How To Plan a Fun and Engaging Social Studies Inquiry


Social Studies in Ontario

Social studies is a complex subject. It includes subjects like geography, history, politics, economics, law, and humanities.

The Ontario social studies curriculum focuses on citizenship education. It teaches students to be a responsible, active citizen in the community and in the world.

In grades 1-6 the focus is on developing students’ understanding of themselves within their community and how they contribute to it. Students do this by studying the past and making connections with the present. They explore how they can contribute to their society and also how to make positive, meaningful change in their communities.

The focus shifts in grade 7 and 8 to Canadian history. Topics include the colonization of North America, and law and government, and important events in our history. Students also learn more about the historical inquiry process. In addition, they learn how to analyze past events and make judgements about these events.

When beginning a social studies inquiry, it is important to first narrow your scope. Then, decide where you want your starting point to be (geography, history, etc). Inquiry planning is always more successful if you plan with the end in mind.


Creating Provocations or “Carriers”

Once you have determined your topic and scope, you want to create some provocations or “carriers”.

Carriers are items or objects that hold value and provide opportunities for deep exploration.

Carriers can include items like:

  • photos or scrapbooks
  • letters or documents
  • objects and sentimental items
  • items found in nature
  • sensory exploration
  • a painting or work of art
  • an old poster or brochure

Have a look at some carriers and their connections in the web below, using history as its example:

As the map shows, each object or “carrier” can spark different learning paths with several outcomes. Students have the opportunity to steer their learning down a path that interests them.

While the map above shows just a few learning paths students can take, there are dozens of routes available to students depending on their interests and passions.

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