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What are the best service learning activities that promote learning as well as community service?

Nancy Gallavan

I like organizing service learning activities that showcase powerful learning and the expanding horizons of social studies education. I start with topics and issues that young learners can easily recognize and make connections such as litter, recycling, street signs, beautification, book availability, etc. Then I expand to community agencies, individuals who would benefit from assistance, etc., and learning about adjacent neighborhoods, the city, state, nation, etc. I follow the theme of "Thinking Globally; Acting Locally."

What are the best activities for teaching about the need to protect the environment at the different elementary levels?

Su Hickenbottom

I would pick one activity and go into depth in it looking at the past, present and future. Do this as a class, then have the students, or groups of students pick an area for themselves (in the upper grades), and look at the past, present, and future and how they can make an impact on this problem.

How can I teach civic responsibility to my 5th graders?

Margit McGuire

One of my favorite approaches for teaching civic responsibility is through an approach called Storypath. Teachers routinely teach about the founding of the nation in fifth grade so with this approach, students imagine themselves as colonists and the civic actions they took to create a new nation. The Storypath approach uses the story form--setting, characters, and plot—to structure the learning experience. Key questions throughout the unit problematize the events, encourage substantive conversations and guide students' thinking about important understandings.

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Why is geography not given more attention in the elementary curriculum, and what is the best way to teach it?

Su Hickenbottom

No Child Left Behind has left a huge gap in our teaching of geography and other subjects in the social studies. New schools are not providing maps and globes, but relying on technology to fill the gap. It is not the same. Sometimes, students make connections looking at a map that they wouldn't make from a short presentation from the computer.

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Can you recommend some "Do's" and "Don'ts" for teaching about Native Americans?

Mark Finchum

Here are my recommended "Do's" and "Don'ts."


  1. Consider the language of your lectures and the resources to be used. Look for "loaded" words such as "frontier," "settler," and "explorer." Discuss with your students how those terms may sound to an American Indian.
  2. Look at the illustrations used in the resource materials. Reject them if they portray American Indians in stereotypical ways.
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Can you recommend activities for teaching about the women’s suffrage movement in elementary school?

Nancy Gallavan

Teaching and learning about the women’s suffrage movement is a favorite experience for me. My grandmother voted in the first election open to women. Then I voted in the first election open to 18-year-olds.

I recommend:

  • Creating time lines to show the progression of voting throughout U.S. history and geography.
  • Developing other graphic organizers to illustrate requirements for voting, finding primary sources through the Library of Congress:
  • Interviewing people with knowledge and experience
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What is the best literature for teaching elementary students about the Civil War

Carol Warren

Literature is an excellent way to help teach the events leading to and during the Civil War to elementary students. When selecting a piece of literature, always check for its historical accuracy and that it does not contain misconceptions, oversimplifications or stereotyping.

The following list is divided by subject according to the aspect of the war being introduced to the students.

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