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Ready-Set-Tech: The Amazing Wonders of Social Studies
The Amazing Wonders of Social Studies

The project aims to give students an understanding of what social studies is and why they study it through a series of activities that allows them to experience some of the jobs of a social scientist. Students will research, write, and observe Internet sources throughout the course of the unit. A culminating activity of this unit is a class field trip to the Museum of Natural History in New York.

Students often delve into their studies without an understanding of what the subject is or why they study it. This unit addresses both of those questions. This unit allows the student to discover this information through their exploration.

Christine Gabbert
Christine Gabbert is a middle school Social Studies teacher at Junior High School 240 in Brooklyn, New York. This is her first unit published with Teachers Network.


Social Studies

Grade Level: 6-7

Time: 1 hour for 4 days to prep for visit; one day at the Museum; 1 day for extension activities.

Materials: Internet connection with 4 students per computer; Word processor; Digital Cameras if available; Downloaded handouts. Individual materials for the final project will vary.








Students will:

1. Be able to understand the fields that are encompassed by social studies.

2. Search the Internet using various search methods.

3. Be able to classify information.

4. Differentiate between primary and secondary sources.

5. Draft, revise and produce a finished product relating to their field trip.

Web sites:



1) Field guides from the Museum of Natural History:

2) Planning a Visit to the Museum of Natural History:

3) Online dictionary

4) NARA's Digital Classroom:

5) Brooklyn Public Library:

6) National Geographic Online:

7) Museum of Natural History's Hall of Human Evolution:

8) Teacher's Guide to the Hall of Human Evolution:

9) Museum of Natural History's Web Guide to the first Europeans:

Day One:

What is Social Studies?

•  Students will begin by brainstorming the question: “What is Social Studies?” Based on their individual ideas, students will consult with a partner and create an illustration of their definitions of social studies. Students will share their illustrations and explanations with the class.

•  In groups, students will explore the definition of social studies using the website, www.yourdictionary.com. (Social Studies = A course of study including geography, history, government, and sociology, taught in secondary and elementary schools.)

•  Still in their groups, students will then brainstorm aspects of each of these disciplines (geography, history, government, sociology) in a provided chart.

•  After the brainstorm, students will return in groups to www.yourdictionary.com to find formal definition for each of these disciplines, which they will record on their chart. (See Handout 1)

•  Based on the new definition, students will return to their original partner to examine what would need to be added or eliminated from their initial illustration. Students will then either amend their initial illustration or create a new one altogether.

Day Two:

How do we learn about Social Studies?

•  Students will begin with a short journal entry describing their favorite aspect of Social Studies. (5-7 mins.) Students will share their writing with the class.

•  Ask students where they would go to find a telephone number, a recipe, etc. Make a list of these sources on the board. Explain to students that we go to certain places for certain types of information.

•  With a partner, students should list various places they could go to find information on the different areas of Social Studies they found yesterday. Students should record their list on Handout 1. If student responses are limited to print/electronic resources, prompt them to explore other areas by asking where the Social Scientists might have originally found the information to create the print/electronic sources in the first place.

•  After sharing their lists with the class, explain that most sources fall into two categories, primary and secondary sources. In groups of four, have students return to yourdictionary.com to review the definition of primary and secondary sources.

• Provide a handout for students to categorize their previous source list into primary sources and secondary sources (Handout 2) before they proceed

•  Explain students that archaeology and anthropology also relate to social studies because of their connections to all the disciplines involved. Students should again visit yourdictionary.com to learn these definitions.

: The scientific study of the origin, the behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of humans.
Archaeology : The systematic study of past human life and culture by the recovery and examination of remaining material evidence, such as graves, buildings, tools, and pottery.

•  Still in their groups of four, each student will be responsible for one of the four aspect of social studies. Using the following Internet sites, the students must find an actual source relating to each topic and record it on the chart with an explanation of what type of source it is (primary or secondary). Review possible search criteria with students and suggest good search sites. See Yahooligans' suggestions for good Internet searches.

Suggested internet sites:
• Brooklyn Public Library: www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org
• National Archives: www.nara.gov
• Natonal Geographic Online: www.nationalgeographic.org

As part of this activity, the teacher may practice observations skills in preparation for the trip to AMNH. The teacher may show an example of a source and guide students in their observations of the source.

Day Three:

Why do we learn about Social Studies?

•  In order to review sources, students will begin with a journal entry describing what they believe is a historian's most valuable source. Share with the class. Allow some discussion on what type of sources students name, and which category of Social Studies they fall into.

•  Once students have an understanding of what Social Studies is and how it is studied, it is now time to address why we study it and how the different disciplines of Social Studies are intertwined.

•  Post chart paper around the room with the title of each discipline at the top of the page. In groups, students should carousel around the room recording the various kinds of people (historians, social scientists and related professions) who use aspects of each discipline. Have a student read off each list. Allow for discussion on how each profession/person uses the discipline.

Day Four:

To conclude the analysis of Social Studies, and to prepare for their culminating project, students will take a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History.

•  Prior to the trip, students will be assigned groups of four. Try to vary the members of this group from those who worked together during prior class work. Students will use the Museum of Natural History's website, www.amnh.org to begin planning a diorama project to recreate an exhibit visited at the museum. As part of the project, students must explain how their exhibit relates to one or more of the four disciplines of Social Studies they reviewed in class over the past three days.

•  Students will use the Hall of Early Man/Human Evolution to analyze different aspects of Social Studies. The use of this hall also serves as an introduction to evolution, which is taught in the sixth grade curriculum here in New York City.

See the web links section for more links from the Museum of Natural History to plan a class visit.

Visit to the Museum of Natural History:

During the visit, students must write a detailed description of one exhibit, using Handout 3 as a guide. Students will also take note of the connection between the exhibits they visit using Handout 3. Students may use digital cameras to photograph the exhibit.


After the field trip, students will recreate their chosen exhibit. To accompany their model/diorama, students must write how the various social sciences played a role in the creation of the exhibit.

Student Worksheets:

Download a PDF file
with 3 student worksheets related to this unit.



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