Date of Publication

12-2011

Degree Type

Honors Thesis

Department

Education and Human Development

First Advisor

Allison Wright

Abstract

In today’s American school system a hole has begun to form in elementary schools as social studies education has been on the decline, or in some cases, cut out entirely in order to allow more time for mathematics and literacy instruction. Modern educators have begun to acknowledge this gap and want to develop new ways of instructing social studies as a way to keep the subject current, interesting, and effective. Hands-on learning may be one solution for this issue. The purpose of this study was to describe what happened in regard to students’ understanding of and engagement in social studies content when presented in a hands-on teaching style. One fifth grade inclusive classroom, one fourth grade inclusive classroom, and one self-contained fourth grade classroom were taught using hands-on social studies lessons in a rural school district in Western New York. After utilizing a variety of hands-on lessons and activities, and researching the existing literature there is on hands-on learning as it relates to social studies instruction, five themes of effective hands-on lessons emerged that may aid elementary teachers in their creation of these types of lessons: Collaboration, Open-Ended, Meaning, Experience, and Timing (C.O.M.E.T.).

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