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Social Studies Curriculum Social Studies - Utah Studies
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Course Introduction

Utah is an amazing place, rich in resources, in geographic wonders, in inspiring history, and in the diversity of its people. The study of Utah permits students to understand more deeply the place they call home, while developing essential skills unique to the social studies disciplines. Within these standards, Utah Studies offers an opportunity for students to learn about their own families and cultures as well as those of others.

The Utah Studies standards are based on four social studies disciplines: history, geography, economics, and civics. Students will explore the complex history of Utah, with examples of creativity, sacrifice, conflict, innovation, inequity, compromise, and leadership. Students will also learn about Utah’s diverse physical geography, encounter Utah’s economic systems and dynamics, and explore local and statewide political systems.

The range of the Utah Studies standards allows teachers flexibility in designing the course scope and sequence. The course could be organized thematically, with distinct units of study related to the social studies disciplines:

  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Political science/civics

To assist in developing such a thematic scope and sequence, the social studies discipline most associated with each standard is listed in parentheses after the standard.

Historical context and chronology can also provide an organizing structure for understanding Utah’s geography, economics, and politics. While the standards can be taught thematically, they are organized into five historical periods:

Prehistory - 1847
Thousands of years encompassing the development of complex American Indian ways of life and the beginnings of European exploration

1847 - 1896
The exploration and settlement of Utah by Mormon and other pioneers, and the transition from territory to Utah statehood

1896 - 1945
Utah’s political, social, and economic development from statehood to the end of World War II

1945 - 2002
The post-World War II era through the 2002 Winter Olympics

2003 - Present
Utah’s recent past, the present, and planning for the future

Whether teachers organize their course thematically or chronologically, students will engage in inquiry using the tools, conceptual understandings and the language of historians, geographers, economists, and political scientists at a developmentally appropriate level. Students will craft arguments, apply reasoning, make comparisons, and interpret and synthesize evidence as historians, geographers, economists and political scientists. They will corroborate their sources of evidence and place their interpretations within historical contexts.

Among other elements of historical thinking, students should have opportunities to consider the concept of historical significance. Out of all the events that have happened in the past, historians must determine those that are significant enough for study. Led by their teachers, students should have opportunities to consider and discuss the relative significance of diverse events.

Students will be expected to demonstrate their understanding of each period’s key historic, geographic, economic, and civic concepts by applying those concepts to complete cognitively rigorous tasks. Whenever possible, students will make connections between course content and current issues, helping to deepen their understanding of the context and complexity of civic life and preparing them for civic engagement.

Civic Preparation
Civic engagement is one of the fundamental purposes of education. The preparation of young people for participation in America’s democratic republic is vital. The progress of our communities, state, nation, and world rests upon the preparation of young people to collaboratively and deliberatively address problems, to defend their own rights and the rights of others, and to balance personal interests with the common good. Social studies classrooms are the ideal locations to foster civic virtue, consider current issues, learn how to act civilly toward others, and build a civic identity and an awareness of global issues. These skills, habits, and qualities of character will prepare students to accept responsibility for preserving and defending their liberties.

To reach these ends, student should have ample opportunities to:

  • Engage in deliberative, collaborative, and civil dialogue regarding historical and current issues.
  • Identify local, state, national, or international problems; engage with solutions to these problems; and share their ideas with appropriate public and/or private stakeholders.
  • Apply knowledge of governmental structure, historical concepts, geographic interrelationships, and economic principles to analyze and explain current events.
  • Develop and demonstrate values that sustain America’s democratic republic, such as open-mindedness, engagement, honesty, problem-solving, responsibility, diligence, resilience, empathy, self-control, and cooperation.

A Note on the Organization of the Utah Standards in All Core Areas
Utah standards are organized into strands, which represent significant areas of learning within content areas. Depending on the core area, these strands may be designated by time periods, thematic principles, modes of practice, or other organizing principles.

Within each strand are standards. A standard is an articulation of the demonstrated proficiency to be obtained. A standard represents an essential element of the learning that is expected. While some standards within a strand may be more comprehensive than others, all standards are essential for mastery.


Core Standards of the Course


(Prehistory-Ca. 1847)
The recorded history of Utah spans just a few centuries, yet humans have lived in the land now called Utah for thousands of years. Complex native cultures have developed and flourished in Utah's distinctive geographic regions. Prehistoric artifacts tell us much about their lives and cultures. For centuries the historic tribes of Utah-the Goshute, Navajo, Paiute, Shoshone, and Ute-adapted to their ever-changing environment, especially after they came into contact with European explorers in 1776. Nearly a century of trade relations transpired while Utah was part of the Spanish Empire, and later Mexico. These tribal nations remain essential and active members of the Utah community.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • How do cultures meet their economic and social needs?
  • What can the study of archaeology tell us about the economies, communities, and other aspects of the cultures of these early peoples?
  • Why is it vital to protect archaeological sites in Utah? ] What role did geography play in the innovations created by Utah's Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan peoples?
  • What is the historical significance of the Dominguez and Escalante expedition?
  • How do economic systems, such as the trade networks Europeans developed with American Indian communities, shape and spread cultures?
  • Is conflict inevitable when cultures interact?
  • How did the arrival of European and American trappers alter the human geography of Utah?
  • How did Chief Walker's leadership, and the leadership of other American Indians, influence the reaction of American Indians to newcomers to the territory?
  • How do the current ways of life of Utah's Native American tribes reflect changes and continuities?

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UT Standard 1.1:
Students will make evidence-based inferences about the complex ancient cultures in Utah after studying artifacts from the prehistoric era. (history)

UT Standard 1.2:
Students will analyze and explain the interactions and interconnections between the physical characteristics of Utah and American Indian cultures using a range of texts, oral histories, and geographic inquiry. (geography)

UT Standard 1.3:
Students will explain the economic activity of a prehistoric and/or historic American Indian tribal community by using basic economic concepts, including supply, demand, trade, and scarcity. (economics)

UT Standard 1.4:
Students will analyze primary and secondary sources to explain causes and effects of European-American exploration, including the response and involvement of Utah's American Indian tribes. (history)

UT Standard 1.5:
Students will describe the cultural change and continuity of at least one of Utah's current sovereign nations as it has responded to changing political, social, and economic forces. Students will use a variety of resources that may include written primary and secondary sources, oral histories, photographs, artifacts, and art. (economics, civics)


(Ca. 1847-1896)

The arrival of European immigrants in Utah launched a period of immigration, dramatic cultural change, and conflict among Utah's many diverse peoples. This period begins with the Mormon migration, expansion of settlement in the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau, and accompanying political conflict, wars, and violence. After 1860 the development of mining and other industries created a complex economy and drew new immigrants to the state, increasing Utah's religious and cultural diversity. Railroads became an important engine of social, cultural, political, and economic change. Utah's transition from territory to state was long and difficult. By 1896 Utah had become deeply and increasingly interconnected with the nation and the world.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • What factors led various peoples to settle in Utah?
  • What geographic factors positioned Utah to become "the crossroads of the West"?
  • What was the role of Brigham Young and other pioneer leaders in the settlement of Utah?
  • How do culture and the interaction of cultures shape a sense of place?
  • How did white settlement effect Native American Indian communities?
  • Why did Utah struggle to attain statehood?
  • How did Mormons interrelate with other immigrant groups in Utah?
  • How did improved transportation, industry, and mining transform Utah's economy, politics, and other aspects of culture?
  • What were the causes of the various conflicts that occurred during the territorial period? How were these conflicts resolved? What were the lasting consequences of these conflicts?

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UT Standard 2.1:
Students will explain the causes and lasting effects of the Mormon migration to Utah. (history)

UT Standard 2.2:
Students will compare the causes and lasting effects of various non-Mormon groups' migrations to Utah. (history)

UT Standard 2.3:
Students will use geographic inquiry to explain patterns in the settlement of Utah and the subsequent trends in urbanization, referring to a range of communities as case studies. (geography)

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UT Standard 2.4:
Students will research multiple perspectives to explain one or more of the political, social, cultural, religious conflicts of this period, including the U.S. Civil War and more localized conflicts such as the Utah War, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Bear River Massacre, the Black Hawk War, or other Federal-Mormon conflicts. (history)

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UT Standard 2.5:
Students will construct an evidence-based argument to explain how the development of transportation and communication networks across the state changed Utah's economy and human geography. (economics, geography)

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UT Standard 2.6:
Students will explain how agriculture, railroads, mining, and industrialization created new communities and new economies throughout the state. (economics, geography,)

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UT Standard 2.7:
Students will identify the political challenges that delayed Utah's statehood and explain how these challenges were overcome. (civics)

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UT Standard 2.8:
Students will explain how their own connection to Utah is a reflection of the complex history of the state. (history)

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(Ca. 1896-1945)

In 1896, Utah became the forty-fifth state, with a newly ratified constitution and a mandate to create a state government. During the next half century, the interplay of national and global forces on Utah increased, from economic crises and industrialization to progressive reforms and two global wars. Utah's human and physical geography influenced everything from the mining industry and labor movements to the placement of wartime infrastructure, including military bases and internment camps for Japanese Americans.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • What are historic and contemporary examples of Utah's economic interdependence?
  • How can global events occurring in distant parts of the world sometimes affect daily life in Utah?
  • What is the function of a state constitution?
  • How have physical and human geographic characteristics influenced Utah's economic development?
  • What factors can influence social reform movements?
  • What were the main goals of the Progressive movement? How successful was that movement in Utah?
  • How was Utah's economy changed by the Great Depression?
  • What are historians' arguments for why Japanese American were interned at Topaz?
  • What role did Utah play in World War II, and what impact did the war have on Utah?

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UT Standard 3.1:
Students will identify the civic virtues and principles codified by the Utah Constitution. (civics)

UT Standard 3.2:
Students will use primary sources and/or oral histories to analyze the impact of a national/global event such as World War I, the Spanish flu epidemic, the Great Depression, World War II, and Japanese American internment on an individual or community in Utah. (history)

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UT Standard 3.3:
Students will describe the effects of events, movements, and innovations on Utah's economic development, such as the organized labor movement, farming and industrial improvements, the World Wars, and the Great Depression. (economics)

UT Standard 3.4:
Students will identify the causes and effects of the Progressive movement using examples from community or state history, such as the organized labor movement, tax reform, the Scofield mine disaster, and education and child labor reforms. (civics)


(Ca. 1945-2002)

The post-war era saw massive cultural and economic changes. By the time Utah hosted the 2002 Olympics, the state was globally interconnected as never before. Utah's economy and world-famous geography became inextricably linked with one another as the snow-sport and tourism industries developed. Industries including mining, agriculture, and technology continued to evolve and expand. Conversations and controversies continued regarding the best ways forward for economic growth, community development, and natural resource management. Additionally, Utah's cultural landscape continued to evolve and diversify.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • How did the Cold War affect life in Utah?
  • What unique attributes of Utah's physical and human geography have had an impact on the growth and development of the state?
  • What is the best way to balance federal and state power?
  • How do various ethnic and religious communities in Utah maintain and celebrate their unique cultures?
  • Who are some of the most influential leaders in Utah, at a variety of scales? What have been their most significant contributions to the betterment of life in Utah?

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UT Standard 4.1:
Students will evaluate the impact of the Cold War on Utah, such as the uranium boom, nuclear testing, nuclear waste storage and disposal, and the MX missile controversy. (history)

UT Standard 4.2:
Students will make an evidence-based argument regarding the appropriate roles of local, state, and federal governments in resolving a current and/or historical issue. (civics)

UT Standard 4.3:
Students will describe the economic ties between Utah communities, the nation, and the world. (economic)

UT Standard 4.4:
Students will use data and other evidence related to a cultural, ethnic, or religious group in Utah to interpret the group's historic/current conditions and experiences. (history, geography)

UT Standard 4.5:
Students will describe the historic and present management of natural resources and make recommendations for natural resource management in the future. (geography)

UT Standard 4.6:
Students will evaluate the impact of tourism on Utah's economy and geography, such as the development of tourism industries, state and national parks, and events including the 2002 Olympics. (economics)


(Ca. 2003-Present) In the 21st century, central themes endure: the diffusion of cultures, global interconnectedness, the importance of creating and sustaining community, and the need for a strong economy. Most current events-whether they involve interactions between sovereign American Indian tribal communities and state and federal governments; concerns about water; tensions and questions about the proper role and jurisdiction of local, state, and federal governments; or ideas about how best to grow Utah's economy-have their roots deeply embedded in the rich history of Utah. Students will now have an opportunity to synthesize their study of Utah with capstone academic work.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • How should issues be resolved that involve state, federal, and American Indian lands?
  • What would be the costs and benefits of Utah hosting another Winter Olympics?
  • What are the best ways to ensure our growing water needs will be met?
  • In what ways should Utah grow its economy?
  • What are solutions to Utah's air quality concerns?
  • How do we create and sustain safe and healthy communities?
  • How can Utah best meet transportation and other infrastructure needs?

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UT Standard 5.1:
Students will select a recent event they think will be worthy of remembering, recording, or interpreting, and make an argument for its potential historical significance. (history)

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UT Standard 5.2:
Students will use geographic tools and resources to investigate a current issue, challenge, or problem facing Utah or their community, and propose a viable solution. (geography)

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UT Standard 5.3:
Students will use data regarding the key components of Utah's economy to make recommendations for sustainable development. (economics)

UT Standard 5.4:
Students will use recent population growth and other demographic trends to make predictions about Utah's growth, and create and defend a public policy in response to those trends. (economics)

UT Standard 5.5:
Students will research issues of civic importance in which city, county, tribal, or state governments have a role. Students will use their research to develop and write a policy proposal to the appropriate governmental entity, such as a board, commission, council, legislator, or agency. (civics)

UEN logo - in partnership with Utah State Board of Education (USBE) and Utah System of Higher Education (USHE).  Send questions or comments to USBE Specialist - Robert  Austin and see the Social Studies website. For general questions about Utah's Core Standards contact the Director - Jennifer  Throndsen.

These materials have been produced by and for the teachers of the State of Utah. Copies of these materials may be freely reproduced for teacher and classroom use. When distributing these materials, credit should be given to Utah State Board of Education. These materials may not be published, in whole or part, or in any other format, without the written permission of the Utah State Board of Education, 250 East 500 South, PO Box 144200, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-4200.