What is Integrated Social Studies?

In graduate school, we discussed social studies as a field of study. Our professor drew an umbrella on the whiteboard.

My professor then wrote the other social studies subjects under each spine of the umbrella.

The discussion that ensued was enlightening and I was surprised at how many people in my class looked at each subject separately. People seem to assume that each subject needs to be taught completely isolated in order to be understood, as if they compete.

I don’t agree with that.

Integrated social studies bring multiple concentrations into the social studies classroom. Simple.

For example, history students need to know how numerous types of government work and give historical examples. Comparing and contrasting different systems, time periods, and even how cultures implemented them is the goal of an integrated approach.

Students also need to have a basic understanding of economic systems and principles. Again, knowing historical systems and modern systems, being able to compare/contrast is essential. Learning feudalism is pointless, for example, if students can’t grasp the idea of paid labor versus coerced or forced labor and its implications on society.

Integrating social studies is a much more efficient way to study all of these concepts. It is time-consuming, though.

The concept of integrating social studies applies to all disciplines of social studies: geography, archaeology, anthropology, sociology, psychology as well as the above mentioned: they all have their place in a well-planned integrated social studies classroom.

But you can integrate different disciplines into an integrated social studies classroom as well.
Especially useful in world history classes, students are introduced to the history of mathematics, science, languages, music, and art.

Engineering is remarkably easy to integrate into a social studies classroom. Learning basic engineering concepts and spending time on important architectural details or machinery helps students connect to their world.

It’s hard for students to know why the printing press is a significant marker of human achievement if they don’t have a background on the institutions the printing press challenged (government, economic systems, religious institutions, sociological effects).

There are numerous strategies to take when implementing an integrated approach, but the one I think works best is to choose your own passions. Stick to what you like best. Students will pick up on your enthusiasm and appreciate the extra effort.


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