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Social Studies

All Students. Our Students.
Vision: The Joseph Sears School is committed to achieving the four tenets of our Portrait of a Sears Graduate for all students: Fearless Learner, Creative Thinker, Compassionate Citizen, and Courageous Advocate.

Academic Achievement Mission: Using an integrated system of teaching and learning, develop experiences rooted in best practices that foster the growth of all students to achieve the Portrait of a Sears Graduate.



Our curriculum philosophy for K-8 Social Studies embraces active citizenship, critical thinking, diversity, and global awareness. It promotes inquiry-based learning, cultural competence, and historical perspective. By providing a strong foundation of knowledge and integrating civic literacy and authentic learning experiences, our curriculum philosophy aims to empower students to become responsible, informed, and engaged citizens in an ever-changing and interconnected world.



The Joseph Sears School is a JK-8 Public School and is accountable for developing student mastery of the Illinois Learning Standards. 


The Illinois Social Science Standards are designed to ensure that students across Illinois focus on a common set of standards that promote the development of the knowledge and skills necessary for success in college, career, and civic life in the 21st century. The vision supporting this design is to produce Illinois graduates who are civically engaged, socially responsible, culturally aware, and financially literate.


1. State of Illinois Social Studies Standards

2State of Illinois Instructional Mandates - Mandated by School Code

3Priority & Supporting Standards

Program Description

The overarching goal of our Social Studies program is to develop inquiry skills. The inquiry standards include the following:

Recognize Perspectives and Articulate Identities

  • Recognize one’s own perspectives in relation to the perspectives of others
  • Articulate the construction and meaning of individual and collective identities
  • Articulate unity and variation across human societies
  • Evaluate the Role of Power and Systems
  • Analyze power, inequality, and the impact of systems on reinforcing power and inequality
  • Analyze social systems, social structures, and social institutions, and their impact on social change

Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries

  • Constructing Essential Questions
  • Constructing Supporting Questions
  • Determining Helpful Sources

Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence

  • Gathering and Evaluating Sources
  • Developing Claims and Using Evidence

Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action

  • Communicating Conclusions
  • Critiquing Conclusions
  • Taking Informed Action

Students will master Priority Standards and inquiry skills through a variety of topics using grade-level themes:

  • Kindergarten: My Social World
  • First Grade: Living, Learning, and Working Together
  • Second Grade: Families, Neighborhoods, and Communities
  • Third Grade: Communities Near and Far
  • Fourth Grade: Our State, Our Nation
  • Fifth Grade: Our Nation, Our World
  • Sixth Grade:  Beginnings:  Human Culture and Civilization
  • Seventh Grade:  Globalization and Interconnection
  • Eighth Grade:  Growth of Our Nation

Through each unit of study or inquiry, students will ask questions, understand relevant disciplinary knowledge and concepts, evaluate using evidence, and communicate and take action. We use four core disciplinary concepts to emphasize how each discipline provides foundational knowledge and skills essential to inquiry and action. 


  • Civic and Political Institutions
  • Participation and Deliberation: Applying Civic Virtues and Democratic Principles
  • Processes, Rules, and Laws


  • Geographic Representations: Spatial Views of the World
  • Human-Environment Interaction: Place, Regions, and Culture
  • Human Population: Spatial Patterns and Movements
  • Global Interconnections: Changing Spatial Patterns 

Economics and Financial Literacy 

  • Economic Decision Making
  • Exchange and Markets
  • The National and Global Economy History

Change, Continuity, and Context

  • Perspectives
  • Historical Sources and Evidence
  • Causation and Argumentation

Primary Resources


  1. InquirED
  2. InquirED Scope & Sequence
  3. K-2 Standards Correlation
  4. 3-5 Standards Correlation
  5. InquirED alignment to Mandated Units of Study


  1. Teacher’s Curriculum Institute (TCI):  History Alive! The Ancient World
  2. Various Sources:  primary sources, DBQ Project, Checkology digital curriculum,  Before Columbus by Charles Mann, Sugar Changed the World by Marina Budhos and Marc Aronson
  3. Pearson (Savvas) United States History Textbook