explaining your theme.
Paragraph 2: Give one or two historical examples of this trend or a similar one we have covered in history.
Paragraphs 3-6 (or more): Explain your modern examples—how they work or what effect they have on people. Either put these examples in your own words or directly quote the article and give credit to the author/source. Don't plagiarize.
Paragraph 7: Conclusion—explain how this theme has changed or remained the same over time. Try to include similarities and differences between then and now.

A graduate of Queens College-City University of New York, Chris Ferraro has been teaching global history for five years and taught AP World History the first year it was offered (2001-2002). He teaches at Spring Valley High School in Spring Valley, New York.