In the Spring Creek Community School Social Studies department, our goal is to help students learn to think like historians. What characterizes a historian is her ability to see the big picture. In our learning, therefore, we start with big ideas, essential questions and, when appropriate, contemporary issue advocacy to provide an organizing structure for content, to assist comprehension, and to promote inquiry. This helps to give history that crucial “so what?” making it meaningful in relation to students’ experience and values. Connections to contemporary social or political issues not only enliven historical content but also encourage students to think critically and creatively about the problems facing them as global citizens. We see together that historical understanding is important: it explains why the world is the way it is, and it helps us see possibilities for its transformation.
We facilitate our students in assembling that big picture from primary sources, material culture, and historiographic arguments. We believe in giving students complex, multi-step thinking tasks that require them to navigate ambiguities or uncertainties and work towards a conclusion that they are able to justify against critical questioning. This involves designing performance tasks where students have complex tasks, questions or problems; resources to explore (primary sources, historical data) and thinking tools (critical lenses, graphic organizers) through which they can explore them; and a clear structure of time and accountability (benchmarks or teacher check-ins) that communicate expectations to students and give teachers the space to facilitate their meeting those expectations. Learning thus helps develop in students valuable cognitive resources associated with historical thinking, such as the ability to evaluate and argue for significance; to consider multiple perspective simultaneously and evaluate each on its own merits; to use questioning to facilitate dialogue and as a resource for understanding; and to identify problems and generate potential strategies and solutions in response. In all this, we experience together the excitement of historical interpretation. When students experience history as an interpretive act, it not only promotes intrinsic motivation and intellectual self-confidence, it also develops higher-order thinking skills and improves content retention.
Reading, writing, and argumentation are inseparable components of our approach to historical thinking. We give our students time to reflect and process in thought and writing, both individually and in structured collaboration with others. We guide our students to regularly generate complex questions, articulate arguable claims, and support them with logical reasoning and persuasively interpreted evidence. Above all, we expect our students to engage seriously and fearlessly in higher-order thinking and to support a learning environment conducive to their classmates doing the same.
Social Studies Course Syllabi
Social Studies Websites for Students and Families
As students grow and their world expands, they're increasingly curious about what's around them and what happened before they got here. This collection of social studies websites will get kids digging into history and exploring places near and far, all while learning about different societies and cultures, and how they fit into the big picture.
- Brooklyn Public Library
- Brooklyn Public Library: Brooklyn Connections: Brooklyn Connections is the school outreach arm of Brooklyn Public Library's Brooklyn Collection.
- Digital History Online Textbook - University of Houston: Online digital textbook for US History
- Digital Public Library of America: Impressive online collection of historic and cultural artifacts. This epic database of history and culture is a labor of love that all students can benefit from.
- EDSITEment: Extensive humanities resource offers deep well of great content
- European History Primary Sources: Digital repository of primary sources related to European history
- Facing History and Ourselves: A wealth of resources explore racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism
- Finding World History: Website reviews online primary-source archives and resources. Browse by time period or advance search
- George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media: A range of Web sites designed for the needs of students and teachers. It includes basic surveys of U.S. and world history.
- Google Arts & Culture: Excellent curation and an unmatched art collection invites exploration
- Google Doodles: Nifty, daily-updated info about events, people, and holidays
- Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: The Internet Ancient History Sourcebook has expanded greatly since its creation, and now contains hundred of local files as well as links to source texts throughout the net.
- Internet Modern History Sourcebook: The Internet Modern History Sourcebook has expanded greatly since its creation, and now contains hundred of local files as well as links to source texts throughout the net.
- National Archives: Access U.S. history with treasure trove of docs, genealogy, and other resources
- National Geographic Kids: Free games, photos and in-depth stories of Earth's peoples and wildlife
- National Museum of African American History and Culture: Powerful stories and media centralize African-American history; Free
- National WWII Museum: High-quality resources and activities offer an in-depth study
- NYCDOE Social Studies Website
- NYS Social Studies Website
- PBS: A wide range of resources for students from its various programs
- Smithsonian Learning Lab: Teachers and students alike will enjoy browsing and curating their own collections of Smithsonian resources. Users will be drawn in by the beautiful artifacts and the ability to organize, share, and annotate their collections
- Smithsonian's History Explorer: Lessons, activities, artifacts, artfully presented by the Smithsonian
- Teaching Tolerance: Thought-provoking classroom resources support diversity education
- The Constitutional Rights Foundation: offers a wide array of resources, including lesson plans and enrichment texts, on constitutional issues designed to help students understand the Constitution and become better citizens.
- The Knotted Line: Unique, artistic timeline lets kids explore freedom in U.S. history
- The Library of Congress: A great source to find historical documents, photos, art, maps, audio and video, artifacts and other items. The World Digital Library, a cooperative project with UNESCO, includes rare documents from around the world
- The National Archives and Records Administration: has a massive collection of material on U.S. history that can sometimes be overwhelming to search through. The Resources for National History Day Research page guides students on where to find material in the archives.
- The Oyez Project at Northwestern University: allows you to listen to the Supreme Court justices as they deliberate cases, providing a complete source of all audio recorded since the installation of a recording system in the Court in 1955.
- The Story of Africa: African History from the Dawn of Time: The story of Africa tells the history of the continent from an African perspective. Africa’s top historians take a fresh look at the events and characters that have shaped the continent from the origins of humankind.
- The U.S. House of Representatives’ The House Explained: provides details on the legislative process, explaining how laws are made.
- The World Factbook: The World Factbook provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities
- World Digital Library: Search 19,147 items about 193 countries between 8000 BCE and 2000