New York Social Studies Toolkit Inquiries

The Toolkit features 84 curriculum inquiries, six per grade level K-11, and twelve in grade 12 (six for Economics and six for Participation in Government).

All of the 84 inquiries within the New York State Toolkit were built using the Inquiry Design Model and feature a blueprint with a description of how the inquiry might be taught. All of the inquiries connected to key ideas, conceptual understandings, content specifications, and social studies practices found in the New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework. Although the inquiries align with standards, they are not intended to be comprehensive content units, nor are they intended to be a series of prescribed lesson plans. They are intended to serve as pedagogically rich examples content and skills built out in inquiry-based fashion. See all 84 inquiries below.  Browse the Inquiries by Grade Band Here.

Political Parties

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of political issues and political parties. By exploring the compelling question about how well political parties represent individuals, students consider their own political ...


This inquiry leads students through an investigation of youth voting practices. By investigating the compelling question of whether or not they will vote, students consider the ways in which the ...

Great Recession

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the 2007–2008 subprime-mortgage crisis that ultimately led to the Great Recession, the worst economic downturn in the United States since the Great ...


This inquiry leads students through the political, social, geographic, and economic changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain between roughly the years of 1760 and 1840. By ...


Between 1899 and 1901, in what became known as the Boxer Rebellion, a Chinese secret organization called the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists led an uprising in northern ...


This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the efforts made by individuals, organizations, and institutions that eventually resulted in the end of apartheid in 1994. By investigating the compelling ...


This inquiry is focused on the compelling question “Is protest patriotic?” The question challenges the notion that protest against authority is unpatriotic and asks students to consider whether America’s democratic ...


This inquiry is focused on the compelling question “Were the suburbs good for America?” and deals with the period of rapid suburbanization immediately following World War II, from 1945 through ...

New Deal

By asking the compelling question “Was the New Deal a good deal?” students take on a topic with a long history and plenty of relevance for today. The inquiry uses ...

Westward Migration

This inquiry prompts students to investigate the factors, conditions, and conflicts related to westward expansion in the United States before the Civil War. In the inquiry, students wrestle with various ...

American Revolution

Throughout this inquiry students investigate the complex interconnected roles of individuals and groups as well as the economic, social, and geographical forces that contributed to the American Revolution. Students wrestle ...

Puerto Rico

This inquiry examines the historical and contemporary factors surrounding the debate over Puerto Rico’s statehood. The compelling question “Should Puerto Rico be a state?” provides students with an opportunity to ...

New France

This inquiry focuses on the emergence, growth, and collapse of the New France colony in North America. French explorers, missionaries, traders, and settlers established an important presence in North America, ...


This inquiry uses the ancient and modern Olympic games as a context for students to explore the compelling question “Are the Olympics about more than sports?” The Olympics play an ...


This inquiry engages third graders in expanding their understandings of our increasingly interconnected world. The compelling question “Is sharing and trading across cultures always a good thing?” is intellectually respectful ...

Government and Citizens

This inquiry is an exploration into government that begins by looking at the historical roots of democracy in the United States and then focuses on state government. The inquiry features ...


This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the Industrial Revolution in the United States by examining the manufacturing industry as a proxy for industrialization. In weighing the opportunities and ...


This inquiry prompts students to investigate the social, economic, and environmental issues surrounding the global banana industry. In investigating the compelling question regarding real cost of bananas, students explore the ...


This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the actions, policies, and laws of Emperor Shi Huangdi of the Qin dynasty, 220–210 BCE. By investigating the compelling question “Did Emperor ...

Silk Road

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the complex trade networks throughout Eurasia, collectively known as the “Silk Road.” By investigating the compelling question, students evaluate the descriptor “Silk ...

Toolkit Conceptual Foundations

Undergirding the New York Social Studies Toolkit project in general and the curriculum inquiries in particular are a set of 10 assumptions.

The Inquiry Design Model

These Conceptual Foundations describe the principles that informed the design of Toolkit inquires and the Inquiry Design Model (IDM). Rooted in research and practice and reflecting the Inquiry Arc of the C3 Framework, these assumptions offer a coherent and mutually reinforcing set of ideas that define the often nebulous term “inquiry.” The assumptions are:

  1. Inquiry begins with a question.
  2. Inquiry topics and outcomes are grounded in the New York State Social Studies Framework.
  3. Disciplinary knowledge and skills are integrated within an inquiry.
  4. Students are active learners within an inquiry.
  5. The purpose of assessment is for learning.
  6. Disciplinary sources are the building blocks of inquiry.
  7. Students need opportunities to practice engaged citizenship.
  8. Social studies shares in the responsibility for literacy.
  9. Inquiries are not all inclusive.
  10. Inquiries are best mediated by skilled teachers.

Read the Conceptual Foundations Here

Toolkit Professional Development Materials

The New York Toolkit Project approach to professional learning recognizes the complexities of designing inquiry activities and then teaching those inquiries in the classroom.

Complementing the Toolkit Inquiries and Conceptual Foundations is a collection of turnkey professional learning materials that introduces educators to the C3 Framework and the Inquiry Design Model. These materials feature PowerPoint slide decks and related materials that are organized around three parts of the Inquiry Design Model – Questions, Tasks, and Sources. The four slide decks available here are annotated to provide facilitators with the information they need to conduct the professional learning activities.

Download the Toolkit IDM slides below.


Toolkit Video Series

Created in collaboration with the Tribeca Film Institute, the Toolkit Video Series features the Kathy Swan, SG Grant, and John Lee along authors of our writing team and teachers who helped bring the project to life. The videos speak to the several elements of the Inquiry Design Model in general and three key elements in particular: Questions,Argumentation, and Taking Informed Action. The films feature insight from teachers about using inquiry with students in their classrooms and background on  IDM in general and the Toolkit project in particular.

An Introduction to the Toolkit

The C3 Framework provided the inspiration for the New York Social Studies Toolkit Project and has set in motion a grassroots movement to put teachers at the forefront of social studies reform. This video introduces the Toolkit project.


Social studies is many things, but at its heart are questions. The Inquiry Design Model™ (IDM) represented in the New York Social Studies Toolkit begins with a compelling question and features the elements necessary to support students as they address that question in a thoughtful and informed fashion. This video describes the role of questions in an inquiry.


Inquiries lead to arguments. Using the Inquiry Design Model and social studies content, teachers can design students’ work with sources across all four dimensions of the C3 Inquiry Arc so that they can produce a clear, coherent, and evidence-based argument as the summative performance task. This video describes how teachers support students as they develop inquiry-based arguments.

Taking Informed Action

Taking Informed Action tasks are designed so that students can civically engage with the content of an inquiry. Informed action can take numerous forms (e.g., discussions, debates, presentations) and can occur in a variety of contexts both inside and outside of the classroom. The key to any action, however, is the idea that it is informed. The Inquiry Design Model™, therefore, stages the taking informed action activities such that students build their knowledge and understanding of an issue before engaging in any social action. This final video features teachers describing how taking informed action completes the Inquiry Arc.

The New York Social Studies Resource Toolkit is a curriculum and instructional resource that builds out from the recently released New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework. Featuring an ambitious new approach to constructing social studies curriculum inquiries, the Inquiry Design Model (IDM), the Toolkit emphasizes the role of teacher knowledge and expertise. Funded and sponsored by the New York State Education Department, the direct work on the Toolkit project finished 2015. Implementation of the Toolkit materials are ongoing.

Check out some the ongoing work in Rockland County Schools

The New York State K-12 Resource Toolkit and Professional Development project, funded by a grant from the New York State Education Department, is the result of the efforts of nearly 100 educators from around New York State and across the country.

See a list of everyone who contributed to the New York Toolkit project