Social Studies Web-Quests


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 Student directed and centered curriculum delivery is a very important part of today learning focus. In addition, the content design should offer mind stimulating challenges which are level and age appropriate as well as active in engagement and productive. The provision of such a curriculum is made possible via different ways including incorporation of technology, teamwork and graphic organizers-just to mention but a few.

The incorporation of these tools stimulates the process of learning and student engagement therefore; improving the interactive nature of a lesson and helps in reinforcing learning. This paper presents designed web-quests meant to improve delivery in social studies teaching at the 5th grade level along the strands of American history, world history, civics and government, geography and economics. The web-quests are designed according to the Arizona Department of Educations Social Studies Standards.

Strand One-American History:

Introduction: Concept 10-Contemporary U.S.A.

 The nations historical past and current happenings help in shaping a nations destiny and current state. The U.S is constantly encountering different events and happenings that shape its social, economic, political and natural landscapes. These events not only determine state of the country locally, but they also affect international relationships and how America engages with the global community. This web-quest is designed to help students review current happenings in relation to the past and present state of the future.


 In order to study current events students will be offered the following activities: As a pre-cursor to the main activity of this lesson, use a search engine such as Google to research how the September 11th attacks have transformed the security landscape of America as well as any security related legislation’s. Find out how many passed legislation’s have been a result of the September 11th aftermath. (This is a clear example of how an event may transform the various aspects of a nation such as politics, legislation and even the economy).

In the main activity, gather recent newspapers, magazines, maps and also make the use of other sources such as television news, books and the Internet to find out any current happenings that are likely to transform the future of the American nation. Additionally, find out any new legislation that may be currently under debate by the legislature and try to list the legislation’s and any effects that they may have on the nation if they are passed.

Process: Students will be grouped into groups of five students in each group and each group will be required to come up with a unique current happening or a bill under debate that may transform the future of the nation after the analysis of the September 11th event and its effects in present time. Groups may consult to avoid listing the same events of bills. After a comprehensive research the groups will design graphic organizers that will show the events and bills as well as the anticipated effect. The graphic organizers can be outlined as shown below.

Events Effects on the future and present. Bills under debate: Effects on the future and present.

Evaluation and rationale: The students will be awarded marks for proper identification of significant events or bills under debate as well as for the clear outline of the possible effects that these bills or events may have on the future and present. Use of comparisons from past, related events and bills will be awarded an extra mark. The rationale here is to help students connect historical events and their effects or influence to the American society. This helps students learn that the nations is shaped by historical happenings.

Conclusion: The connection of events to the present and future occurrences helps students appreciate the significance of historical events and happenings in the nation and they are well able to predict the implications of some occurrences on the nation.

Strand Two: World History:

Introduction: Concept One-Research Skills for History.

Research in history provides a tool by which students can be able to look into questions and topics in an extensive and detailed manner that allows them derive meaning and sense out of the observed elements. The use of both secondary and primary sources helps students learn how to dig for information and integrate it to come up with solidified information which can be substantiated through their research. Chronological order and understanding is essential in this analysis because it helps form a picture of the interrelatedness within various events.

Task: Using online search engines look up Charles Darwins work and study his postulations as well as any archeological information that may support his theories. Thereafter, use the gathered information debate amongst your group members whether Charles work and theories still hold water today. After this initial activity write up a list of archeological discoveries that may have occurred anywhere around the world and describe how discoveries in archeology present information about the past.

Process: Find and read Darwins works and thereafter form groups of five and debate on why and how Darwins postulations may be right or wrong. After that identify the archeological discoveries that support Darwins work as well as any other discoveries that bear significance towards the development of knowledge about the past.

Evaluation and rationale: Students will be awarded marks depending on how well they are able to argue out on how archeological artifacts and discoveries can help historical researchers learn about the past. The identification of examples of archeological discoveries and their significance and contribution to the understanding of the past will also account for part of the marks. The debate part on Darwin is supposed to be a pre-cursor to the creation of a mental picture of how the past differences may be compared with the present using archeological discoveries from the past.

Conclusion: Students should be able to understand the significance of how the past can be studied through the use of archeological information, as well as know the various methods used to study the artifacts such as carbon dating which is essential to determining time. Additionally, they should also learn about archeological discoveries of significance that have already occurred.

Strand three: Civics and Government.

Introduction-Concept Four: Rights and roles of a citizen:

All American citizens are entitled to various rights and they also have roles that they are obliged to play as citizens of the nation. These rights are founded in the countrys history and constitution. A democratic government is described as government of the people by the people for the people, and therefore; it is essential for the people of that constitute the government to integrate their life in to the governments operation by actively shaping the government activities such as policy formulation.

Task: In groups of five students identify and document issues that you would like your state representative (senator) to change. After identifying the issues make up a clear plan on how you can reach the senator with your propositions. During this process try to document challenges that you may encounter when trying to reach your senator. Also state any positive outcomes that may result from the decisions made if the government representative was to act on your propositions without declining. This is an example of an active participation in government.

There are also other means that citizens could use to actively participate in government democratic processes such as choosing of leaders and making of legislations. These include voting and petitioning of government officials on various issues. List a number of other means that citizens can use in taking part in government activities such as decision-making. Also state why you think such participation is essential for both the citizens and the government.

Process: Students will be issued with a worksheet on which to outline the issues of concern which require attention from the government. After stating the issues the students will make a plan on how to have their issues aired to the state government representative. Whilst doing this they should anticipate challenges to this process as well as document the challenges in their plan and how they can overcome them.

After this brainstorming session students should have gotten a hint on what is involved in engaging in government activities or engaging the government. Thereafter, they should state the importance of other forms of citizens engagement in government processes such as election and legislation.

Evaluation and rationale: The students will be assessed on how well they are able to identify the importance of participating in government processes and activities. Marks will be awarded depending on how well they are able to identify the appropriate reasons and argue out their points correctly. The rationale of the brainstorming exercise is to help students understand how complex it may be for citizens to reach their governments with ideas as well as challenge their thinking into how they should actively enhance their participation in government activities.


 The lesson should sharpen the students understanding on the importance of active government participation and engagement through various processes such as voting and referendums.

Strand Four: Geography.

Introduction-Concept Five-Environment and society

Environmental and human interactions are dependent on one another. Humans depend on the environment for their needs, and they also adapt to it and modify it depending on their needs. However, at times this relation is not smooth, because at times wrong interactions may lead to negative implications on the environment and also the environments extreme changes and events may affect human life negatively. The well being of humans depends on the environment status.


Students should identify various natural disasters that have occurred in the nation within the past decade and state their effects on the people affected. These may include natural happenings such as hurricane Katrina. Using online resources and search engines students should identify other happenings in other parts of the world such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

After identifying these events students should identify and describe impacts that these events may cause in the life of any affected people. The second task should involve the identification of how man can also negatively impact the environment through activities such as wanton littering, and the potential harm it has on the environment.

Process: Students shall use online resources and other secondary sources such as magazines and newspapers to identify various past natural incidences that have negatively impacted on peoples life as well as their effects. Additionally, they will state various ways in which man can negatively impact his environment. This should be followed by a conclusion on how negative effects from both nature and man can be alleviated or combated.

Evaluation and rationale:

Students will be assessed on how well they are able to identify cases of natural disasters as well as environmental disasters that are caused by man. Awarding of marks will depend on how well they show the interrelation and cause and effect pattern between the environment and man. The rationale of the lesson is to show students how man and nature are integrated into a single unit.


At the end of this lesson students should be able to identify the interaction between man and the environment and how the involved dynamics affect the outcomes of both negative and positive interactions.

Strand five: Economics.

Introduction-Concept two-Microeconomics

The study of microeconomics involves the examination of benefits and costs of economic choices which relate to markets, industries, individuals and government. Micro-economy should involve how individuals spend and generate their income in relation to the selling and purchase of services and products.


Every student should state the kind of profession that their parents or guardians engage in, as well as where they work and the posts/office that they hold as well as their specific employers. After this exercise students should group themselves in to groups of ten students. Each group should then compile a list of the professions held by their parents and/or guardians. This list should also have a list of companies that they work for. The students will thereafter undertake a group activity where they will categorize the companies into either private, public or government bodies.

The students should also list the kind of services that their parents and guardians offer to the companies, as well as a list of the benefits they get-both financial and non-financial benefits. After this activity different groups should share their lists and finally write short essay on how people sell their labor services to different organizations for income.

Process: Students will be handed with worksheets on which they will enter their parents occupation and place of work as well as post. Thereafter; these students will go into groups of ten and compile their individual lists which will be later shared to the class that will use them in the writing of a short essay on how people sell their labor services to different organizations for income.

Evaluation and rationale:

Students will be evaluated on how well they are able to categorize companies and identify various professions and the manner in which people sell their labor to get income.


The lesson should make students understand how people contribute to the building of a nation through offering their services. In the process they also should be able to understand how people make their daily income.

Reflection Essay

Student directed and centered curriculum delivery is a very important part of today’s learning focus. In addition, the content design should offer mind stimulating challenges which are level and age appropriate as well as active in engagement and productive. The provision of such a curriculum is made possible via different ways including incorporation of technology, teamwork and graphic organizers-just to mention but a few. The incorporation of these tools stimulates the process of learning and student engagement therefore; improving the interactive nature of a lesson and helps in reinforcing learning.

This paper presents designed web-quests meant to improve delivery in social studies teaching at the 5th grade level along the strands of American history, world history, civics and government, geography and economics. The web-quests are designed according to the Arizona Department of Educations Social Studies Standards. These standards are essential to formulation of any lesson plan, web-quest or curriculum delivery (Huppenthal, 2011).

The design of the web-quest adheres to the best practices of teaching social studies by incorporating various features that are very engaging and interactive (WebQuest.Org, 2007). Firstly, the designed web-quest offers students a chance to be engaged in cooperative learning through classroom groups and independent inquiry. The fostering of this culture allows students to develop lifelong habits and skills required in initiating the learning process at any academic level.

Building of independent inquiry skills and cooperative learning is one among the best practices recommended in teaching social ethics, and this is catered for in the web-quests through the use of several grouping exercises and inclusion of undertakings that need to be done in cooperation with other students. Working in groups helps the students to learn how to conduct independent inquiries and work with other students. The students also get a chance to interact and communicate with their fellow students and thus enhance their interpersonal skills from a practical aspect.

The web-quests also incorporate discussions, reading, writing, debating and the making of observations. The web-quests include essay writing activities such as in day five and other interactive learning activities like debates and group discussions. These practices in curriculum delivery reduce note taking and limits lectures thus allowing the students to learn in a more interactive and interesting manner that reinforces the learning experience and memory.

Students learn better and are able to remember taught facts when they get a variety of experiences presented by various people under an interactive environment where they are able to be actively engaged in seeking a solution to a problem rather than when a teacher simply takes the mandate to dictate notes and lecture on a subject. Culturing the habit of learning through extensive reading and inquiry creates a platform upon which students can be able develop their future learning through the search for information. Debating and discussions also develop their social and communication skills in addition to building their academic knowledge. This is in line with the goal of shaping all rounded students.

The approach used on the web-quests tries to build on the already existent body of knowledge possessed by the students, and in so doing they help them integrate their new learning into already acquired knowledge to establish continuity of knowledge development. This building of already acquired prior knowledge helps them build on their wealth knowledge instead of making assumptions that they do not know much about the subject.

This process is carried out within the web-quests through prior assessments of the students knowledge as well as making connections between the content to be taught and the current ongoing life events in the students community, state and locality. This step is essential in exercising the best practices when teaching social studies, because it allows students to relate their current studies to real life events and future potential applications of knowledge. It also helps students to identify various elements related to the subject within the community.

The web-quests also incorporate various investigative activities which allow students to gain experience into how to make regular in-depth research exercises. Priority is granted to areas of concern and students are granted a chance to complete any additional work on their own by looking further into miscellaneous related material. The evaluation process applied to most of the web-quests reflects the importance of assessing the students ability to make independent thought decisions. The richness of thought is evaluated as well as the ability to be able to identify real life examples and defend points raised through the use of substantiating evidence gathered through research.

The ability of a student to raise an independent idea and defend it in a well outlined manner with sufficient support is an essential part in the making of social studies, because it shows how well a student has grasped a taught concept or how well s/he may have understood a certain topic. Instead of rewarding students for memorizing de-contextualized facts the scores are awarded according to how well the students are able to think and prepare their thought processes to sustain their lifelong responsibility of being good citizens.

The inclusion of the use of technology and other aids such as graphic organizers helps students to organize their thoughts in well ordered manner and thus they are able to express themselves well. The graphic organizers help them to relate concepts well and create new ideas as well as present their work in an orderly manner which can be easily understood by many including their peers (Gallavan & Kottler, 2007). The incorporation of technological elements in social studies such as the use of computers and the Internet to search for information gives students experiences on hand when it comes to conducting research using the internet. This keeps the students up to date with the study trends that are becoming highly reliant on the use of the World Wide Web.

The methods used within the research offer students the ability to seek their own information after being given a skeletal structure of information on a certain topic. The act of directing students helps them formulate their own research questions. Students need freedom to formulate and determine the direction of their own research. This is in line with the spirit of a student centered classroom that allows students to actively shape the learning process that they are engaged in.

The inclusion of challenging assignments to develop ideas and seek answers to certain questions is also incorporated in the web-quests as a stimulating experience which makes students challenged so that they can seek answers through creative thought processes and research. The stimulating and challenging questions seek to bring out the creative side of the students and show their ability to integrate knowledge and seek real life solutions and in-depth knowledge, rather than offer everything to them on a silver platter. This is done through the inclusion of open ended questions which are meant to direct the students’ inquiry and research as well as challenge the students to think further.


The creation of web-quests used to outline social studies should consider various aspects and these include the state standards on education which ensure the content is relevant to the grade level and appropriate for the designated age. The increase in student centered focus on learning also requires that the web-quest content center on the students ability to define the direction of his/her learning and making of independent research decisions. Students should offered skeletal information and open ended guiding questions that will direct their learning process rather than offering them wholesale information.

The formation of academic teams and interactive activities should also be enhanced so that students can learn how to cooperate in the learning process and knowledge building activities. The incorporation technology such as the use of computers in information seeking is also one of the possible and relevant pursuit that is meant to give students the ability to apply technology is their research process. This gives them experience in conducting social studies related researches (Sunal & Haas, 2008).


Huppenthal, J. (2011),. Arizona academic standards, retrieved on 22nd February, 2011 from

Gallavan, P. N. and Kottler, E. (2007),. Eight types of graphic organizers for empowering social studies students and teachers; The Journal of Educational Research

Sunal, C. S. and Haas, M. E. (2008),. Social studies for the elementary and middle grades: A constructivist approach, 3rd edition, Boston: Pearson Education. (Chapters 12, 13 & 14)

February, 2011 from

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