“A rationale for a grade 5-12 Social Studies program”
Working definitions of a Social Studies program
studies is a core academic area within the K-12 curriculum responsible for helping students understand how the social world
works, and how to become good citizens… accomplished through the study of history, the social sciences, and the humanities;
particularly literature, music, and Art.”
studies as: (a) a meaningful integration of history, geography, civics, and the
various social sciences used to promotes the learning/ practice of civic competence; (b) a program that emphasized direct/
active student participation; (c) a representation of two interdisciplinary experimentally based courses, “Community
Civics” and “Problems of American Democracy.”
The definitions above are written at different
times but remarkably similar. The first published in 1999 and the latter in 1916. There are many common threads found through both, such as, learning, understanding,
citizenship, student participation and a wide variety of disciplines within the Social Studies framework.
Social Studies incorporates many different disciplines
and can be found in almost every other department within a school. In English
class, many of the novels the students read are written in response to what the author and the world is encountering at the
time. In Science class, the students learn how interaction with nature has affected
our surroundings and how the continued interaction will do to their community, state, nation and world. Even in Health, students are taught how certain people’s lifestyles are changing the way we look
and act. Everywhere within a school someone can find connections made to Social
What should we expect out of our Social Studies students?
Social studies students need to have a variety
of skills in order to become successful in Social Studies. The students need
to acquire the skills of critical thinking, writing, communication and the ability to work cohesively within a group. The students also need to learn about community, citizenship, democracy, connections,
society, culture and how each one affects the other. The students need to able
to make connections with the world around them. They need to realize that everything that we do on this planet do affects
everything. I expect my social studies to be able to make the connections like
this and be able to look a broader scope instead of the narrow, one dimensional approach that the textbooks present.
Active, Informed, and Responsible Citizens
The first way to promote productivity in a student
within the classroom is to provide a sense of community within the classroom. Having
the opportunity to voice their opinion within the classroom can boost the confidence of the students to want to pursue more
issues outside of the school. A sense of citizenship and the act of being good
citizens is very important. A list of criteria put forth by the National Council
for Social Studies is as follows:
Embraces core democratic values and strives to live by
Accepts responsibility for the well-being of oneself, one's
family, and the community.
Has knowledge of the people, history, and traditions that
have shaped our local communities, our nation, and the world.
Has knowledge of our nation's founding documents, civic
institutions, and political processes.
Is aware of issues and events that have an impact on people
at local, state, national, and global levels.
Seeks information from varied sources and perspectives
to develop informed opinions and creative solutions.
Asks meaningful questions and is able to analyze and evaluate
information and ideas.
Uses effective decision-making and problem-solving skills
in public and private life.
Has the ability to collaborate effectively as a member
of a group.
Actively participates in civic and community life.
The key to having the students achieve the criteria is to instill a sense
of confidence. If a student does not have confidence in themselves and the amount
of power that he or she holds than it is very difficult for them to imagine that they can make a difference. “The most oppressed are adept at using cultural resources of identification and support that enable
them to assert their human dignity and carve out some space in a situation in which superior power is held by traditional
wielders of power.”
As educators, we need to provide for a community where a student does
not feel as if they are powerless or that one person or group of people holds the power.
Developing effective citizens is important to society. In order for things to change, a community needs leaders to step and put forth their concerns and maybe
their solutions. Instilling the ideas of problem solving and critical thinking
are crucial in preparing students to be active, informed, and responsible citizens.
Social Studies can and needs to be challenging. A challenging curriculum can be achieved with providing activities and assignments that get the students
thinking. Students need opportunities where they are not sitting in a classroom
and taking notes. They need to be able to use their minds to solve problems. One way to achieve a challenging Social Studies program is to have projects in which
they have to produce something that is useful.
A teacher also needs to be aware of the age that they are teaching. They need to be aware of where the students are developmentally and where they can
be. If a teacher can achieve this understanding of his/ her students than they
can develop assessments that are appropriate, yet challenging.
Producing a Social Studies that is meaningful is very important. Involving activities and assessments that the students can see as being worthwhile is key in learning. If a student can justify what he or she is doing than they will be most likely to
succeed in the assessment. Authenticity in assessments is key. If you can produce an assessment that “Ask(s) the students to address problems and issues similar
to ones they are likely to encounter outside school” Having the students do projects that develop skills that they can use further
in life is important to achieving a meaningful curriculum.
Integrating a social studies curriculum can be a useful tool in establishing interest of the subject matter in the
students. In studying about the Roaring Twenties in a U.S. History class, you
can talk about recreation and do a lesson on the rise of expendable money and baseball.
By doing this you can integrate information with what the students already know or interested in. Also, with issues with a baseball stadium in town not to far from the area, you can analyze the process,
why we need a new stadium, who is going to build it, who is going to pay for it, and how is it going to affect the community
in which it is located.
Value-based curriculum is also very important and can easily be achieved. Utilizing the community around you can be a great to introduce values into the classroom. Having the students do projects that directly affect the surrounding community can
be a great way to implement value in the classroom. Also having community members
enter the classroom and talk about diversity, social issues and community problems.
Having the students learn about these issues first hand and not from a textbook is valuable in its own right.
Having a active classroom is important for many reasons. It gets the kids to think in a variety of different ways. It
also makes sure that the class is not in a rut. Providing a variety of activities
and learning styles as mentioned above will insure that the curriculum will be an active one.