Basic Principles

History Standards for elementary school children, grades K-4, have been developed with the following principles in mind:

  1. Children can, from the earliest elementary grades, begin to build historical understandings and perspectives and to think historically. An important responsibility of schooling in these years is to support the conditions which foster children’s natural curiosity and imagination, to provide them opportunities to reach out in time and space, and to expand their world of understanding far beyond the “here and now.”
  2. Although young children are only in the early stages of acquiring concepts of chronology and time, they easily learn to differentiate time present, time past, and time “long, long ago”-skills on which good programs in historical thinking can then build over grades K-4.
  3. To bring history alive, an important part of children’s historical studies should be centered in people-the history of families and of people, ordinary and extraordinary, who have lived in children’s own community, state, nation, and the world.
  4. History becomes especially accessible and interesting to children when approached through stories, myths, legends, and biographies that capture children’s imaginations and immerse them in times and cultures of the recent and long-ago past.
  5. In addition to stories, children should be introduced to a wide variety of historical artifacts, illustrations, and records that open to them first-hand glimpses into the lives of people in the past: family photos; letters, diaries, and other accounts of the past obtained from family records, local newspapers, libraries, and museums; field trips to historical sites in their neighborhood and community; and visits to “living museums” where actors reenact life long ago.
  6. All these resources should be used imaginatively to help children formulate questions for study and to support historical thinking, such as the ability to marshal information; create sound hypotheses; locate events in time and place; compare and contrast past and present; explain historical causes and consequences; analyze historical fiction and illustrations for their accuracy and perspectives, and compare with primary sources that accurately portray life, attitudes, and values in the past; compare different stories about an era or event in the past and the interpretations or perspectives of each; and create historical narratives of their own in the form of stories, letters such as a child long ago might have written, and descriptive accounts of events.