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2nd Grade Social Studies Unit: Meeting Needs and Wants

Inquiry Question

How can we help our community work together to meet its needs and wants?

Communities are created to meet our common needs, giving us a sense of belonging, trust, care, and safety. During this unit, students work together to design their own community model, discovering how community members work together to shape the world around them.

Unit Launch

These two social studies lessons are designed to hook students into the unit, introduce the Inquiry Question, and prompt students to generate their initial Investigation Questions.

  • Lesson 1: Students begin to create their “Community Model Unit-Long Display,” which they will work on over the course of the unit as they build understanding. They generate ideas of needs and wants of community members, considering where and how in this fictional community those needs and wants can be met. This lesson sparks curiosity and serves as an informal pre-assessment for the content and concepts of the unit.

  • Lesson 2: Students are introduced to a modified version of the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) to generate Investigation Questions that will guide their exploration of community needs and wants.


Why can’t I have everything I want?

Students explore a variety of economic concepts, including wants, needs, saving, spending, giving, and earning. They practice working within a budget and consider how limited resources necessitate decision-making.

  • Lesson 1: Students explore the economic concepts of needs and wants. They practice differentiating between needs and wants while exploring why circumstances might make perspectives vary.

  • Lesson 2: Students explore the concept of needs and wants by planning meals within a set budget. They participate in a simulation using play money in order to help them evaluate the most important purchases they need to make.

  • Lesson 3: This Extension lesson challenges students to predict and investigate the prices of real items using They explore why and how people can save their money to afford the things they want to buy. This lesson requires student pairs to have access to tech devices and

  • Lesson 4: Students explore the concepts of saving, spending, and giving through the book A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams. They reflect on this source to consider how they might spend, save, give, and earn money.

  • Lesson 5: Students reflect upon their learning from this module to imagine how they could choose to spend, save, and give money in the future. They explain how scarcity necessitates decision-making and why we can’t buy everything we want.

How do community producers meet our needs and wants?

Students explore how different producers, including businesses, the government, and volunteers, meet the needs and wants within a community. They imagine themselves in the role of a community producer and think about the good or service they will provide, the people and things they will need to provide this good or service, as well as the skills and knowledge required. Students are also introduced to the economic concept of supply and demand, and consider how it applies to various scenarios.

  • Lesson 1: Students learn about goods, services, producers, and consumers, and analyze images to identify them in real scenarios through an image analysis activity.

  • Lesson 2: Students explore the goods and services the local government provides and discuss the importance of various services. Then, groups brainstorm ideas for their own Community Producer Plan.

  • Lesson 3: Students watch a short video and read Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins to consider the economic concept of supply and demand. Then, they settle on the final Community Producer idea to develop throughout the remainder of the module.

  • Lesson 4: Students explore the importance of volunteerism in a community and read Waiting for the Biblioburroby Monica Brown. They brainstorm the volunteers in their own community and write thank you cards expressing gratitude for the volunteers’ contributions.

  • Lesson 5: Students consider what’s needed to be successful community producers, including knowledge, skills, and supplies. They watch a video about a veterinarian to break down the required knowledge, skills, and supplies. Then, they wrap up work on their Community Producer Plans.

How do we make tough choices when spending money?

Students put themselves in the role of the consumer by evaluating the various goods and services available to them in their community model. They participate in a bingo-like game that models the difficult process of deciding how to spend money and how to prioritize when the unexpected happens. Finally, students reflect on their learning to create spending advice for others.

  • Lesson 1: Students read the book The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Money by Stan and Jan Berenstain, learn about some common idioms related to money, then draft financial advice for making tough choices with money.

  • Lesson 2: Students read Do I Need It? Or Do I Want It? by Jennifer S. Larson. Then, they design Uh-Oh! Cards, a key component to the interactive economics game they will play at the end of the module. The Uh-Oh! Cards describe realistic scenarios that force a player to prioritize fulfilling a need over a want.

  • Lesson 3: When students are working on a meaningful deliverable, it can be very helpful to facilitate a formal Critique session so that they may improve their work. Here, students are introduced to the basics of critique practice (warm, cool, and suggestion feedback) by starting with a low-stakes critique of teacher work. Then, students have an opportunity for peer feedback before revising their work in the Closing.

  • Lesson 4: Students create personalized “Tough Choices! Shopping Lists” to use as game boards when they play the Tough Choices! game in the next lesson. This provides an opportunity to review goods, services, wants, and needs, as well as the skills and knowledge required to produce certain goods and services.

  • Lesson 5: Students play the Tough Choices! game that they have been designing over the course of this module. This simulation helps students understand the tough choices people have to make when spending money.

How does a community meet our collective needs?

Students investigate the ways communities collectively work together to meet shared needs. They explore services the government provides, as well as ways individuals can contribute to improving the community. Students conclude this module by reviewing the key learning from the unit to help them prepare to take action. They work together to develop an Inquiry Challenge Statement that describes the action they will take, the product they will create, the people they will affect, and the goals they will work toward in the Action Module.

  • Lesson 1: Students explore the connected nature of key economic concepts while reading Look Where We Live! by Scot Ritchie. They identify evidence of key economic concepts within the text or illustrations of the book. Then, students begin to brainstorm local needs they would like to address

  • Lesson 2: Students continue to build a list of needs and wants they may address when they pivot to taking action in the next module. They explore a variety of ways they may be able to meet a community need or want. Select this lesson if your students need help broadening their view of ways to take action.

  • Lesson 3: Students explore how communities and individuals have taken action to solve the problems they see around them. They brainstorm issues they believe are important to address in their own community and develop their action plan.

  • Lesson 4: In this pivotal lesson, students transition from investigation to action. They consider the content they have explored, the relevant knowledge they have gained, and the questions they have asked (acknowledging that some may have remained unanswered and new questions may have emerged) to decide how to create an Inquiry Product that has an authentic impact.

Informed Action

In these lessons, students take Informed Action based on the conclusions and key findings from their investigation. They are guided by an Inquiry Challenge Statement that clearly describes the action they will take and its intended result, as well as any Target Group the action will affect. As part of this process, they move through a cycle of brainstorming, feedback, and revision to create an Inquiry Product that helps to carry out their action. Below are examples of how students have taken Informed Action within the Meeting Needs and Wants Unit.

  • Persuasive Ad: Students recruit their community to support small businesses through a series of advertisements that promote local goods and services.

  • Presentation: Students teach younger members of their school community about spending, saving, and giving through interactive presentations that include visual aids and role-playing.

  • Creative Invention: Students demonstrate their growing understanding of community needs and wants by designing original products for “sale” at a model marketplace/makers fair.