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Social Studies Facilitation Plan

A Focused Study by Chris Collier
(Model developed from the work of Carolyn Burke, Indiana University)

Grade Level: 2-3

Overview: This lesson offers students an opportunity to learn more about where they live. Depending on their interests, students can focus on local residents, local businesses, local attractions, or other aspects of community life. Through learning logs and presentations, they develop a better understanding of local history, geography, and civic life.

Resources Needed:

  • Internet access/computers

  • Local maps, artifacts, posters, phone books, business and tourist directories, and other media that allow students to explore various aspects of local life.

Web sites to bookmark:

  • Local community sites -- many cities and towns have a homepage on the Web that is a good place to start.

  • Learning Adventures in Citizenship
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/newyork/laic/
    Students can explore the history of their own communities while learning about New York with fun, interactive online activities. They are invited to post the results of their explorations on the Thirteen/WNET Web site.

(National Center for History in the Schools History) Standards Addressed:

  • Standard 2 -- Understanding the history of a local community:

    • Understand the contributions and significance of historical figures of the community

    • Know the history of the local community since its founding, the people who came, the changes they brought, and significant events over time

  • Standard 3 -- Understanding the people, events, problems, and ideas that were significant in creating the history of their state:

    • Understand the reasons different groups came to the state or region

    • Understand the different lives, plans, and dreams of the various racial and ethnic groups who lived in the state 100-200 years ago

    • Understand how symbols, slogans, and mottoes represent the state

    • Know important buildings, statues, and monuments in the state's history

    • Understand patterns and changes in population over a period of time in a city or town in the state or region

    • Know the chronological order of major historical events and developments in the state or region that involved interaction among various groups

    • Understand how the ideas of significant people affected the history of the state

    • Know the origin of the names of places, rivers, cities, and countries, as well as the various cultural influences within a particular region

  • Standard 4 -- Understanding how democratic values came to be, and how people, events, and symbols have exemplified them:

    • Understand how people in the local community have displayed courage in helping the common good

    • Understand how people have helped to make the community a better place to live

  • Standard 8 -- Understanding major discoveries in science and technology, some of their social and economic effects, and the major scientists and inventors responsible for them

    • Know the accomplishments of major scientists and inventors

    • Understand differences in the methods of travel from various times in human history and the advantages and disadvantages of each

    • Know the different forms of transportation and their developments over time
Major Concepts:

  • Students become aware of the unique qualities of the city or town in which they live and learn to appreciate the culture and people of the local community.

  • Students learn to appreciate the contributions that various individuals and groups have made to the community and their importance in history.

Key History Skills:

  • Students learn to use a variety of techniques and resources for researching an area of interest, including interviewing skills, Internet use, telephone books, local libraries, city maps, etc.

  • Students design an individual study, record information gathered, and learn the proper methods for doing so.

  • Students learn to communicate their new knowledge to others.

Focusing Questions:

  1. Who are the people that live in my community, and what unique contributions do they make to the area?

  2. What are the symbols, monuments, and attractions in my community, and what are the stories behind them?

  3. What is the history of my community?

  4. What are the significant contributions that individuals have made to my community?

Initiating Experiences (Engagements that help each participant reflect on personal experiences and opinions):

  • speakers representing various aspects of local life (chamber of commerce, city leaders, etc.)

  • field trip -- walking tour of downtown area

  • "invitations" (see below)

Devices for Organizing and Sharing:

  • learning logs

  • audio/video recordings

  • photographs

  • computer presentations

Assignments/"Invitations": Teachers collect a variety of artifacts and learning materials related to the city being studied and "invite" the students to explore the area of their choice. The invitations designed will reflect the uniqueness of the city or community in which they live.

Example: For a study of Indianapolis, some of the invitations could focus on sporting events and the history behind them, because Indianapolis portrays itself as the amateur sports capitol of the world. The sporting invitations might include:

  • Videotapes and books about the Indianapolis 500. Symbols and artifacts of the race are included. Students are invited to browse the materials, view race tapes, and then tape-record themselves commenting on the race.

  • Books, logos, uniforms, artifacts, and tapes of the Pacers, Colts, and Ice teams might be offered for exploration at another table. Students are invited to make up a cheer, write a sports article for the local paper, write a letter to an athlete or coach, or draw an advertisement for ticket sales.

Famous Indianapolis residents might be the focus of other invitations. These invitations could include photos, artifacts, and works of the person. Students are invited to represent the person's life in art, poem, or song. They might also write the person a letter with questions they wish they could ask the person. Jim Davis, William Henry Harrison, David Letterman, James Whitcomb Riley, Michael Jackson, Eli Lilly, and David Wolf are just a few of the people students could choose.

Another invitation might offer students the opportunity to explore the monuments in Indianapolis. It could include photos and stories. Students are given clay and small items to recreate a current monument or to design a monument that they feel should be part of the city.

Some invitations could focus on the cultural groups that make up the city. Pictures, maps, and brochures of cultural events might be included, along with other artifacts, even clothing. Students could "try on" a city neighbor's lifestyle and customs.

Other invitations might focus on the geography of the city, city government, the arts, and transportation.

Sustained Inquiry (Applying the questions, tools, and methodologies of knowledge domains to a specific inquiry):

Students work individually or with partners as they plan their individual inquiries. They think about an area of interest and plan their studies. They organize their information in learning logs by answering the following questions:

  • What do I want to know?

  • Why did I choose this question?

  • What do I already know?

  • What resources will I use?


While doing research, they keep notes on the process and on what they learn and then answer the following questions:

  • What did I find out?

  • How will I share my study with others?

  • What new questions do I have?

Strategy Instruction: Whole-class or small-group lessons that are initiated by the teacher or the students in order to provide the learners with additional exposure to the inquiry.

During the inquiry process, teachers offer instruction on particular areas when needed. Sometimes, the whole class may need to learn a skill; at other times, a particular group might need help or additional information about something.

These lessons may be skills-based, such as using a research tool, conducting an effective interview, or learning how to read and navigate a map or bus schedule. The lessons might focus on a particular content question as guided by student interest or need for understanding. For example, students may become interested in the various types of housing available in the community. A coordinator of homeless services or an urban planner might be invited to come and speak to a group.

Culminating Experiences/ Final Projects:

  • Kids Teach Kids. Students share their inquiry studies and new knowledge with the class. The format for public forum is not predetermined but comes from the students and the types of questions explored. Some possibilities might be: a living museum of important community residents past and present, the design of a new interactive gallery to be included at the Children's Museum, a video highlighting some aspect of community life, a cultural fair, or an art gallery.

Assessment/Evaluation: The following can be used to assess the progress of students throughout this lesson:

  • Students' reflections -- students are asked to write and share their reaction to the total engagement
  • Student learning logs
  • Student response to class members' presentations
  • Teacher observation, focusing on processes utilized by students, content explored, and attitudes displayed in the learning environment


Workshop: Inquiry-based Learning
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