The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 19, 2001


Coordinated K-8 social studies curriculum moves from self to world

The Carlisle School social studies curriculum strives to balance ideas and deep understanding with the assimilation of basic facts, according to sixth grade Social Studies teacher Jane Herrmann at the January 9 Carlisle School Committee meeting.

Herrmann presented the results of a massive undertaking; the coordination of the social studies curriculum for the entire K-8 school. She sees a challenge in relating the curriculum to the state's frameworks, which encourage learning content and core knowledge, while providing the environment for the students to do some "deep thinking."

From self to the world

Herrmann said the goal is to have the youngest grades begin with the ideas of self. From there themes branch from self to the family, to the school, to the community and finally, for the eighth grader, to the larger community of the world. While subject matter is taught chronologically, the curriculum attempts to encourage themes that "spiral" reinforcing and building upon previous instructional units.

Herrmann said the philosophy behind the social studies curriculum is based on constructivist ideas originally based in the work of John Dewey and Jean Piaget. Constructivist learning encourages the construction of reality within the child. According to individual development the students are able to learn facts, place them in context and use the knowledge creatively. The teacher is the guide within the learning process.

For example, each child becomes a character in a medieval village and the student has to interact with others as that character. Herrmann commented that the village was now being attacked by the King's army.

"Who am I?"

The program begins in kindergarten with the children learning about "Who am I?" and the sharing of themselves as well as learning about expectations of attending a public school. They also learn about the regions of Carlisle, New England, and other areas of the United States. They begin with an autobiography and learn how they change with the preparation of a personal time line. They also learn about diversity and the concept of friendship.

Whales, sled dogs, lighthouses

In the first grade the students learn about the idea and value of money, Columbus, and the Pilgrims. They study the importance of bread; bread from different cultures, and how to make bread. In another unit students study whales and locate their habitats, encouraging use of the world map.

In the second grade the students learn the difference between city and country environment and climates, through following the Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska. The Iditarod unit encourages the development of map skills and learning about perseverance and teamwork. A unit on lighthouses helps students learn about the geography of the US east coast and about past lighthouses - the reasons for them and the way they work. Moreover, they learn about the climate of different areas, and the differences between land masses and bodies of water on our planet.

Other topics covered in the second grade are an exploration of Carlisle, the peoples of the world, the United Nations, black history and the Ice Age. Map skills are reinforced. A unit on quilts focuses on the importance of the quilt in the US during pioneer times and at the time of the Underground Railroad.

In the third grade the curriculum themes are chronological. Students learn about native Americans, the explorers, colonial America and the revolution, about local history and geography. In fourth grade the emphasis is on explorers and early U.S. government, touching on the industrial revolution, westward expansion, the gold rush, Lewis & Clark, the transcontinental railroad, the Oregon trail and the Civil War. The students also research various topics throughout the year to develop library research skills.

In fifth grade the students learn about endangered species and ancient civilizations, again reading from relevant texts and writing research projects, interpreting graphs, making maps, and making presentations. The curriculum of the sixth grade becomes more in-depth. The students learn about ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, world religions and geography, with an interdisciplinary unit on the Olympics.

The progression continues into the seventh grade. The students learn about political, economic and cultural aspects of colonialism and imperialism as well as more on exploration and discovery, the United States Constitution, and the creation and framing of the American government. The students plan and put together a period newspaper.

The eighth grade social studies curriculum is more complex but reviews the framing of the American government, the Civil War and reconstruction, European immigration, labor and urbanization, the women's rights and civil rights movements, and the Holocaust.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito