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NERC Workshop : Teaching History’s Mysteries Elementary Inquiry

Published on Mon, 09/21/2020

Teaching History’s Mysteries - Elementary Inquiry

Presenters: Kelley Brown, Laurie Risler, Alison Noyes

Date/Time of Session: Monday, October 19, 2020, 3:00 p.m.


Live webinar

Register for the Zoom live web conference link  - Register by October 15, 2020


Targeted audience: Grades K-5 Educators, Curriculum Coordinators


Summary:Teaching History’s Mysteries - Elementary Inquiry

History’s Mysteries is a free ready-to-use K-5 curriculum created by educators Laurie Risler and Kelley Brown. Currently, History’s Mysteries consists of grade level unit(s), plus lessons that introduce inquiry.   Each unit is inquiry-based, consists of 4-5 lessons, and uses a "click and play" model which allows teachers to click through a slide show with recorded instructions that bring students through engaging historical mysteries.  

The goal of the curriculum is to bring high quality inquiry social studies curriculum to K-5 classrooms.  The curriculum is designed to be used in traditional and virtual settings and teachers can adapt all resources for their specific classroom needs.  Each unit begins with a student investigation of primary sources, often featuring primary sources from the Library of Congress. Additional units will become available. 

This workshop introduces the inquiry-based methodology and fully prepares K-5 teachers to use this interactive and engaging curriculum, which is fully aligned to the 2018 Massachusetts History and Social Studies Framework. Participants will engage in two of the History’s Mysteries as part of the workshop.  Check out the History’s Mysteries Elementary Inquiry website: 

This spring 70+ teachers piloted the curriculum in both traditional and virtual classrooms.  The History’s Mysteries Team has trained over 200 teachers since March.  You can see some of the feedback below.

Here is what a few teachers had to say about using History's Mysteries this spring: 


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."

Follow this link for more information about the History's Mysteries program at Emerging America.

New units under development are sponsored in part by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region Program, coordinated by Waynesburg University, through a grant to partner institution Westfield State University.



Alison Noyes

Manager, Emerging America
Alison Noyes is the manager of the Emerging America program at the Collaborative for Educational Services, where she leads the English Learner Collaborations project funded by a Library of Congress grant to the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies.