Week 5 Focus - Social Studies Part 2
Last time I focused on inquiry processes, geography, history, culture and heritage. This time I would like to look at rights and responsibilities of people and regional leaders, relationships between people and the environment, multicultural awareness and diversity, and the interactions of First Nations people and early settlers.
These are all large topics, so I will only be touching on them, but depending on the age and understanding of your kids, you can dig in deeper.
Rights, roles, and responsibilities
Rights, roles, and responsibilities of people change depending on where they are and who they are. In the home, parents and children have different roles. The parents are the caregivers and they have the role of looking after their children and the responsibility of raising them to be responsible citizens. They are the role models. Children have different roles and responsibilities depending on if they are the only child or if they have siblings. Where they are in the group of siblings also affects their roles and responsibilities. They may be left in charge of others if they are the oldest. They may need to listen to older siblings if they are younger.
In the community, roles and responsibilities could be different. Community leaders make decisions that affect those in the community. They have the responsibility to listen to the members of the community and make decisions based on what is best for the community. Different groups have different degrees of responsibility. Adults have the opportunity to vote for different leaders and laws or bylaws.
It is important to have discussions about what the different roles and responsibilities are for at home, at school, and in the community. This might also be a good time to talk about how these roles and responsibilities have changed over time. For instance, when parents and grandparents were children, they would probably have had different roles and responsibilities than children today. They could share these changes with the kids and maybe talk about why they might be different.
Along with roles and responsibilities, come rights. This is more difficult for young children to understand. They should be informed of some of these rights as they are old enough to understand, and as they gain more maturity and understanding, these rights can be explained further.
One of the big ones for me is that everyone has a right to a safe, inclusive environment at school, in the classroom, on the playground, and in the community. This can be tied in with responsibility during discussions. Another one is that everyone has a right to be heard, but that also comes with a responsibility to listen when others want to be heard.
A big part of classroom management and class rules is based on the rights and responsibilities of those in the classroom as they work together. If they are mutually understood, this will make it easier for them to be followed. Here are some posters and ideas for routines and manners that will help kids with these.
Classroom Manners Dos And Don'ts Posters
Dos And Don'ts Manners For Home
Relationships between people and the environment
Relationships between people and environments is also an important aspect of social studies and ties in with our personal and community responsibilities. Depending on the type of community, different industries and services are an important part of the livelihood of the community members. Along with these industries and services comes the responsibility to make sure that they are not negatively impacting the environment. This can be a difficult balance at time. It might be an interesting angle to look at as kids get older. For young children, learning about the different industries and services in their community, region, or country would be a possible research project. Here is a resource that I have successfully used with late primary grades in the past.
Industries and Services project
Protecting our environment is a focus that is often a main topic around Earth Day, but should be considered throughout the year. Maybe it could be a family event to do a beach cleanup or a neighborhood walk and check for litter. It is amazing how much litter is just tossed even when garbage cans are nearby.
Plastic is everywhere. Maybe the focus could be to see how many ways plastic can be replaced in daily life. Or perhaps, how many different ways we can reuse containers instead of using one use type ones.
These are only a couple of suggestions. There are many different ways that we can help our environment. It might be fun to come up with ways that the class or families can do things to make a difference.
Multicultural awareness and respect for diversity
Our countries are made up of many different cultures and beliefs and it is important to respect these various cultures and beliefs. This is what makes our country rich in traditions, celebrations, holidays, special foods, music and many other things. Cultural differences can be acknowledged, but the diversity of people needs to be respected. We do not have to all have the same beliefs and values, but we all need to be respectful and responsible citizens.
Mutual tolerance and acceptance is what leads to a peaceful existence. We spend time teaching kids about acts of kindness, and spreading peace. It is important that we model the same behavior for them. Kindness is huge. It goes a long way in maintaining a peaceful existence.
Right now in Canada, there is a lot of attention being focused on the First Nations people because of the injustices inflicted on them in the residential schools and the multi-generational impact it has had. In other places it might be racial prejudice towards other ethnic groups.
In order for healing to begin, it is important that this be acknowledged and that changes happen. We need to be the change and not pass off blame. This may be a tough thing to accept, but if we are to move forward, we need to show our children that wrongs sometimes happen, but they should be made right. When we say Every Child Matters, we need to take action to show that we mean it.
This poster demonstrates the impact that one person can make by being kind and respectful. Imagine if we all did this. If you would like a copy of this poster, click on the image above.
First Nations People And Early Settlers
Prior to teaching at my last school, I didn't have much of an idea of how life was for our First Nations people. I didn't have any First Nations children in my classes. I understood the importance of celebrating our heritage, and I did lots of projects and activities with my students, but this was one area that was missing and I hadn't even realized it until I moved schools and had several First Nations children in my class. I made it my mission to learn more and to make sure that my lessons were inclusive and respectful of these kids as well. I had the good fortune to have a student's parent come and make bentwood boxes with my class. Her father also had a longhouse which he invited us to visit. We used birchbark disks for plates and had salmon and bannock while there. It was a wonderful cultural experience for my students as well as myself, and my student and his family were proud to share their culture with us.
Here is a book that I found very useful when talking about the First Nations people and helping the children to understand some of their contributions to making our country special. I discovered lots too. If you would like to find out more or download a copy of the lesson plans and the book, click on the image below. It will take you to the government website where all the information is available.
I also created a unit that focused on ways the early settlers and the First Nations people might have worked together. We looked at what life might have been like in the Pacific Northwest and on the Plains. We researched types of dwellings, types of canoes, food sources, trade, and life as a child and what it might have been like.
The contributions of each group was looked at and the projects created were to reflect this. It was interesting to see which groups were chosen and what elements were represented in the project models. It was interesting to see how my First Nations children were able to add some of their own heritage into the projects.
I have to admit, because my students were young, I didn't go into much detail about what happened later or about how the children were sent to residential schools. In recent years, this has been addressed more in the young grades and discussed in detail in the intermediate grades.
There are some good books available that help to talk to kids about residential schools. Here is one source.
We are lucky to have a good relationship with some of the elders of the band and there have been many different activities and sessions that have helped with understanding the culture and traditions. Several of our students participate in the dance celebrations and drumming and singing. Language classes are also a part of the week. One of my favorite activities was a nature study in the nearby forest where we learned about the different trees and plants and how they were used for clothing, medicine, food, and even transportation.
If you would like to find out more about the project that we did, you can check it out here.
I hope that the tips and activities I have shared with you will help to make connections with social studies taught at school. There are many opportunities for expanding and enriching understanding through discussions, research, and activities done at home as well.
There is much more to social studies, but hopefully these ideas will be a springboard to further learning.
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About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.