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Foundations of World History
Portfolio Project
Country—United States of America
Academic Exemplar
Theme #1--Geography
Geography is the science dealing with the character and arrangement of the
earth’s surface with particular attention to the climate, elevation, soil, vegetation,
population, and land use, among others.
A. The absolute location of the Capital of the US is located 38 degrees North, 97 degrees
west. The relative location of the country is south of Canada, north of Mexico and
bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Pacific Ocean.
B. The human geography of the USA includes 304,059,724 people. (jul ’08) A few of
the dense areas include New York City, LA, and Chicago.
The Physical Geography includes the 48 contiguous states, two non-bordering states
(Alaska and Hawaii) as well as territories around the world (American Samoa,
Micronesia, Guam, Midway, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands). The US has two major
mountain ranges (Appalachian Mountains, Rocky Mountains) as well as a number of
smaller ranges. The US has major grasslands, swamplands, and deserts. There are a vast
amount of rivers and lakes.
C. Americans have adapted to their environment in numerous ways. With an abundance
of farmable land, they have become what was once termed the breadbasket of the world.
With the variety of rivers, oceans, and lakes, Americans have become seafaring people
and ocean traders. While they have learned to use the land, they have also overcome
obstacles by conquering the mountain ranges and connecting the diverse landscapes with
transportation modalities.
They have modified the environment with dams (most notably the TVA, Hoover Dam).
Mining and clear-cutting have reshaped their landscape and therefore created new
opportunities as well as challenges. They have even used landfill to create cities (New
Orleans) and extend portions of others (Portland, ME).
Americans have been able to rely upon their abundance of natural resources. For energy,
production, and survival.
D. The top imports include a variety of agricultural products, industrial supplies (led by
petroleum) and computers. The exports that are tops for the US include agricultural
products, industrial supplies and electronic capital goods.
Methods that have contributed to the movement of people include wagon trails in early
days to cars, planes, and trains. Public transportation within urban areas has increased
and allowed for the development of the cities and forced the urban sprawl to the suburbs.
Ideas have moved at an incredible pace in America. From early newspapers and penny
press novels, to the technological development and commitment to the telephone,
television and computer technology has been one of the greatest in the world.
E. The United States has formal regions that include states, counties, territories,
provinces, as well as geographic perceptive regions
The functional regions include District of Columbia, the districts within the Federal
Reserve Districts, as well as congressional districts.
The United States has many vernacular regions that include New England, the Midwest,
the Lakes Region, Down East, Appalachia, and Silicon Valley.
Foundations of World History
Portfolio Project
Country—United States of America
Academic Exemplar
Theme #2--Interaction with the Environment:
A. People within the United States of America have a long tradition of
interactions with their river systems. The major river systems of the United States
include the Columbia, Colorado, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, St. Lawrence, and the Rio
Grande. Major impacts of this interaction include the daming of the rivers, pollution, and
fishing. The numerous dams that have been erected upon the rivers have altered both the
rivers and the landscape of the region. The pollution that has been introduced into the
rivers has altered both the aquatic life within the river as well as the manner in which
people have used the rivers. This stretches into the manner in which people migrate to
and from rivers.
B. People have adjusted to their climate by moving toward rivers for the
numerous uses that come with life along a river (transportation, food, water, trade).
Americans have also demonstrated a significant adaptation to the resources available,
including the materials in which they build houses. The northeast is dominated by
lumber, while the southwest includes various materials dominated by mud and brick.
C. As a result of changes in the natural world, Americans have also changed their
occupations. As fishing quotas and lumber harvesting restrictions have been imposed,
people in the northeast have changed from occupation sin the resource field to other areas
of the work force. Americans have also witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of
occupations in the recycling business as resources have been consumed at a fast pace.
People have changed their method of transportation as natural world changes have
occurred. As waterways changed, people have changed from using the waterways for
transportation to using the land. Travel over mountainous ranges has been easier as
people have altered the landscape. This transportation move has been magnified within
the population hubs.
D. The people of the United States have made positive changes to their
environment through better use of resources, conservation and preservation of
Foundations of World History
Portfolio Project
Country—United States of America
Academic Exemplar
Theme #3--Power and Authority
A. The United States is ruled through constitutional authority that sets up three
branches of government (legislative, executive, judicial). This system includes shared
power through checks and balances. The executive branch is headed by a President who
oversees a large department that executes the laws. The legislative branch is split
between an upper house (Senate) and lower house (House of Representatives) which have
a hierarchy of power within each branch and include differences in power between the
branches. The Senate have more power in foreign relations while all bills regarding
funding originate within the House. The Judicial branch includes 9 Supreme Court
justices who hold equal power with the Chief Justice holding more than the other 8.
Power is obtained through democratic election for the legislative branch, a democratic
election involving the electoral college for the executive branch, and justices are
nominated through the executive branch and approved by the legislative branch. The
United States has a long tradition of peaceful transition of power within all branches of
the government as well as the longest standing written constitution in effect.
B. This constitutional authority is a result of a Revolution from British colonies
who utilized enlightenment ideas to spearhead a revolt against Britain to create a more
democratic society….
C. System of government that provides order…..
Foundations of World History
Portfolio Project
Country—United States of America
Academic Exemplar
Theme #4--Religions and Ethical Systems
A. The United States is dominated by a foundation of Judeo-Christian beliefs.
The majority of Americans who are religious belong to a Judeo-Christian faith. Islamic
followers are increasing in population and will outnumber Jews within a decade. People
also hold a strong belief in the tenants of the Bill of Rights. Americans know these
tenants and operate subconsciously with these beliefs in the forefront.
B. Any differences found between major religions are minor. With Christianity,
Islam, and Judaism dominating the religious front, there is a strong belief in similar
origins of faith and basic principals. The differences are dominated in their manners of
practicing the faith and subtle nuances of interpreting their sacred texts.
C. The various religious groups interact with one another in numerous ways. The
people interact with each other without formal distinction. There are numerous formal
meetings between religious groups to forward similar beliefs within the political realm.
D. The majority of interactions between religious groups and non-members is one
of compassion and concern. We witness a strong charitable outreach from religious
faiths toward others, through mission work, community outreach, and disaster relief.
Their interactions are more focused upon their tenants than they are regarding religious
following. There are small examples of religious hatred and violence but there is a strong
response from the political powers against these actions.
Foundations of World History
Portfolio Project
Country—United States of America
Academic Exemplar
Theme #5--Cultural Interactions
A. Perhaps the greatest example of cultural interactions within the United States
can be witnessed with the western expansion of the early 1800’s. The United States
forwarded a policy of Manifest Destiny and religious, political, and economic entities all
held this policy as the English dominated people of the east increased contact with the
French, Spanish, and native dominated people of the west.
B. These interactions have taken numerous methods. Many began with a
migration from one region to another. The people of the east moved west in search of
riches, resources, new life, etc. As a result of need, trade was a strong by-product.
However conflict and conquest of the land dominated the ultimate end result of the
interactions. The United States either claimed land, bought land or conquered lands and
annexed the land into its empire.
C. The ideas that have been shared are dominated by resource use and
social/cultural, while there are slight hints of political and economic. We have witnessed
a sharing of food resources, energy resources, religious values, language, etc. The
political system has been dominated by the constitutional authority found within the US
Constitution and held by the English dominated east. The economic powers are also
dominated by the free-market approach from the capitalist east.
D. The positive effects were great for the people of the east with the negative
effects strong for the people of the west. The natives and people of other countries who
were taken over saw a strong change in their cultural and political institutions as a result
of the culture clash. This included warfare, destruction of people and resources, and loss
of political control. The people of the east saw a strengthening of their security,
economic and political power, as well as solidifying the cultural strength of the people of
the east.
Foundations of World History
Portfolio Project
Country—United States of America
Academic Exemplar
Theme #6--Empire Building
A. The United States had roots of international focus with it’s constitution and the
Monroe Doctrine of the 1820’s but the ‘birth’ of the US as an empire comes from the late
1800’s early 1900’s foreign policy. The US engaged in the Spanish-American war and
the fall out from the war led toward the United States becoming the policeman of the
B. The motivations for building this empire can be found in a number of realms.
Most people will say the motivation was economic in nature. Some will argue that it is
dominated by national security. Others will state that it is dominated by humanitarian
concerns. The reality is that all three reasons combined for support of the Big Stick
Policy, Dollar Diplomacy, Moral Diplomacy and the future foreign policy tag-lines. The
US was able to gain control of some lands through military might. However, the US has
found that, in this time period, taking over the land was not the ultimate goal. Changing
policy, be it political, economic, or social was more the intended result. Military
intervention was utilized in numerous cases (Panama, Cuba, WWI). Perhaps the most
effective method after this time period became the use of economic might to control
issues. The US would withhold economic resources or would promise more economic
help in attempts to control situations.
C. The US has attempted to use the tenants of humanitarianism and democracy to
continue to control or dominate regions. It has become a public relations machine.
Foundations of World History
Portfolio Project
Country—United States of America
Academic Exemplar
Theme #7-Revolutions
A. The diversity and vastness of the United States has seen a variety of cultures
and therefore a variety of problems. Perhaps none is greater than the racial struggle.
Perhaps one of the greatest ideas that has been revolutionized has been the idea of racial
equality. The United States was one of the last countries to outlaw slavery (in the mid
1800’s) which was based upon racial lines. However both political, social and economic
separation continued through informal and formal methods. It wasn’t until the mid1900’s where political institutions at the federal level where able to chip away at state
sponsored racial separation.
B. The impetus of this change was based upon the foundation of equality found
within political documents (Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence) as well as
religious tenants. The long-standing political, economic and social structure placed
blacks at a disadvantage and people gradually united to overcome.
C. The results of this change has been varied. There is still racial difficulties in
everyday America but there is greater social, economic, and political opportunity for all.
Foundations of World History
Portfolio Project
Country—United States of America
Academic Exemplar
Theme #8-Science and Technology
A. A strong educational structure within society is the basis of how people gain
and use knowledge about their world. This structure can be formal or informal, as long
as there is a structure. Educational knowledge is increasingly linked to technological
devices as well. This can be illuminated by the development of the automobile within the
United States.
B. The people of US took industrial knowledge that had been developed in the
early 1800’s and turned this into one of the nation’s strongest industries. From the
development of the combustible engine to the evolution of factory lines, the united states
took previous knowledge and experimented with it to hone the technology and the
process of building the cars.
C. The United States has a strong protection of patents and copyrights which
helps to foster individual exploration of ideas. This has led people to utilize all resources
and technologies to develop answers to problems. Capitalism within the America has led
to great sums of capital resources to be thrown at problems/explorations. This has led to
major developments throughout the history of the country and is highlighted by the
development of the automobile.
D. The United States has developed a strong history of taking an invention and
applying it to other areas. Research in the space race has led to a number of products and
inventions that apply to modern day life. In the auto industry, the assembly line became
the norm in everyday life of a worker. As auto production increased, and costs came
down, life changed for all Americans. Roads were built, driveways were in everybody’s
yard, public transportation decreased, and suburban sprawl increased. Each one of these
changes has a major ripple effect and has layers of complexity in its impact.
Foundations of World History
Portfolio Project
Country—United States of America
Academic Exemplar
Theme #9-Economics
A. The United States is fortunate to have a wide variety and abundance of
resources. As a result, it produces a wide variety of resources and goods. Over time, the
United States has outsourced its labor to less costly regions of the world and therefore
finds itself as increasingly more of a service nation than a producer nation.
B. In America’s version of capitalism, the wealth and resources are controlled by
the individuals. Capital drives opportunity. There are political interventions in many
areas, from wages to safety structures, from conservation of resources to redistribution of
C. America has been a leader in obtaining more wealth from the principle’s of
opportunity cost and comparative advantage and absolute advantage. The United states
has found that while it maintains a large amount resources, its labor costs are higher than
other areas. It is in America’ best interest at times to focus energies upon the production
of one good (technology, capital goods) while leaving the production of some goods to
others (shoes, textiles).
Foundations of World History
Portfolio Project
Country—United States of America
Academic Exemplar
Theme #10-Research
Select topic/define topic
Investigate topic--Develop paper/product—synthesis and analysis of the information; evaluation of