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.

Needs vs Wants

Needs and Wants

This annotated kindergarten inquiry focuses on the economics concept of scarcity by developing an understanding of needs and wants and goods and services through the compelling question, “Can we get ...
Affordable Care Act

Affordable Care Act

This annotated inquiry leads students through an investigation of a public policy debate by studying the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The compelling question—“Why is the Affordable Care Act so controversial?”—calls ...


This sixth grade annotated inquiry provides students with an opportunity to investigate the role of agriculture in the growth of complex societies. Students will examine sources related to the development of ...
Beach Cleanup

Global Citizen

This first grade annotated inquiry highlights the idea that even primary-age children can begin thinking about their civic roles in their communities and beyond. Those roles can be made real and vital ...

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