Welcome to the home of Understanding Our World: An Open-Source Literacy Focused Social Studies Curriculum. Here you will find the pilot version of our new inquiry-based elementary curriculum...


Starting in the early elementary grades, all children should receive regular instruction in the social studies, which includes history, civics, geography, and economics. However, there are real pressures on schools and teachers to increase the amount of instruction in other subject areas, which often comes at the expense of their social studies time.

This curriculum was built to help elementary teachers regularly enact powerful and authentic social studies in their classrooms that will also meet essential literacy goals (linking every lesson to the Common Core State Standards). In other words, it leverages the richness of social studies content to help students learn to read, write, and think critically while exploring the past and present world around them. Moreover, it aims to make every single lesson culturally relevant, connecting to the racial, ethnic, gender, class, language, and immigration experience of the increasingly diverse United States.


These lessons are meant to supplement the school or district social studies curriculum. They are free and open source. Teachers are encouraged to modify and adapt these lesson plans for the individual needs and diverse cultural backgrounds of their students. They are only a guide, or perhaps better a “starter kit” to implementing lessons with important disciplinary questions and social studies content. Moreover, these social studies lessons should be supported with rich English language arts (ELA) texts on related topics.

This curriculum is organized by grade level, with an organizing theme, and each grade is color coated for quick reference. Within each grade level, it is organized by lesson. At the beginning of each grade level, there is a roadmap for that shows the individual lesson topics. Additionally, each lesson plan follows the same lesson plan template (adapted from the Boston University Elementary Education Program) and always includes a thought-provoking inquiry question for the students to answer and primary/secondary sources to use as evidence. All lessons for the primary grades (1-2) are expected to be 30 minutes in length and the intermediate grades (3-5) are expected to be 45 minutes in length. However, depending on the pace of your students, lessons may need to span two or more 30- or 45-minute periods.


NOTE: This curriculum is currently under development. Below is the update schedule.

Version 1.2 was released on May 18, 2018.

Version 2.0 has a future release date of August 1, 2018.

Any feedback on this curriculum is appreciated. You can send feedback via e-mail to or by completing this anonymous feedback survey.

Previous versions of the curriculum are available here: Curriculum Archive


Grade 1: Our Communities: Local, State, Nation, World (Version 1.2; Release Date: 5/18/18)

PDF, Word


Grade 2: Strangers from Different Shores: Migration/Immigration (Version 1.2; Release Date: 5/18/18)

PDF, Word


Grade 3: Exploring Boston: From Past to Present (Version 1.2; Release Date: 5/18/18)

PDF, Word


Grade 4: Exploring the World (Version 1.2; Release Date: 5/18/18)

PDF, Word


Grade 5: Exploring the United States (Version 1.2; Release Date: 5/18/18)

PDF, Word



You can stream these videos by clicking on the links below. To avoid Internet connectivity issues, we strongly encourage you to download the videos and play them from a classroom computer (as the bandwith of this website can only handle a few computers streaming a video at once). To download videos: Macintosh users control click/right click and "save link as"; Windows users right click and "save target as."

All videos are available in MOV or MP4 format. You may need to download the latest QuickTime (for Mac) or Windows Media Player (for PC) to play these files on your computer.

Grade 1 Videos  |  Lesson1-4Video1.mp4  |  Lesson1-5Video1.mp4  |  Lesson1-6Video1.mp4  |  Lesson1-7Video1.mp4  |  Lesson1-8Video1.mp4  |  Lesson1-9Video1.mp4  |  Lesson1-12Video1.mp4  |  Lesson1-15Video1.mp4   

Grade 2 Videos  |  Lesson2-1Video1.mp4  |  Lesson2-8Video1.mp4  |  Lesson2-11Video1.mp4  |  Lesson2-14Video1.mp4  |  Lesson2-15Video1.mp4  |  Lesson2-16Video1.mp4  |  Lesson2-19Video1.mp4   

Grade 3 Videos  |  Lesson3-1Video1.mp4  |  Lesson3-4Video1.mp4  |  Lesson3-9Video1.mp4  |  Lesson3-12Video1.mp4  |  Lesson3-13Video1.mp4  |  Lesson3-14Video1.mp4  |  Lesson3-15Video1.mp4  |  Lesson3-17Video1.mp4  |  Lesson3-18Video1.mp4  |  Lesson3-20Video1.mp4

Grade 4 Videos  |  Lesson4-1Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-1Video2.mp4  |  Lesson4-2Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-3Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-5Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-8Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-10Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-11Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-12Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-13Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-14Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-16Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-19Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-20Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-20Video2.mp4  |  Lesson4-20Video3.mp4  |  Lesson4-21Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-22-26Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-27Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-29Video1.mp4  |  Lesson4-30Video1.mp4 

Grade 5 Videos  |  Lesson5-1Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-2Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-4Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-5Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-7Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-10Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-11Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-15Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-15Video2.mp4  |  Lesson5-17Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-19Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-23Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-24Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-27Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-28Video1.mp4  |  Lesson5-30Video1.mp4