Academy for American Democracy

The Academy for American Democracy (AAD) is New-York Historical's educational initiative focusing on history and civics education for 6th graders. Students learn how the concept of democracy—crafted by ancient Athenians—inspired the American founders and then trace the evolution of American democracy from the Constitution to the present day.


AAD residencies take place in person or online.

  • In-Person Residencies—lessons in our museum galleries and classrooms over 4 days, from 9:00am-2:00pm.
  • Online Residencies—10 one-hour synchronous lessons taught on Zoom or Google Meet.
  • Outreach Residencies—our Educators come to your classroom to teach AAD lessons.

What do students learn and how do they benefit from the AAD?

Through experiential learning, art-making, writing, and theater activities, your students are immersed in a process of creative discovery to consider how and why democracy has changed over time and the value of active civic participation. Students explore our galleries, in person or virtually, and engage in close examination of artifacts, art, and documents to critically examine democracy as it was practiced in ancient Athens, adapted at the United States’ founding, and as generations of people have reshaped it in the centuries since.

Students participating in the Academy for American Democracy seek the answers to three Essential Questions:

  • What is a democracy?
  • How does a democracy work?
  • How do disenfranchised people make change in a democracy?

Students are empowered to ask big questions, think critically, and explore their own roles as civic actors. At the end of the residency, participating students create a final project - either a museum exhibition, zine, poem, song or podcast - that creatively synthesizes what they have learned.

How do teachers benefit?

Teachers participate in the AAD’s free professional development where they come together with scholars and museum professionals to dive deeply into history, political theory, and engaging pedagogy. They study how the ideals and realities of democracy played out in ancient Athens, at the founding of the United States, and in American political and social movements across time. They are challenged to craft effective lessons that bolster their social studies curricula. CTLE hours are provided.

What do participants need to contribute?

Thanks to generous support, we are able to provide this $5,500 program free of charge. Participants are responsible for the following:

  • At least one certified teacher must be available to help manage the online experience and digital resources, and must be available for a planning session prior to the first class.
  • Students need access to Zoom or Google Meet.
  • Participating teachers and students must complete all surveys and evaluations within two weeks of the last day of the Academy.

How can my school participate?

Fill out an application! Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. First come, first served!

My child does not attend a traditional school and/or would like to participate as an extra-curricular. How can they be involved?

We create cohorts of students with similar scheduling and learning needs. These residencies are online only, unless students are part of a homeschool learning group. Fill out an application! Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. First come, first served!

The Academy for American Democracy supports the New York City Curriculum Standards and Initiatives.

Sixth Grade Social Studies Scope and Sequence:

  • Comparing and contrasting civilizations and political systems
  • Characteristics and merits of a golden age
  • Cultural achievements’ influence on contemporary societies

Civics for All:

  • Foundations of American government
  • Rights and responsibilities
  • Role of the individual
  • Power and politics
  • Active engagement


“I learned how important voting is. We have to speak up for ourselves and have our own opinions. We have to think long and hard about them.” — Student, New Design Middle School

“In a democracy, the choice you make can affect how you and others live. When you have the option to make a choice, you can’t take it for granted.” — Student, Wagner Middle School

“When we got to debate it made the topics feel important, and we learned how to persuade.” — Student, Urban Assembly Academy for Future Leaders

“It was the best week, the best time we spent all school year. I left the experience feeling like I was a part of something big. The students did something really significant for the four days. They are dying to do it again.” — Teacher, Wagner Middle School

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Education programs are made possible through endowments established by
National Endowment for the Humanities
The Hearst Foundations
The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation

Public funds are provided by
Institute of Museum and Library Services
New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer
New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature

Education programs at New-York Historical receive generous support from
The Achelis and Bodman Foundation
The Edith and Frances Mulhall Achilles Memorial Fund
Acorn Hill Foundation
Altman Foundation
Barker Welfare Foundation
Best Buy
Maggie & Robert Boroujerdi
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Con Edison
Deutsche Bank
Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation
Mark and Lori Fife
Henry Nias Foundation
Alan Shuch and Leslie Himmel
JPMorgan Chase Foundation
Keith Haring Foundation
Susan and Robert E. Klein
Caroline Lowndes Foundation
Ann Lozman
Dan W. Lufkin

Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation
The Michael Tuch Foundation
Sandra and Lowell Mintz
Consulate General of the Netherlands
New York Community Trust
Onassis Foundation USA
Heidi and Richard Ong
Pine Tree Foundation of New York
The Pinkerton Foundation
Jean Reid
Denice Rein
Richard Reiss
Rice Family Foundation
Sara Lee Schupf
The Scripps Family Fund for Education and the Arts
Robie Spector
Stavros Niarchos Foundation
Gillian V. and Robert Steel
Thompson Family Foundation
Tiger Baron Foundation
The Waterfall Family Foundation
Rachael Wells
Winston Foundation
Marie and John Zimmermann Fund