Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ancient Egypt to Medieval Florence in 80 Days #Summerblog12

#6 in the Summer 2012 Blogging Challenge, #Summerblog12

A vital part of riding a bicycle is knowing to where you are going. It stands to reason, then, that teaching (see this post for more info on my teaching) will be easier if I know the curriculum (duh!).

Over the past four years, my supervisory union has convened curriculum committees for literacy, math, science, art, music, and physical education. Notice that social studies is not on that list. That is until this spring. Since the committee is just getting started (more on that later), there is no district/SU Social Studies curriculum. Fortunately, one of the teachers in my building was able to find this chart for sixth grade social studies. Written years ago, this outline of the curriculum has only been loosely followed in recent years.

N.b. The standards referred to in the chart are from the Vermont History and Social Sciences GEs (Grade Expectations): Grades 5 – 6.

Please don't get me wrong, I like archaeology, Ancient Egypt, Greece & Rome, and the Middle Ages. The thing is, I'm not sure that these topics are the most important to teach my sixth graders. This is especially true when I think about how little understanding of the world the students have. Will studying early humans and ancient Egyptians really help the children of Wolcott as they prepare to go out in the world?

On the other hand, if I look at the topics only as vehicles to get the students to the enduring understandings and essential questions (or, in my case, the Grade Expectations), it doesn't really matter what topics I choose.

On the other, other hand, kids ought to learn about some of this stuff someday. If not now when? (Maybe high school?) There are really cool things to learn about in each of the topics. There are even some great connections to modern life, especially Greece, Rome, and Middle Ages (not so much with ancient Egypt, though).

So, I am still left with the question: What to teach?

Feel free to offer suggestions. I have an idea brewing that I will present in here soon.