pk-12-curriculum - Purdue Homeland Security Institute - Discovery Park at Purdue

Purdue Homeland Security Institute

PK-12 Curriculum

A middle school science and social studies curriculum relating to homeland security have been developed and taught by teachers in the Penn Harris Madison School Corporation in Granger, Indiana area. The modules created teach the concepts of homeland security and visualization and analytics. Module topics have included the following:

  • Causes of terrorism
  • Effect of climate and geography on people
  • Sensor technologies to address real world problems
  • Visualization of data to show cause and effect


This curriculum has also been presented at conferences for the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers and the Indiana Council for Social Studies. PHSI intends to continue its development of PK-12 curriculum and website resources.

Many of the activities in the following lesson plans will require students to work in groups. For help in forming these collaborative groups among students, use the heterogeneous grouping data table.

Lesson 1 – Causes of Terrorism

The media frequently connects Islam and terrorism, usually without informing the audience about the religion and its central beliefs. Through guided inquiry, students will identify causes of terrorism, especially in Southwest Asia. This lesson may act as an affective hook at the beginning of a unit about the Middle East or religions that originate in Southwest Asia by taking advantage of the cultural misconceptions that pervade current media.

Lesson 2 – River Valley Simulation

Through guided inquiry, students will explore the effects of the Tigris and Euphrates River on the developing civilization in Mesopotamia. Guided inquiry presents the opportunity to tap higher order thinking skills, coupled with research. The thinking processes that will be used in this guided inquiry activity simulates those presented in Measured Response and opens students to the impact of cause and effect through their own decision making.

Lesson 3 – Geography and Climate

Visualizations are “visual” displays of data, such as graphic organizers, data tables, and the like. This module will introduce to the students how data visualization may have advantages over other representations of data. Through guided inquiry, students will interpret population distribution, physical geography and climate data, hypothesizing correlations that they infer from the data. The module may be adapted for any unit of study and can serve as an introduction to a region, helping the students gain understanding about the geography of the region.

Lesson 4 – River Valley Civilization Visualization

It is sometimes difficult for students to grasp why learning about ancient civilizations, such as those that developed in river valleys, is important. One way to overcome this is to emphasize the role of learning about ancient cultures as a means to learn about other relevant skills. This activity focuses on critical thinking, use of cooperative learning skills, and the understanding of cause and effect. 

Lesson 5 – Israel Visualization

This activity builds upon the process of analysis and understanding of how cause and effect interact as found in the previous lesson. Students will work collaboratively to analyze a data set and determine how each piece of data relates to each other via cause and effect. While the activity can occur after learning has occurred, it is suitable as a means to introduce a unit over the Middle East, focusing on the country of Israel.

Lesson 6 – Organizing Information

In the classroom, visualizations can take many forms. The key is that the information in organized visually. As students become more adept at using visualizations to organize what they are learning, they will begin to take ownership and vary from student to student. Visualizations allow for the display of different perspectives and relationships in what the students are learning, though they are certainly not limited to these to applications.

Lesson 7 – Map Projections

Students will develop their ability to analyze different visualizations through their study of different map projections. This activity may be either individual or collaborative and does not require prior knowledge of different map features, such as longitude and latitude. In fact, this activity should precede the introduction of such features.

Sensing and Sensors: Observing and Making Sense of Our World

All that we understand about our world comes from our senses. This introductory science skills unit embraces the idea that one of the primary tasks of scientists is to utilize these senses and sensors to help human beings increase their understanding of this world and beyond. The students will first focus on the basic human senses and the types of natural and man-made sensors. Second, students will then focus on the factors that govern sensor creation. Third, the students will explore hi-tech and specialized sensors. Finally, students will engage in a final task to create a new sensor or improve an existing sensor to address a real-world problem.

During the summers of 2008 and 2009, two day workshops will be offered to introduce homeland security topics to teachers, provide an opportunity to share lesson plans, and expand upon curriculum ideas. As a result of these workshops, teachers will be better equipped to customize their curriculum to best suit their school and local area.

Homeland Security Courses

Want to study homeland security and emergency management? Enrollment is now open for Fall 2013:


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Purdue Homeland Security Institute 

401 N. Grant St., Rm 255 
Purdue University West Lafayette, 47907-1971