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Investigating History: For Teachers

Teacher Tested. Student Approved.

Teachers who've used Investigating History speak 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 published curriculum. 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. Upcoming revisions will focus on strengthening the vertical alignment and coherence of the materials across grade levels as well as improving supports for multilingual learners.

Investigating History is an open-source curriculum: free and available to anyone to use and modify. Throughout the 2023-24 school year, we are publishing the complete set of curricular materials for grades five, six, and seven; these curricular materials are available now upon request. The third and fourth grade materials are being field tested in a small number of classrooms through the 2023-24 school year, and we anticipate a statewide pilot opportunity for these grades in the 2024-25 school year.

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 Investigating History curriculum for grades five, six, and seven is now available!
Register here to learn more and gain access to these just-released materials.

Investigating History Teacher Resources

Background Briefs for Educators
Investigating History Background Briefs are designed to support educators in developing their own content knowledge prior to teaching each unit. By spring 2025, all Investigating History units from grades 3–7 will have an accompanying Background Brief. Sneak peek: See the Background Brief for Grade 6, Unit 1 (Human Origins).

Each Background Brief contains five parts:

  • Connecting to the Unit: Identify what you need to know and be able to do to teach the unit.
  • Overview Video: Learn about foundational narratives of the content from a scholar expert.
  • Building Background Knowledge: Access helpful resources that address key ideas.
  • Unit in Context: Learn about misconceptions, enduring themes, and the evolving research of social scientists.
  • A Note on Language: Identify key considerations for using language related the content.

Professional Development Opportunities
A number of professional development providers have been certified to provide Investigating History professional development. Certified providers have received training in the Investigating History curriculum and instructional approach and offer a variety of professional development opportunities including cross-district institutes, online courses, and individualized coaching.

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 3:
    • Native People and Places in the Northeast
    • Indigenous Communities, Colonizers, and the Plymouth Colony
    • The Puritans, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Native People, and Africans
    • Governing the People of Massachusetts: The American Revolution and its Impacts
    • The People and Governments of Massachusetts, Past and Present
  • Grade 4:
    • North American Geography
    • Ancient American Civilizations
    • Interactions with European Explorers
    • Impacts of U.S. Expansion
    • Regions of the United States
  • 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
    • East Asia
    • The Silk Routes
    • Southeast Asia and Oceania
    • Europe

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. DESE has awarded over $1.5 million in grants to districts to support the costs of implementing Investigating History through the 2024-25 school year.

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
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

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.