An inquirED Blog

Sources as Mirrors and Windows: Making the Case for Elementary Social Studies

Updated: Feb 17

Photo by Allison Shelley: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

How do the sources teachers choose provide mirrors and windows for students? We explored that question with Cereescia Sandoval, one of inquirED's Learning Experience Designers. Scroll to the bottom of the page for the webinar recording. This blog post and the associated webinar are sponsored by inquirED and the National Council for the Social Studies.


Sources Matter

At inquirED, we've been thinking a lot about the sources we use in Inquiry Journeys, our elementary social studies curriculum. We are continually reexamining lessons to keep our sources up-to-date and relevant because we understand that the sources we provide to teachers have a powerful impact on students, especially in inquiry-based social studies classes.

In inquiry-based social studies, the teacher acts as a facilitator, supporting students as they learn from the sources they are investigating. That's something I really didn't understand until recently. For a long time, I’ve known that a teacher shouldn't be the source of all knowledge in the classroom. Twenty years ago in my social studies methods classes, I was told, “Don’t be the sage on the stage, be the guide on the side!”

I remember it because it rhymed.

But it didn’t help me. If I was the guide on the side, what were students learning from? The textbook? That didn’t seem right for a million reasons, least of which was the fact that my textbook was eight years old and, in 2005, kept using the phrase “Someday, in the year 2000…”

So if not me – or the textbook – what could be the source of knowledge?

When I came to inquirED and started to dig deeper into inquiry-based social studies, I began to understand that in inquiry “THE source” is actually “A source” – one of many. At the heart of every lesson is a source, whether it's a map, document, photograph, painting, piece of art, or even student-created work. Students are waiting to question it, connect with it, and absorb it, learning about themselves and the world in the process.

That's why sources matter. And that’s why we invited Cereescia Sandoval to talk to us about how sources act as mirrors and windows for students. Cereescia is a bi-racial Indigenous American educator who sees her identity as directly connected to her purpose. In fact, her devotion to re-imagining education for Black and Brown students and disrupting educational inequity is what led her to inquirED.

Mirrors and Windows