Category Archives: Social Studies Enrichment

Social Studies Spark #44: The Breathtaking Courage of Harriet Tubman

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February is Black History Month. I can think of almost no one more heroic in Black history than Harriet Tubman.  The more you discover about Tubman, the more you realize she had to be a superhero to pull off exploits it would be an understatement to say were daring.

This tiny woman who could neither read nor write now has not one, but two national parks dedicated to her story, plus the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center on the eastern shore of Maryland, where she was born Araminta Ross – Minty for short – around 1822.

Her parents were enslaved on different plantations, hours apart. She and her mother were owned by Edward Brodess, who made $60 a year renting her out, starting when she was six.

In 1849, she escaped from a place called Poplar Neck, in Caroline County, Maryland, when word reached her that she was going to be sold South.

Look at a map, and imagine Harriet, in her 20s, running away, alone, on foot. She managed, with the help of the Underground Railroad, to make it a hundred miles to the Pennsylvania border, and freedom.

But then Tubman went back – 13 times over 10 years – leading more than 70 people to freedom.

Click on the link below to watch this TEDED on the life of Harriet Tubman.

Social Studies Spark #43: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, January 18th of 2021, is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Celebrated on the third Monday in January, Martin Luther King Day is a national holiday that honors the United States’ most famous civil-rights activist.

King was an influential civil rights leader – best known for his work on racial equality and ending racial segregation in the United States. His life and achievements are remembered and celebrated on this day.

Dr. King’s peaceful struggle against racial discrimination came to national attention in 1955, when he led a boycott protesting laws that required blacks and whites to sit in separate sections on buses. In 1956 the Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional.

In 1963, King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech before a quarter million people during the peaceful March on Washington, D.C. The next year he became the youngest man, at 35, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He continued fighting for civil rights and against poverty until an assassin’s bullet ended his life on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Lorraine Motel, in Memphis, Tennessee, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, is now the National Civil Rights Museum.

Click on the video below to take a virtual tour of this museum. In the comments please state how you can honor Dr. King on this day. What small act of kindness can you share?




Social Studies Spark #42: Top 7 Famous Firsts in World History

Click on the video above to learn about 7 famous firsts in world history.

Each famous first is briefly highlighted – not much information is given. The idea is to spark an interest in you to know and learn more.

Which of the 7 events do you want to learn more about?

Do your research and share what you learned in a creative way – feel free to utilize iMovie, Keynote, Google Slides, etc.

Share with your EY Coordinator when you’re finished!


Social Studies Spark #41 – Forever Ago Podcasts

Forever Ago® is a history show for the whole family! Every episode explores the origin of just one thing — like sandwiches, video games, clocks and more — while teaching listeners to think critically about history.

Step 1 – Watch this brief video about the Forever Ago podcasts.

Step 2 – Choose 1 episode from the list below.

Step 3 – Record a Flipgrid to tell others what you learned! Use the Flipgrid Review Planner to organize your thoughts before recording. Visit the Flipgrid below to submit your review!


Social Studies Spark #40: Can You Read Shang?

The Shang Dynasty is the earliest ruling dynasty of China to be established in recorded history, though other dynasties predated it. The Shang ruled from 1600 to 1046 B.C.. They were known for their advances in math, astronomy, artwork and military technology.

People of the Shang Dynasty are believed to have used calendars and developed knowledge of astronomy and math, thanks to inscriptions on tortoise shells that have been unearthed by archaeologists. The Shang calendar was at first lunar-based, but a solar-based one was developed by a man named Wan-Nien, who established a 365-day year through his observations and pinpointed the two solstices. Shang Dynasty artisans created sophisticated bronze works, ceramics and trinkets made from jade.

By 1200 B.C., Shang armies were equipped with horse-drawn chariots. Before that, there is evidence of bronze-tipped spears, halberds (pointed axes) and bows.

The Shang Dynasty came to an end around 1046 B.C. The final king in the Shang lineage, King Di Xin, was considered a cruel leader, leading to calls for the end of his rule. The Zhou army, led by King Wu, marched on the capitol city. Di Xin armed nearly 200,000 slaves to supplement the defending army, but they defected to the Zhou forces. In what is known as the Battle of Muye, many Shang soldiers refused to fight the Zhou, some even joining the other side. Di Xin died when he set fire to his palace. The incoming Zhou dynasty would rule for 800 years, though the Shang Dynasty had left an indelible mark on the timeline of Chinese history.

The Shang were the first Chinese people to invent writing. The Shang people etched characters – pictures – onto bones. Shang writing is known as ‘oracle bone script’. Other ancient scripts, such as Egypt’s hieroglyphics, fell out of use, but oracle bone script developed into the modern characters which Chinese people still use today.


Go to this link to test your ability to decipher the Shang language. Once you’ve completed the quiz, make your own drawing of some Shang and modern Chinese writing. Take a pic of your writing and send it to your EY Coordinator!

Social Studies Mini-Spark #39: The Presidential Election Process

How does anyone become President of the United States?

An election for president of the United States happens every four years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The next presidential election will be November 3, 2020.

Watch this video to see the process explained from beginning to end:

The Electoral College is a part of the process. But, what is the Electoral College?

In other U.S. elections, candidates are elected directly by popular vote. But the president and vice president are not elected directly by citizens. Instead, they’re chosen by “electors” through a process called the Electoral College.

The process of using electors comes from the Constitution. It was a compromise between a popular vote by citizens and a vote in Congress.

How many electors are there? How are they distributed among the States?

The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Your State has the same number of electors as it does Members in its Congressional delegation: one for each Member in the House of Representatives plus two Senators.

The District of Columbia is allocated 3 electors and treated like a State for purposes of the Electoral College under the 23rd Amendment of the Constitution. For this reason, in the following discussion, the word “State” also refers to the District of Columbia and “Governor” to the Mayor of the District of Columbia.

Map of Electoral Votes:

Would you want to be the President of the United States? Why or why not?

Answer in the comments section below.



Social Studies Mini Spark #38: A Brief History of Plastics

Plastic is not just used for milk jugs and bottles of soda…it’s EVERYWHERE! Watch the video below about the history of plastic and then do some further research on something specific mentioned in the video.
Topics to study further include the timeline of plastic production, the use of plastics in WWII,  the environmental impact of plastics, or a topic of your choice related to plastics.  If you’re interested in more of the environmental impact of plastics and other litter, check out Jeff Kirschner’s TED Talk below.

Social Studies Mini-Spark #37: Constitution Day!


Constitution Day, also known as Citizenship Day, is observed every year on September 17th to commemorate the signing of the US Constitution. The constitution was created more than 200 years ago in 1787,  and contains the highest rules and laws for the United States. Do you know how many people signed the US Constitution? See if you can find out and add the number in the comments below!

Go here to learn more about the US Constitution!

Watch this awesome Schoolhouse Rock video about the Constitution to celebrate Constitution Day!

Social Studies Mini-Spark #36: Alexander Hamilton – Washington’s Right-Hand Man

If you watched “Hamilton” on Disney+, or are lucky enough to have seen it in-person, you know that Alexander Hamilton was an important founding father who probably doesn’t get enough credit for his role in our history.

Go to this link and watch 2 short videos to learn more about how Hamilton and George Washington’s relationship became key  to the American victory in the Revolutionary War. Then, in the comments section, answer the following question:

How did Alexander Hamilton and George Washington benefit each other in their relationship during the Revolutionary War?

Social Studies Mini-Spark #35: The History of Pandemics

The word “Pandemic” is a pretty scary word. It almost seems like we’re going through something that no one else ever has before.

But, that isn’t true. Pandemics have existed throughout history.

A group of mask-wearing citizens, Locust Avenue, California, during the flu pandemic of 1918. Photograph: Raymond Coyne/Courtesy of Lucretia Little History Room, Mill Valley Public Library. © The Annual Dipsea Race.

To learn about the history of pandemics, read the Time For Kids article linked below:

Then, in the comments below, write the one thing you feel has changed the most for you during this particular Covid-19 pandemic.