Social Studies content is in a constant flux because the world is dynamic with important events taking place on a daily basis. Unless social studies content reflects this dynamic change students engagement and learning will definitely take a toll. Hence the importance of teachers and educators using extra materials and resources to supplement their social studies curriculum and to diversify their instruction.
Below is a list of some important platforms to help you supplement your social studies curriculum and create engaging learning experiences for your students in and out of class. Using these social studies resources, you will be able to find relevant and up to date content from history and science to geography and human culture. You can customize the content the way you want, design learning activities, and help your students become knowledgeable and more critically engaged in civic life.
Developed by the National Museum of American History in partnership with the Verizon foundation, History Explorer offers a wide variety of educational materials covering American history. These include learning activities, museum artifacts, teacher resources, interactives, and many more.
‘History Explorer’s resources focus on learning history by “reading” objects for the stories they hold about the nation and its many peoples. Learning activities feature artifacts selected from over 3 million items in the Museum’s collections, and draw on the expertise of the Museum’s renowned curatorial staff.’
The education section in National Geographic features a growing collection of tools and resources created specifically for use with students in class. These include a resource library featuring tons of materials (e.g., lessons, activities, infographics, images, videos, etc) spanning different subjects and grades, opportunities to help students virtually visit interesting places in North America (e.g., Everglades National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Monterey Bay National Marine, etc) and learn about ‘wildlife, Indigenous history, geological characteristics, and more.
National Geographic also offers several guides for parents and teachers such as Educator and Family Guide to the Ocean, A Family Guide to Using National Geographic Education Resources, the Explorer’s Mindset Toolkit, among others.
Newsela Social Studies section features standards-aligned content for use in social studies classes. There are primary source documents, historical news articles, US founding documents, Supreme Court cases, biographies, op-eds, famous speeches, and more. Newsela’s content is provided at 5 reading levels and teachers can easily customize this content to fit their own teaching needs.
‘Newsela content comes from the real world, about people and topics students relate to. We start with the world’s best sources and carefully select only the content that is most representative, most engaging, and best for Culturally Responsive Teaching. Because when students read about things they’re excited about, they learn to love learning for life.’ Check out Newsela full review to learn more
Discovery Education is another good social studies resource to use with your students. It provides a wide variety of content, tools, and resources to engage students and track their performance. Content in Discovery Education covers various topics and subjects including podcasts, interactives, virtual field trips, videos, and more. The site also provides teachers with formative assessment tools to check students understanding.
The Studio tool is especially helpful as it allows teachers to design interactive lessons and activities and integrate them in their social studies lessons. Discovery Education also provides important professional development opportunities for teachers and educators. There are live events where teachers can connect with their peers from all around the world, learn together, and share recommendations and best practices.
5. PBS Learning
PBS Learning offers a huge library of free standards-aligned resources for your social studies classes. These include videos, interactives, lesson plan, and many more. You can use the site’s search functionality to search resources. You can search for resources by grade (e.g.,PreK to 12), subject, resource type (e.g., video, interactive, lesson plan, audio, image, document, webpage, etc), and accessibility.
You can also search for content by language. PBS supports three languages: French, Spanish, and English. Once you find the resource you are interested in click to access it. You can download it or share it to your Google Classroom . You can also use it to build your own lesson and activities.
The Educator section in the National Archives offers a wide variety of educational materials to use in your teaching. These include free distance learning programs for students, ,primary sources (e.g., images, transcriptions, historical context, etc) covering historical events, family history activities for kids, professional development resources for teachers, and many more.
The site also offers DocsTeach, which is an online tool to help teachers integrate primary documents in their instructions. Teachers can also use it to discover engaging content and create online activities for students. National Archives has recently released a new resource called We Rule: Civics for All of Us which is ‘a new education initiative that promotes civic literacy and engagement.
NCSS is a professional organization dedicated entirely to everything related to social studies education. It offers professional development resources for social studies teachers in the form of online conferences and webinars.There are also materials to help with inquiry and teaching using primary resources.
The Publications and Resources section features NCSS journals, books, bulletins, podcasts, on-demand library, and more. NCSS SmartBrief is another excellent resource for social studies teachers. This is basically a ‘3x-weekly snapshot of news on best practices, curriculum, and professional development for social studies educators.’
This is a multimedia platforms that employs the power of digital storytelling to explore and investigate key concepts and issues related to various aspects of our world. The Global News Project features films, documentaries, photo essays, and essays that shed light on issues related to environment, culture, and social diversity.
Stories and lessons are designed with the goal of broadening students global perspectives and to foster their senses of inquiry, critical thinking, empathy, resilience, and to nurture a strong love and connection to our planet. The overall goal, according to the site, is to ‘bring global values into the lives of educators and students’.
iCivics offers educational resources aimed at developing students civic competence. Some of these resources include curricular materials for middle and high school students, lesson plans available to print or complete online, webQuests to help students search the web and connect civic concepts to the real world, videos , games, and DBQuest to help students develop the skills needed for ‘in-depth primary source analysis and inquiry’.
iCivics also allows you to set up your own class, create and share assignments with students, discover educational content, and many more.
The Center for Civic Education helps students with their civic education and prepare them for a more engaged civic life. To fulfill this mission, the Center provides a wide variety of materials including textbooks, eBooks, lesson plans, free courses, and many more. The Center also offers teachers and educators professional development resources in the form of webinars, research programs (e.g., the Project Research Program ), online courses , and many more.
Google Arts & Culture is another great social studies resource to use with students. Google Arts and Culture offers some really excellent resources to help students explore world cultures and learn about the human history.
These include guided tours to international exhibits and museums, the ability to tour famous sites and landmarks using Street View, experience culture in 360 degrees videos, access to a huge collection of high-definition artworks and fine art, and many more. Google Arts & Culture also offers fun games to boost students cultural literacy.
12. The OER Project
The OER Project is a coalition of historians and educators whose goal is to promote social studies education through a number of curricular materials and courses. The OER Project offers two interesting courses titled Big History Project and World History Project. The Big History Project is ‘a social studies course that spans 13.8 billion years.
It weaves insights from many disciplines to form a single story that helps us better understand people, civilizations, and how we are connected to everything around us.’ As for World History project, this is a course designed with history teachers in mind. It offers three versions: Origins to the Present, 1200 to the Present, and 1750 to the Present.
BrainPOP Social Studies section features a wide variety of educational resources covering various social studies units including culture, black history, ancient cultures, economics, elections, famous historical figures, geography, U.S history, world history, women’s history, and many more. BrainPOP’s materials include learning games, animated videos, and engaging activities. BrainPop Jr is BrainPOP’s version for young minds.