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Make Social Studies Come Alive

Check out these tips to help your child learn to love social studies.

By Tonya Breland, Consulting Educator

Social studies can be intriguing if presented with a story or it can be boring if it is presented simply as a collection of facts. Since almost everyone enjoys an engaging story, why not approach social studies as the great story about how our country came into existence? Telling this story can be the starting point for creating experiences, and fond memories of learning about history, culture, customs, maps and current events. Your positive attitude will make the subject more enjoyable for your child.

Here are some tips for making social studies come alive:


  • Research your own family and culture, taking note of specific customs and traditions.
  • Invite your child's friends to visit and share their family traditions and customs.
  • Compare your family's traditions to the traditions of other families in America.
  • Give your child opportunities to help create new family traditions he can cherish.
  • As a family, view historic videos and documentaries.
  • Spend time talking with older family members (grandparents or great-grandparents), listen to stories of their childhoods and compare them to your child's experience.
  • Take family field trips to historic museums, historic homes and buildings that are close by.
  • Take opportunities to explore historic sites in other cities.
  • When taking road trips, have your child help you map out the routes, pointing out the cities or states you'll pass along the way.
  • Watch the news together or read the newspaper together; discuss current events.
  • As much as possible, connect social studies to your child's life. Making it relevant helps him to have a better understanding of the world around him.

Tonya Breland

won the Milken Foundation National Educator Award and is currently an interim vice principal in New Jersey.

Tonya Breland is a Milken Foundation National Educator Award recipient in 2006, from Burlington, New Jersey. Tonya is a principal at Evergreen Ave. Elementary School in Woodbury, New Jersey. Prior to becoming an elementary principal, she was an interim vice principal and fourth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Fountain Woods Elementary in Burlington Township, New Jersey. Tonya holds a master's degree in administration.

Comments from readers

"Thank you for giving us ideas on how to make the learning process a little more interesting for my child."
"In this world of growing intolerance, teaching about our country's vast melting pot is a great idea. The world they will inherit will be one of a globalized market. It will be more important for them to know where they are, who they are amongst the varied cultures they will come into contact. It is a matter of history that most 'colonizing' societies took advantage of indigenous cultures, if we teach our children to appreciate diversity maybe they will not be apt to do it again. We already have so many children who could not find themselves on a map to save their lives, not to mention what are the cultures lide of surrounding nations. It's good for them not be egocentric. Maybe we can start erasing the negative typecasting in thatworld that Americans already have as such by beginning the appreciation of social studies. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. "
"'Our' country came into existence when we killed the Native Americans off with disease and war. Why don't we teach the kids more useful information for this time of globalization? How to get along and respect other's decisions and different kinds of people is education Americans of the future could really use. Teaching Manifest Destiny as a perfectly reasonable reason to kill people and bully other countries is something I don't want my children to learn. Things are going to change, and the United States isn't the center of the universe. Children should be taught to care about everyone on the planet."