3 Tips on Connecting Social Studies and STEM

By Meghan Raftery


Just because the “s” in STEM does not stand for “social studies” does not mean that social studies does not have a place. Economic, geographic, and civic knowledge are crucial components to good citizenship and deserve an equal place in terms of emphasis in curriculum, as early as preschool.


The “doing” of social studies is the most important part. Students need to be able to analyze information and establish arguments supported by evidence across all the domains of social studies.


Here are 3 tips for linking social studies and STEM in your classroom:


Focus on social studies disciplines other than history

For example, in our school we look for organizations or problems at the intersection between geography and earth science. I try to help kids respectfully consider the engineering feats of the past in context with the resources available at the time. Students often think people long ago were unintelligent because they did not have the knowledge we have now. Asking them to imagine how simple machines may have been used to build the Roman aqueducts really open their eyes to how incredible engineering of the past really was!


Implement career focused lessons to add context

Social studies without context does not make much sense for students. They need to understand the relevance of what they are learning in terms of the priorities of the modern world. Career-focused lessons show students a side of social studies they may not otherwise see if they are only exposed to textbook and worksheet social studies instruction.


Use project-based learning to deepen understanding

Using project-based learning based on the work of actual STEM careers opens students’ and teachers’ eyes to real-world context for social studies. Using an online resource like Defined STEM helps teachers and students see how social studies is relevant to those in STEM careers. One of our favorite Defined STEM performance tasks is called “Shipwreck.” Students can see the intersection of STEM and history when they consider the technology needed to make discoveries about the past that were previously inaccessible.


What more informed and enlightened citizens we would have if social studies was treated as important as learning to add and subtract decimals!


Meghan Raftery is a curriculum consultant with special interests in authentic learning, literacy and content integration, and student engagement.  She can be reached at rafterymeghan@gmail.com



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