Center for Social Studies Education
The Center for Social Studies Education was created during the 2008-2009 academic year to serve as a focal point to promote social studies education and engage in programs to advance that cause.
Please use some of the links below showing current and completed programs that the Center is involved in as well as links to vital organizations across the country and state of Kansas.
‘Teach less, better’ is key concept in social studies symposium
About 50 current and future social studies teachers spent Feb. 2 in Bluemont Hall trying to avert world war during the 12th Annual Social Studies Symposium, a professional development exercise. Brad Burenheide, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, led the symposium where participants were divided into six groups. Each group received a manila envelope containing the name of their fictitious country, a flag, rules for diplomacy and an outline of their nation’s position relative to their neighbors. “In the 30-plus times I have given this exercise, only once was war averted,” Burenheide said. “One group quickly realized there was no way everyone was going to get what they wanted so they pulled all the groups together to work on a solution. It was a stunning display of diplomacy.”
Throughout the symposium, Burenheide offered several strategies on how to teach complex concepts to students ranging in age from 5th grade to high school. “One of the maxims I share with my students is to ‘teach less, better,’ which means we need to not worry about the breadth of the textbook but make sure our students are getting the big ideas contained within the curriculum at a more intense level,” Burenheide said. “To do this means we have to use simulations and experiential learning to get our kids involved.”
The concept hit home. “Learning how to ‘teach less, better’ from Dr. Burenheide is a lesson every teacher should experience,” said future teacher Jillian Barel. “Sitting with a group of teachers who are actively learning how to engage students was both encouraging and inspiring.”
While the day’s efforts were focused on teaching skills, Alex McConaghy, ’08, social studies teacher at St. Marys High School, explained it’s days like this that may have an important impact on the future. “Society will be the ultimate benefactor as teachers help students become better problem solvers, not just for today but for future generations,” MCConaghy said. “The games we played were not games, they were a way for us to realize that society is one big group project. Dr. Burenheide’s passion inspired us to grow educators.”
College of Education hosts 2018 ‘We the People’ state championships
For two years in a row, Blue Valley Northwest High School has won the annual “We the People” state competition and will head to Washington, D.C. for national competition. The Constitution was under no direct threat but the threat of a winter storm required organizers to reschedule the middle school competition to Feb. 25th. The high schools competed on Feb. 6 in Manhattan as planned. Blue Valley Northwest High School, led by government and AP government teacher Ken Thomas, won the “We the People” competition. Emporia High School took second place, and Junction City High School placed third. Colman McCarthy with the Johnson County First Amendment Foundation presented Blue Valley with a $5,000 check to help pay for the team’s travel expenses to the national “We the People” competition this spring in Washington, D.C. The foundation is supporting Emporia’s trip to the national competition with a $1,000 contribution.
The event was organized by College of Education faculty members Brad Burenheide, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, and Thomas S. Vontz, professor of curriculum and instruction and director of the Center for Social Studies Education. “The students were impressive, making reasoned arguments about critical constitutional issues and connecting constitutional ideas to historical and current events,” Vontz said. “This kind of intelligent, mature, and civil discourse about our similarities and differences has been and will continue to be an important marker of the health of our republic. This doesn’t happen accidentally and requires deliberate attention to help “We the People” thoughtfully engage the ongoing debates about the meaning and application of constitutional ideas. Brad and I applaud the teachers of these ideas because they are on the front lines of attempting to keep our experiment in self-government vibrant and healthy.”
Burenheide and Vontz both expressed how impressed the volunteer judges were. The judges were teachers, K-State education students, and actual judges from the state who volunteered their knowledge and time to evaluate the performance of the students.
The “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Program” promotes civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s upper elementary and secondary students. The “We the People” printed textbook's and Enhanced eBook's interactive strategies, relevant content and the simulated congressional hearing make teaching and learning exciting for both students and teachers. The program enjoys active support from state bar associations and foundations, and other educational, professional, business, and community organizations across the nation. Since its inception in 1987, more than 28 million students and 75,000 educators have participated in the “We the People” program.
The high schools and their sponsoring teachers in the competition were:
- Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park), Ken Thomas
- Cedar Vale High School (Cedar Vale), Joseph Fox
- Emporia High School (Emporia), Jamie Dawson
- Junction City High School (Junction City), Reina Cruz
- McPherson High School (McPherson), Bryan Little & Megan Nieman
- Valley Heights High School (Blue Rapids), Lew Whitson
- Jefferson West High School (Meriden), Blanche Wulfekoetter
- Abilene High School(Abilene), Janeal Schmidt