Lower School Social Studies
Preschool social studies introduces our young students to the similarities and differences in human peoples and cultures. The year begins with an “About Me” unit, in which each student is invited to highlight the attributes (from family size to favorite foods) that make her or him unique, and celebrate these attributes with the rest of the class. Later in the year, preschoolers engage in units on peace, rules, emotions, family and friends, the seasons and related traditions, and social justice. Throughout the social studies curriculum, students are shown how our world is made rich and vibrant through cultural difference, and encouraged to find the commonalities that many or all of us share.
Pre-k social studies unfolds around our students’ developing sense of self and community. Through our yearlong curricular exploration of stewardship, pre-k students explore the best ways to take care of themselves, each other, and the environment. The curriculum and classroom fosters this attention to community and the individual through the books we read, the projects we complete, and the lessons we learn in interactive play. Pre-k teachers help build a framework to practice peaceful problem solving, so that when conflicts arise,students can reach compromise through communication and with understanding. Pre-k students participate in a weekly “Meeting for Sharing,” or the classroom interpretation of Meeting for Worship, and they attend school Meeting on Grandfriends’ Day and Holiday Meeting for Worship.
The kindergarten social studies curriculum supports our students’ growing awareness of self and their ability to respond with kind regard to the thoughts and feelings of others. Our teachers build students’ social confidence, both in the classroom and via extracurricular activities, by helping them learn to be independent, take responsibility for their belongings, be respectful of others’ belongings and space, and appreciate the natural consequences of their actions. The classroom’s Spirit Document provides a working model for the ways in which kindergartners communicate and compromise in times of conflict. Kindergartners develop their understanding of community and interdependence through their dedicated work for the School’s butterfly gardens, where our young learners design, till, weed, plant, and harvest plants that benefit that entire FSH community.
Social studies centers on building a warm, safe, and intentional first grade community. Each student shares his or her ideas of how to form a caring and respectful classroom community. Together, the class creates a set of classroom rules: examples of rules from Tr. Susan. The first grade also learns about physical community spaces.. The class begins by building models and drawing maps of the classroom. Later in the year, these cartographical explorations move beyond the classroom to the school grounds and gardens. By learning about their very immediate surroundings, first graders are inspired to become caring stewards of their environment.
Second grade social studies is completely immersed in the classroom economy. In the context of the classroom, students work jobs, receive a salary, and even pay “rent.” The small-scale classroom economy teaches students big concepts, including prioritizing needs over wants, the responsibility of doing your job, and contributing to others in need. Second grade also takes time from their classroom economy to travel the world! Over the course of their journeys, students learn about global geography, world cultures, and their own place on the planet. The annual class travel fair, where second graders prepare posters and presentations about some of these cultures, gives second grade the chance to share their knowledge with the entire FSH community.
In third grade social studies, students explore their surroundings through an interdisciplinary curriculum that gradually expands our students’ understanding of themselves and the world around them. Third graders develop history research and report writing skills, familiarize themselves with American geography, and learn the science behind food production. The third grade’s Farming Cooperative brings students to the chicken coop in the field outside, where the class keeps its five well-loved hens. Third graders rotate their daily farming tasks, which range from feeding the hens and harvesting their eggs, to packaging the eggs and developing a marketing strategy for their sale. Students look forward to sharing their learning with the school community through annual events like the UNICEF assembly, the famous African American Mock Wax Museum, and the State Float Parade.
In fourth grade social studies, students expand their knowledge of Pennsylvania history and American politics. The social studies curriculum stresses interdisciplinary subject investigation. A unit on Pennsylvania coal mining brings together historical literature, environmental science, and a sustained inquiry into the nature of work – all of which culminates in a field trip to the anthracite coal region. Our curriculum also prioritizes multimedia research skills. Another social studies unit, on the work of people who have made a difference, encourages students to hone their research skills by consulting books, film, interviews, and online sources. Students enjoy a yearlong investigation of Pennsylvania by reading and discussing the PAWeekly, a student newspaper focusing on state history, geography, industry, and peoples.
Middle School History
What elements are needed in order to create a civilization? The fifth grade history class spends the year exploring answers to this question. Students follow the histories of prehistoric nomadic tribes, research the art, architecture, governance, and religions of Mesopotamian civilizations, and examine the rich legacy of the European Renaissance. Some history class highlights include a civilization-creation project and a visit to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
The sixth grade history curriculum is cool…very, very cool. Sixth grade students begin the year learning about the Otzi the Iceman, a Neolithic mummy found preserved in the Otzal Alps between Austria and Italy. Students find answers to questions about life as it was lived over five thousand years ago by analyzing the Iceman’s artifacts, body, and DNA. In preparation for the sixth grade service trip to Costa Rica, students learn about the ancient civilizations of Central America. Sixth graders write using Mayan glyphs, count using the Mayan base 20 system, and tell time using the Mayan calendar. By researching Central American history prior to Columbus, students gain a deeper understanding of the peoples who live in Central America today.
Seventh grade history class gets political. Students spend the year learning about American government and politics through the lens of current political issues such as civil rights, foreign policy, and government spending. The class delves deep into a particular political hot topic, one that has been debated since European settlers first arrived in America: immigration. The class analyzes immigration by tracking the long history of laws, Supreme Court cases, and socio-political theories dealing with the issue. A class highlight includes witnessing a citizenship ceremony firsthand. Students draw on their learning to brainstorm short- and long-term fixes to the country’s immigration policy, and finish the year by drafting the “ideal” immigration law.
Simplicity, peace, integrity, equality, and stewardship. These five Quaker testimonies shape the eighth grade history curriculum, which focuses on the history of Quakerism and its links to social justice. Eighth graders use their keen research skills to investigate famous Quakers and draw on the history-rich city of Philadelphia to supplement their Quaker history lessons. Students are encouraged to examine how members of the Friends School Haverford community live out Quaker testimonies and contribute to social justice causes. The eighth grade’s year-long thesis project gives each student the opportunity to become an expert on a contemporary social justice issue of his or her choosing.