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An inquirED Blog

Inquiry-Based Elementary Social Studies and the C3 Framework

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

C3 organizes its framework into four dimensions - each focusing on a different set of skills that prepare students for college, career, and civic life. Since Inquiry Journeys, inquirED’s elementary social studies curriculum was not adapted for - but natively designed from C3, each of our Units builds students' skills and content knowledge across all four dimensions. Read below to see how Inquiry Journeys turns C3's call for inquiry into action.


C3 Dimension 1: Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries

In Inquiry Journeys, questions play a central role. Check out the different types of questions below!

Inquiry Questions: A single inquiry question - (C3 calls this a compelling question) drives learning over the course of an Inquiry Journeys unit of study. The inquiry questions that drive learning in Inquiry Journeys are:

  • Complex and open-ended, igniting student curiosity and driving them forward into their investigation

  • Formulated simply so students can understand it ( and share it with others)

  • Lay the groundwork for students to take action

Essential Questions: Multiple essential questions (C3 calls them supporting questions) frame the investigation into the larger Inquiry Question. Essential questions in Inquiry Journeys are:

  • Be open-ended

  • Lead to an investigation of social studies content

  • Connect to the standards, objectives, and broader inquiry question of the social studies unit of study

Student-Generated Questions: Student-generated questions - also called investigation questions - play an important role in Inquiry Journeys. As students investigate their own questions, they build knowledge that is deep and lasting, because their learning connects to their curiosities and interests. In general, student-generated questions should be:

  • Generated by students throughout a unit of study

  • Prioritized and improved by students

  • Revisited by students to consider which ones have been addressed, and what new questions have arisen

C3 Dimension 2: Applying Disciplinary Tools and Concepts

  • In Inquiry Journeys, students act as social scientists. They investigate the world through the lens of each social studies discipline and use its tools.

  • When students look at the world through the lens of a geographer, for example, they practice noticing certain relationships (human and environment interactions, climate’s effect on migration and movement, etc. ) and asking certain types of questions (How have humans modified their environment? How does physical geography affect culture? etc.).

  • As students investigate, they may also employ the tools of the geographer, creating maps to represent migration patterns or analyzing population distributions. Each discipline has a unique lens – and a unique set of tools – through which students can examine the world.

C3 Dimension 3: Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence

  • Inquiry Journeys includes thousands of engaging primary and secondary sources. These sources represent multiple perspectives from diverse authors and creators across a varied range of media types, including maps, documents, photographs, websites, videos, paintings, personal narratives, and more.

  • For example, during a 5th-grade Unit, students compare and contrast first and final drafts of the Preamble to the US Constitution, and then hold a Socratic Seminar that uses the text of the Bill of Rights as its subject.

C3 Dimension 4: Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action

  • All Inquiry Journeys Units end with informed action - with over 30 projects to choose from, each with a public presentation in which students communicate their conclusions.

  • inquirED provides detailed lesson plans that enable teachers and students to translate essential content knowledge and discipline-specific skills into informed action.


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