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Private i History Detectives - evolution of History's Mysteries K-5 Curriculum

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four cartoon school children stand under the title Private i History Detectives

Big News! History's Mysteries has teamed up with iCivics! 

See the new home at

Access and Explore K-5 Lessons

Private i History Detectives is FREE thanks to Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources grants.

The kids loved this! They were very interested in the slideshow the entire time. They asked a lot of thoughtful questions and had lots of good discussions. I liked that we had the flexibility to make it last as long or as short as they could handle. - First Grade Teacher

Emerging America helped launch this ready-to-use program for classroom and remote instruction.

Award-winning educators Laurie Risler and Kelley Brown created this inquiry-based curriculum featuring primary sources from the Library of Congress and Massachusetts collections. 

""Laurie Risler and Kelley Brown, two middle-aged women wearing glasses and smiling, pose next to a large sign for iCivics Private i History Detectives""
Laurie Risler and Kelley Brown

What is in Private i History Detectives? 

Each Unit includes:

  • Three to four “mystery” themed lessons aligned to state standards and illuminating important and often untold stories.
  • Comprehensive slideshows focused on scaffolded primary and secondary source analysis.
  • Learning objectives, step-by-step teacher instructions, and embedded vocabulary practice.
  • Printable PDFs or digitized student handouts available online through FREE Kami integration.


Pilot-tested by seventy+ teachers, including in-person classroom teaching and teaching through remote instruction. It is a teacher-delivered, customizable set of resources. 

Development of units was and continues to be supported by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program.

A variety of professional development options are available.

The Private i/History’s Mysteries Team has trained hundreds of teachers in teaching K-5 historical inquiry workshops since the launch of the curriculum in March of 2020.  


Now taught in all 50 U.S. states!

Here is what teachers have to say about the units they piloted: 

Kindergarten Teachers on a unit about "What is the difference between then and now?"

"The kids were totally game to participate, engage, wonder and share their observations.  The slide sequence makes sense and allows time, multiple opportunities to make predictions, utilize information, and alter guesses after learning more." 

"We are having a lot of fun and I love doing live sessions with the kids when we have engaging materials like this to work with!"

1st Grade Teachers on unit about "How do communities make decisions?"

"Having slides related to school gave my students background knowledge.  They were able to understand who leaders are and what qualities a leader should possess.  What qualities make a good principal led my class into great discussion."  

"I thought History’s Mysteries was very engaging and assisted students with inquiry-based learning.  My student enjoyed discussing and wondering what the mystery object was."  

2nd Grade Teachers on unit about "Why do people move?" 

"I was just so happy to be part of a program that is so awesome and important in these challenging times!" 

 "It was accessible to every one of my students."

 "We loved learning about the refugee children.  They were so informative and relatable."

 3rd Grade Teachers on unit about: "Why do people celebrate on the 4th of July?"

"I loved the activity that asks about one thing that makes our community classroom a good place.  The answers were so heart-warming--especially now! We had answers about how safe we felt when we were together." 

"One thing that I thought was very valuable was the activity where the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence (modified) was introduced to students.  For many, if not most, of my students this was their first experience with it.  I love the fact that it was modified so any learning level could access it."

4th Grade Teachers on unit about "How did water shape work?"

"I love that these lessons take place right here close to where we live.  My students can picture the places I am talking about and the photos that are used in the slides.  That's super cool!"

"I liked the simplicity of the handouts.  Not too much there to be overwhelming--just enough.  Simple, clear directions.  The photographs of the clues were great for the students to have."

5th Grade Teachers on unit about "What is 'free speech'?"

"I love that students got to look at REAL court cases! And it was so easy to use!" 

"It was so fun to see each of my students have their 'aha moments' as we dug further into the mystery."

Upcoming Workshops

This course introduces exemplars of best practice pedagogy for English Learners in History and Social Studies classrooms. It demonstrates dual-language-learner-…
Emerging America and the National Council for the Social Studies present a webinar to strengthen high quality instruction of students with disabilities.  Mark…
National Council for the Social Studies Conference - December 1-3, 2023 - Nashville Mark your calendars! Info on NCSS Conference.  Join thousands of colleag…