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Are you interested in becoming a social studies teacher? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines social studies as a part of a school or college curriculum concerned with the study of social relationships and the functioning of society.

General social studies can, therefore, be seen as a class that begins to build foundations of understanding that students will advance upon through more specific classes and courses, such as history and politics. The National Council for Social Studies supports this, stating that social studies is essential to promote civic competence.

Are you a social studies teacher or are you thinking about becoming one?

Students are taught social studies as early as elementary school, with simple history and geography lessons, for example. As students progress through school, their studies become more in-depth and detailed. Advanced social studies classes are taken in middle school, such as history, which sets the foundation for high school where students complete a dedicated study of a specific element of social studies, such as U.S. history.

Below we look into more detail about social studies and geography, history, government and current events in particular. But first, if you’re a teacher sign up for your FREE funding account. Or, help fund your teacher today.

What is social studies

Social studies cover many more areas though, including:
  • Culture
  • Social sciences
  • Environmental studies
  • Civic ideals and practices


Geography is a branch of social studies that involves the study of population, economy, and culture, among more scientific factors such as physical land properties, e.g. volcanoes and rock formations. Elements of geography are taught in social studies in elementary school such as world populations and how to read a map.

As children get older there is a greater focus on geography; in middle school, for example, more time is dedicated to geography as students are expected to memorize geographical locations and have a better understanding of weather climates. Geography is not widely offered as a high school class, rather, elements of geography are used as core pillars of learning in other classes such as history and earth science.


History is an area of social studies which is usually split into two subcategories: U.S. history and world history. World history is taught to older students in middle school and high school whereas U.S. history is taught as early as elementary. A basic timeline from the revolutionary war to the current president is expected to be learned starting at elementary level and is expanded upon as students progress through their education.

Once a student reaches high school, U.S. history becomes more advanced as students are taught about government systems and historical events over the course of two years. Alternatively, world history focuses in more detail on civilizations, globalization, and religion, for example, from a global perspective. Elements of world history, such as the study of major internal conflicts, can be advanced upon with college courses.


While studying the government is often included in other areas of social studies, such as current events and U.S. history, it can be taught as a class in its own right. Studying government does not specifically have to focus on the U.S. government, as the different types of governments and the history of governments are explored. Basic information about government is taught in elementary school as students learn about the branches of U.S. government, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. This information is advanced upon in middle school and the majority of classes are still focused on U.S. specific government information.

Once students reach high school they begin to learn about the relationships between the U.S. government and the rest of the world. High school classes analyze various political structures such as socialism, communism, monarchies and dictatorships and the revolutions that created/destroyed such structures.

Current events

It is hard to give specifics of what a current events class may cover, as naturally, the class focuses on current U.S. and global events and issues. In general, current events is an area of social studies that examines social, political, legal and ethical situations. Current events can be taught in elementary school at a basic level and usually involves a teacher explaining current events to students to ensure they are aware of the latest U.S. and global developments.

Current events is taught in middle school and high school at a more advanced level in a specialized class. Rather than just creating an awareness of issues, students are taught how to analyze them and consider them in greater global contexts.

Social studies teacher summary

Social studies can, therefore, be seen as an essential part of a child’s education to ensure they are aware of the social, political and economic state of the U.S. and the greater world. Social studies must begin in elementary school so a student has a solid foundation on which to build their knowledge. It is only through education and understanding the world that students can hope to change it for the better.

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