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Best Back-to-School Essentials for History Students of All Ages

Because knowing the past always has a way of being useful.

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We the People, Gone Graphic

Need a refresher on civics class? Finding traditional explanations of our country’s founding documents a little…dry? The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation explores the articles and amendments of the constitution not only with entertaining illustrations—but it wraps them in the compelling, real-life narrative of a young, restless colony battling for independence. About $15, Amazon.

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Live It to Learn It

Learning about past civilizations is easier when it’s an immersive, hands-on experience. With activity kits from History Unboxed, kids can do things like play music on Viking-style pan pipes, felt wool like Genghis Khan wore, play the world’s oldest (Egyptian) board game or classify plants the way Lewis & Clark did on their Western expedition. Sign up for a monthly themed subscription or choose an individual era-specific box (like the American Revolution or Byzantine Empire), and then select from three age levels (from age 5 to young adults). Sibling add-ons available. About $55 per box, History Unboxed.

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History, with a Side of Tonys

No secret here: History never sounded so fresh until Lin-Manuel Miranda gave the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton a hip-hop-meets-Broadway twist. Even if you can’t score tickets to the Tony Award-winning juggernaut "Hamilton: An American Musical," you can still sing along to its Grammy-winning, history-drenched official soundtrack CD. About $19, Amazon.

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A Reference Shelf Must-Have

Bone up on black history with 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History. This encyclopedic book by author and historian Jeffrey C. Stewart celebrates African-American leaders and innovation through the lens of six key topics: great migrations; civil rights and politics; science; inventions and medicine; sports; military; culture and religion. About $15, Amazon.

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In Praise of Fierce Women

Forget tired dorm-room decor—give your walls an inspirational upgrade with a collection of mini-posters from Rad Women Worldwide. Featuring 20 impressive and influential women—from Egyptian queen Hatshepsut to tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams to Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai—these frameable 7-by-11-inch posters give perfect context to the pink wave. To kick the inspiration up a notch, check out Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women, the newest book from author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl, the duo behind the “Rad” history series. Posters about $9, Amazon.

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Fossil Finder

The Mega Fossil Dig Kit gives aspiring archaeologists a fun way to discover history buried just beneath the earth’s surface. Using paleontologist tools, future explorers can carefully chisel and brush their way into the kit’s large dig brick to “discover” up to 15 authentic fossils—shark teeth, ammonites, brachiopods and more. The dig-along guidebook provides instructions for finding the fossils, plus a wealth of information on each. Indiana Jones hat not included. About $20, Amazon.

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Setting the Record Straight

If a good education teaches us nothing else, it’s the importance of critical thinking. That’s the mission behind Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong—the U.S.-history themed follow-up to 1995’s bestselling “counter-textbook” Lies My Teacher Told Me. It spotlights often-overlooked histories behind important American episodes from pre-Columbian history through 9/11. About $15, Amazon.

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Get on the Map!

It’s said that travel is life’s best teacher, so what better way to celebrate seeing the world—and learning about histories and cultures other than our own—than by tracking journeys on a Scratch-off Map? Featuring mini-stickers, national flags and easy-to-read borders, this handsome keepsake will make any student of the world excited to get out there and put some new stamps on their passport. About $29, Amazon.

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Facts in Hand

Gamify your history lessons with Brain Quest America. With its fanning deck of 850 questions, this teacher-vetted flash-card quiz game draws from the lesson plans of grades one through six, making it great for kids just discovering American history—or anyone looking for a crash course in the important U.S. milestones, people and cultural moments. About $11, Amazon.

This Day in History Box Calendar

Days to Remember

You don't need to be a hardcore history buff to appreciate starting each day of 2019 with a connection to what came before. The This Day in History Boxed Calendar offers daily reminders of the most fascinating and influential events, accomplishments and inventions, from ancient to present times. Guaranteed to amp up your history-trivia IQ. About $10, Amazon.

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