Draw the Lines Curriculum

This page will soon feature the full Draw the Lines curriculum, coming Spring 2018. It will be free and available for any teacher to use, as they wish.

Social studies curriculum

The DTL social studies curriculum will include roughly 15 lessons. While they can be taught as an entire unit, the feedback we received from the 30+ teachers we have spoken with so far indicates that many would be likely to pick and choose stand-alone lessons for single class periods. Thus, the curriculum is flexible to individual teacher needs and time constraints.

The first batch of units will achieve “content acquisition”: voting and civic participation within the US democratic system, redistricting basics, and values that determine how a political map is drawn. The second batch of units focus on “classroom application,” where students draw their own maps using the District Builder software. (Students should be able to complete a congressional map in about 90 minutes.)

The third batch gives space for “field application,” including learning how to write in support of a position by advocating for their map (to be sent to local press or posted to a blog or social media), field trips to present maps, inviting local elected officials to speak to their classroom, and engaging with older voters.

For example, students could venture out into the community for a survey about what values matter to other voters when considering how a map should be drawn (electoral competitiveness, minority representation, compactness, minimizing splits of towns and counties, etc.) Or, a class in Pittsburgh may want to connect with one in Scranton to learn about how they should map the northeastern part of the state.

There are many opportunities for exchange that DTL can facilitate throughout the semester to open new doors for students to interact with a broader community.

Every lesson will be accompanied by the PA standards met, the learning objective(s), supporting assets like videos/articles/content, and exercises to solidify concepts. Most importantly, the broad goal of these lessons is to develop within students a sense of efficacy that they can engage with our political system and their voice can have a positive impact, on whatever issue they are passionate about.

Teachers will be free to move through the curriculum in part or in whole as their syllabus allows. Student maps can be submitted at any point during the semester up until the deadline, tentatively set for mid-November and mid-April.

Contest judging

Upon submission, students will also include an essay about how they drew their map. What values did they prioritize and how did that impact their lines? How did they map areas of the commonwealth with which they are not familiar? How did they engage others to take multiple perspectives into account? What “communities of interest” did they consider? The essay will be judged by a group of esteemed civic leaders in the region, and that score will be combined with the three quantitative metrics automatically figured by District Builder: compactness, equitable population, and jurisdictional splits.

Regional finalists and their families will be invited to an event at the host organization, with the judges, steering committee, community leaders, and media invited. There, finalists will each receive their cash prizes, and a regional winner will be announced. That regional winner will be invited to a state final event in Harrisburg, where their map will compete against the winners of the other regions to determine a state champion. State finalists and a champion will receive another substantial cash prize. The process repeats each semester.

Supporting content

Draw the Lines has curated much of the curriculum’s supporting content from the web, including text, video, and audio explainers that lay out the history and impact of gerrymandering and the many nuances that go into mapping. These pieces can easily be tied into their related lessons.

DTL also will create a set of multimedia assets to support DTL-specific activities, to be hosted on this website. This includes a District Builder orientation, a video featuring Amanda Holt, the young woman from outside of Allentown who inspired this project, and a community engagement toolkit on how to talk about and share your map with your family and friends, your local media, and your elected representatives.

Draw the Lines as a cross-curricular teaching tool

Draw the Lines can be utilized in classes outside of social studies as well. We will spend the early part of 2018 hiring a second curriculum developer to help us design similar lessons that are applicable to subjects like statistics, computer science, GIS, and language arts. We will rely on relationships with social studies teachers to help connect with other departments in their school, and give teachers two curricula that they can merge into cross-curricular programming.