23 June 2014

Second Grade Review: Social Studies

Agent E’s interest in learning about the past took a huge leap once she discovered American Girl books on that fateful library day in August 2013.

Agent E and her beloved Caroline doll
This past school year she read over 100 of them and began asking more questions and putting together bits and pieces about other times and other places. It sparked her interest in U.S. history better than I could have ever hoped to. However . . .

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is really difficult to teach U.S. and world history to young elementary ages. Why? Because they have no worldview, no perspective. 

Yes, they have a general sense of empathy and the knowledge that the world is very old and made up of many diverse people, but they don’t have the maturity or life experience to really appreciate the expansiveness of it all.

In spite of that, Agent E loves learning geography of the whole world and reading about different cultures, landmarks, languages, mythology. And I definitely want to encourage that. 

Yet, I don’t want her to just be memorizing facts and dates and names. (Which is what I did. I scored great on lots of tests. Don’t ask me for any of that information now.) 

I want her (well, all the Agents) to actually learn this stuff in a way that will help them as they grow into global citizens.

They love exploring more about places we've visited around the world, and enjoy planning future (hypothetical) journeys. I love that Agent E is able to remember much of our time living overseas (her siblings were really too young for much recall) because I think that experience really sparked her interest in learning about other places.

At any rate, for second grade social studies, we tried to incorporate geography, landmarks, history, government, and key people/discoveries. The specific topics we touched on (some more than others) included the following:
  • World Geography
  • World Landmarks
  • Spanish Language and Culture (with help from Little Pim)
  • Countries in Epcot (We made two visits during the year.)
  • US Geography (We used many of the same resources from our first grade study of the 50 states.)
  • American Revolution (Thank you, Liberty’s Kids.)
  • War of 1812 (Did I mention that Caroline is her favorite American Girl?)
  • US Presidents 
  • Inventors and Scientists
  • Mythology (We didn’t get into this too much this year, but I think it’s a topic she will really enjoy.)
For our “curriculum” we mostly just took out lots of books from the library about countries, states, presidents, inventions, etc. Sometimes we had a plan and sometimes we just grabbed a handful and called it a day. (I was going to make a list, but, um, I didn’t.) We also used printables from Education.com, Worksheet Works, and Crayola.  And, of course, lots of great Kindle games (Stack the States, anyone?)

Agent J had to get in a photo, too.
I have no idea what she is trying to do to Caroline's head.
Next year we will probably continue with some of the same studies, and perhaps add a bit more about ancient civilizations, map reading, and a few other things she has expressed interest in.

One thing I’ve discovered that Agent E really enjoys is biographies/autobiographies of famous people, so we will try to incorporate more of those in our third grade studies. Additionally, we will likely build on her interest in historical fiction and expand her book list beyond American Girl to other, similar selections.

Both girls have also told me they want to take a foreign language class after the move. (My preliminary research shows there are options in the general area, but it will depend on how far they are from where we end up living.) 

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