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.

China and Rome

In this inquiry, students examine the extent to which the Chinese and Romans had knowledge of and interacted with one another. Knowledge of one another accumulated over time, and a ...

Geography, Humans, and Environment

This inquiry explores how communities develop and sustain themselves by examining the positive and negative impacts of development on community environments. In considering the idea that communities grow and change ...

Community History

This inquiry is an exploration into the concepts of time, continuity, and change in a community with the dual purpose of establishing students’ understandings of the passage of time and ...


This inquiry engages kindergartners in exploring the various ways people interact with and act upon rules and laws in society. The compelling question “Are all rules good rules?” assumes that ...

The President

This inquiry engages first graders in exploring the meaning and purpose and function of government through the compelling question “Is the president the most important person in government?” Assuming that ...

Maps and Geography

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of maps and spatial representation, exploring how and why we depict the physical world the way we do on maps. The compelling question ...

Family Stories

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of their families as a way to begin understanding the concepts of past and present. By answering the compelling question “What do family ...


This inquiry engages students in expanding their understandings of families in general and the idea that families can be both similar and different. Although much of family life may be ...

Fall of Roman Empire

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the fall of the Roman Empire. More specifically students examine whether the events that occurred in 476 CE constituted the fall of ...


This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the Ottoman Empire during the 16th century by examining the esteemed leader Suleiman the Magnificent. By investigating the compelling question “How ‘magnificent’ ...

Gilded Age

This inquiry uses the Industrial Age as a context for students to explore the compelling question “Is greed good?” The Industrial Age, often referred to derisively as the Gilded Age, ...

American Expansion

This inquiry is focused on the compelling question “Was American expansion abroad justified?” In other words, did the expansion of America’s global power justify the means by which lands came ...

Religious Freedom

This inquiry focuses on the concept of religious freedom driven by the compelling question “Does religious freedom exist?” The question establishes the importance of religious freedom and tolerance as a ...

Islamic Spain

This inquiry provides students with an introduction to a historical example of religious tolerance and cooperation as it evolved in Islamic Spain, also known as Al-Andalus. Muslims settled in Spain ...


This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the experiences faced by immigrant groups who traveled to New York throughout the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Understanding those experiences helps ...

Leadership and Government

This inquiry is an exploration into governments around the world; it examines how the fundamental principles of governments vary in different world communities with diverse political systems. In uncovering the ...

Global Trade

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of economic systems by focusing on the context of trade among world communities. Trading is one of the oldest forms of economic interaction ...

Urban, Suburban, and Rural

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of their communities as a way to deepen their understandings of the importance of place in general and the similarities and differences between ...

Economic Interdependence

This inquiry is an initial exploration into the concept of interdependence through the lens of community economics and the idea of an economy as a diverse, mutually supportive web of ...

Civic Ideals and Practices

Through the compelling question “Do we have to have rules?” this annotated inquiry investigates the relationship between rules and values as well as the role that rules play in maintaining ...

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