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Content to Classroom

Content to Classroom

The Virginia Council for Social Studies is excited to bring you our newest resource for social studies teachers across the state and country! Each episode of Content to Classroom provides expert analysis on a specific topic related to social studies and then supplements that analysis with guidance from master teachers on how to apply it in the classroom. The result is an engaging and authentic discussion that will leave teachers feeling empowered to try something new.
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Does Economics Help Us Do the Right Thing?
The study of economics can help students analyze their choices. But can economics lead us to choices that are good? That is, that are the right thing to do? In this episode Dr. Stephen Day from the VCU Center for Economic Education interrogates the ethical assumptions that form the background of economic analysis, explores thorny moral questions from an economic perspective, and introduces teachers to classroom resources that help them teach this important content, including activities from the new lesson plan book, "Ethics, Economics, and Social Issues Curriculum" from the Council for Economic Education.
May 13, 2022
Embracing Digital Scholarship to Engage All Learners
In this episode we dive into the world of digital scholarship with Annie Evans from New American History. History is the turbulent, unpredictable, and deeply human record of everything that happened before this moment. Through interactive maps, video, audio, an algorithmic engine of journalism, and tools for educators, we hope to make visible what was previously invisible about our shared American story. Apply to be a guest on the podcast!
April 15, 2022
Bonus Episode! Discussing the War in Ukraine with CEUTTSS at Virginia Tech
Today's episode explores the War in Ukraine with Dr. Yannis Stivachtis and Colin Baker from the Center for the European Union and Transatlantic Transeuropean Space Studies at Virginia Tech.  Visit the CEUTTSS website:  Links from today's episode: 1) BBC lengthy story on the turning points in history and how Feb 24th is now one of these: (March 19th) 2)  3) European History educators site, Euroclio, with a wealth of context and huge amount of resources and lesson plans: (March 18th, updated every week or so) 4) New York Times article and podcast (transcript available) on Putin/Russia by Ukraine/Russia expert Timothy Snyder - great context and depth: (March 15th) 5) For real depth, Synder's books on Ukraine/Russia and democracy are invaluable: "Bloodlands" (1930s/40s eastern Europe), 2016 and "The Road to Unfreedom"  6) Borders and Self-determination: Crimea 7) European and other news outlet reports on Ukraine - including articles in the original language (Frech, German may be of interest to World Language teachers and others) 8) Choices Program: 9)  How Ukraine became Ukraine, in 7 maps
March 25, 2022
Creating "Our Commonwealth" - Stories and People that Define Virginia
In this session VMHC Educators will discuss several of the stories spotlighted in their new permanent exhibit "Our Commonwealth," as well as highlight new opportunities for educators and students to engage with the museum. In May 2022 VMHC will be opening multiple new exhibits, including a new permanent exhibit - Our Commonwealth - which will focus on the regions of Virginia and how geography can play a role in our unique identities, as well as our shared idea of "Virginia." VMHC: Educational programs at the VMHC: VMHC exhibitions: Apply to be a podcast guest: 
March 21, 2022
Escaping Ordinary: Digital Escape Rooms in the Classroom
Escape Rooms have been all the rage over the past few years. For those that don't know, escape rooms are just that... a room you must escape from. Usually, there is a theme to an escape room, and it is up to you and whomever you're with to solve a series of puzzles in under an hour to "escape" the room. As an avid escape room hobbyist, I wondered if this concept could be applied to the classroom. Sure enough, it can! Through a variety of different platforms, teachers can use or create their own escape room right in the classroom. It encourages collaboration amongst groups, critical thinking and evaluation, and to just have fun! This concept can be used to introduce content, review content, or even teach content. My students have tried to keep the villainous Ms. G. (that's me) from pulling a Carmen Sandiego and stealing major monuments throughout Europe (World Geography), and they've tried to save Julius Caesar from his gruesome fate. The sky is the limit with these activities, not to mention it is so fun to see students engaged (and frustrated) with the content. Escape rooms can be done with physical locks or they can be done through a digital platform. I have more experience creating and using digital escape rooms than physical. There is also a website called Breakout EDU that allows teachers to create themed content right there on their website for virtual learning, as well as offering information on how to get started with in-person activities. Apply to be a podcast guest:  All of Jenn's amazing links: - European Digital Breakout (World Geography): - Save the Republic Digital Breakout (World History): - Save the Renaissance Mini Digital Breakout (World History): - Hub for digital breakout resources: - Breakout EDU (this has some free resources, but otherwise you’d have to pay): - A good blog post about creating digital escape rooms: - This one looks like a really good source!
March 14, 2022
Connecting the Past and Present with Retro Report
Join VCSS Vice President and host, Sam Futrell, as she interviews David Olson, the Director of Education for Retro Report. Prior to joining Retro Report, David was an award-winning teacher of U.S. History, A.P. U.S. Government and Politics and Criminal Justice at a public high school in Madison, Wisc. His expertise and passion for teaching social studies shine through on this episode as he shares what Retro Report does and how to incorporate this fantastic resource into your social studies classroom. David and Sam also discuss how to reinforce the relevance of historical content with current events along with strategies for how to get students interested in learning about things happening in their world right now. Retro Report Gerrymandering Film & Lesson Plans 9/11 Film & Lesson Plans Apply to Join the Teacher Advisory Teams! New American History Electing the House Interactive Map VCSS Follow Sam & David on Twitter: @davidjohnolson @sam_futrell1
December 16, 2021
The Salem Witch Trials: Their World and Legacy
Join Sam Futrell as she interviews professors Dr. Mark Herlihy and Dr. Elizabeth Matelski about the historical implications of the Salem Witch Trials. Together, we explore the social, cultural, and political causes of the Salem Witch Trials (SWT), discuss the major players in the SWT and seventeenth-century Puritanism. We'll also talk about the significant effects of the SWT, including how the SWT serves as an archetype for mob mentality and the oppression of marginalized groups in both literature and history. And of course, we'll share ideas/strategies for how educators can use/teach the Salem Witch Trials in their classrooms Dr. Mark Herlihy started at Endicott in 2001 as an Assistant Professor of History. He teaches "Salem Witch Trials," "Boston History," "Public History," and "American Suburbia," among other courses. He has presented papers at meetings of the American Studies Association, the Organization of American Historians, and at the Massachusetts Historical Society's Boston Immigration and Urban History Seminar. He is completing a book on the history of Revere Beach. Dr. Herlihy has been very active in the New England Historical Association and served a term as President of the organization. A native of Winchester, Massachusetts, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English at Tufts University and a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in American Civilization at Brown University. Dr. Matelski is a New England transplant from the upper Midwest. Her teaching interests include American multiculturalism, popular culture, and incorporating digital technologies into the history classroom. In addition to teaching American history, she also created the Public History concentration for Endicott`s history majors. She is currently editing a book chapter on global beauty culture and conducting research for a book on Robin Mingo, an enslaved Black man after whom Mingo Beach is named. Resources:  UVA: Margo Burns: Peabody Essex Museum: NEH Summer Seminars: 
October 29, 2021
The Complete Story of the Salem Witch Trials
Join Dr. Elizabeth Matelski from Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts as she tells the story of one of the most contested topics in American history: the Salem Witch Trials.  Both comprehensive and cozy, this episode provides a multifaceted retelling of the trials from Matelski's seasoned historical lens. If you're assigning this to your class as a homework assignment(s), we've noted the natural time breaks and topics of the episode below: 0-4:45 minutes: Introduction 4:45-26 minutes:  The causes of the Salem Witch Trials --> Tituba's confession 27:00-43 minutes: Tituba's confession --> the Trials' end  In our next episode, Dr. Herlihy joins Dr. Matelski and host, Sam Futrell, to examine the role of gender, race, memory, and religion in the mass hysteria that rocked Massachusetts Bay in 1692.
October 04, 2021
Remembering 9/11
Today, we are partnering with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York. As you probably already know Saturday is the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which resulted in the death of 2,996 people, over 25,000 injuries, and the start of the United States War on Terror. It also resulted in the War in Afghanistan as well, which has received much attention in the news as of late with the Taliban’s takeover, the bombings of the Kabul airport, and the evacuation of Americans and Europeans from the country. I was joined on today’s episode to discuss all of this as well as how to best remember 9/11 in our classrooms by the Vice President of Education at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Megan Jones, and the Assistant Director of Education, Jennifer Lagasse. 9/11 Memorial and Museum Resources: Register for the Anniversary in the Schools webinar, get a preview of the program, access viewing guides, and learn about the live chat here: Access the 9/11 Primer here: Register for our free downloadable poster exhibition in partnership with the ALA here: Access lesson plans divided by grade and theme, including 'Warning Signs of an Attack' here: Explore our archive of past Anniversary in the Schools speakers here: Explore our virtual school programs here: If listeners have questions or feedback, Megan and Jen can be reached at
September 07, 2021
The Genocide Against the Tutsis in Rwanda
In this episode, Tim Hensley, Director of Collections at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, walks us through the causes, key events, and effects of the Genocide Against the Tutsis in Rwanda. Then, Jason Nshimye shares his story. Jason Nshimye was born and raised in Rwanda. He is the Founder and President of the Human Rights and Justice Foundation. He has been an activist for human rights and crime prevention. Jason, at the age of 15, and his wife Francoise, at the age of 8, survived the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Bisesero, Rwanda. As public speakers, they share their experiences as survivors because they believe it is in everyone’s best interest to support victims and strive for forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation. We invite you to visit the Virginia Holocaust Museum in person or online to hear more about Jason's story and the experience of genocide survivors in Richmond. 
July 28, 2021
Genocide in the 20th Century Pt. 1: How to Teach Genocide
In this two-part episode, Sam interviews Tim Hensley, curator of the Virginia Holocaust Museum, and Jason H. Nshimye, Richmond local & survivor of the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda.  Jason Nshimye was born and raised in Rwanda. He is the Founder and President of the Human Rights and Justice Foundation. He has been an activist for human rights and crime prevention. Jason, at the age of 15, and his wife Francoise, at the age of 8, survived the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Bisesero, Rwanda. As public speakers, they share their experiences as survivors because they believe it is in everyone’s best interest to support victims and strive for forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation. Jason is a former President of The Richmond Rwandan Community. He was named as Correspondent of the year by Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2011. Tim joined the Virginia Holocaust Museum in 2004 as the Director of the Carole Weinstein Holocaust Research Library. He moved to his current position in 2013 where he continues to serve as the modern genocide specialist for the Museum. His graduate work focused on preservation and access to post-custodial primary sources, using the Jewish Parachutists of Mandate Palestine who trained with the British to aid in the Hungarian resistance movement. His research focuses on the use of oral history in constructing collective memory. His recent papers include Give Sorrow Words: Narrative Voice in Genocide Testimony; We Cannot Destroy Kindred: The Role of Family in the Lives of Holocaust Survivors; I Did Not Interview the Dead: Approaches to Interviewing Survivors of Tragic Events; From Creation to Donation: How Archivists Empower Hidden Communities. The first part of this episode introduces Tim & Jason and explores the concept of genocide itself-- what it is, the stages of its development, and how to teach it in the classroom. 
June 23, 2021
Teaching Tough Topics: The Holocaust
Join us as we discuss content and strategies around teaching The Holocaust in any social studies classroom with The Virginia Holocaust Museum (VHM). Education Director, Megan Ferenczy, walks us through how educators should address trauma in the classroom, what information about The Holocaust to focus on for different age groups, and how to incorporate VHM resources into a Holocaust/WWII unit. Then, Holocaust survivor, Dr. Roger Loria, shares parts of his own story and addresses why educating students about The Holocaust is still important today.
May 28, 2021
Teaching Writing in the Social Studies with Encyclopedia Virginia
The idea of teaching writing in the social studies classroom can be daunting for even the most experienced educator. SOLs force teachers to push content on students at an unrelenting pace, which means that any kind of skill-based learning must effortlessly weave into an already jam-packed curriculum. But luckily, Encyclopedia Virginia and VCSS are here to help.  In this episode, Sam interviews Patti Miller, Editor of Encyclopedia Virginia, and Contributor, Margaret Edds, about their work as journalists, authors, and historians. Together, they explore methods of writing in the social studies and how to use Encyclopedia Virginia entries as mentor texts for informational writing projects in any social studies classroom.  Visit Encyclopedia Virginia's beautiful new website! Buy their books! We Face the Dawn, Margaret Edds Bringing Down the Colonel: A Sex Scandal of the Gilded Age and the "Powerless" Woman Who Took on Washington, Patti Miller Resources on mentor texts: A Teacher's Guide to Mentor Texts: Grades 6-12, Rebekah O'Dell and Allison Marchetti NYT article on mentor texts Contact the host, Sam Futrell:
May 04, 2021
Practicing Antiracism in the Social Studies Classroom: A Conversation with Dr. Hasan Jeffries
Every third Thursday of the month, the Virginia Council for  the Social Studies hosts a virtual* meeting called "Scholars' Hour" in which teachers from around the state can gather to discuss social studies content, strategies, and technology. February is Black history month—a time to reflect on the complexity of Black history in the United States and to celebrate Black excellence. But social studies teachers in Virginia know that Black history, culture, voices, and stories belong in our classroom every month of the year. That's why the Virginia Council for the Social Studies wants to embrace antiracist education and support teachers and students around the state in this movement. Join us as we discuss strategies for "hard history" and antiracist teaching in the social studies classroom with our esteemed guest, The Ohio State University associate professor Dr. Hasan Jeffries. Among Dr. Jeffries' numerous accolades as a historian are several prominent books on the civil rights and Black Power movements, including In the Shadow of Civil Rights and Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt. He also hosts the podcast "Teaching Hard History," and many of our VCSS members will remember his moving discussion with Chris Matthews at the 2019 VCSS Conference. We were pleased to welcome him  as the leading scholar for this event.
March 01, 2021
Teaching Social and Emotional Learning in the New Year
Every third Thursday of the month, the Virginia Council for Social Studies hosts a virtual* meeting called "Scholars' Hour" in which teachers from around the state can gather to discuss social studies content, strategies, and technology. This month, our topic is teaching social and emotional skills to students in 2021. 2020 brought many unexpected challenges for teachers and students alike. As we enter 2021, VCSS invites you to explore strategies that help teachers and students manage stress and practice mindfulness. Join our panel of experts as they discuss how to help students cope with anxiety and develop organizational skills, respond to traumatic news/events in the classroom, and find joy in difficult times. Panelists for January Dr. Patrick Tolan, Director of the Compassion Schools Project & Director Emeritus of Youth-Nex at UVA Ashley Bullock, Chesapeake County Schools & Doctoral Student at UVA Curry School of Education Carol Peyton, 3rd Grade Teacher, Fairfax County Public Schools
February 16, 2021
The European Union: Past and Present
If you are a teacher in Virginia and want to learn about international relations and the European Union's role as a international government organization, then look no further than Virginia Tech, which has been newly honored as a Jean Monnet Center for Excellence.  Jean Monnet Centers exist in only eleven colleges and universities throughout the United States. They function as "a focal point of competence and knowledge on European Union subjects, [bringing] together high-level experts to create links between the various disciplines and resources in European studies and to form links with academic institutions in other countries." In their essence, Jean Monnet Centers serve to educate American communities about the European Union and create dialogue around international issues.  In this episode, Dr. Yannis Stivachtis, chair of VT's Jean Monnet Center, and Colin Baker, the Center's Assistant Director for Education and Outreach join Sam to discuss the history of the European Union, it's current challenges, and it's goals for 2021.  If you teach anything relating to Europe, government, the modern world, or international relations, you MUST listen to this episode!  (Plus, you'll love listening to Yannis and Colin's lovely European accents.) Contact Colin Baker if you have any questions regarding the EU and Virginia Tech's Jean Monnet Center:  Links for the episode: The EU's Covid/vaccine response: Lesson plans aimed at middle/high school on the issue of national/European/cultural identity: Re: supranational organization vs inter-governmental organization, with the EU being a hybrid of both, a nice chart of that is on this page:  
January 28, 2021
From the Ballot Box to the Oval Office: Presidential Transitions of Power
Join Sam as she talks with the C-SPAN education team (Pam McGorry & Tom Grane) about past and present transitions of power in the White House! From exploring the logistics of this transition to analyzing  the media’s role in the formation of presidential power and image, this episode is one you are not going to want to miss. Plus, as always, you'll get ideas/strategies for how to incorporate this topic into your classroom and inspire your students to engage in civic action.  C-SPAN Classroom C-SPAN Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers
December 18, 2020
Teaching Social Studies through Storytelling and Dramatic Play | Storytelling Series
If you search the internet for quotes about stories and storytelling, Google will give you about 14,900,000 results in .56 seconds. Writer and anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson says that "the human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories." Activist, novelist, and poet Margaret Atwood tells the faceless bastardes  they are never "going to kill storytelling because it’s built into the human plan." The list goes on-- presumably with at least 14,899,898 more entries.  As human beings, we not only love stories, but love to talk about them.  In this episode, Sam talks a lot about stories with two amazing guests-- Stephen Gianotti and Brendan Wolfe. And though they might be less quotable than Bateson and Atwood,  the three share invaluable ways to use stories, the process of storytelling, and dramatic play in the social studies classroom.  Links from episode: Brendan Wolfe: Finding Bix: The Life and Afterlife of a Jazz Legend: Mr. Jefferson's Telescope: A History of the University of Virginia in 100 Objects: Digital Artifact Analysis: 
November 16, 2020
Using Children's Literature to Teach Tough Topics | Storytelling Series
Human love stories. They connect us together, teach us new things, and help us learn about the past.  And sometimes, stories help us explain things from our collective history that are hard to process.  In the first part of our storytelling series, children's author Meg Wiviott and master teacher Katie Blomquist walk us through using children's literature to teach tough topics in our history classrooms. Listen to Meg, Katie, and Sam explore what topics are appropriate for different age groups, when and how to use children's and YA lit in your classes, and practical ways to engage history students as writers.  Meg's website: Paper Hearts: Benno and the Night of Broken Glass: Virginia Holocaust Museum: Echoes and Reflections: Virginia Museum of History and Culture: VCSS: November VCSS Scholars' Hour:
October 27, 2020
Addressing Elections and Equity in the Classroom
It's that time of year again. The leaves are changing, everyone is dressed in cozy sweaters, warm apple cider fills the air, and it's time to vote.   And if it's time to vote, it's time to teach kids in classrooms across the country about the American electoral process-- a job that can have it's challenges at any time, but seems to be particularly difficult in 2020-- it's a presidential election year. We're in a pandemic. The West is burning. The South is flooding. And the nation is fraught with racial tension after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others by unchecked police.  So, how are social studies educators supposed to balance teaching elections and not coming across as biased, while championing equity? Listen to this episode, and let Bianca Moore, a defense attorney in NOLA, and Wesley Hedgepeth, a high school social studies teacher in Richmond, VA guide you through all things election and equity in the classroom.  ----------- Don't forget to register for the first VCSS Scholars' Hour! ---------- Links from today's discussion: Avid Conversation Starters 411 Vote Political Compass iSideWith 1619 Project U.S. Census Database The Harkness Method NCSS
October 01, 2020