Social Studies Knowledge & Skills Framework icon

This document was developed before the release of the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework 2015 (HSELOF) [PDF, 9.2MB]. While information in this document is still valuable, the Office of Head Start (OHS) is in the process of updating materials to reflect the HSELOF 2015 to ensure they address the current needs of programs and reflect best practices and research. At this time, Getting Started [PDF, 703KB] provides initial guidance to programs in how to use the HSELOF.

Social Studies Knowledge & Skills refers to understanding people and how they relate to others and the world around them. Social studies helps children to understand themselves, their families, and communities. Through learning experiences related to history, culture, and the environment, children enhance their self-identity and expand their experiences beyond the walls of their home and early childhood setting. In the domain of Social Studies Knowledge & Skills, programs need to ensure that children who are dual language learners can demonstrate their abilities, skills, and knowledge in any language, including their home language.

Strategies to Help Children Acquire Knowledge of Self, Family & Community

  • Involve children's families in every aspect of the program so that children can learn about and compare each other's personal characteristics, experiences, and cultures.
  • *Demonstrate respect for various cultures and languages, making sure that children's home languages and cultures are reflected in books, signs, and learning experiences.
  • Write class books about the children's families, their homes, their mealtimes, their pets, and other aspects of their lives. Discuss what is the same and different about the children's families.
  • Engage children in long-term projects or in-depth studies of their communities. Begin with children describing what they already know and then identifying what questions they have and ways to find answers.
  • Use various media such as blocks, clay, drawings, or photos to represent and map the classroom, Head Start center, neighborhood, or community.
  • Invite parents and families to share arts, music, dance, and drama that represent their cultures.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

Domain Element: Self, Family & Community

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
Curriculum, Assessment and the Head Start Framework: An Alignment Review Tool [PDF, 703.79KB] Tool Management staff can use this tool to help determine how well an early childhood assessment or curriculum aligns with the domains and domain elements identified in the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework (HSCDELF, 2010).
Research Facts: Dads and Children's Literacy Article-Excerpt Parents and program staff can learn from the six research studies offered here that link fathers' participation to their child's reading skills.
*Dual Language Learning: What Does It Take? [PDF, 916.57KB] Report *Teaching teams can learn what they can do to address challenges and maximize opportunities to support dual language learners in learning English and in continuing to develop their home language. Benefits of dual language education for young children of multi-language households are highlighted.
*Head Start Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness Resource Catalogue, Volume Two: Native and Heritage Language Preservation, Revitalization, and Maintenance (First Edition) [PDF, 2.90MB] Catalog *Management and program staff can explore this catalog for evidence-based materials, research, promising practices, and other resources to help them develop culturally and linguistically responsive systems and services.
*Learning in English, Learning in Spanish: A head Start Program Changes Its Approach [PDF, 506.85KB] Article *Teaching teams can learn from this case example of a Head Start program that serves a Latino community, and how to support home language and family connections.
*How Can Teachers and Parents Help Young Children Become (and Stay) Bilingual? Article-Excerpt *Parents and teaching teams can use these strategies to help ensure children who are dual language learners acquire English, but do not lose their native language.
*English Language Learners Bulletin Article-Excerpt *Through this example of the use of Cherokee language, teaching teams can gain an awareness of the importance of language to children's culture and family values.
About Face for Stormy Preschoolers   Article Management and program staff can gain a better understanding of Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) through the research and strategies discussed in this article. PCIT focuses on teaching parents behavior management techniques within a play therapy setting, and then coaching them as they use them with their children.
*Understanding the Impact of Language Differences on Classroom Behavior  Article *Teaching staff can use the resources and strategies in this article to assist and support them when facing difficult situations in working with children who speak other languages.
Preventing Family Crisis Article, Tip Sheet Family services staff can find practical strategies for supporting families in crisis.
Parenting, Depression, and Hope: Reaching out to Families Facing Adversity [PDF, 165.75KB] Article Program staff can find basic information about how depression of a parent effects child social development and the family.
Meeting the Home Language Mandate: Practical Strategies for All Classrooms [PDF, 521.76KB] Article Management staff and teaching teams can learn the steps they can use to meet the home language mandate in the classroom.
*Multicultural Principle 2: The cultural groups represented in the communities and families of each Head Start program are the primary sources for culturally relevant programming [PDF, 92.42KB]

*En Español [PDF, 92.42KB]
Excerpt *Teaching teams and home visitors explore the importance of culture in the context of children's development and learning. They find out how to tap into elements of the community to ensure programming is culturally relevant to children and families.
*Multicultural Principle 4: Addressing cultural relevance in making curriculum choices and adaptations is a necessary, developmentally appropriate practice [PDF, 148.23KB]

*En Español [PDF, 148.23KB]
Excerpt *As culture is an important context in which children develop, Head Start teaching staff and family service workers need to consider family culture and home language in decisions related to curriculum.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

Strategies to Help Children Acquire Knowledge of People & the Environment

  • Explore landmarks in your community—these can be as prominent as the church on the corner, a community center, a commemorative statue, or other significant buildings, bridges, or natural formations.
  • Tour your neighborhood and discuss some of the sights you encounter.
  • Explore the jobs of people working at the center. Discuss how they help us everyday.
  • Take trips, invite visitors, make observations, and gather and record data about what they learn.
  • In the dramatic play area, include uniforms and props that represent different occupations reflected in the community.
  • Invite park and recreation personnel to talk with children about caring for the environment, including conserving natural resources and recycling.
  • Explore how the neighborhood or community supports recycling efforts.

Domain Element: People & the Environment

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
Health Benefits to Children from Contact With the Outdoors and Nature Bibliography (annotated) Management staff and teaching teams can use this literature review to learn about the health and mental health benefits of outdoor experiences for young children and their adult caregivers.
Research Summaries – Connecting Children with Nature [PDF, 152.25KB] Research Management and program staff can refer to this sampling of the growing body of research on the problem of children's disconnection from the natural world, and the benefits of increased connection.
Children's Contact With the Outdoors and Nature: A Focus On Educators and Educational Settings [PDF, 240.48KB] Bibliography (annotated) Management staff and teaching teams can use these literature reviews and overview documents to learn how outdoor experiences have an impact on the health and learning of young children. 
A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement   Research Researchers, parents, management and program staff, board members, and community partners may find this discussion and summary of the emergence of new approaches to community organizing useful.
Multicultural Principles for Head Start Programs Article Program staff can use the principles discussed in this article to meet program goals and to serve as a framework for designing programming that is responsive to diverse cultures within each community.
ACF-IM-HS-08-21: The Importance of Teacher-Child Relationships in Head Start [PDF, 80.12KB] Government Legislation and Regulations Teaching teams can refer to this Information Memorandum (IM) to learn about the importance of promoting strong, positive interactions with young children, as well as specific examples of some successful strategies.
Creating a Learning Environment for Young Children Article Teaching teams can learn that careful planning and the effective arrangement of space and classroom equipment can facilitate learning experiences for young children.
Universal Principles for Connecting the World's Children with Nature Video Directors, community partners and parents explore the results of multidisciplinary group efforts to make nature integral to children's indoor and outdoor experiences. Children's connections with nature enhance their dispositions for learning and promote positive respect for the environment and others.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

Strategies to Help Children Acquire Knowledge of History & Events

  • Invite parents and families to the classroom to share with children when they arrived in the community, and how they have adapted to the environment.
  • Celebrate special occasions and cultural events—invite parents to share these special customs with children.
  • Explore how the holidays you celebrate began—include children's parents and families in sharing their special family events and cultural celebrations.
  • Help parents and families document and share their family stories. Help the child understand where he or she fits into this picture.

Domain Element: History & Events

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
*Multicultural Principle 1: Every individual is rooted in culture [PDF, 146.43KB] Excerpt *Teachers and home visitors can review the elements of culture and how culture impacts everyday childrearing practices and beliefs.
*English Language Learners Bulletin Article-Excerpt *Through this example of the use of Cherokee language, teaching teams can gain an awareness of the importance of language to children's culture and family values.
*Beginning The New School Year With Learners From Many Cultures [PDF, 1.43MB] Article, see page 33 *Teaching teams can explore the backgrounds and events in the life of the family enrolling their child in Head Start. This information provides a context for enriching connections and relationships with the families.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.


References for Evidence-Based Practice for the Social Studies Knowledge & Skills Domain of the 2010 Early Learning Framework

The body of research that focuses on early education intervention as a key contributor to children's school readiness and successful achievement has grown significantly since the creation of Head Start in 1965. In order to highlight the significance of this research across the outcome domains of the Early Learning Framework, we include a variety of references that describe various levels of evidence in the research base.  Specifically we include levels of evidence that support the scientific believability of approaches, strategies, instructional practices, and outcomes. These levels of evidence include results of large scale research studies, documentation of evidence-informed practices, and/or replicable practices that effect children's progress toward outcomes, or they may hold merit for future research.

Social Studies Knowledge & Skills

Friedman, S. (Ed.) (2005). Social studies in action. Young Children, 60(5), 44–47.

Koralek, D., & Mindes, G. (Eds.) (2006). Spotlight on young children and social studies. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Mindes, G. (2005). Social studies in today's early childhood curriculum. Young Children, 60(5), 1-8.

Neuman, S.B., & Roskos, K. (2007). Nurturing knowledge: Building a foundation for school success by linking early literacy to math, science, art, and social studies. New York: Scholastic.

Ramsey, P.G. (2004). Teaching and learning in a diverse world: Multicultural education for young children (3rd ed). New York: Teachers College Press.

Rogoff, B. (2003). The Cultural Nature of Human Development. London:  Oxford University Press.

Family & Community

Gonzalez-Mena, J. (2008). Child, Family and Community:  Family-centered early care and education. Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall.

Libresco,  A., Balantic, J.& Kipling, J. (2011). Uncovering immigrants' stories: it all begins with picture books. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 24(1).

Lipson, J.G. & Dibble, S.L. (eds.)(2005). Culture and Clinical Care. San Francisco:  University of California San Francisco Nursing Press.

National Association for the Education of Young Children, (2005). Exploring Social Studies through Children's Books. Young Children, 60(5), 1-5.

Schroeder, M. (2007). Teaching preschoolers about inheritance. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 5(1), 64-82.

History & Events

Alleman, J., & Brophy, J. (2003). History is alive: Teaching young children about changes over time. The Social Studies, 94(3), 107.

People & the Environment

D'Addesio, J.A., Grob, B., Furman, L., Hayes, K. & David, J. (2005). Social studies: Learning about the world around us. Young Children, 60(5), 50–57.

Krogh, S.L., & Slentz, K.L. (2000). Social studies: Learning to live together. In The early childhood curriculum. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Stevens, R., & Hatfield, M. (2003). Map adventures: Introducing geography concepts.

Social Studies and the Young Learner, 16(2), 1-4.

Last Reviewed: June 2015

Last Updated: June 19, 2015