C3 Social Studies Framework

c3cover-1The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework For Social Studies State Standards is a document developed by twenty states and fifteen national social studies content organizations in a voluntary effort to provide a powerful document to help states and teachers as they develop and implement their state-developed standards. The National Geographic Society was a partner in the development process. The C3 Framework is not a standards document, but rather a framework that “does not include all that can or should be included in a set of robust social studies standards, and intentionally preserves the critical choices around the selection of curricular content taught at each grade level as a decision best made by each state.” (NCSS, page 6) The document further states “The Framework aims to support states in creating standards that prepare young people for effective and successful participation in college, careers, and civic life.”

What are the Guiding Principles of the C3 Framework?

The C3 Framework is driven by the following shared principles about high quality social studies education:

  • The social studies prepare the nation’s young people for success in college and career; as well as informed, engaged participation in civic life.
  • Inquiry is at the heart of social studies instruction.
  • The social studies involve interdisciplinary instruction and benefit from interaction with and integration of the arts and humanities.
  • The social studies is composed of deep and enduring understandings, concepts, and skills from the disciplines. Social studies emphasize skills and practices that prepare students for informed and engaged participation in civic life.
  • Social studies education has direct and explicit connections to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies.
  • The C3 Framework informs the process by which states and school districts develop social studies standards.
    (C3 Fact Sheet, p.1)

Geography and the C3 Framework

The authors of the C3 Framework document recognize that, while Social Studies is often taught as an integrated subject, each discipline within the Social Studies has a unique perspective and approach to analyzing the world. For that reason, the individual disciplines developed a section to illustrate how the disciplinary concepts and tools connect to the Arc of Inquiry outlined in Dimension 2 of the document.

The Geographic Lens

“Geographic inquiry helps people understand and appreciate their own place in the world, and fosters curiosity about Earth’s wide diversity of environments and cultures.

Geographic reasoning rests on deep knowledge of Earth’s physical and human features, including the locations of places and regions, the distribution of landforms and water bodies, and historic changes in political boundaries, economic activities, and cultures. Geographic reasoning requires using spatial and environmental perspectives, skills in asking and answering questions, and being able to apply geographic representations including maps, imagery, and geospatial technologies. A spatial perspective is about whereness. Where are people and things located? Why there? What are the consequences? An environmental perspective views people as living in interdependent relationships within diverse environments. Thinking geographically requires knowing that the world is a set of complex ecosystems interacting at multiple scales that structure the spatial patterns and processes that influence our daily lives. Geographic reasoning brings societies and nature under the lens of spatial analysis, and aids in personal and societal decision making and problem solving.” (NCSS, p.40)



C3 Inquiry Modules (with a Geography emphasis)

Links to the C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards

New York Social Studies Toolkit Inquiries : Suburbs Inquiry (Am. History)
Compelling  Question – Were suburbs  good  for  America?



  1. National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3)Framework for Social Studies State Standards: Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, Economics, Geography, and History (Silver Spring, MD: NCSS, 2013).
  2. Fact Sheet: College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework For Social Studies State Standards ; State Guidance to improve the rigor of instruction in Civics, Economics, Geography, and History, http://www.asanet.org/documents/students/docs/FINAL%20C3%20Fact%20Sheet%209-13-13-1.pdf

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