Digital Toolkit

The Cascading Lives Digital Toolkit is a package of teaching materials about economic inequality and mobility in the U.S. Created with input from educators, these materials are designed as flexible learning units that assist English and Social Science high school teachers to bring these topics to their students in effective and imaginative ways.

The curriculum package draws on data gathered in 2020-2021 as part of the “Cascading Lives: Stories of Loss, Resistance, and Resilience” research project, a social scientific investigation into how individuals employed in the hospitality industry experience and survive times of crisis and loss. We use the term “cascading” to refer to the spiraling nature of life crises, or how one time of loss or catastrophic event can trigger others, leading to downward economic mobility for those who do not have the resources to withstand these shocks. In this project, we conducted life history interviews with more than thirty individuals based in Georgia and Massachusetts. The Cascading Lives Digital Toolkit lessons and learning activities draw on short biographical stories that we have written based on these life history interviews. As listed below, the curriculum supports student exploration of concepts related to that of “cascading,” such as socioeconomic mobility, structural inequality, and others.


The Cascading Lives Curriculum unit is divided into five lessons:

While the curriculum is designed to be used in sequence and in its entirety, teachers are invited to use as many of the lesson plans and resources as fit their needs. Each lesson is designed around the use of two suggested life stories, although teachers may also choose to substitute or supplement these stories with one of the many other stories available in the Life History Stories section of the website.

Each lesson plan includes learning objectives, essential questions, concept definitions, two life stories, several learning activities, and suggested supplemental resources and anchor texts. Some lessons also include worksheets related to the learning activities. All of the materials for each lesson are available on this website and also as accessible PDFs to download.