Even though it’s not a state-tested subject in some areas, social studies is so important because it helps students find connections in the world, see the bigger picture, and become civic-minded citizens armed with healthy social and emotional skills.
As a classroom teacher, I loved using Studies Weekly Social Studies. I loved it so much that 11 years ago I purchased it with my own money so I could use it with my students. It was exactly what I was looking for and needed. I loved how it engaged my students in the learning process, and also helped me as their teacher be prepared to empower them as learners. I loved the print publication format of magazine style for the younger grades and newspaper style for the upper grades. I loved that each child got their own copy every single week. Having individual publications gave them so many opportunities to own their learning, and feel confident thinking about their thinking.
The curriculum also helped shape and strengthen my students’ understanding of “soft skills” like: character, cooperation, communication, empathy, kindness, and respect for differences. Because of this, even my youngest learners became excellent problem solvers and deep thinkers as they had chances to practice these skills.
Social studies also helped with my desire to help my students learn how to create a fulfilling life, filled with goodness and a sense of belonging. A life where they felt accepted, supported, and connected to others, while knowing they could make a difference for good in the world. For many, social studies opened their eyes to the possibilities.
One example happened in my kindergarten class. We were reading and learning about Abraham Lincoln in our Studies Weekly Social Studies publication. As a young boy, he desired greatly to go to school to learn his letters and sounds, how to read, and so many other things, but Lincoln often couldn’t attend school because he had to help work on his family farm. As we discussed his character and qualities, the students made a chart of all the ways he showed he loved learning. They especially loved finding out that Lincoln strove to learn new things his whole life long.
Lincoln’s longing to learn inspired my young learners and demonstrated why learning can be thought of as an opportunity and privilege, not a drudgery. We had thoughtful discussions on how this mindset can help us be thankful to go to school, be open to learning new things, and setting goals for ourselves.
This especially resonated with one of my greatest strugglers. This particular student had started the school year with an attitude that he just couldn’t do it. He had a low desire to try and had little support at home. He hated to come to school because he felt stressed and embarrassed about not knowing as much as his classmates.
After learning about President Lincoln, however, he had a mindshift. He found his own “why” in Lincoln’s story. He began to understand that he didn’t have to know everything all at once, and accepted that some things are going to take a lot of extra effort.
He started accepting help and trying harder to learn his letters and sounds. He knew his own desire to work hard was very important to achieve this. For the rest of the school year, he did not give up, and despite the adversity of diagnosed learning disabilities, he accomplished his goal. Abraham Lincoln’s story became part of his story.
When children can see themselves in the stories of the past, they make connections with their own stories, and learn from them. They then can create new chapters to their stories for their future selves, of who they want to become. They learn from examples that show how courage, hard work, and overcoming adversity can help them be the best they can be. They learn to keep trying one day at a time.
They realize that a growth mindset matters, and how it can eventually help them make a difference in their world. They choose it … they control it … it becomes their decision. It is their why.
I now love working with teachers on ways they can create a “toolbox of possibilities,” where they can provide opportunities for their students to find deep levels of connections and real-life learning experiences.
We want students to see their possibilities and know they make a difference. When we start planting seeds, our students start to understand that their voice is important. They can gain confidence that their thoughts and ideas can make a situation better.
Studies Weekly Teacher Advocate