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Social Studies

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Standards and Guidance

Iowa Department of Education

The Iowa State Board of Education adopted new social studies standards on May 11, 2017, marking a new direction for social studies instruction across the state. The standards outline powerful content delivered through a focus on literacy and inquiry. The primary purpose is to shape civic-minded students who know and understand their country and the world and are ultimately capable of being the leaders and shapers of their country. 

Student Program Opportunities

National History Day's core program is a national contest for students in grades 6-12. The students conduct extensive research related to an annual theme and present their findings in one of five categories: exhibits, documentaries, papers, performances, or websites. Students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Besides being a fun experience, National History Day will improve student's reading and writing skills and help them to become better an researching, all while they are learning about a topic of their choice.

During the 2018-19 school year, National History Day invites students to research topics related to the theme "Triumph and Tragedy in History." As is the case each year, the theme is broad enough to encourage investigation of topics ranging from local to world history, and from ancient times to the recent past. To understand the historical importance of their topics, students need to ask questions about time, place, and context; cause and effect; change over time; and impact and significance. They ought to consider not only when and where events happened, but also why they occurred, what factors contributed to their development, and what effects they had on broader history. NHD projects should go beyond mere description to include analysis of information and draw conclusions.

Montauk District History Day, sponsored by Keystone AEA, was held at Decorah Middle School on Saturday, February 23, 2019.  The results may be found here.


The state of Iowa has accepted an invitation to participate in the U. S. Senate Youth Program (USSYP), sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. This program is designed to give young Americans a working knowledge of American political life. This year they are celebrating 54 years of education, leadership, and public service. 

Each year two Iowa students have the opportunity to spend a week in Washington, D.C. The William Randolph Hearst Foundation pays all the expenses. In addition, the two Iowa high school representatives each receive a one-time $5,000 scholarship. Selection of the two Iowa high school representatives is based on the outstanding ability and demonstrated leadership qualities of elected junior or senior high school officers for the 2015-2016 school year. For more information visit

Each high school may nominate up to three students. Please read the qualifying guidelines carefully before nominating students.

Social Studies Resources

Iowa Council for Social Studies  

 National Council Social Studies

Notable Social Studies logo


Service Learning Resources

Constitutional Rights Foundation
Offering programs, curricula, and training opportunities designed to engage K-12 youth and teachers in civic participation through service learning activities, this organization also publishes a free quarterly national newsletter.
The Giraffe Project
Kids learn about heroes in their communities and are inspired to make a difference through service learning projects.
KIDS Consortium
The KIDS Consortium offers educators and community members, ideas for involving students in their own neighborhoods.
National Center for Learning and Citizenship
This national center for service learning established by the Education Commission on the States works with state and district administrators and educators and promotes service learning opportunities in K-12 education.  Publications on a range of service learning topics are available.
National Service-Learning Clearinghouse
Materials for all grade levels, submit questions, and access documents about service learning.

National Service-Learning Partnership
Their mission is to make service learning a core element of every K-12 student’s education.  Members receive news from the service learning community, ideas for strengthening service opportunities in local areas, and access to relevant publications.
National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC)
NYLC provides service learning training and produces publications, videos, and other resources for youth and adults involved in service projects.
Service Learning: Iowa Department of Education
Service-learning supports school-based activities that get youth involved in their communities. Young people become involved in service as a means of not only helping others, but also of enriching their academic learning experience, fostering personal growth, and developing the skills needed to become productive citizens. Service-Learning goes beyond aiding those in need. It emphasizes the educational value of experience-based learning and thoughtful reflection on the service activity. Service-Learning allows students to apply personal experience to academic knowledge.
Youth Service America
Committed to increasing opportunities for young Americans to serve locally, nationally, or globally.  The organization sponsors National and Global Youth Service Day, which takes place each April, and hosts, as a site with informational and resources on service and volunteering.

Primary Sources for Grades 6-12

Primarily Primary! Using Technology to Support the Use of Primary Sources in the 6-12 Social Studies Classroom!

Pat Lehmann, School Improvement Facilitator -  Social Studies


Did you know that 30% of the Iowa Core Standards for History and Social Studies explicitly calls out the use of primary and secondary sources? How are you incorporating these sources into your classroom? During this session we will distinguish between primary and secondary sources, and use a web-based tool for analyzing a primary source. Links to primary sources and analysis tools will be shared.


Primary and Secondary Kahoot! Photo, map, song lyric, textbook, autobiography, newspaper



What is a primary source?

According to Yale University, “Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. 


What is a secondary source? 

A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event.


Essential/Compelling Question:

Analyzing photographs and prints

Goose Pickers


Essential/Compelling Question for Graham Bell:

Analyzing a manuscript or document

boston university letter

Bibliographic Information


Persistent search for primary sources in Keystone's Media Catalog 


National Archives Docs Teach --


Patricia Lehmann