6 Ways to Incorporate Cross Curricular Approaches in Your Social Sciences Classroom

Posted by Heidi Crowley on March 6, 2019

Why Cross Curricular?

We know that time with students is limited, so taking advantage of repeated themes which exist between courses to help build bridges between knowledge gaps is an effective strategy. We also know that in the hecticness of a regular school day, these great concepts are often just that- concepts- because we don’t have time to take on anything more between teaching, marking, meetings, that varsity game you promised to attend, and the play you are helping find props for. Here are a few ideas with ready-to-use resources so that, if one speaks to you, you can easily use it within your classroom sooner rather than later. Remember, trying out one of these ideas on your own first and then looking to next year to work collaboratively can be a starting point, if finding an interested colleague to collaborate with proves difficult.

What I love about using Facing History & Ourselves as a classroom teacher is how many of their strategies and materials lend themselves naturally to building knowledge of themes cross curricularly and to enhancing co-teaching/planning. This is often my way of broaching the subject of collaborative planning and teaching with different colleagues- showcasing the amazing teaching strategies on the Facing History website which can easily be used regularly in almost every course. When teachers see how much more student engagement and interest is created using these simple techniques, a conversation about deeper connections and co-teaching is much easier.

I have also noticed that so many topics we cover in my Social Science classes, such as the history of eugenics in Canada, have threads that obviously connect to the science courses in your school, or you could connect the Civil Rights Movement to music. We often try to highlight these in our own classrooms but are always under the constraints of time and the need to balance our energies on all of the needed outcomes. Having a partner to explore a topic with you, using a different entry point or even focus, offers another opportunity to engage students and to show them the depth and breadth of this issue or moment in history. Creating cross-curricular programming should always be organic in the sense that the connections are there just waiting to be woven closer together. Having ready access to wonderful resources, as well as lesson plans makes cross-curricular planning less daunting because it does not feel like you need to reinvent the wheel.

Middle Years Social Studies & Science Ecology Project

I worked with Darcy Bakkegard from Prairie Public (PBS) to develop this Science/Social Studies approach to learning about ecosystems. It links the two courses in Grade 7 in the Manitoba curriculum but might work at a different grade within your province. Students are given the task of not only researching their ecosystem but building a working website for it and preparing for a class interview. Below is an example of the websites completed this year. Through this project students completed about half the outcomes for 1 Science and 1 Social Studies module. They built deep understandings of the physical and human geography of the area and also could clearly see how the environment was a mix of both science and human interactions.



Middle Years Maths with a Social Justice Framework

I always love how Facing History and Ourselves encourages the students to choose to participate. Learning about the real-life issues and upstanders who have dealt with some of the same problems they have identified during their in-class simulations allows for deeper understanding to be built. Part of feeling empowered to engage with the world and fix the problems one recognizes is knowing you have the skills needed to start to identify and address these issues. This is a skill base Facing History helps students to build upon.

Using the classroom simulations provided below, students are given the opportunity to make the decisions and analyse options that many people around the world need to make such as; How do we spend our money? What are the extra decisions and pressures that poverty brings?

Simulation 1: Shop til you Drop

Students are able to see first hand the impacts that money has not only on access but also on stress levels, frustration, and feelings of hopelessness. In the simulation, students often observe very quickly the ease with which the students with more resources can make positive decisions. Discussions afterwards can build on these understandings. In the math side, students can begin to look at graphical representations of their spending and also research patterns in developing and developed countries as to their spending ability and social services provided.

Simulation 2: Microloans

What impact does a microloan have on a community? Students will learn first hand what this impact looks like and also what needs, projects, and real world impacts exist today. They will not only build their own business plan but also evaluate one another’s to see how effective these ideas could be. I always remember the well-intentioned NGO which donated hundreds of laptops to a school within a developing nation without checking first if they had access to electricity in that region. Students can use this to gain a real life understanding of the cost and possible successes of new ideas. A great starting point for great new ideas is: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04d42vf

Both of these simulations are excellent ways to help students learn about how to participate in the world around them, real life issues, existing upstanders, and how they too can become an upstander.

Senior Years To Kill a Mockingbird

ThMockingbird_Cover_v3mede need to belong, and how we decide who does and does not, is a universal theme in many works of literature. FHAO has an incredible resource for teaching the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It uses the text as a resource into learning about social justice and the ethical questions that are cornerstone to the novel. Often, this novel is used as a great character study, but this resource takes it one step further and looks at the greater concepts like race and gender. The resource (PDF) is free and electronic (go green!) although it can also be ordered if you prefer a paper copy. This resource uses the text to teach about the history of lynching, Jim Crow, codeswitching, eugenics, stereotypes… the list goes on. It can work as an enrichment tool to create historical context of a novel in your classroom, or be used to build a cross-curricular program next year with your school’s history department. This novel’s full potential is tapped into with this resource and it lends itself very well to discussing current issues and legacies that we still need to face and solve.

Quick Crossovers to Try It Out

Here are a few 1 class to 1 week ideas to allow you to have a few soft starts into cross-curricular approaches.

Food Chain -Geography/Science

FHAO Connection- Democracy and Civic Engagement: Practicing Empathy

Each student takes on a different perspective in an ecosystem at risk: human, animal, plant. Based on your student needs these perspectives can be written as journal entries or presented as first person monologues/speeches.


After the speeches, create a living food chain by linking the organisms directly who depend upon one another and brainstorm ways to help support the ecosystem

Next Year Goal:

Invite the Vancouver Aquarium’s Aquavan to visit your school for a hands-on approach to understanding and valuing our marine ecosystems.

Kids Boost Immunity Challenge

FHAO Connection- Choosing to Participate

Students learn about immune systems, social justice, and their health. For each quiz the students pass with 80% correct or higher, UNICEF will donate one vaccination to a child in need. Learn classroom content while helping the world! Signing up as a class is free and very simple.

Space and Rights

FHAO Connection- Individual & Society

Using a Science and Social Studies approach, we can look at major questions that are arising about universal (literally) human rights, governance, and rights to access resources.

Podcast Resource: How do we govern the universe?

Podcast Resource: Space Mining

Topics: Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy, facing history pedagogy, Treaty, Facing Canada, cross curricular teaching and learning


This is where Canadian Facing History and Ourselves teachers and community members meet to share reflections, scholarship and teaching practices that will inspire, challenge and improve teaching and student learning. Our stories provide a window into diverse Facing History classrooms in Canada, and invite you into the discussion.

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