Friday, April 7, 2000
Carlisle social studies curriculum focuses on specific topics and skills
It is no small feat to coordinate a coherent social studies curriculum that allows depth within subject areas as well as provides exposure to a wide variety of topics for the grades kindergarten through eight. Jane Herrmann, the sixth-grade social studies teacher, has spent this past year meeting with the seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teachers and lower school grade-level teams to document content and skill development of the social studies program. By compiling a list, she was able to ascertain students' degree of exposure to vocabulary and terms, such as the word "barter" in economics.
As she explained to the school committee on March 21, the sequencing of subject matter must be within a logical order for the study of human beings. For example, in kindergarten the children are learning about "Who am I?", "What are friends?" and "How do I fit in a school community?" They learn about Carlisle as part of a region and grow in their awareness of other regions in the world. By fourth grade, they are learning about early United States Government, the industrial revolution, explorers, and westward expansion. Fifth-graders study immigration and ancient civilizations, as well as the endangered species. Seventh- and eighth-grade topics, such as the United States Constitution, civil rights, the Holocaust and the World Wars, are covered in greater depth.
Within each grade level, students acquire certain skills. Oral presentations are begun in kindergarten while note-taking, writing an historical analysis, and cause and effect reasoning are emphasized in the later grades.If they can make connections between social studies, other subjects and what has been learned in previous grades, they will have a core amount of knowledge and an understanding of themselves as well as world issues.
Chair David Dockterman said it is hard to maintain a balance between having the depth of understanding in a specific subject and covering a wide variety of topics. He felt it was better to err on the side of conceptual understanding. He added that it is hard to coordinate social studies programs from grade to grade. Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson noted that Herrmann had worked very hard to present the six-page report. "The school is now more aware on a conceptual level of the sequencing in the curriculum."
The results of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment system (MCAS) testing have indicated that the school needs more emphasis on geography, economics, civics and government. "There are trade-offs since the Carlisle School is committed to covering subjects such as the Holocaust," said school committee member Cindy Nock. "Studying the Holocaust is not included in the state frameworks for the social studies curriculum."
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito