4 Resources for Teaching Science and Social Studies

When I took my science and social studies methods courses in graduate school, both of my professors stressed the importance of finding creative ways to incorporate social studies and science into the elementary education curriculum. Given high-stakes testing in math, reading, and writing, these subjects are often the first to hit the cutting-room floor when schedules get thrown off.

Personally, I also feel like science and social studies lessons are also the most difficult to plan. Math and English language arts are covered by the Common Core State Standards, so there are a lot more resources available for math and English language arts. However, since most states have their own science and social studies standards, I’ve had trouble finding good lesson plan resources for teaching social studies and science.

Here are four science and social studies resources that I’ve found effective in the classroom thus far:

Picture Perfect Science books

I was first introduced to the Picture Perfect Science books by the professor of my graduate courses, and I’m planning to adapt a lesson from one of the books later this month. Published by the National Science Teachers Association, the books feature elementary school lessons that combine reading (through picture books) and inquiry-based science. Each lesson is aligned with the Common Core English Language Arts and Next Generation Science Standards, making them easy to pop in to any curriculum.

Visit the Picture Perfect Science website.

Engineering is Elementary

The Boston Museum of Science offers a fantastic science curriculum for grades 1–5. The 20-unit curriculum combines engineering with science. Each unit includes a teacher’s guide with detailed lesson plans, a materials list, and a storybook, which covers reading standards. The lessons are fun, hands on, well written, and easy to follow.

All of the units revolve around the science standards that you would teach in an elementary classroom, but with an engineering spin. In one unit, students study the water density and the ocean by designing and building their own submersible. In another, students design a hand pollinator to learn about plants and agricultural engineering.

Visit the Engineering is Elementary website.

Historical artifact kits

Many museums, libraries, and historical societies offer educators boxes filled with replicated artifacts designed to enhance your social study curriculum. Generally, kits are based on an area’s local history and can be bought or loaned out like a library book. For example, the North Carolina Museum of History lends History-in-a-Box Kits that are related to the state’s agricultural and Civil War history.

These types of kits can be really effective tools in the classroom because students get to examine and experience artifacts firsthand, rather than just seeing them in photographs or movies. Some of the kits I’ve seen have included replicated Revolutionary and Civil War uniforms, toys that children played with during colonial times, and tools that were used by Native Americans.

Visit the History-in-a-Box website.

Jean Fritz history books

My mentor teacher had her students read one of Jean Fritz’s books earlier in the year, and I was blown away by the author’s ability to make factual history approachable to a young audience. A lot of history books for kids are fictionalized or embellished, but Fritz is known for telling only the true story.

For example, in her biography of Christopher Columbus, she does not shy away from how Columbus treated the natives when he arrived in America. Depending on your grade level, the books can be read aloud, in small groups, or individually, and are a great resources for those who want to combine reading and writing with social studies.

Lisandra I. Flynn spent 2012 to 2014 working toward a master’s degree in elementary education while working full time as an editor. After seven years in publishing, she recently transitioned from corporate life to student teach fifth grade in an elementary school. Flynn shares her journey from the office to the classroom and offers insight and advice to those seeking their own career change.