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Social Studies – Primary (grades 1-4)

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The 1st and 2nd grade social studies curriculum begins by exploring the lives and families of the students themselves, with an emphasis on the ideas of self, family, community and city. Students gain a preliminary understanding of history and geography by studying the lives of their parents and grandparents and the cultures in which they grew up, and how their lives were both similar and different from our lives today. Our students acknowledge and appreciate the cultural identities of their classmates and explore the similarities and contrasts between their own cultures and the cultures of others. We also expect students to work cooperatively, respect each other, develop effective communication skills and solve conflicts reasonably.

By the end of second grade, students should have an awareness of how people in a variety of cultures meet basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing. They should have a preliminary sense of history from exploring their own family heritages. As they discover their family's roots, they begin to develop a sense of geography. In-depth studies of Asian and Latin American countries provides the context for developing the concepts of culture along with basic physical and political geography. We look at how the climate, flora and fauna of diverse environments influence the development of culture, and as the children’s worlds expand, they learn to use and manipulate simple maps. Hands-on activities and experiences throughout bring cultures to life. Building on this preliminary look at the larger world, we introduce the concept of diverse climate areas and how people have adapted to their environments.

Students take on more sophisticated topics in social studies in the 3rd and 4th grades, with an introduction to American history in one year and studies of Africa in the other. American history begins with the Native Peoples and moves on to consider how other peoples came to populate this country, including the children’s own families. Topics in colonial history, slavery, the American Revolution and the Westward Expansion are explored. Students look at the origins of human life on the African continent, study the rise of Egyptian civilization and learn about the cultures of contemporary Africa. As we study people of other times and in other cultures, we encourage students to take in new information, but also to look for similarities and differences among people. We present a multicultural perspective and emphasize that situations can be seen from many points of view all of which are valuable. They develop an appreciation of the qualities that make each one of us unique as well as the qualities and conditions that link us as human beings. Our focus is on the real stories of real people, listening to the authentic voices of people, past and present, whose life experiences are inevitably linked with our own.

Topics in math, science and art are integrated with the social studies units and high quality children’s literature provides further insight into the lives of differing times and places. Role-play, museum trips, field explorations, dramatic productions, web quests and expert visits render the subjects vital and authentic for the students. By the end of 4th grade, students learn to research a topic of their own choosing by asking relevant questions and collecting and organizing information from a variety of sources, such as maps, tables and graphs, and presenting their results in various written, artistic and performance formats.
As they study people of other times and places, students at the Primary level do not only to take in new information, but also learn to look for similarities and differences among people.

The social studies curriculum at this level presents a multicultural perspective and emphasizes that situations can be seen from many points of view.

Students develop an appreciation of the qualities that make each one of us unique as well as the qualities and conditions that link us as human beings.
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