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Social Studies and the Young Learner

The goal of Social Studies and the Young Learner is to capture and enthuse elementary teachers across the country by providing relevant and useful information about the teaching of social studies to elementary students.The teaching techniques presented in this peer-reviewed journal are designed to stimulate the reading, writing, and critical thinking skills vital to classroom success. SSYL is published quarterly: September/October; November/December; January/February; and March/April. Members who receive SSYL also get two issues of Social Education—the May/June issue (which includes the Notable Trade Books for Young People list) and the September issue.

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World History and Geography for Young Learners

Scott Waring

In our interdependent world, there are numerous ties between the local and the global, and between the present and the past. Questions and contradictions that affect us have often affected others in different times and places. The articles in this issue focus on geography and world history and outline ways in which PreK-6 educators can utilize maps, experiences, literature, local communities, play, and inquiry to meet both state and national standards, as well as NCSS themes such as 1 CULTURE; 2 TIME, CONTINUITY, AND CHANGE; 3 PEOPLE, PLACES, AND ENVIRONMENTS; and 9 GLOBAL CONNECTIONS.

In “‘Hey, I’ve Been There!’ Using the Familiar to Teach World Geography in a Kindergarten Classroom,” Elizabeth Kenyon, Carlee Coffey, and Janice Kroeger outline ways in which educators in the kindergarten classroom can connect the curriculum to students’ culture and family. The authors found that—by using students’ experiences and family backgrounds, as well as their knowledge of their local social and physical environment—teachers can foster understanding of both maps and world geography in young students.

Judy Britt’s “Operation Little Vittles: Teaching the Berlin Airlift with Twin Texts” is a descriptive piece on the utilization of a twin text project and how this approach is a useful reading practice for developing social studies content knowledge. She argues that, in addition to reading the books, students can learn about and use disciplinary literacy skills for history and geography, as well as being exposed to maps, a variety of primary sources, and Internet technology.

Ann Marie Gleeson and Lisa Andries D’Souza provide their thoughts in their piece “Expanding Local to Global through Esri Story Maps,” as well as the Pullout: “Handouts for Creating Story Maps.” They note that instead of separating local and global dimensions, teachers can work with children to integrate them, learning about the world through their local communities. The focus of the piece is on Community Story Maps, an inquiry-driven project in which students learn about local history through the lenses of history, civics, economics, and geography and compare their surroundings to geographically different places and regions.

“Cardboard Airplanes: Authentic Ways to Foster Curiosity about Geography in Early Childhood,” by Stephanie L. Strachan, Meghan K. Block, and Scott L. Roberts, is a article in which the authors demonstrate how early childhood educators can develop geographic knowledge beyond the local community through play and active inquiry-based learning. In this piece, the authors show how an overheard conversation (two students talking about experiences traveling via airplane) inspired an approach that allows students opportunities to learn about and create foundational geographic knowledge of the world around them through play. Students ask questions and find answers in informational texts and various technology-based sources.

In “Integrating Mapping and ELA Skills Using Giant Traveling Maps,” Lisa Brown Buchanan, Christina M. Tschida, and Seth N. Brown introduce the National Geographic Society’s Giant Traveling Map program and discuss how the use of maps in combination with children’s literature can expand geography instruction. They provide teachers with resources to allow their students opportunities to actively explore and kinetically learn geography skills, which can then be used to enhance students’ background knowledge while reading books.

Teresa Bergstrom, Krista Valentage, Kimberly Trotto, and Anna Glenn advocate field trips in “A Day at the Museum: Meaningful Student Experiences with Primary Sources.” They outline how teachers can utilize trips to local museums to connect museum discovery with curriculum and to invite students to put life skills into practice for achieving social studies goals and standards. Their ultimate goal is to increase curiosity and to promote the arts and a passion for lifelong learning, while teaching history through the use of primary sources. They clearly argue that, although a successful museum field trip takes a bit of logistical planning and pedagogical support, the connections and learning that occurs are well worth the effort.

Guidelines for Contributors to SSYL

The goal of Social Studies and the Young Learner is to a) capture and enthuse elementary teachers across the country; and b) provide relevant and useful information about the teaching of social studies to elementary students. The editor especially encourages submission of manuscripts authored by K-5 classroom teachers themselves, or co-authored by professors and classroom teachers.


E-mail your manuscript directly to the Editor (listed below). Expect an acknowledgement of receipt within a week. Manuscripts submitted for a particular theme issue are due four months prior to publication. Final decisions are usually made within one year.


The first page should contain the title, word count, and contact information for all authors: name, title, position, complete mailing address, e-mail, phone, and fax. Identify the lead and/or corresponding author. The authors' names should appear only on this page for purposes of blind peer review.

Include a statement that the manuscript has not been submitted or published elsewhere. The second page should begin with the title and start the main text. With regard to citation notes, follow The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993) as closely as possible (not APA style). See examples of notes in the journal.

Margins: 1 inch top and bottom and 1.25 inch sides
Font: 12-point, Times New Roman
Length: Double Space, 1000 - 3000 words

Images and Examples

Follow up your e-mailed submission by mailing photocopies of examples of student work and learning, if possible—writing, photos of projects, art, or other media. Submit tables, graphics, photos, etc. as separate files by e-mail, not embedded in the text. If the manuscript is accepted, we will request high-resolution image files or glossy prints. Please set your digital camera at high resolution. Authors must obtain parental permission allowing publication of photos of students, as well as permission for the reprint of copyrighted materials used in a lesson.

Peer Review

SSYL is peer reviewed. If a manuscript is considered for publication, the author must be willing to work with the editor on revisions. SSYL is published by the National Council for the Social Studies.


Authors of published manuscripts receive up to 50 complimentary copies of the journal in which the article appears, courtesy of NCSS. Authors are not paid for contributions.

Please feel free to contact Editor Scott Waring (University of Central Florida), at

Who May Submit an Article?

Anybody may submit an article to Social Studies and the Young Learner. The editors especially look for manuscripts co-authored by classroom teachers and professors, or authored by K-5 classroom teachers alone.

What are Good Topics?

Articles in Social Studies and the Young Learner show how social studies (history, geography, civics, economics, anthropology, etc.) is taught in the pre-K-6 classroom. The lead article often provides background on the theme for that issue. A children’s literature piece describes how to use quality books in the classroom. A pullout usually includes a lesson with handouts.

See the call for manuscripts tab to see themes of upcoming issues of SSYL (but you may also write on a topic that does not fit a theme).

How Will My Paper Be Judged?

This checklist shows the features that editors and reviewers will be watching for. Read your own paper against this checklist.

  1. I have described the basic setting (grade level, time required to teach each activity, materials and resources needed)
  2. The social studies content is strong (students learn history, civics, geography, economics, or anthropology, etc.) See the themes I-X in Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
  3. I have included examples of classroom experience (what students said, how they responded, and pedagogical pitfalls that arose and how to avoid them)
  4. I have included examples of young students’ work (writing, art, quotes, photos of students in action)
  5. Other teachers could use these ideas and methods (Can this lesson or activity be applied to other classrooms, in other states, with a low budget, and with a reasonable commitment of time and materials?)
  6. There is a clear assessment of student learning. (How is student learning measured at end of the lesson? Are discussion questions or test questions included?)
  7. I have linked the subject matter in my paper to state and national content standards and to the required curriculum of my school for this grade level.
  8. I have avoided using the passive voice.
    Right: The teacher corrects and grades the papers. Wrong: Papers are corrected and graded by the teacher.
  9. I follow the the Chicago style handbook for notes, and do not use Endnote or Reference Manager programs.
  10. My notes follow this style-
    BOOKS: Alfie Kohn, What to Look For in a Classroom (San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass, 1998), 45.
    ARTICLES: Bruce E. Larson, "The Makah: Exploring Public Issues During a Structured Classroom Discussion,"
    Social Studies and the Young Learner 10, no. 1 (September/October 1997): 10-13.
    WEBSITES: "Creating the United States," (Library of Congress),
  11. When citing online resources, I recommend specific, student-friendly websites, avoiding Wikipedia and Google.
  12. I kept my reading audience in mind. (Will classroom teachers, who are the primary audience of SSYL, eagerly read this from start to finish? Will they find it useful to their actual practice?)


Ask a colleague to read your paper and check it for grammar, organization, and writing style.

Who, When, and How?

Be sure to follow the basic advice found at the “Guide” tab to Social Studies and the Young Learner when you format text, type references, shoot photographs, write a cover letter, and submit your manuscript.

Other Questions?

Please feel free to contact Editor Scott Waring (University of Central Florida), at

The Editor of SSYL is Scott Waring (University of Central Florida). Contact him at

Editorial Board

Jan Alleman – Michigan State University
Ellen Ballock – Gordon College
Michelle Bauml – Texas Christian University
Elizabeth Bellows – Appalachian State University
Angel Bestwick – Kutztown University
Nancy Gallavan – University of Central Arkansas
Eric Groce – Appalachian State University
Mary Beth Henning – Northern Illinois University
Lynda Herrera – Marymount University
Liz Hinde – Metropolitan State University of Denver
Janie Hubbard – The University of Alabama
Roi Kawai – University of Wisconsin in La Crosse
Sarah Montgomery – University of Northern Iowa
Scott Morrison – Elon University
Kim O’Neil – National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
Laura Quaynor – Lewis University
Scott Roberts – Central Michigan University
Tracy Rock – University of North Carolina Charlotte
Ellen Santora – Independent Researcher and Consultant
Sarah Shear – Penn State University-Altoona
Jay Shuttleworth – Long Island University, Brooklyn
Emma Thacker – James Madison
Cheryl Torrez – University of New Mexico
Christina Tschida – East Carolina University

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