Investigating History: For Teachers

Teacher Tested. Student Approved.

Teachers who participated in the Investigating History pilot spoke highly of the level of student engagement, the overall quality of the curricular materials, and the level of support from DESE.

During the 2022-2023 school year, Investigating History was piloted by a total of 75 teachers per grades five, six, and seven. Participating schools were from a diverse group of Massachusetts urban, suburban, and rural districts.

Feedback from teachers and students proved valuable and has deeply informed the curriculum that will be released in 2023-24. For example, DESE has adjusted pacing and skill building as well as countless other smaller-scale amendments to individual lessons and activities. DESE is fully committed to continuous improvement and pledges to continue to learn from teachers' experiences with the curriculum.

When released, Investigating History will be an open-source curriculum: free and available to anyone to use and modify. Throughout the 2023-24 school year, we will publish the complete set of curricular materials for grades five, six, and seven; the first unit of each grade level is available now upon request. The third and fourth grade materials will be developed and piloted in a small number of classrooms through the 2023-24 school year and are currently slated for release beginning in Summer 2024.

Teachers Quote #1
"I now recognize that participating in government is more than voting."
Teachers Quote #2
"The level of conversation that my students have had is off the charts."
Teachers Quote #3
"We learned about different sources, and focused a lot on different points of view."

The first Investigating History units for grades five, six, and seven are now available!
Register here to learn more and gain early access to these just-released materials.

Investigating History Teacher Resources

Investigating History is coming soon! We developed the following resources to help you adopt Investigating History in your classroom.

Massachusetts History/Social Science Framework

The Investigating History curriculum, currently in development for third through seventh grades, is fully aligned to the Massachusetts 2018 History/Social Science Framework , engaging students with its content, practice, and literacy standards through an inquiry-based approach.

Initially, Investigating History will comprise thirteen units across fifth, sixth and seventh grades. The content covered in each unit is grounded in the grade-level content standards for the 2018 History/Social Science Framework:

  • Grade 5:
    • Early Colonization and the Growth of Colonies
    • Revolution and Principles of United States Government
    • The Growth of the Republic
    • Slavery, the Legacy of the Civil War, and the Struggle for Civil Rights for All
  • Grade 6:
    • Human Origins
    • The Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia
    • Sub-Saharan Africa
    • Central America, the Caribbean, and South America
  • Grade 7:
    • Central and South Asia
    • The Silk Routes
    • East Asia
    • Southeast Asia and Oceania
    • Europe

The scope and sequence for the Grades 3 and 4 courses is still in development, but these courses will cover the entirety of the grade-level content standards at these grade levels.

Currently, the focus of this work through 2024-25 is on developing complete, comprehensive, year-long curricular materials for grades 3 through 7. It's possible the project will expand to additional grade levels, depending on capacity, funding, and interest.

Investigating History Design Specifications

Investigating History is designed around four key principles, elaborated further in the curriculum's design specifications :

  1. Historical Inquiry and Investigation: The curriculum centers inquiry-based learning and questioning that leads to investigations with authentic source materials.
  2. Historical Empathy and Human Connections: The curriculum deepens students' insight into human connections by activating their sense of wonder and imagination, prompting them to consider others' perspectives, and engaging them in collaboration across lines of difference.
  3. Civic Engagement and Current World Relevance: The curriculum draws connections to the contemporary world and foster civic engagement, developing students' civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions.
  4. Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy: The curriculum is rooted in the principles of culturally sustaining pedagogy, developing students' academic achievement, cultural competence, and sociopolitical awareness.
Adopting Investigating History

DESE does not mandate that schools or districts use any specific curricular materials. Investigating History is intended to provide schools with a vetted, high-quality curriculum and professional development option that is directly aligned to the Massachusetts History and Social Science Framework. Whether to adopt these resources will be a decision made on a local level.

For teachers, schools, and districts who do choose to use the Investigating History materials, DESE is committed to helping them implement the curriculum thoughtfully within their given context, including identifying, training, and certifying professional development providers who are equipped to support districts and schools with the adoption and use of the materials. Depending on availability, grant funding may also be offered to cover some of the costs of implementing Investigating History.

If you have questions or would like more information about Investigating History and available ongoing support and professional development, please email

Investigating History Home

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.