How to Use This Site


Show your students what is possible when you’re curious about the wider world.

  • Most lessons stand alone and can be used the same way you would use a classroom textbook, with guided questions that promote thoughtful, critical thinking – freely available wherever your students have internet access.
  • Mix, Match, and Remix – you know your classroom and students best.  Most of the activities and prompts are written in a very general way, so that they can easily be adapted to your needs.
  • Turn your students loose on this site. Use its resources to create a kind of world’s fair of independent study, culminating in classroom presentations of the hands-on projects suggested at the end of most units.
  • The lessons presented on this site are purposely riddled with hyperlinks – to encourage your students to interact with this web-based text in an authentic way.  Students should be encouraged to click on unfamiliar terms and concepts and to follow their curiosity where it leads them.  Learning becomes a habit when students realize that the story continues beyond the strict confines of “the lesson.”
  • Most of the lessons on this site offer opportunities to engage contemporary issues in a relevant, authentic way.  In other words, students and teachers will often be invited to engage the modern world directly, even while learning about humanity’s past, through lessons that will hopefully carry on long after the bell rings.

“Be Thought-Provoking, or there’s no reason to study what has already happened.”

Here’s a short documentary featuring an Open Ended Social Studies lesson on The Silk Road playing out in a sixth grade world history classroom:

Save a Week

You can’t do it all.  But you can do something to broaden your students’ horizons beyond the state standards.

Most school calendars are about 180 days long.

What if you tightened your lessons here and there?  Shave a day or two off of Greece and Rome?  Off of Mesopotamia and Egypt?  Even better, get rid of traditional unit tests – save a week of class.

A whole extra week to spend with your students in the Andes or the Amazon.  In ancient Cambodia or Korea, Mexico, China, to the dawn of globalization, deep in the silver mines of Bolivia, or to Arabia at the birth of Islam.

You can’t do it all, but if you save a week, you can take your students some place completely unexpected – somewhere they never dreamed even existed.  And that’s the kind of thing that shifts perspectives for a lifetime and makes your students look back years from now, saying “That’s where my iPhone came from…  Remember that time we learned to write by tying knots…?  So that’s what life is like on the other side of the world!”

Open Ended Social Studies collects and presents original and dynamic classroom materials focusing on parts of the world neglected by traditional world history textbooks in the United States.  The middle and high school lessons hosted here aim to foster critical and historical thinking, greater cultural awareness, and a sense of wonder about the world and our place in it. Open Ended Social Studies is free, always growing, and collaborative – please check back and contribute often.

Creative Commons LicenseAll content on this site is offered under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.