At Roberto Clemente School 8, teachers prioritize students’ understanding of enduring concepts so that they can apply that understanding to the modern world. Teachers view social studies as a way to develop students’ capacity to interpret their world critically and to engage productively in it. They help students understand the big picture and timeline of history and emphasize deep understanding rather than memorization of myriad facts and details. By focusing on big ideas such as the elements that make up a culture or a civilization, teachers support students to appreciate and understand diverse cultures and understand connections among ancient and modern cultures. To help animate history, teachers choose compelling case studies that include narratives that intertwine history, government, economics, geography, and culture, and illuminate enduring themes. Students often investigate and address social issues in their local community and become compassionate community members in the process. While learning social studies, students act as social scientists-they analyze primary sources, consider multiple perspectives, conduct research, and draw their own conclusions. Explicit literacy instruction is a focus for students at all grade levels. Students learn to read, write, and think as historians.Social Studies Content1. Teachers emphasize the enduring themes-or big ideas-of social studies.
2. Social studies topics are often at the core of interdisciplinary projects, case studies, and learning expeditions.
3. In addition to deep study of particular topics, teachers include broad overview sessions (i.e., surveys of time periods) in order to put particular events in a broader historical context and address the breadth of required standards. Timelines and graphic representations help students comprehend the big picture of historical relationships.
4. Social studies topics often focus on engaging current issues, cultural diversity, and social justice. Teachers invite students to consider the topic from multiple perspectives.
5. Carefully selected case studies act as narrow lenses through which students develop understanding of important content and enduring themes. For example, a case study of Shays’ Rebellion allows students to develop an understanding of the founding of the United States, as well as the enduring themes of power, authority, and governance.
6. A social studies case study focuses on a unique person, place, or event (e.g., a local house that was part of the Underground Railroad) or narrows a broad topic by focusing deeply on a particular subtopic or perspective (e.g., the life of children during colonial America).
7. Teachers identify local case studies and connections to make the topic come alive and provide opportunities for students to engage actively with their community.
8. Students acquire social studies skills and understanding through an inquiry-based approach to teaching.