In the Spring Creek Community School Social Studies department, our goal is to help students learn to think like historians. What characterizes a historian is her ability to see the big picture. In our learning, therefore, we start with big ideas, essential questions and, when appropriate, contemporary issue advocacy to provide an organizing structure for content, to assist comprehension, and to promote inquiry. This helps to give history that crucial “so what?” making it meaningful in relation to students’ experience and values. Connections to contemporary social or political issues not only enliven historical content but also encourage students to think critically and creatively about the problems facing them as global citizens. We see together that historical understanding is important: it explains why the world is the way it is, and it helps us see possibilities for its transformation.
We facilitate our students in assembling that big picture from primary sources, material culture, and historiographic arguments. We believe in giving students complex, multi-step thinking tasks that require them to navigate ambiguities or uncertainties and work towards a conclusion that they are able to justify against critical questioning. This involves designing performance tasks where students have complex tasks, questions or problems; resources to explore (primary sources, historical data) and thinking tools (critical lenses, graphic organizers) through which they can explore them; and a clear structure of time and accountability (benchmarks or teacher check-ins) that communicate expectations to students and give teachers the space to facilitate their meeting those expectations. Learning thus helps develop in students valuable cognitive resources associated with historical thinking, such as the ability to evaluate and argue for significance; to consider multiple perspective simultaneously and evaluate each on its own merits; to use questioning to facilitate dialogue and as a resource for understanding; and to identify problems and generate potential strategies and solutions in response. In all this, we experience together the excitement of historical interpretation. When students experience history as an interpretive act, it not only promotes intrinsic motivation and intellectual self-confidence, it
also develops higher-order thinking skills and improves content retention.
Reading, writing, and argumentation are inseparable components of our approach to historical thinking. We give our students time to reflect and process in thought and writing, both individually and in structured collaboration with others. We guide our students to regularly generate complex questions, articulate arguable claims, and support them with logical reasoning and persuasively interpreted evidence. Above all, we expect our students to engage seriously and fearlessly in higher-order thinking and to support a learning environment conducive to their classmates doing the same.
Social Studies Course Syllabi
Social Studies Websites for Students and Families
As students grow and their world expands, they're increasingly curious about what's around them and what happened before they got here. This collection of social studies websites will get kids digging into history and exploring places near and far, all while learning about different societies and cultures, and how they fit into the big picture.