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Social studies is a term used to describe the broad study of the various fields which involve past and current human behavior and interactions. Rather than focus on any one topic in depth, social studies provides a broad overview of human society past and present. Examples of subjects typically covered in social studies include: history, economics, geography, government, culture, psychology, sociology and other social science.

In Education

Social studies is most commonly recognized as a course or set of courses taught in primary and secondary schools. It may also refer to the study of particular aspects of human society at certain post-secondary and tertiary schools worldwide.

In primary schools, course material usually focuses on topics of significance for the geographic region the course is taught. For example, American schools will generally focus on American history, while Irish schools will generally cover Irish history.

Social studies in post-secondary and tertiary schools

The subject matter varies from institution to institution and includes both pure and applied social sciences. Examples of the former include sociology, psychology, and political science. Examples of the latter include business, economics, criminology, and mass media. These schools may exclude certain humanities and natural sciences (such as earth sciences and climatology) which are included in many North American social studies classes.

Social studies in the elementary grades [K-6]

Skills students are meant to learn in the social studies include:

  1. good citizenship
  2. critical thinking
  3. problem solving
  4. cosmopolitanism
  5. conservation

Citizenship & Civics

Social studies aims to educate students to become caring, well informed citizens; realizing and connecting the social studies to one's sense of freedom and everyday lifestyle; examining the "code of behavior" within one's diverse society [e.g., morals, values, rule/law]

Culture & Cosmopolitanism

  • World views, social views
    • Values include:
      • awareness of stereotypes,
      • bias, and point of view,
      • awareness of multiple cultures,
      • tolerance of cultural differences,
      • protecting individual right to difference.
    • These values are meant to be developed through:
      • examining personal morals/values
      • compare/contrast
      • study of history and past experience
      • study history from past and future...
      • main point of the conclusion

Ways to teach the social studies

Constructivist pedagogy:

The social studies can be taught using the constructivist approach. This includes teaching that is intended to refine students' prior knowledge, develop inquiry skills through higher order and critical thinking, and lead to students developing opinions about the world around them.

  • Instructional strategies:
    • direct teaching [not lecture]
    • problem based learning [PBL]
    • inductive thinking
    • cooperative learning
    • role playing
    • simulation
    • intelligence of history

Digital technology and current events

Teachers should strongly consider including digital resources in the teaching of current events. Students can access digital photos, videos, and interviews by using digital resource websites. Examples of some useful digital resources are:

  1. Smithsonian [1]
  2. Library of Congress [2] -American Memory
  3. National Geographic [3]
  4. National Archives [4][5]
  5. Documenting the American South [6]

These websites can be aligned with Standards of Learning, curriculum, and various units of study. These digital resources can help demonstrate the relationship between past and current events in various ways, including: comparing old pictures to recent pictures and examining how they relate, comparing current events such as the Iraq War to past events such as the first and second World Wars or the American involvement in the Vietnamese and Korean Wars.In the late 1800s.

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