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Saturday, May 05, 2018

Embarking on Embedding the New Social Studies Standards

It's likely that the new MA Social Studies Standards will be adopted soon, and our team is looking at how we might integrate those standards into an already full curriculum.

Taking the lead from our superintendent's recent interview, we are exploring ways to teach these standards with depth, interaction, and application. Too often curriculum is diluted with a few minutes-a-day-approach, and rather than do this we're looking at ways to dive deeply into the curriculum by "dividing and conquering" which means we'll each become experts on parts of the curriculum.

As I think about this and think about a fifth grader's mindset, I think the idea of time travel might fit this focus well. What would happen is that every fifth grader would be able to time travel to a different period of history and during that time travel meet the important people, experience the places, and ask and respond to the integral questions related to that time period. Further, they will also have a chance to reflect on the impact that time period has had on life today, and hopefully experience the time period with a field study, expert visitors, and/or related project work.

In order to teach this well, we'll have to spend the first six weeks of the year introducing and discussing the principles related to this study as well as essential questions, tools, and perspectives. To do that we will likely include some or all of the following:
  • Introduce timelines and let students make their own time line beginning with their parents/guardians' birthdates and up until their future. This will help students to understand that their lives are impacted by events that come before them.
  • Introduce principles of government as we create democratic classrooms, write/review constitutions, and determine governing roles (jobs).
  • Review map skills, land forms, the history of people, the biology of skin shade, and more foundation principles and information. 
  • Consider the history and analysis of the phrase, "All men are created equal." Discuss how we might rephrase that to create equity in our school, classroom, and country so that everyone has equal opportunity, rights, privilege, and responsibility. 
And to enrich the study, we'll likely invite expert visitors such as the wonderful living history presentation of Ben Franklin we saw last year and visit related field study locations such as Sturbridge Village and/or a historic walking tour of Boston.

New curriculum always takes time.  We have a meeting Monday to discuss this, and to know ahead about what we'll do helps us to order related materials, research, and find time to meet and work together on this exciting goal. As our superintendent noted, for students to be responsible and active, citizens they need to have a solid civic foundation. The new Massachusetts' standards provide a rich resource and guide with which to build that foundation, and now it's our turn to figure out how to turn those standards into meaningful and memorable learning experiences.