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Thematic Integrated Units

Thematic Integrated Units (TIU) are designed to provide gifted learners academic experiences reflective of their abilities and approaches to learning.  Educators find depth of complexity, creativity, rigorous learning experiences, hands-on approaches to learning, real-world connections, critical thinking, affective curriculum that addresses social-emotional development, as well as strands within the core curriculum within each unit. Lessons are organized around a substantial theme or complex topic with guiding unit questions that lead to further study, high-level investigation, and rich dialogue while engaging learners and allowing for demonstration of authentic assessment.

TIUs provide lessons that are applicable to a variety of educational settings for gifted learners (i.e. whole group, small group, homeschool setting, pull-out programs, general education classroom).  Lessons within the unit provide background, material lists, teaching strategies, what to do, as well as extensions that can lead to in-depth exploration of concepts.

    • piques learners' interests while tapping into their background knowledge about a subject
    • supports students' ability to gain new information, while building on learners' existing knowledge base.
    • creates a meaningful way for students to connect their new learning to past experiences
    • caters to gifted learners' ability to see and understand conceptual relationships, and to find, solve, and act on problems more readily than most learners of their same age
    • matches the intellectual processes and information processing styles associated with how gifted students learn
    • stimulates and exercises the processes of critical thinking, problem finding, problem solving, creative production, and evaluation in the context of content that is both challenging and intrinsically interesting to the learners
    • favors the use of higher-level thinking skills as tools in learning rather than as separate subject matter covered in isolation
    • places high importance on having learners generate observations, inquiries, investigations, hypotheses and generalizations—parallel to how content specialists and practitioners in the field perform these processes
    • engages learners in discovering, understanding deeply, and using information and concepts to answer their own questions, and fulfill their strong desires to know, perform and produce

To purchase, fill out the order form (PDF) and email it to, fax the form to 303-871-7744, or mail it to:

Institute for the Development of Gifted Education
Katherine A. Ruffatto Hall
1999 East Evans Avenue, Suite 130
Denver, Colorado 80210


Or you may order units online, through

thematic integrated Units

Africa: Grades 2-4
  • The unit on Africa, designed for gifted students from second to fourth grade, focuses on the concept of cultural development in relationship to physical geography.

  • Through a range of lessons, students are exposed to different areas and time periods in African history. With the unit's strong focus on the arts, teachers have an opportunity to guide their students through authentic experiences in all content areas.
  • Students will assume a variety of roles throughout their study of Africa. At times, students will be consumers of knowledge, using a variety of primary and secondary sources to learn more about the continent and its people. At other times, students will become experts in the field, replicating archaeological digs or traditional art techniques, such as batik.
  • All lessons are designed to engage students not only in the topic but in their ability to compare their own lives to those of the people about whom they're learning.
  • See a sample lesson plan for the Africa unit (PDF).
Architecture: Grades 3-5 **SOLD OUT**
  • Utilizing the topic of architecture is a fascinating way to look at history, changes in cultures, structures and design. Embedded in this unit is a vast array of mathematical activities, including the study of symmetry, parameter and area in real-life situations.
  • Students will also have opportunities to create and design buildings and participate in research-based activities, and hands-on design and construction. Other lessons include exploring the reasons for and design of artistic buildings, investigating building materials, and determining individual styles through historical studies of architecture and design.
  • See a sample lesson plan for the architecture unit (PDF).
Arctic/Antarctic: Grades K-2
  • This exciting unit focuses on the unique environments found at the poles. Young students (kindergarten through second grade) are actively engaged in science experiments and lessons, which build their understanding of the special conditions of both the Arctic and Antarctic.
  • The unit focuses on the necessary adaptations of animals and humans for life in the Arctic/Antarctic, introducing students to the relationship between the physical environment and the development of culture, specific equipment, weather changes, and key components of a self-contained biome.
  • See a sample lesson plan for the Arctic/Antarctic unit (PDF).
Australia: Grades 2-4
  • The "Land Down Under" has an almost magical pull for adults and children. From the exotic koala bear and kangaroo to the sheep stations and rail system to the coral reef structures and beaches, this continent with varied biomes and ecosystems in many ways mirrors the United States.
  • This single large landmass has an ancient cultural history and yet has a relatively young governmental and economic system. It is also a nation populated primarily by immigrants, matching the societal and cultural elegance and challenge of the United States.
  • The lessons in this unit introduce learners to issues of culture, economic systems, physical environment, wildlife, trade and more. Through their exploration of these topics, students become familiar with not only the richness of Australia but also draw comparisons between the development of the United States and Australia.
  • See a sample lesson plan for the Australia unit (PDF).
Bringing the United Nations to Life: Grades 5-8  **SOLD OUT**
  • This integrated curriculum is intended to provide a rich simulation experience for young adolescents. The topic explores not only the structure and purpose of the U.N., but the relationship of complex governmental, economic and religious structures.
  • Students are engaged in learning about specific member countries, the protocol and function of the U.N., and the long-term goals and missions of this organization. By assuming various roles, the students and teacher recreate the full United Nations.
  • This curriculum offers many opportunities for both small group work and individual autonomy.
  • See a sample lesson plan for the United Nations unit (PDF)
Circus: Grades K-2
  • This unit focuses on the many aspects of the Circus. Students engage in scientific concepts related to food, circus acts, special effects, and animal care.
  • Types of circus acts are presented with an understanding of the traditional circus and non-traditional circus performance.
  • Students have the opportunity to investigate some controversial issues that surround the circus, such as animal rights and child labor issues.
  • The historical aspects of the circus provide students with a breadth of cultural and creative activities, as well as affective understanding of the circus.
  • See a sample lesson plan for the Circus unit (PDF).
Discovering DA VINCI'S Complexities: Grades 5-8
  • This unique unit explores the vast array of Leonardo da Vinci's interests and lifelong exploration of his passions.
  • It is divided into five sections: The Renaissance, The Man, The Artist, The Scientist, and The Inventor. Each section offers ample background information along with coordinating integrated lessons focusing on real-world application and exploration.
  • Students will engage in high-level discussion, hands-on activities, engaging research and artistic pursuits.
  • This unit will allow students to understand the interests, passions, and complexities of Leonardo da Vinci, a true Renaissance Man.
  • Additionally, this unit is accompanied by the ability to access digital PDF copies of handouts, rubrics, and activity pages. 
  • See a sample lesson plan for the Discovering DA VINCI'S Complexities unit (PDF)
Early Childhood Thematic Units: Pre-K - K: A 30-Week Curriculum Resource Including Fairy Tales, Insects and Dinosaurs  **SOLD OUT**
  • This resource guide is divided into three integrated curriculum units around the always-appealing topics of fairy tales, insects and dinosaurs. The curriculum is organized by the guiding concept questions of each topic.
  • A "Setting the Stage" section helps teachers create an environment that invites learners into the topic. Each week contains a variety of activities around the concept questions in language arts, math, science, art, and music and movement. An emphasis on high-level vocabulary introduces students to language, which excites gifted learners while enabling them to build an extensive conceptual framework of ideas.
  • Activities can be done as small-group or whole-group lessons, or set up as a center format allowing for flexibility in the presentation of the topics. Reproducible sheets provide patterns and suggestions for creating supporting manipulatives and materials.
  • See a sample lesson plan for the EC book (PDF)
India: Grades 3-5
  • This unit examines both perspectives and culture throughout India.
  • Lessons focus on content rich with scientific investigation, the origin of mathematical systems, Indian architecture, as well as Mahndi and Sanskrit to name a few.
  • Additionally, this unit is accompanied by the ability to access digital PDF copies of handouts, rubrics, and activity pages.
Maya: Grades 5-8   **SOLD OUT**
  • The Mayan culture has a wonderful, mysterious draw to children of various ages. This unit has a plethora of math activities focusing on the calendar and number systems.
  • Social studies activities in this unit range from historical timelines to the importance of corn. Through art and science lessons, students learn more about the ancient culture of the Mayan people and their astounding creative abilities and scientific findings.
  • Students also make connections to current cultural groups. They will learn about pottery, weaving, sports, hieroglyphics, masks and mythology—all while engaging in the exciting topic of the Mayan people.
  • See a sample lesson plan for the Mayan unit (PDF).
Millennium Moments: Grades 5-8   **SOLD OUT**
  • In this simulation for middle school students, each student assumes the persona of a character from the 20th century. Students select their persona after reading a brief description and vignette.
  • This unit is unique in the sense that the characters assumed by students are amalgamated characters rather than historical figures. This allows students to more fully understand and develop the context of their character, rather than completing a more traditional biography study.
  • During the course of the research study, students will read a suggested piece of historical fiction, research the time period, organize the research findings, and create related artifacts and relics. This unit provides an exceptional cross-integration opportunity for language arts and social studies classes.
  • Beyond the obvious use of history and literature, the use of Millennium Moments promotes the use of many forms of self-expression, such as art, music, drama, poetry, role-playing and creative writing. The Millennium Moments guide is accompanied by a CD, which enables teachers to further individualize the persona descriptions, as well as to provide easy copyright access to the student guide.
  • See a sample lesson plan for the Millennium Moments unit (PDF).
Natural Disasters: Grades 3-5   **SOLD OUT**
  • The topic of natural disasters is compelling. News reports from around the globe introduce children to weather patterns, biomes and catastrophic events.
  • The Natural Disasters unit takes this sometimes-frightening topic and examines the causes and effects, and introduces students to the equipment, monitoring and support systems surrounding these phenomena. Topics in this unit include hurricanes, tidal waves, floods, droughts, avalanches, slides, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, wildfires, blizzards and tornadoes.
  • This unit focuses on content with many scientific experiments designed to help students understand concepts such as air pressure, wave force and weather patterns. In addition to a strong grounding in science concepts, students focus on problem solving by examining specific conditions and developing new methods for storm tracking, evacuation patterns or relief efforts.
  • Language arts lessons focus on examining current and historical primary documents, such as comparing stories from various media outlets and reading personal accounts of life during the Dust Bowl. This unit balances the scientific with the affective needs of gifted learners through a variety of active learning experiences.
  • See a sample lesson plan for the Natural Disasters unit (PDF).
Oceans: Grades K-3   **SOLD OUT**
  • The Oceans unit is rich in both content and affective opportunities. Students use the scientific method to learn about the weight of water, the difference between saltwater and freshwater, wave patterns, and more. Using a variety of art techniques, students create items such as Japanese fish kites, large-scale ecosystem murals and mythical creatures.
  • As students explore this unique biome, they have the opportunity to wrestle with moral dilemmas such as fishing rights/overfishing, water usage/contamination and species preservation. This integrated curriculum is a comprehensive overview of the environment, the plant and animal inhabitants of the ocean, water use, and potential problems.
  • Due to the scope of the unit, many different large concepts such as systems, interdependence and personal responsibility are explored during the course of study.
  • See a sample lesson plan from the Oceans unit (PDF)
Passion Pursuits: Grades 1-6 **SOLD OUT** 
  • Passion Pursuits is an independent study plan based on an individual learner's personal interest. In addition to exploring a passion, independent units provide an opportunity for learners to engage in a range of skills involved in independent research and the creation of various products.
  • The guide helps teachers and learners alike as they begin the process of using Passion Pursuits within their curriculum. The approach is applicable to many different settings, from general classrooms to pull-out programs to home-school settings.
  • In addition to providing a comprehensive student guide for independent study, the Passion Pursuits book contains more than 40 developed unit topics for study. It also contains a CD that allows teachers to create multiple copies of the student guidebook and personalize individual unit goals.
  • See a sample lesson plan for the Passion Pursuits unit (PDF).