NPS NPS TwHP Zumbrota Covered Bridge, Fire Island Light House, Mesa Verde, Charleston Market

Infusing "Place" in a Social Studies Methods Course

Veteran's Affairs Medical Center, South Dakota

Although social studies methods courses vary, below is a "sample" sequence of class sessions for an imaginary social studies methods course using historic places. This course outline illustrates some of the opportunities to capitalize on "place" as a way to advance the goals of pre-service social studies teacher education. The sample comprises 15 three-hour class sessions, for a total of 45 contact hours.

For a more detailed discussion incorporating historic places into methods courses, see Teaching with Historic Places: The Place of "Place" in the History/Social Studies Methods Course.

Veteran's Affairs Medical Center, South Dakota,
Courtesy of James Rosenthall,
Historic American Buildings Survey Photographer



General Topic

Use of Place

Session One
What is/are Social Studies? Definitions, Purposes, and Scope

Maintaining and transmitting a cultural heritage through preservation and study of historic places

Session Two
Content core: History and the Social Sciences
National Standards

Historic places referenced in national and state standards across the disciplines and social studies themes.


Session Three
Methods of Teaching Social Studies Concepts and Skills

Concrete concepts that have specific physical referents/exemplars in the built environment can be used (such as “temple,” “school,” “park”).  

Session Four
History and Historical Inquiry: Central Concepts and Skills

Places as 3-dimensional primary documents. Places foster empathetic understanding of and connections to the past.  

Session Five
Historical Field Study: Applying Historical Inquiry to the Local Community

Provides experience in using place as document, and acquaints methods students with local historical resources.  

Session Six
Civics/Government: Central Concepts and Skills

How civic values and institutions are reflected in the physical spaces in which civic deliberation and governance are conducted.  

Session Seven
Public Policy and Social Justice: Applied Civics/Government

Historic preservation as local public policy, community engagement. Historic places that were the settings for social justice movements.  

Session Eight
Geography: Central Concepts and Skills

Historic places as case studies in which the key concepts and six “essential elements” of geography interact.6  

Session Nine
Why Place Matters: Applied Geography

A selected historic place can be used as a case study for the interplay of geographic themes and elements.

Session Ten
Economics: Central Concepts and Skills

Places as cases studies of work life, industrial change, and commerce.

Session Eleven
Personal and National Decision Making: Applied Economics

Places as reflections of changing technology and the vagaries of the free market. The rise and fall of industries as revealed in historic places.

Session Twelve
Life is Complex: Social Studies as Interdisciplinary Study
Opportunity to use a specific historic place to demonstrate how evidence from history and the social sciences (and the humanities) are brought together to create a more complete picture of a time, a place, a person, or a group.

Session Thirteen
Globalism and Multiculturalism

Historic places of significance to diverse cultures can come into play.

Session Fourteen
Information Technology and Social Studies Education

Using technology to research historic places.

Session Fifteen
Assessment in Social Studies Education

A variety of assessment techniques applied to the study of historic places.

Prepared by Charles S. White, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, School of Education
Boston University
Boston, MA


6 The six "essential elements" include: "World in Spatial Terms," "Places and Regions," "Physical Systems," "Human Systems," Environment and Society," and "Uses of Geography."

NPS NPS TwHP Zumbrota Covered Bridge, Fire Island Light House, Mesa Verde, Charleston Market