inquirED Blog 

Research, resources, and reflections on inquiry-based teaching and learning.

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Using Inquiry in Elementary Social Studies

Updated: Jun 11



The Necessity of Social Studies in the Elementary Grades


Elementary students need engaging, inquiry-based social studies to help them develop critical thinking skills, make informed decisions, and take positive action to influence their world. 


When students have the opportunity to participate in inquiry-based social studies, what do they experience, develop, and become?


Students Experience

  • Deep, active engagement in sustained investigations of disciplinary content

  • Culturally responsive instruction and experiences

  • Productive struggle to discern meaning and address real-world problems


Students Develop

  • Personal Agency .

  • Creative Problem Solving Skills

  • Critical Thinking Skills

  • Communication Skills

  • Collaboration Skills


Students Become

  • Resilient learners who can adapt to changing circumstances

  • Engaged, informed, and socially responsible members of their communities.

  • Critical consumers of information, goods, and services

Webinar Summary

During the webinar, we explored the challenges and opportunities of Using Inquiry in Elementary Social Studies. Thanks to our guests Dr. Tina Heafner (NCSS President) and Dr. Linda Kuhaupt (ELA and Social Studies, Appleton Area School District).


We started by examining trends in social studies education as a whole. Dr. Heafner shared some infographics that illustrate these trends.



We moved on to address the obstacles to elementary social studies, the challenges for teachers, and the benefits of social studies for elementary students in relation to literacy instruction and preparedness for civic responsibility.


We also mentioned inquiry-based resources for you to explore. We've included a list below.


Inquiry-Based Resources

Inquiry-Based Elementary Social Studies: Inquiry Journeys

C3 Teachers: c3teachers.org

NCSS: socialstudies.org

State Social Studies Councils: https://www.socialstudies.org/affiliates

Elementary Specific Group: NCSS Elementary Social Studies Group


Conferences on Inquiry Teaching

inquirED and NCSS: Elementary Inquiry Summer Institute

C3 Teachers and NCSS: IDM Institute

High Tech High: Deeper Learning Conference


Resources for Evaluating Inquiry-Based Instructional Materials

The National Academies Press

Iowa Core

IDM Rubric



Finally, if you were not able to attend the webinar, please view the recording below.