Social Sundays: Why Study History

Students ask why we have to study history a lot.  It is among the most marginalized of the core subjects…will get to it if we have time.  Requirements in secondary are minimal in comparison to math, science and English.  I have lots of ideas about to study history, but I’d rather have students figure it out.


At the close of this past year, I asked my students why we study history (hoping that they had at least found some value in it after a year in my class).  Much to my delight, they had lots of opinions.



 Amongst the responses:


  • “It’s cool to learn about life in other cultures.  They are kind of like us but also not like us.  I mean we aren’t that different when you really think about it.”
  • “History can be kind of repetitive.  I mean, after the Civil War the north were angry so they punished the south.  After World War I, the Allies were angry so they punished Germany, who was resentful which definitely contributed to World War II.  So, history teaches us about a lot of mistakes that have been made that we should try not to do again.”
  • “History helps us see why things are the way they are.  There’s still a lot of hate and racism in the world, but if you look back, we’ve come along way.  It makes you feel hopeful.  So, we know how we got to where we are.”



This was enough, but in a subsequent discussion my more passionate historians were complaining about the STEM push, as they called it.  “All we hear about is STEM,” they said.  “What if I don’t want to be an engineer,” asked one.  This got me thinking.


About 99% of my inspiration comes from my students, and this time was no different.  So, as we had some time, I challenged my students to develop persuasive posters (advertisements) for the subject history.  Maybe the posters could show the value and opportunities in the social sciences.  My students already had opinions in this area, so it was a wonderful opportunity for them to channel that energy.  Most made posters.  A couple of ambitious groups put together video advertisements.  

Here are some of the in-progress posters:



And as a bonus, when I open the school year, I have a wealth of visuals to answer that endless question: why study history!  This year, we are making posters at the beginning of the year and then again at the end of the year. It will be quite telling to see how what the students discover and value about history.

Create your own project or you can buy this ready-to-use activity here.

Social Sundays
 is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.  

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5 comments

  1. Great idea to get the students to make persuasive arguments for the studying of history! (I loved it at school). It would be great to see one of their video advertisements.

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  2. Excellent! History is my 12-year-old son's favorite subject for many of the same reasons your students gave.

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  3. Those were some pretty insightful comments from your class. Seems like they hit on the best reasons for history right there. It's so neat to hear you encouraging them in a love for that subject in these grades. It took a brilliant college professor to do that for me. :)

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  4. I have always super loved history and half apologized for it. This is such a great idea to get kids interested.

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  5. Isn't it funny that certain subjects become "hot" for a couple of years? It's STEM right now, but we still need to produce well-rounded, articulate, knowledgeable students who understand their culture and their country's history on this planet.

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