La Estrella de Tejas (The Star of Texas) is the official e-newsletter of the Texas Council for the Social Studies. To ensure La Estrella is delivered to your mailbox, add  to your contact list.

A Message from Robin Sabo
TCSS President

“Grab ahold of that oxygen mask in front of you and make sure all of your travel mates and the crew have their masks on first before putting one on yourself” said no stewardess ever.

I am so amazed at the innovative and caring ways social studies teachers from across the state have reacted to this current crisis. But I do worry about the social and emotional well being of educators as they strive to navigate less familiar instructional practices and social distancing, while addressing the needs of their students, parents, co-workers, and loved ones.

Do you ever wonder why they ask you to put your oxygen mask on before you assist others? As compassionate, service-oriented person, that's not likely your first instinct. You really want to look around and make sure that your loved ones are taken care of before you attempt to rescue yourself. But if you don't put the oxygen mask on first then your brain is not getting what it needs to ensure you make the best choices physically, respond appropriately, and stay alert to adjustments that may be needed. And if you are not in shape to make these choices and react in the best possible way to the emergency, then you really are not in shape to help your loved ones through the situation. It is partially for this reason the stewards instruct you to put on your own mask securely before assisting others.

So, what lessons can we take from this as we navigate our current situation. As a person who's chosen to work in a service industry, it is our nature to prop up, support and encourage those around us. We want to help our students. We want to make sure they have what they need in order to succeed despite any challenges. To these ends, we often sacrificed our own care or put our own wellbeing at risk by expending all our energy nurturing and caring for others. Now there is absolutely a place for us to care for others. That is why we're in education and you as leaders in social studies know the importance of ensuring the community well-being. But in taking the lesson from airline safety, it is also important to ensure that your personal well-being is secured in a way that will allow you to support others more effectively.

"Taking care of ourselves while taking care of others allows us to contribute to our societies with such impact that we will leave a legacy informed by our deepest wisdom and greatest gifts instead of burdened with our struggles and despair.” From Trauma Stewardship, by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk

In their book, Trauma Stewardship, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk, leaders in the field of trauma exposure, provide a framework to help those who work with victims of trauma stay centered and balanced in their own personal practices. They organize selected mindfulness practices around directions, which equip individuals with ways to keep centered as they support others.

  • North - Creating a Space for Inquiry; Why are you doing what you are doing? Is this still working for you?
  • East – Choosing Your Focus; What is your focus? What do you really need to be spending time on?
  • West -- Finding balance; What is your balance? What are you grateful for? What things in your life, outside of your work, are you engaging with?
  • South – Build Compassion and Community; Who do you surround yourself with? Who is there to support you? Are you practicing compassion on yourself as well as others?
  • Center - A Daily Practice of Centering Myself

These practices support staying present in circumstances rather than using compartmentalization and numbing, which Lipsky and Burk view as unhealthy and not sustainable. Their experiences note professionals who utilize daily mindfulness practices around the directions are better equipped emotionally and physically to support others in trauma.

Looking for some daily mindfulness practices that nurture your passion for social studies? Try some of these to see how they work for you.

  • Pursue your passion with a snappy music video by historyteachers you-tubers, who describe historical events using the soundtrack of pop music hits, play games at and or listen to a podcast like Talking Social Studies, Back Story or History on Fire
  • Find focus by participating in #sschat or NCSS online webinars; catch up on practice based research published digitally in the Journal of Social Studies and History Education (; or follow favorite leading education researchers such as @SHEG_Stanford or @jaymctighe,
  • Bring in some balance with a virtual tour through more than 2,000 museums at , take a driving tour of local historical markers, or do some historical cooking with
  • Visit the World Affairs Council for online webinars, videos, student activities, and professional development at 
  • Connect with the #powerofcommunity to share some of your own favorite mindful practices, remember to mention @txsocialstudies.

“Attuning ourselves to the Five Directions is one way to regain calm — to once again remember who we are, where we are headed, and what we need. Being centered allows us to occupy a constant oasis of wisdom, perspective, and integrity, regardless of how out of control everything and everyone around us seems. As we center our personal practice, we can approach our circumstances proactively rather than reactively. With sustained practice, we can maintain inner resources we need to care for ourselves and care for others.” From Trauma Stewardship, by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk

Wish all the best for you all and cannot wait until we are able to be together in person again.

Robin Sabo

TCSS President 2020

Resource Highlight: HyperDocs

Renee Blackmon
TCSS President-Elect

For many the rug was pulled out from under us when school districts recently shut their physical facilities and shifted to remote instruction. Not only do resources vary from district to district, so does the proficiency teachers have with various digital tools. Additionally, we have been bombarded with resources from many well intended providers. I really do not want to add to that list, instead I would like to highlight ONE digital tool that is simple to master and implement whether you are a “techy” type or are more the pencil and paper type – HyperDocs.

What are HyperDocs?

While teachers have utilized assignments with hyperlinks for some time now HyperDocs, coined by teachers Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis, are more than worksheets with links. HyperDocs are digital documents where the components of the learning cycle are pulled together in one place. All the hyperlinks and resources needed for the student are in the document. What really distinguishes HyperDocs is that they reflect effective pedagogy by connecting lesson design with tech integration.  I cannot stress enough that HyperDocs are not online worksheets. A first step to creating HyperDocs is understanding the components of effective lesson design.

What are the components of effective lesson design?

  • Objective(s): What will the student be able to do when the lesson has been completed? All effective lessons start with clear objectives of what students will learn and be able to do as a result of the lesson. Effective objects guide the teacher in planning the learning experiences during the lesson and guide students in where the learning is headed.

  • Initiation into the lesson: How will students’ attention be captured to stimulate their thinking and engage their learning? Activities that initiate the lesson should pique students’ interest, and activate prior knowledge. Many lesson planning formats refer to this as the engage phase.

  • Building Knowledge/Skills: How will students gather information/knowledge/skills needed to master the objective? Consider where and how students can access the information needed for the lesson. Model literacy strategies for gathering information. Provide supports for recording (note-making) when gathering information, such as graphic organizers. Model skills. Debrief with direct instruction. Review student work to check for student understanding of the information gathered or the practiced skills, provide feedback.

  • Processing Information: What will students do with the information gathered or how will they continue to practice the skill they have learned? Design activities in which students apply the information gathered. Consider how the activity demonstrates a student’s understanding of the information and/or how the activity demonstrates a student’s mastery of a skill.

  • Assessing learning: How will students demonstrate retention of the information and/or mastery of the skill? Consider utilizing performance assessments, exit tickets, entrance tickets prior to the next lesson.

Many HyperDocs reflect a lesson format of EXPLORE/EXPLAIN/APPLY.  So think of HyperDocs as digital lessons, not just a worksheet or activity.  Take a look at this HyperDoc to see how the lesson format is exemplified.

Why use HyperDocs?

HyperDocs are easy to implement, especially if you are overwhelmed by all the digital tools available. There are a lot of resources available about HyperDocs and that can be overwhelming too. I recommend this video as a starting tutorial and this site for more information about HyperDocs. As you become more proficient with HyperDocs you will find many resources for how to create in other formats beside just documents.

HyperDocs allow your students to self-pace and work independently and also offer you the flexibility of making changes without starting all over. Additionally, HyperDocs facilitate differentiation of lessons for various students. Be careful to curate all of the links/resources so that you don’t throw too much at the students.

I hope that you find HyperDocs as a solution for packaging digital content as we all shift our practices in this challenging time.

More examples of hyperdocs for social studies here.

This month we hosted two IG Live events that featured the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and The Original Geographer.  Below you will find the resources shared during the two IG Live events. We appreciate their passion to support students and teachers in #doingsocialstudies.

We will continue to feature members of the community to bring YOU high quality and practical resources that can be used in the classroom. 

Thanks for your support and patience with our first IG Live events.

Stay tuned for our next featured guests.

IG LIVE: May 8, 2020

Elizabeth Hansen, Interim Director

The Texas Archive of the Moving Image is a non-profit organization working to discover, preserve, provide access to, and educate the community about Texas' film heritage. Using our collection of more than 5,000 primary and secondary source videos, we provide free lesson plans for grades K–12. Diverse topics include Early Texas History, Business and Commerce, NASA, Politics, Texas Culture, and Texas Landmarks. Plus, we have activities for students to digitally explore the Lone Star State.

Follow the Texas Archive of the Moving Image

Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest //

Giphy // Website

The Texas Archive shared the following resources that include the moving image source and lesson plans that were developed using the source. 

Source: Gone to Texas (1978)

Source: Wildcatter: A Story of Texas Oil (1985)

Source: Ray Jelinek Collection, no. 11 - Oil Drilling Operation

Source: Galveston Hurricane Video Collection

Source: Hurricane Carla Video Collection

A Simple Matter of Justice (1978)

IG LIVE: May 15, 2020

Thomas Barclay Larsen, Ph.D.
Original Geographer (O/GEO)

Original Geographer is dedicated to advancing geography education. It aims to increase geography’s relevance to society, the workforce, and everyday life.

Follow the Original Geographer

Youtube // Twitter // Instagram // Website

Click the image below to play the video.

Click image to view video

‘Some Good News’ for Social Studies Teachers|
Original Geographer (O/GEO)

By Thomas Barclay Larsen, Ph.D.

Never have I felt such gratitude for the family of deer grazing behind my apartment complex.  I see them five or six times per week.  Alone at home, I type away at my desk while they roam freely about Texas Hill Country.  Through the window blinds, I declared them my friends.  It is a one-sided friendship.  I doubt they know I exist.

I do not need to tell you how insane the last few months have been.  By now, your attention has likely become immune to (or disillusioned by) breaking news and broken record soundbites by political pundits.  Common in American vernacular are words like COVID-19, asymptomatic, flatten the curve, social distancing, respirators, ventilators, the new norm, and #dontdrinkbleach.

I write to you as a geography teacher, vagabond, and pathological extrovert.  I wander aimlessly through my two-bedroom apartment as though I were lost in a desert, wondering how to make the most of the Coronavirus shutdown.  The cards are not totally stacked against Curious Georges like me.  Quarantine sharpens awareness of the things in our community that we take for granted.  My eyes well up when I talk to fellow teachers on Zoom, and we share hopes of reuniting over a frosty beverage at the local bar.  Solitude stimulates mindfulness.  It also fosters deeper intimacy with the places we belong, what geographers call ‘placefulness.’

An avid fan of The Office, I was elated when stumbling upon the YouTube channel of John Krasinski, that actor who played Jim, the show’s shaggy-haired, deadpan prankster.  On 29 March 2020, Krasinski launched his first episode of “Some Good News.”  The channel’s aim is to highlight all the creative, funny, and inspiring qualities of life amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  Guests on the show include astronauts streaming from the International Space Station (ISS).  This year, the ISS celebrates twenty continuous years in Earth’s orbit!  Though many educators cringed when Krasinski’s opening credits featured a globe spinning in the wrong direction, the human-side overrode my brain and exclaimed, “Yes!  This is what the world needs!”

Echoing Krasinski’s sentiments, we need some good news for Texas social studies teachers.  

Lately, my Twitter feed (@originalgeographer) has been filled with educators feeling overwhelmed by the move toward an online format.  Working from home may feel like running a marathon on a treadmill with zero prior training.  It is one thing to manage students face-to-face.  It is an entirely different beast to manage students from your home while they terrorize you from their homes.

I have some good news.  Earlier this year, I launched the Original Geographer (O/GEO) project: a website, monthly newsletter, and YouTube channel.  O/GEO’s intention is to provide teachers with online geography content that is entertaining, relevant, and bingeworthy.

We are all Original Geographers because we share this Big Blue Marble and strive to make sense of our place in it.  Social studies teachers belong to the inner circle of Original Geographers.  Access to quality geography education is scarce.  I hope to change that.  Weekly, I publish videos that explain how geography can inform understandings of global changes, popular culture, and ordinary life.  A collection of COVID-19 videos summarizes how to teach geography while keeping your distance:

Outside the ninth grade, the Texas curriculum may not feature geography as a standalone subject, but geography is present in every facet of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).  Social studies teachers and students can grasp the basics of the geographic perspective through the following videos:

Innumerable events can be used as devices for teaching geography, from the Netflix series Tiger King to the legendary songwriting of the late-John Prine:

Social studies teachers: Remind your students to never lose their sense of wonder.  Encourage them to explore the world from home through books, music, art, and imagination.  Most of all, inspire them to pursue meaningful things.  

Yours Geographically,

Thomas B. Larsen, Ph.D.

P.S. Please don’t forget to subscribe to the O/GEO YouTube channel, sign up for monthly newsletters, and follow O/GEO on Twitter.

Save the Date: 

#TXCSS2020 "Power of Community"

October 2-4, 2020 in Denton, Texas

This year's conference will take place in Denton, Texas at the Embassy Suites Denton Convention Center. 


Hotel Reservations

Location: Embassy Suites Denton Convention Center, 3100 Town Center Tr, Denton, TX 76201

Special Rate: $96.00 per night, single

Book by: August 31, 2020 to secure the conference room rate

The Embassy Suites Denton Convention Center welcomes attendees of the Texas Council for the Social Studies. Special rates are provided during your stay. All bookings may be made online to receive your special negotiated rate by visiting the website. Make certain to bring a Hotel Tax Exemption Form.

Visit our conference page to make room reservations. 


Registration rate

The full conference rate starts at $200 for TXCSS Members. Information about additional registration rates will be finalized in the next month.  Visit for the latest updates.


Presentation/Poster Proposal

Submit a presentation proposal.

The deadline to submit a proposal is July 15. Presenters with accepted proposals will be notified by email by August 2. Once acceptance notification is sent, presenters will be required to confirm their participation and registration for the conference by September 10.

Every year at the annual fall conference, TCSS members are honored as outstanding teachers and social studies educators. The process for determining the award winners begins with the nomination of candidates according to guidelines as described on the Awards page of the TCSS website. Think about the exceptional educators you know in your own school setting or a colleague that you might know through attending workshops and conferences. There are many outstanding teachers in TCSS, please take a few moments to help this organization give special recognition to those members.

  • Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. These awards are given in recognition of active participation in local, state, and national social studies councils AND outstanding social studies teaching at the elementary, middle, and high school levelsDownload the application.
  • Outstanding High Education Faculty of the Year Award. These awards are given in recognition of active participation in local, state, and national social studies councils AND outstanding social studies teaching at the higher education levelDownload the application.
  • NOVA (Early Career Educator) Award. Given to an outstanding social studies teacher at the elementary or secondary level who has completed at least one year of teaching and is now in his or her second or third year of teaching. Download the application.
  • Billy Sills Distinguished Service Award. Presented each year in recognition of a member’s contributions and long-time service to social studies professional organizations: local councils, TCSS, and NCSS. Download the application.


Please take a look around you and nominate a fellow educator for one of the awards. You may self-nominate or nominate another TCSS member. Nominations do NOT have to come from local councils; they may be made by individuals as well. All required materials must be sent to the Chair of the Special Awards Committee as cited on the TCSS website and received via email by June 1. If you need more information, please contact Anda Lee Seat at

Complete the nomination form.

The TCSS Mini-Grants

Are you looking for ways to grow as a professional or innovate in your classroom? We would love to hear about it.

Intended for continuing education in social studies. Up to four (4) $500 teacher mini-grants will be awarded each year. One will be awarded in memory of Jean Lantz. The funds may be used to purchase curriculum materials to be used in the classroom and/or to cover training/conference expenses not covered by other sources. Applicants must be a member of TCSS for the past two years followed by submitting a lesson/article to The Texan, or by leading a professional development session at the Fall TCSS Conference or district training. The TCSS-Stalwart-Mini-Grant-application-form deadline is June 1. Need more info, please email  

Download the application

The Stephen Johnson Student Scholarships

Named after a one of the organization's tenured members.  Stephen Johnson was a school teacher for many years.  He served as president,  served as TCSS Executive Secretary helping to host a decade of conferences and received our top honor,The Billy Sills Distinguished Service award.

The scholarships are two $2000 awards for graduating high school or college students intent on a career teaching social studies. In order to qualify for the scholarship, applicants’ major field of study must be related to social studies education. The TCSS Scholarship deadline is June 1. Need more info, please email

Download the scholarship application 

A message from our sponsor

Nominate a student
Visit Education in Action

TEKS-based Discover Texas Field Trips supplement what your students are learning in class through educational, structured, and fun, experiences at significant Texas sites. The best part for you? We handle the details including charter bus transportation, reservations, and TEKS-based curriculum. Education in Action facilitators even lead curriculum-based activities during travel time on the bus! Contact us today to request your preferred field trip date! 

Join NCSS in Washington, DC at our 100th anniversary celebration and hear four former U.S. Secretaries of Education take to the big stage in a panel discussion you will not want to miss!

Visit the conference page for updates about the NCSS 100th Annual Conference. Registration will open in May 2020. 

La Estrella is published four times a year to provide our community with timely information and opportunities related to social studies education in Texas. The contents of La Estrella are not copyrighted unless indicated. It is appropriate, however, to credit sources as well as La Estrella when reproducing items from this e-newsletter. Reproduction for profit is prohibited.

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