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An inquirED Blog

Implementing Elementary Social Studies: Best Practices from District Leaders

Updated: Feb 23, 2022


On today’s webinar, we were joined by Patrick Snyder (Elementary Science & Social Studies Coordinator, Iowa City Schools), Melissa Seggelke (K-12 Social Studies Curriculum Specialist, Denver Public Schools), Steven Kidd (PI Partner of K-12 Social Studies, Cherry Creek Schools), and Sarah Milo Hoskow (inquirED’s Director of Partner Experience), for an in-depth look at the most effective ways to roll out a new social studies curriculum in your school or district.

Begin With The Why

Before we dove into the “how” of implementing a new curriculum, we spoke about the “why”. For our panelists, implementing a new curriculum connected to issues of equity across their districts. They believed that if they provided teachers with high-quality instructional materials – then high-quality instruction wouldn’t be a hit-or-miss phenomenon, solely dependent upon what building a student was in, or the teachers they had. “We were looking to increase the access points to quality instruction,” said Patrick Synder, Elementary Science & Social Studies Coordinator at Iowa City Schools. This thinking is also in line with current research about the power of high-quality instructional materials to improve instructional practice and student outcomes.

Identify and Communicate with Key Stakeholders

As we dove into the “how” of implementation, an early theme of the panel discussion centered on the importance of communicating to key stakeholders in the district. All of our panelists agreed that building principals play a critical role in implementing a new curriculum. “We onboarded all of our principals together,” said Steven Kidd PI Partner of K-12 Social Studies, Cherry Creek Schools, “so that they could have a space to learn together and ask questions.” Panelists shared that it’s crucial to involve principals early in the process and make sure they know about the kind of instruction that will be happening in their buildings, so they can support teachers as they shift to inquiry-based social studies.

Find Time for Meaningful Professional Learning

That “shift” to inquiry was another important topic of conversation. According to our panelists, teachers need additional support as they implement an inquiry-based curriculum, most directly in the form of professional learning. Indeed, in all three of our panelists’ districts, professional learning started even before the curriculum was rolled out, introducing the practices and principles of inquiry. Also, here’s a secret tip that those in our audience found insightful: if you are looking for additional professional learning hours, try piggybacking on existing professional learning time, either by asking to collaborate or grab a few minutes of their presentation. “You could even use an inquiry-based strategy to facilitate unrelated PD,” shared Sarah Milo Hoskow, inquirED’s Director of Partner Experience, “that way teachers can have a first-hand experience of inquiry-based learning.”

Utilize Teacher Leaders

"Supporting the shift” kicks into high gear once districts begin onboarding teachers to the new curriculum. At this stage, our panelists agreed on the importance of teacher-leaders and coaches (and generally early adopters). According to Melissa Seggelke, K-12 Social Studies Curriculum Specialist at Denver Public Schools, teacher-leaders “can serve to encourage, inspire, and help teachers just get started.” She shared further that DPS has been “leveraging our teacher leaders as professional learning leaders and sources of constructive feedback.”

Our panelists shared many more insights during our hour-long conversation. View the video below to watch the full webinar.


About inquirED

inquirED has moved beyond the textbook, offering a customizable, digital curriculum that supports teachers in shifting to student-centered instruction. inquirED delivers year-long, student-centered curriculum and assessment with engaging content and activities for students and embedded professional learning for teachers. Inquiry Journeys is inquirED’s core elementary social studies curriculum. Inquiry Journeys is a comprehensive inquiry-based curriculum with embedded PD that helps teachers shift their practice to a more inquiry-based approach. Learn More.


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