In Social Studies, we prepare students to be informed, enthusiastic, and critical citizens of the world. Research, literacy, discussion and presentation skills are central to our Social Studies courses, as is creativity. Students write informational texts, essays, and even narratives in social studies. They create class newspapers from historical periods, write their own myths like those of the ancient civilizations, reenact historical events, and debate important societal questions. Our Social Studies/History curriculum prioritizes depth over breadth. By deeply exploring case studies of particular times and places, middle school students learn how the different aspects of a culture – economy, politics, kinship, customs, art, technology philosophy, and religion – illuminate and impact each other, and help us connect that time and place to the larger world. Through our Social Studies/History course, we help students understand the social, political, and cultural worlds in which they will participate. To this end, we strive to help middle school students make connections between the past and the present.
In 6th grade Social Studies, students engage with questions of identity, values, geography, and society through their studies of Ancient Civilizations. The course aims to broaden and deepen students’ content background in Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Rome, and more, while closely honing both reading and writing skills. Students produce creative written and visual work, conduct research, participate in debates, and use our city as a resource for learning. These practices elevate students’ discussion and abilities to make meaningful claims about both world history and our present day world.
In 7th grade, students study the first half of U.S. history, Exploration through the Civil War. In 8th grade, students study the second half of U.S. history, Reconstruction through the Civil Rights Movement. We move chronologically through history, studying themes of membership, belonging, race, democracy and justice. We look at whose story is being told and whose narrative is not included and why. We focus heavily on building reading and writing skills, with a particular emphasis on utilizing primary sources. We aim to engage our students with hands-on activities, to inspire them with powerful lessons in history, and to challenge their thinking in high level discussions.
MS 8 was honored to win a grant from the organization Facing History and Ourselves in 2015. Social Studies and Humanities teachers participated in the Price Fellowship, through which they were able to attend professional development institutes, receive common core aligned materials, attend presentations by special guest speakers, and benefit from the support of a Facing History staff developer. Students have found the Facing History resources and activities extremely engaging and appropriately challenging.
One of the most important reasons we learn about history is to recognize patterns in our socio-political world and think about how we want our present world to look. In so many ways, we are living history now, and thus we focus in large part on current events. Our focus on current events is necessary for students to develop the skills and tools to read, understand, and question news stories. This helps students bridge the connection between ancient civilizations and today’s world, while also helping them to practice important skills they will need to be active citizens of the world.