The social studies curriculum at The School in Rose Valley meets or exceeds the standards of the National Council for the Social Studies. The curriculum covers the areas of Individuality & Community; Culture; People, Places & Environments; Time, Continuity and Change; Civics & Governance; and Economics. Components of the program include factual content, skills, and perspectives and values. Teachers weave Social Studies instruction and experiences into age-appropriate and engaging themes of study, often incorporating Language Arts, Mathematics, and various specialist teachers in integrated work. Whether individual topics are teacher-led or inspired by students’ interests and questions, the same general themes are taught over the course of each one or two year program.
Preschool – Three and four year olds are just beginning to emerge from a world that is centered around themselves, their own needs and desires. Being in school with other children is a challenge, and is the focus of the preschool social studies curriculum. Taking responsibility for their actions, becoming more independent, learning to share, being able to ask for what they want, and learning to be interested in others are all in the daily work of preschoolers. Preschoolers are also ready to begin to think about other people, and how they are the same and different. The social studies curriculum introduces them to other cultures in concrete ways that are meaningful to them – in person and through tangible artifacts such as different kinds of food and clothing.
Kindergarten – By Kindergarten children have mastered many basic self-help skills and are gaining the ability to see others’ needs and perspectives. Helping the students learn about themselves as they grow into thoughtful, caring members of a group, and consciously building classroom community, are major focuses of the social studies curriculum. Kindergartners are also ready to learn more about people of other cultures. Focusing on what engages children of this age, the curriculum exposes them to different kinds of families, stories, traditions and celebrations. Intercultural experiences such as a partnership with students from the Penna. School for the Deaf broaden the students’ perspective on community and culture.
Kindergartners’ view of the world they live in is just starting to expand from home and neighborhood. This is the time to introduce them to their place in the world, and to different kinds of environments and eco-systems. The study of history is accessible as they begin to grasp the idea that the past may have been different than the present. Studying family stories, myths and fairy tales as story-tellings helps them identify and make connections with people who have come before.
Primary Years – During the primary years, children are increasingly able to function as independent individuals and responsible community members. Much of the social studies curriculum at this age is dedicated to practicing these skills. The students develop a more complex understanding of what it means to be part of a group, and how this does and does not reflect who they are. Six and seven year olds are also able to see and appreciate more of the world that is beyond them and their experience. Studying another culture at this stage, they can begin to appreciate different people’s mythology, art and games. Their intercultural partnerships involve deeper participation and reflection.
In geography, primary students learn and understand where they live relative to neighboring and distant places, and develop a concrete understanding of global mapping. Learning about people’s adaptations to environments and available resources is a focus in both geography and history. In the latter, studying and comparing the life styles of previous inhabitants of this area, and particularly about how these people adapted to their physical environment, captures their imaginations.
Middle Years – Students who are eight to ten are concerned with issues of fairness, belonging and fitting in. Much of the social studies curriculum at this level is dedicated to the development of their understanding of the influence of groups and culture on identity, and what is and is not in their control to change. Their understanding of culture can begin to encompass more abstract ideas, including fundamental belief systems such as religion and views about the roles of men and women. They are ready to become members of broader communities and to take community partnerships and service to a new level.
The issues of fairness and fitting in are paramount in the third and fourth graders’ studies in history of the early peopling of the Americas by Native Americans and immigrants from other continents, including Africa, and the western movement of later pioneers. The students learn about the political and economic reasons that people migrate, and the impact of migration on other peoples, the environment, and the balance of power. In geography they begin to see the relationships between the environment, resources, and how people live. An introduction to governance and economics, and specifically to the workings of the U.S. system, gives the students a basic understanding of how decisions are made and what kinds of forces may influence those processes.
Older Years – Fifth and sixth graders are on the brink of many changes and transitions. Pre-adolescence, with its physical, emotional and social changes, and issues of individual identity and group membership, are major focuses of the Oldest Group social studies curriculum. In their studies of culture, students of this age can tackle abstract ideas such as different values and perceptions. Their community partnership experiences lead to discussions of cultural influences on behavior, prejudice and stereotyping.
Other aspects of the curriculum connect what the students are learning about the environment, resources and power and apply them globally. In geography they learn about the importance of environmental resource control and conservation. This is related to history as they study an ancient civilization and learn how and why a civilization can grow and decline, as well as a time and place where a revolution or socio-political movement led to radical change. They are introduced to the basic tenets of economics. The themes of power and change are emphasized as they learn how political systems do and do not include the voices of their people, and about responsible global citizenship. They are encouraged to envision a better future, and taught how to go about realizing their vision.