August 2021 Newsletter

Welcome (Back) to the 2021-2022 School Year!

Whew! The world of social studies education has seen more than its fair share of attention in the last couple of months. I wanted to take a moment and send Nebraska Social Studies educators a word of reassurance and some tips for possible use.

The Nebraska State Social Studies Standards were approved in November of 2019 and are based on the premise that providing opportunities for learning and educating our students is vital in developing and maintaining an engaged citizenry. Preparing students for our contemporary society cannot be accomplished without a strong emphasis on civics, economics, geography, and history – the core disciplines of social studies. It is imperative that each generation demonstrates positive and productive citizenship skills (SS K.1.1 and SS K.1.2). Because the standards were developed in part by Nebraska educators and vetted by the larger community during public feedback sessions and in open meetings, Nebraska’s History and Social Studies Standards represent what Nebraskan’s value in civics, economics, historical, and geographical education. They illustrate the community’s faith in its children to reach their full potential as learners and citizens.

The state standards outline what a student needs to know, understand, and be able to do at the end of each grade, or in the case of high school – each course. While standards are adopted at the state level by the Nebraska State Board of Education, curriculum (the resources used for teaching and learning the standards) and instruction (the methods used by teachers to teach their students in their classes and help them master the standards) are made at the local level.

Nebraska’s social studies standards and strategies for implementing those standards were developed by Nebraska educators from across the state who used their decades of teaching experience to develop high-quality, age-appropriate standards. The standards emphasize disciplinary skills and processes to be used when studying history, geography, civics, and economics which include:

  • Analyze and evaluate patterns of continuity and change over time.
  • Evaluate how considering multiple perspectives facilitates an understanding of history.
  • Evaluate the relevancy, accuracy, and completeness of primary and secondary sources to better understand multiple perspectives of the same event.
  • Gathering, interpreting, and using evidence to develop claims to historical, economic, geographical, and political questions and communicate those conclusions.
  • Analyze relationships among causes and effects.
  • Create and support arguments about social studies topics and issues using evidence.

The standards also support the process of social studies inquiry, which results in a  deeper understanding of content. Incorporating inquiry using the content standards reinforces the same skills contained in the Nebraska English Language Arts (ELA) Standards through reading, writing, speaking, and listening with social studies content.

Here are a few tips to help social studies educators moving forward this school year!

Tips for Educators: 

  • Build community and trust in and outside the classroom with both students and  parents. Students and parents should feel comfortable addressing issues or discomfort with the instructor. Encourage questions and dialogue.
  • Foster student agency in your classroom. This can be done through giving  students choice in content or products and encouraging them to voice their ideas  and advocate for themselves.
  • Focus on the History and Social Science Standards and tie your curriculum and instruction back to the standards. The standards have been approved by the State Board of Education and have passed through public feedback.
  • Carefully preview all materials used to avoid unexpected issues.
  • Use multiple types of primary sources in the classroom. In addition to documents  and texts primary sources can be photographs, oral histories, journals and  diaries, art, music, video footage, artifacts, and newspapers.
  • Provide multiple sources and multiple perspectives in the study of social studies content.
  • Avoid generalizations and encourage students not to categorize groups of people  based on their experiences in history and historical events.
  • Avoid presenting marginalized or oppressed groups as only victims- make sure to include examples of strength, resiliency, and overcoming adversity.
  • Use pedagogies that are student centered, such as the inquiry process. Have  students do the work of historians, economists, political scientists, and geographers.
  • Many times, educators want to use a simulation to create empathy, but this can backfire. Be cautious with simulations. Avoid simulations that have students take on the role of oppressor or oppressed persons. Use journals, oral histories, images, picture books, and literature to create understanding and empathy instead. If using simulations then try simulated court trials, congressional hearings, and historical debates.
  • Use structures for discussion like to examine different sides to issues and historical questions. Please refer to the NDE OnDemand video “Difficult Conversations in the Classroom” for additional assistance.
  • When teaching difficult histories like slavery, genocide, removal of indigenous peoples, segregation, lynching, war, the Holocaust and other sensitive subjects, review materials, especially graphic visuals carefully and use them only to the extent they are necessary to achieve the lesson objective. Try to select images and texts that do not exploit students’ emotional vulnerability or might be construed as disrespectful to the victims. If images are too graphic, use other approaches to access the material.
  • Provide plenty of opportunities for students to debrief and evaluate classroom activities.
  • If you are in doubt, ask your supervisor or a colleague.

United States Senate Youth Program

Nebraska Social Studies educators! The United States Senate Youth Program application is now available! Encourage your high school juniors and seniors to apply! Application deadline is 4pm CST on September 24, 2021!

US Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska speaks with his delegates Claire Doyle and Dominic Mendlik on Zoom during the United States Senate Youth Program on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. One hundred and four high school student delegates – two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity – take part in the 59th annual United States Senate Youth Program held online (because of the COVID-19 Pandemic) on March 14-17, 2021 and numerous Senate Zoom meeting from February 17 to March 30, 2021. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

From the United States Senate Youth Program website:


Delegates will hear major policy addresses by senators, cabinet members, officials of the Departments of State and Defense, leaders of other federal agencies and senior members of the national media. Delegates also traditionally participate in a meeting with a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and the president of the United States. Most speaking events include in-depth question and answer sessions.

The Hearst Foundations will pay all expenses for Washington Week including transportation, hotel and meals if held in person. The Department of Defense (DoD) annually provides a team of competitively selected men and women officers to serve as mentors and chaperones for the student delegates, and a registered nurse, licensed physician and professional security team are in place at all times throughout an in-person week.

USCIS Questions Only Version

Are you a Nebraska educator using the United States Customs and Immigration Services Naturalization Exam to meet the graduation requirements of 79-724? Have you been looking for a version that comes with the questions only? Look no further! A PDF has been created that has removed the answers to make it easier to provide the complete exam as a study guide or other instructional material to meet your needs.

OER Conference for the Social Studies

From the OER Project website:

Real teachers, real historians, real ideas. We’re engaging new and established voices to share their experiences and unique perspectives. They offer practical guidance, inspiration and hope.

Join thousands of educators online August 3–5, 2021 to discuss how our world has changed and the impact on teaching practices as many students head back to the classroom this Fall. We’ll explore what history can tell us about this moment, how our view of citizenship has shifted, and what teachers should consider as they shift their practice to meet the challenge.

Registration for this 3 day conference is required.

Financial Literacy Act

The Nebraska Legislature adopted a law in May that requires school districts, when appropriate, to include financial literacy at the elementary and middle school levels. The law also requires students to complete at least a half-credit course in high school on finances before graduating. It is set to begin with the 2023-2024 school year and goes into effect on August 21, 2021.

State Statute 79-3003 states:

“Beginning with school year 2023-24, each school district, in consultation with the State Department of Education, shall include financial literacy instruction, as appropriate, in the instructional program of its elementary and middle schools and require each student to complete at least one five-credit high school course in personal finance or financial literacy prior to graduation.”

NexGen Personal Finance Academy

From the NGPF website:


NGPF Academy is our system to offer and track FREE professional development opportunities for educators focusing on personal finance. While anyone can participate in free professional development through NGPF Academy, the swag and gift card incentives are intended for teachers and educators reaching a multitude of students. Finance professionals and homeschool educators are welcome to attend NGPF PD but will not receive Academy credit.



Join live sessions, find support, and collaborate with the community of teachers.


Become NGPF Certified in personal finance topics by taking a multi-week course.


Try new PD opportunities that can be completed on your own time.

Native Land

From the Native Land website:

We strive to map Indigenous lands in a way that changes, challenges, and improves the way people see the history of their countries and peoples. We hope to strengthen the spiritual bonds that people have with the land, its people, and its meaning.

We strive to map Indigenous territories, treaties, and languages across the world in a way that goes beyond colonial ways of thinking in order to better represent how Indigenous people want to see themselves.

We provide educational resources to correct the way that people speak about colonialism and indigeneity, and to encourage territory awareness in everyday speech and action. is a website run by the nonprofit organization Native Land Digital. We are guided by a Board of Directors and an Advisory Council. Our funding comes from friendly organizations and individual donors.

Nebraska Council of Economic Education (NCEE) 2021-2022 Calendar of Events

Nebraska and NewsELA Standards Alignment

Support your Social Studies classrooms with content that’s aligned to the 2019 Nebraska Social Studies Standards and resonates with students. Newsela’s vetted content builds connections, promotes inquiry, and develops background knowledge, pushing students to think like historians, economists, political scientists and geographers.

Newsela Highlights:

  • Get even more out of core instruction
  • Differentiate instruction easily with texts published at 5 reading levels
  • Add relevance or rigor to any lesson
  • Daily content added to help teachers and students stay up to date on what is happening around the world
  • Provide more reading and writing choices for students
  • Save time finding, vetting, and aligning content
  • Ensure every student can access background knowledge and discussions

Newsela is aligned with the Anchor Social Studies Strands in K-12.


Forms and Function of Government and Civic Participation


Economic Decision Making, Financial Literacy, Exchange and Markets, National Economy, and Global Economy [starting in 5th grade]


Location and Place, Regions, Human-Environment Interaction, Movement, and Geospatial Skills and Geo-Literacy


Change, Continuity, and Context, Multiple Perspectives, Historical Analysis and Interpretation, and Historical Inquiry and Research

60 Days Across the USA

From the “60 Days Across the USA” website:

It took 60 days, but our virtual journey is in the books.

Over 8 weeks during spring 2020, we traveled through all 48 states in the continental United States. We visited 370 towns and 33 state capitals. We also encountered dozens of rivers, lakes, mountains, highways, parks, museums and landmarks.

Along the way, I had the privilege of interviewing some terrific people across the country.

There’s been a host of interesting places from the Washington town that celebrated skyjacker D.B. Cooper to the Iowa farm field where singer Buddy Holly’s plane crashed to the Illinois community that brought in purple starlings as a way to solve its mosquito problem to the town in Idaho that’s 36 miles long and less than 1 mile wide, a set-up designed to skirt the state’s liquor license laws.

We visited the towns where Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln lived as well as the birthplaces of Muhammad Ali and Lucille Ball. There’s also that upstate New York town that was reportedly the setting for the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I’ve learned so much about this country’s history, culture, geography and people that I could almost put together an encyclopedia.

The research and writing took me nearly 3 years. It was worth every minute and every word of the 400,000 words on the site.

And, now, we continue on.

Over the next few years, I’ll actually be driving portions of this route in 1-week, 2-week and 3-week chunks. I’ll freshen up each of the 60 daily columns as I do.

There’ll also be revisions as events happen in the states and cities we’ve covered. Our first update was posted shortly after the 60th day in our Day 12 column about Louisiana. The new information included the flooding being experienced this week in Lake Charles, a town hit by two strong hurricanes last year. There was also an update on the Day 38 column with President Joe Biden’s visit to a Ford factory in Dearborn, Michigan.

There’ll also be projects that fall under our “spotlight” category where we look at issues such as immigration, hunger and the nation’s manufacturing industry.

Finally, we’re going to rely on our readers to help us fill out the site. There is a Travel Center in the lower left box on the 60 Days USA main page. As you plan and take your road trips, fill that out and let us know where you’re going and what you’ve seen.

Our photo gallery also welcomes all types of images from our readers’ road trips, so just upload them onto our 60 Days USA Facebook page and we’ll get them posted here.

Wishing everyone safe and enjoyable travels as our nation hits the road once again.

Using Innovation and Technology to Promote Economic Inclusion and Financial Capability for Nebraska Students

Project PLACE Units

From the Project PLACE website:

These units were developed for Project PLACE (Project-approach to Literacy and Civic Engagement), an initiative at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. They are project-based units designed for second-grade students. Support for the development of the materials was provided by the Spencer Foundation and support for their testing was provided by the Spencer Foundation and the George Lucas Educational Foundation. The materials have been modified somewhat from the versions tested to be more useful for educators in a wider range of contexts. Units cover the four major disciplines in social studies: civics/government, economics, geography, and history. We recommend that you teach the units/projects in the order in which they appear. Please note that materials are copyrighted.

The Living New Deal

From the Living New Deal website:

The New Deal reached into every corner of the U.S., touching citizens of every kind and leaving its mark on the nation’s landscape, economy and culture. The Living New Deal is keeping alive the memory of the New Deal.  An important part of that effort is educating the public about the Roosevelt era and its legacy. That includes introducing our audience to a wealth of resources in libraries and on the web: books, films, documents, oral histories, and more. We also provide sample curricula for teachers to pass along knowledge of the New Deal to their students. Use the pull-down menu or click on the headings to find what you’re looking for. (Elsewhere, we provide short histories and a host of news items pertaining to the New Deal).

Websites on the New Deal showcase museum collections, photographic archives, history blogs, and much more that may be of interest to anyone looking for information on the New Deal, its programs, artworks and leaders. It includes websites specific to individual states, as well.

Films and Videos is our effort to generate a record of the New Deal’s attempts to capture its activities on film. The Roosevelt administration harnessed advancements in movie technology to promote its many programs. We provide descriptions of all the films we have found, highlight some of the longest and best films, and include a section of modern films about the New Deal. Our “Fireside Films” section showcases one film each week.

New Deal Resources for Teachers is a sampling of syllabi for teachers at the high school and college levels. Preparing a curriculum or lesson plan on the New Deal can be approached from a host of angles, but it is always helpful to see how other teachers have undertaken this important task and what additional resources they have relied on.

Oral Histories of the New Deal directs you to online resources dedicated to personal and family stories of participants in the New Deal, organized by state and program. These stories offer readers a wealth of personal experiences, from CCC camps in Louisiana to a resettlement community in Maryland, from artists working on public murals to African American women who participated in the WPA.