31 January 2016

Social Studies is My Jam

You know those moments when you or your Facebook friends record the phrases your children utter? People used to record such phrases in baby books (maybe they still do), but I definitely see parents posting exchanges they've had with their children on Facebook where they become more public; we like the posts and chuckle along with our parent friends. Now that my children are in middle and high school, I'm less compelled to share most of our exchanges publicly because I want my sons to own their online presence and create their own digital footprints. That being said, I couldn't resist a particular phrase I overheard my twelve year old proclaim this weekend (I asked his permission to blog about this, by the way).

Friday night while playing Minecraft and simultaneously talking via FaceTime with his friend Isaac emphatically said  "man, social studies is my jam."

Later during the weekend while passing the time between an archery tournament and an indoor soccer game, I asked Isaac to share his ideas about why social studies is so important for us to learn, and he shared the four following reasons we should learn social studies.

We learn from the past--When we study history we learn how and why people lived and we gain a deeper understanding of the world.

We learn about other cultures--When we learn about other cultures we begin to understand other people and reduce our judgement of others.

We learn how and why we participate in our own society and government

"I just like it"--What better reason? I'm a huge proponent in students having choice in their learning and tailoring their experiences to their interests because that's motivation enough to keep learning and exploring the world.
photos from various family trips/historical sites

A few of my favorite online social studies resources

Stanford History Group
At this website, you'll find curriculum, assessment, and project advice and examples for your classroom. One of my favorite aspects of this work is the emphasis on moving beyond multiple-choice standardized tests because studying history is much more than memorization of facts, details, and dates. The resources emphasize literacy in history with students reading, analyzing, and writing about primary and secondary sources. In my work over the past three years, I've had the privilege to work with Daisy Martin, one of the founders of the Stanford History Group. The passion, knowledge, and expertise she presents have made our work exciting, thoughtful, and productive.

The National Museum of American History
By far one of my favorite Smithsonian museums is the Museum of American History. I've visited at least a half-dozen times and each time I see more ideas and think about ways the resources the museum provides can be beneficial to teachers. This was also Isaac's favorite museum when we visited Washington DC as a family a few years ago.

Teaching Tolerance
For several years I've followed the work coming out of the Southern Poverty Law Center, including their online resources for teachers. The resources here don't have to be limited to social studies teachers because all teachers need to think about how we teach tolerance and promote diversity, equity, and justice.

The Library of Congress
I've been using the resources at Loc.gov since my first year of teaching when my teaching mentor, Beverly Reavis Payne, attended a workshop and brought back ideas to share with our whole English department. Over the years, their resources for teachers have continued to evolve, and teachers like Beverly contributed to that evaluation. My favorites have always been the images because there are many thoughtful uses for historical images in any subject/grade area classroom.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Not a year of my 12 years in the classroom passed without me teaching students about the Holocaust. The resources at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum just keep getting better. Often I was amazed when teenagers told me they had never heard of the Holocaust before entering my high school classroom.