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. People seem to assume that each of those subjects competes.
Other subjects are included in social studies but to keep the graphic simple I only included the major subjects.
I don’t agree with that.
Why was creating a democracy with a Constitution with an aim at equality and freedom a monumental undertaking? More importantly, why should students care?
Why did the world move from feudalism as an economic model? More importantly, why should students care?
Why should students care about learning about trade surpluses and deficits as well as means of production and taxes? How do these things effect their lives and what other systems may add value to ours?
All those answers are in social studies but more importantly, all of the answers make more sense when you integrate the social studies.
History might be perceived as the king of the social studies but it means nothing without the others subjects.
By the time students graduate they will have been exposed to U.S. History, Government, and Economics and if they are lucky Geography and Sociology as well. But many teachers ignore the connection geography has to history, government, economics, and sociology, maintaining instead the lonely existence that has deemed geography by many people and educators as a useless field of study taking precious time from others subjects like math and ready.
When you learn about the physical geography of Africa there is more than learning about the deserts, the rain forests, the mountains, the rivers. Look at where the major civilizations developed. What do they have in common? How old are they? What problems have they had throughout their history based solely on the physical geography? What unique resources came from Africa? How did invasion of other cultures and people forever change the landscape of Africa? Why are the geopolitical boundaries where they are? How is climate change causing problems in particular countries? How will the future of climate change in Africa effect the world?
See how physical geography can easily flow to human geography?
That is integration.
All of those questions could and should be addressed in geography class. They reinforce the concepts outlined by educators and will help the students when they move on to World History or U.S. History.
As social studies is downgraded in the minds of the general populace and educators are being forced to focus STEM we are being asked to justify keeping the entire social studies spectrum.
Why study geography?
We base our entire system of being around boundaries. The boundaries are based around physical geography because we simply cannot live in the Sahara or Death Valley. Geography shows us where we live and why we live there. Geography shows us the personalities that formed in our geographic regions (ooh, look there. Sociology just made an appearance in geography).
I used geography as my example but I can make these connections and justifications for all of the social studies. I love all of them and love teaching them all together. They are interesting and exciting and even more so when you integrate them.
The next step is to integrate social studies with other subjects like physics and geometry.
Stay tuned for next Thursday.