As a teacher, I loved collaborating with students in the Social Studies for Social Problems class; during class discussions and in my individual interactions, it was always clear how motivated students were by curriculum and pedagogy they felt was relevant, interesting, and necessary. I felt like they re-discovered their enthusiasm for learning about the world.
— Dr. Katharina Matro, Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart

Social Studies for Social Problems


The social sciences are distinct lenses through which to understand humanity and society. But too often, high school students’ exposure to the social sciences is limited to history and US government. And once students get to college, they don’t have time to sample each of the social sciences before deciding on a major. The goal of this class is to equip students to use social science lenses to critically examine contemporary issues while simultaneously building their efficacy to act on them.

Students who take this class will develop a sense for which social sciences are most interesting to them, gain a deeper understanding of a handful of social issues, and build a practical skillset they can put to use regardless of their path in life.


Lenses: Each unit introduces one of the major social sciences in the context of a social issue (e.g., economics & inequality, sociology & identity).

Reading: For each pairing of social science + issue, students select a nonfiction book from a limited choice menu on the same theme.

Skills labs: Run related skills labs side by side with each social science (e.g. economics & Excel, sociology & surveying).

Student-directed project: Students launch a project on a topic of their choice. The project is strengthened and structured by the skills labs and given academic grounding by the social sciences. The goal is to create something for an external audience, not just a paper for a teacher

Interested in seeing a unit plan? Email us at

  • Spark engagement by connecting to the world. Students are hungry for the opportunity to discuss what they see around them in school. Yet our school curricula often do not offer teachers the space to connect to the world while accomplishing academic objectives. This class does that, using the social sciences to give backbone to what could otherwise become a partisan headline debate.

  • Prepare students for what college actually requires. To get into college, it helps to have an authentic interest. To thrive in college, it helps to have a sense of what you want to study and how you want to study it. And to succeed in college, it helps to be able to read and discuss complex nonfiction texts on Day 1. Social Studies for Social Problems prioritizes all of this.

  • Equip students to act, create, and make, not just analyze. Our skills labs introduce powerful skills, starting with asking powerful questions and ending with pitching it. It’s these skills labs rather than a rubric that structure the student-driven project.

  • Cross-train with an interdisciplinary approach. This class covers the full C3, the full history/social studies CCSS ELA standards for grades 11-12, and all of the “practices” in the NGSS. See “standards alignment” below


Tested, developed, and ready to pilot for 2019-20.

Course status

student feedback

We ran Social Studies for Social Problems as a summer fellowship for high schools students in 2019. Students rated the experience a 4.75/5.0 and gave it a Net Promoter Score of 81. 100% of participating students agreed:

  • They have a better understanding of what the social sciences are, the types of questions each ask, and their respective modes of inquiry.

  • They feel more prepared to choose college classes.

  • They have a better understanding of how social sciences link to careers.

  • They could do more with Excel, formal surveying, and pitching ideas--and were excited to develop those skills further.

As we developed the summer experience into a full-year course, our Student Advisory Board has given us feedback on everything—from the Goals & Topics document to each unit plan.

I always noticed how much I was learning and the real-world application of the lessons.
— Lyla B-L., National Cathedral School

Ultimately, this class is for students. We created it to engage and prepare them for college and beyond. Here are some other people we think will be interested:

  • Any educator worried about engaging and preparing the next generation to tackle our biggest challenges

  • School leaders that want a more modern yet academically rigorous take on a capstone

  • Teachers who wish they had a standards-aligned curriculum that would allow them to dive into contemporary issues with their students

  • Teachers excited to make space for thinking and doing, not just memorizing and analyzing

  • School leaders who want to prepare their students to succeed in college

  • Department leaders excited to be a lead adopter of the first class covering the full C3 framework

  • Anyone who wants to bring issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the center of the academic experience

  • Department leaders interested in building content knowledge through reading

  • Curriculum directors who want to pioneer a highly impactful course that teaches students to be creators not just consumers

  • Students! This class is for students!

Who it’s for

Social Studies for Social Problems is an interdisciplinary course. It is the first and only course to fully cover the C3 standards, even the appendices. It also fully covers the Common Core English Language Arts standards for grades 11-12 literacy in history/social studies. It additionally covers many of the CCSS ELA standards for grades-12. Because it introduces the methodologies of the social sciences, it fully covers the practices of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Standards Alignment

Email us at to learn more about offering this course.