During the 2015-16 school year, Rashi’s faculty took an in-depth look at our Social Studies curriculum. Teachers from each grade level, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, the Heads of Lower and Upper School, and the Middle School Rabbi comprised the Social Studies Committee. Together, the members of the committee agreed that social studies is composed of deep and enduring understandings, concepts, and skills from each discipline. Social studies emphasizes skills and practices in preparation for decision making.
Keith Civin, sixth and seventh grade social studies teacher, recalled a student’s question, “Why do we call it Social Studies and not History?” The first task of the committee was to provide clarity to Rashi’s definition of the subject; they created a mission statement:
In social studies, students use inquiry-based exploration to develop enduring understandings of the human experience. Through the study of civics, history, economics, and geography from varied perspectives, students will become active and engaged citizens of the 21st Century.
As a result of the committee’s work, teachers in grades K-8 share a common language and will be addressing civics, history, economics, and geography through rigorous content designed to spark curiosity, deepen investigations, and enable students to apply knowledge and ideas in real world settings. At heart, social studies is about understanding the things people do and using questions to direct our investigations into the world.
Heidi Chapple, Head of Lower School, and Rabbi Sharon Clevenger commented on the K-8 focus of the committee and the benefit of meeting together each week to post questions across grade levels to ensure continuity of curriculum from grade to grade. As the curriculum map unfolded, teachers added units to their existing curriculum to provide rigorous instruction in each of the four domains. Teachers developed standards for Kindergarten through Grade 2, Grades 3-5, and Grades 6-8, along with indicators for each standard to measure progress towards intended outcomes.
The committee will continue to meet during the 2016-17 school year to implement curriculum that supports the newly crafted social studies mission statement, which recognizes the interdisciplinary exploration of social sciences and humanities.