Grades 1-2: Social Studies Projects

Engage students in hands-on learning with these
six easy-to-make projects.

  • Grades: 1–2

Home–School Connection Up the learning factor by getting parents involved.

•  Send home a list of books that parents and guardians can read with their children to prepare for the projects. For instance, they might read biographies for Biography Hanger Frames and Wraparound Monuments.

•  Encourage students and care­givers to play a game of “I Spy” while walking around their neighborhood in preparation for building a Sack Structure community. Students should note details, such as the style of doors and windows or the number of floors in a typical building.

•  To prepare for the Poster Board Shields project, students and their families might look for shields on workers’ uniforms, or research other shields on the Internet.

Paper-Bag Sleeve Books

Standard Met: McREL Geography Standard 2
(Knows the location of places, geographic features, and patterns of the environment)

What You Need: Ruler, paper lunch bags, hole punch, yarn
What to Do: Who knew that a geography book could be so much fun! Have students make paper-bag sleeve books to study geographical terms, such as ocean. Each page will be made with a folded paper lunch bag. Begin by punching two holes about three inches apart through the bottom of an unopened bag. Use this bag as a guide to punch matching holes in more bags. Next, align the holes by stacking the bags bottom flap down. Bind the bags together using yarn. Students should write one term, along with an explanation, on each page of the book. They can tuck items, such as maps or postcards, inside the bag’s sleeve to illustrate the term. Students can share their books to show off the geography know-how they have up their “sleeves.”

Sack Structures

Standard Met: McREL Geography Standard 2
(Knows the location of places, geographic features, and patterns of the environment)

What You Need: Paper lunch bags, markers, crayons, recycled newspaper, scissors, glue sticks
What to Do: Construct a model of a community with three forms of Sack Structures. To construct a Single Sack Structure, such as a house, position a bag vertically with the opening at the top. Decorate the bag, but leave the top two inches blank. Stuff the bag, then fold its top to make a roof.

To create a Tall Sack Structure, place a paper lunch bag flat on a desk. The bag should be positioned vertically with the bottom flap at the top. (The bottom flap will later become the roof.) Decorate both sides of the bag to represent a building, such as a skyscraper. Next, stand another bag upright and fill it with recycled newspaper. Slip the decorated bag over the stuffed bag to finish your structure.

To make a Horizontal Sack Structure, such as a single-story school, decorate a horizontally positioned bag and slide a stuffed bag into its side. Use the completed structures to build a contemporary or historic community.

Banner Hang-Ups

Standard Met: McREL Civics Standard 1
(Understands ideas about civic life, politics, and government)

What You Need: Mural paper, cardboard gift-wrap tubes, scissors, tape, markers, yarn
What to Do: Make it a banner day in your classroom by advertising what students have learned about rules, laws, and citizenship. Pair students and help them trim mural paper to fit the length of a tube. Next, wrap the top edge of the paper around the tube and tape it to the back. Cut the mural paper to desired length and decorate. Classroom responsibilities, environmental awareness, and safety are all topics students can feature on their banners. Finally, thread yarn through the tube and tie the ends together to hang.

Poster Board Shields

Standard Met: McREL Grades K–4 History Standard 4  (Understands how democratic values came to be, and how they have been exemplified by people, events, and symbols)

What You Need: Poster board, scissors, crayons, markers, 1"x10" strips of tagboard, wide clear tape
What to Do: Celebrate America’s symbols using these sizable shields. Trace the shape of a large shield on poster board and cut out. Shields may be ovals, diamonds, or typical badge-like shapes. Decorate the front with a symbol, such as the Liberty Bell, Uncle Sam, or a bald eagle. Then, have students write a list of facts on the back of each shield. As a finishing touch, use the strip of tagboard to make a handle. Fold back a one-inch tab on each end of the strip. Tape the handle, tabs down, to the center back of the shield. Students can hold the handle as they present their shields to the class.

Biography Hanger Frames

Standard Met: McREL Grades K–4 History Standard 4 (Understands how democratic values came to be, and how they have been exemplified by people, events, and symbols)

What You Need: Wire shirt hangers, 4-inch cardboard tubes, drawing paper, markers, scissors, glue, index cards, human figure template.
What to Do: These unique frames with built-in hangers transform a boring chalk ledge into a creative display. Have students trace and cut out a 10-inch template of a standing human figure (click here to donwload template) and decorate it with the drawing of a national leader or historic figure. Next, bend down the arms of a hanger toward each other; slide the arms into the cardboard tube until it rests at the neck of the hanger. Then, glue the cutout onto the tube. An index card with biographical facts about the person can be positioned between the exposed arms of the hanger.

Wraparound Monuments

Standard Met: McREL Grades K–4 History Standard 4 (Understands how democratic values came to be, and how they have been exemplified by people, events, and symbols)

What You Need: Copies of Monument Pattern printable, markers, scissors, 1- or 2-liter plastic beverage bottles, tape
What to Do: Wraparound Monuments are a fun way to pay tribute to a hero, community worker, or notable leader. Discuss what a monument is, and display pictures of famous ones. Brainstorm possible individuals to honor, and then direct students to each select a person. Distribute the Monument Pattern printable (click here to download printable). Have ­students decorate the cutout to resemble their person of honor, allowing space to write in the person’s name and key facts about him or her. Cut out the figure, then wrap it around the bottle and secure with tape. Students should share their monuments with the class before placing them in a classroom display. 


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Catherine M. Tamblyn is the author of 40 Fabulous Social Studies Activities. She holds a teacher certification in special education and has worked for 30 years as an author and editor of books, games, and learning kits for elementary school classrooms.


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