In 2013 the Minnesota Department of Education implemented new academic standards for social studies requiring that all Minnesota sixth graders complete a year-long course of “Minnesota Studies.”   Northern Lights: The Stories of Minnesota’s Past is a curriculum designed to meet these new academic standards to help shape student’s understanding of Minnesota’s shared past and key stories in the development of their home state. As adoption expands in coming years, nearly an entire generation of students will learn Minnesota history and develop key historical skills from this curriculum.

Review of the current standards by education experts, teachers, historians, and cultural and language/reading experts resulted in significant recommendations for changes and additions to help address new understandings on historical topics and cultural groups. Particular focus was placed on the Dakota and Ojibwe nations, modern-day immigration, and other significant events such as the U.S. –Dakota War of 1862 and World War I.

Using the chronological narrative of Minnesota history as a base, the course requires students to learn about key events in Minnesota history and using core principles from Economics, Geography, and Civics. In addition, the standards require students to develop history skills such as: posing questions about topics in Minnesota history, gather primary and secondary sources, analyze graphic data, evaluate arguments from diverse perspectives, analyze sources for credibility, use evidence to draw conclusions, and present supported findings.

Written in an engaging narrative style designed for sixth grade students, Northern Lights consists of high-quality vetted historical content, hundreds of primary sources,  and hands-on activities that engage students in exploration of historic events and people. This unique curriculum was developed specifically to meet the needs of Minnesota students and embraces the use of the Minnesota Historical Society’s collections as a primary component of the curriculum. Photographs, documents, maps, oral histories, newspapers, and art all are featured prominently as learning tools for students to study and understand their shared heritage. By sharing these resources, the Northern Lights curriculum connects students to their state and its people, both past and present.


Minnesota Historical Society
St. Paul, MN

Award Details

2014 Award of Merit

Online Details

Program Website

Contact Details

Minnesota Historical Society
345 W. Kellogg Blvd
Saint Paul, MN 55102