Integrating Social Science Content into the Curriculum

Instructor: Joanna Harris

Joanna has taught high school social studies both online and in a traditional classroom since 2009, and has a doctorate in Educational Leadership

This lesson provides information for teachers interested in integrating social science content into their curriculum. Any social studies teacher of students in primary or secondary education may find this information useful in creating lesson plans and activities.

Integrating Social Studies: Elementary

Young children see social studies from birth, but for teachers, understanding when to introduce social studies into their curriculum can depend on many different things. Teachers should take into consideration the age of their students, the school environment in which they teach, and the best approaches to creating lesson plans and assignments.

To make it easier to create lesson plans for young students that integrate social studies into the curriculum, the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has developed a scope and sequence for teachers to use in the primary grades.

  • The scope and sequence for kindergarten focuses on awareness of one's self in the social setting to give the students a point of reference about themselves as they move through the rest of primary school.
  • First grade focuses on the person in school and family life, so as the student understands themselves they can also understand where they fit inside of their family dynamic.
  • The scope and sequence for second grade focuses on the neighborhood so that the movement from understanding themselves and their family begins to include the greater fabric of the community.
  • Third grade focuses on how we all share the earth together as a community and completes the student's evolution from understanding themselves to understanding their connection to the rest of the world.

The NCSS has also broken down teaching social studies into ten themes that should be used together with the scope and sequence for each primary grade to create lesson plans and activities.

The ten themes for social studies content are as follows:

  • Culture
  • Change over time
  • Individual development
  • Individuals, groups, and organizations
  • Power and authority
  • Changes to society based on innovation and technology
  • Globalization movements
  • Movements of goods and services
  • Civic ideals and practices
  • People and places

Each theme gives teachers the opportunity to use many different content areas to discover what their students like, and what will appeal to them during instruction.


Using the scope and sequence for third grade, and the themes of culture, people and place, and global connections, teachers can use this lesson plan about the Nile River Valley civilizations:

  • Supplies needed: Construction paper, glue sticks, washable non-toxic markers (assorted colors), maps of Africa, maps of Egypt, child-safe scissors.
  • Objective: Students will make a diagram showing where Nile River Valley civilizations formed.

Students first paste a map of Africa on their construction paper, then glue a map of Egypt in its proper location. They can use a marker to draw the Nile River and use other colored markers to depict where civilizations were located. They might draw arrows to show how civilizations traded with each other.

Integrating Social Science: Secondary Level

In secondary education where middle school and high school-aged students are instructed in history and geography, there is a great way to integrate these two social sciences when creating lesson plans. One way for teachers to accomplish this integration is to place a historical idea into the National Council for the Social Studies' five themes of geography:

  • Location
  • Place
  • Human and environmental relationships
  • Human movement between places
  • Form and change of regions

To build an integrated lesson plan for history and geography using the five themes of geography, teachers can follow these three steps:

1. ''Instruction'': Teach students about a historical event by discussing questions related to the five themes and where the event took place.

2. ''Activity'': Carry out an activity that depicts the historical event in the context of geography.

3. ''Integrate'': Merge the themes of history and geography through an assignment.


Using the five themes of geography and the three steps to carry them out, you can create an integrated geography and history lesson on the Nile River Valley civilizations. This activity involves making a diagram and can last for a few days to give students a chance to fully develop their posters and to present their visuals to the class.

  • Supplies needed: Construction paper, glue sticks, washable non-toxic markers (assorted colors), maps of Egypt, child-safe scissors.
  • Objective: Students will explain how the Nile River Valley civilization formed and why this civilization formed around the Nile River. They will depict three ways that the Nile River affects life in Egypt.

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