Thursday, May 24, 2018

I’m Back... With A New Elementary Social Studies Curriculum

UPDATE: The curriculum was been updated in 2020 (now on version 4.0) and renamed Open Social Studies. It can be found here:

Over a year ago, I started building an inquiry-based elementary social studies curriculum for the Kenny Elementary School in the Boston Public Schools (with the help of my fantastic BU colleague Jenn Bryson). Since then, I have not had the time to regularly update my blog with my usual posts about social studies and education more broadly. I am excited to announce the first version of the curriculum is finally fully developed and we are ready to share it with the world. I am also happy to announce that I should be able to return to occasionally sharing my thoughts on this blog.

The name of our new elementary curriculum is "Understanding Our World." It is named this because it is based on the idea that children should get social studies starting in the early grades and that it should be, as Rudine Sims Bishop described, both "mirrors" and "windows" for themselves. The mirrors represent opportunities for students to learn about their (and their families' and ancestors') histories, social identities, and ways to civically engage in their communities, and the windows represent how their historical and present-day experiences relate to others. While this curriculum was designed for one school and is rooted in the local history, civics, geography, and economics of its community (Dorchester, which is a neighborhood in the city of Boston), this curriculum is open source and can be adapted for any school or district.

When we were designing this curriculum, we specifically wanted it to be open-source (so teachers can make modifications for their students and their communities), so you will see that it can be downloaded in both PDF form and an editable Word document. We also wanted it to be a curriculum that can serve as a stand alone during a teacher's social studies time or embedded within literacy instruction (for teachers in schools where there may be no dedicated time for social studies). Lastly, and most importantly, we wanted it to focus on issues of equity and social justice and help students at at an early age think about fairness.  

Finally, this curriculum is still under construction (we expect a Version 2.0 to be unveiled in the summer of 2018). We are in the process of continually improving it, making it more culturally relevant, and ensuring that the perspectives of various people and groups being studied are accurate and authentic. If you have any suggestions on how we can do this or general improvements, please e-mail them to me at

You can read more about this "Understanding Our World" curriculum and download at its website:

(One final note: the bandwidth of the curriculum website is not very large, so please do not stream the videos. Instead, you can download them to a desktop and play them from there.)


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