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Using Activities that don't require technology in the Social Studies Classroom

Ron Peck H.S. Social Studies teacher from Medford, Oregon.

What are some of your favorite lessons and/or activities you like to use with your students that don't require the use of technology?

Please share some ideas with us. Thank you!

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curriculum and projects learning centers

Designing a Community Park PBL

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Hi Ron,
Thank you for posting your question, it is a good opportunity to share a fun project with the Social Studies Group...

Designing a Community Park PBL

(My wikispace has some photos and real city parks links)

1.Good Neighbors: Landscape Design and Community Building

This 10 minute video is a presentation of the National Park Service highlighting the Frederick Law Olmsted Historic Office and Community Park near Boston. It follows a class of 3rd graders visiting the office and park to study, design, and create models of their own community parks. It is an excellent resource for teachers to view, however the tone of the narration limits the classroom audience to early primary school children.

2.Community Park Plan Webquest (good for high school)

This is an excellent complete outline for implementing a class project based on teams of four students (with specific roles, tasks, and group cooperation), for each team to design and create a model community park. It includes specific online resources for each team to budget their proposed facilities with park equipment (playground area, etc.) and public amenities (benches, fountains, etc.), evaluation/assessment charts with checklists, and requirements for a class presentation by each team.

***Important Note For Teachers***
Because this Webquest Site is from 1999, several of the online links are outdated or discontinued. So it is Necessary for You to review all the links Before listing them for your Students, and Exclude those that are Dead Ends or Inappropriate.

3. Designing a City Park http://www.math.ccsu.edu/mitchell/math409tcmjourneydesigningacitypark.pdf

This is also an excellent complete outline for implementing a class project based on teamwork. It has seven specific charts with guidelines and checklists for the park plan, design, and class presentation. There is also excellent background information and curriculum resources.

This project has less rigorous requirements than the above webquest, but all three projects listed here are adaptable to all grade levels K – 12. And of course these projects can be shared with teachers in other groups as well…

“The sky is the daily bread of our eyes.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“And what is the grass? I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.” Walt Whitman


Allen Berg

sixth grade social studies teacher from South Carolina

Silk Road

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I introduce students to the Silk Road by having them set up their own bartering system. They list all the things they own personally and then get with a partner to decide the value of each item as compared with other items (mp3 player + skateboard = Ipod touch). It sounds a little corny, but the conflict involved in setting up their trade equivalents gives them a new appreciation for the logistical challenges along the Silk Road as well as appreciation for how much easier trade is with an established monetary system.

H.S. Social Studies teacher from Medford, Oregon.

Medieval Taxes

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Thanks for your response. I am going to try that soon. One that I use shows the tax structure and distribution of wealth in Medieval Feudal Europe. Give each student a cup and 10 pennies or make some fake money. Have them put the money in the cup. Select a king, several lords (I use 4 to 8 depending on class size) and the rest are serfs. Get them up out of their seats and explain that they just completed the harvest. The lords then take 8 of the pennies/money for payment. They keep 4 from each cup and give the rest to the king.

When everything is said and done, students can see how the king and lords get very rich while the peasants don't get much. A discussion then follows. A lot of possibilities with the discussion depending on the group.

Have fun with it.


sixth grade social studies teacher from South Carolina

Chuck E Cheese

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Love the Medieval idea! I did finally figure out a way to explain inflation by using a similar thought. When we discuss currency, I will often have students ask why the government doesn't just print more money. I explain that it's like Chuck E Cheese tickets...you can make the games print more tickets, but the guy behind the counter is just going to jack up the prices on the stuff you can buy with the tickets.

I was wondering if anyone had thought of a similar (simple) way to explain how the electoral system functionally works itself out. I thought of putting numbers under student desks to represent the number of electorates per locale. I thought it would be really cool to work it out so that it was like the Gore/Bush election with an electoral but not popular vote win. I'm mathematically challenged, so never did try to work it out in full. :0/

H.S. Social Studies teacher from Medford, Oregon.

Great Idea!

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I love your Chuck E. Cheese analogy. I think your idea with electors under the seats might work. You'll need more students for a vote. Maybe a school wide vote and then bring it to just your classroom and have your students represent the states or electors.

Here's a link to the National Archives page on the Electoral College. http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/index.html

Good Luck!


Graduate Faculty at Bank Street College of Education in New York City

Using the world around students as the prime material for curr.

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The question is an important one. In my recent book OUT OF THE CLASSROOM AND INTO THE WORLD I explore from the perspective of children and teachers of using the social and physical world around students as the generative material for an integrated curriculum. There are many classroom examples used to demonstrate the power of this form of social studies learning. See: www.classroom2world.com
Sal Vascellaro

10th grade Social Studies

These are all great ideas!

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These are all great ideas! Some websites I've recently found:

C-Span activities for inspiring classroom deliberations:


Facing History Facing Ourselves activities that help generate a student-centered classroom


Your site looks neat, Sal. I'm excited to check it out!

H.S. Social Studies teacher from Medford, Oregon.

Socratic Seminars are Great Too!

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I use Socratic Seminars as part of Flipping my classroom. They get primary source documents to read or research and analyze. Here's a great place to start: http://www.nwabr.org/education/pdfs/PRIMER/PrimerPieces/SocSem.pdf

You can use this in so many ways to spark discussion and deeper meaning. A great critical thinking activity.

I also use Colaborize Classroom for homework discussions of the same type. www.colaborizeclassroom.com

Have fun with those.

Performing Arts Consultant

Arts in Education activity

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Townhall Meeting:
One enactment idea I love is having a townhall meeting. For example, if you are studying the voyage of the Mayflower, each student would choose a "character," either historical or fictional, of someone who had made the voyage (if this is your first time doing this activity, you can include a list of characters for your students to choose from.) From there, they would identify who their character is (their personal biography - have a list of some basic questions for them to answer as a jumping off point,) what they want, and what is at stake for them (eg. is it in their best interest to go back to England or to try to make a home in the New World?) Once they figure that out individually (just a little research and a piece of paper to write their character's biography,) then get the kids together in a circle to debate the issue. It may take a little practice to get them started, but they'll have fun once they catch on! It forces the kids to think about not just the facts of the lesson, but the lives of the people who experienced them.

4th Grade Homeschool Teacher

Egyptian Wax Museum

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When I taught 6th grade, my students chose an Egyptian historic character to research and then they dressed up as the character and put on a Wax Museum for the younger elementary students. We used the cafeteria as our display room. My students were all posed around the cafeteria and when students walked up they would move and give a speech about their life. My students loved it and so did the younger kids :)

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