Social studies encompasses the study of history and geography, while also incorporating the approaches and strategies of many other disciplines, including economics, anthropology, sociology, political science, and psychology.
The ultimate goal of Middle School social studies is to guide students in their development as culturally competent, active citizens living in a democratic society through cultivation of the four Habits of Mind:
1. Historical Thinking is developing a more complex understanding of past events. This includes: examining and evaluating diverse perspectives; analyzing, interpreting, and questioning primary sources and secondary sources; exercising chronological reasoning by drawing conclusions about causation, continuity, and change; and supporting more complex positions with evidence.
2. Global Mindedness is understanding how one’s role and responsibility as a citizen of an interconnected world transcends geographic, cultural, and political borders. This includes: learning about the histories and cultures of societies and civilizations around the world; gaining awareness of current events at the local, national, and international level and their broader implications; and developing a geographical understanding of the world and how location impacts cultural, economic, and political interactions.
3. Valuing Diverse Perspectives and Developing Empathy involves deeply understanding people and groups by gaining greater insight into their historical, cultural, and political experience, which are crucial components of culturally competent learning. This includes: developing a sense of community and communal responsibility; building a culturally competent vocabulary; developing pride in one’s own identity and respect for others’ identities; understanding one’s own multi-faceted identity (e.g., examining cultural identifiers) in relation to the broader society; recognizing stereotypes in order to dismantle them at the community level and combat them in society; and recognizing systems of power, privilege, and their relationship to injustice throughout history and in the present world.
4. Active Citizenship necessitates participation in the public life of a diverse and increasingly interconnected democratic society by taking responsibility and initiative in areas of public concern. This includes: understanding of the forms and structures of government on the local, state, national, and international levels; examining human rights and what it means to be a citizen; investigating the roles that citizen advocates have had in shaping the experience of democracy; identifying social and political issues that impact communities in local and global spheres; and advocating for causes and ideas that advance social justice.
In the sixth grade, students will learn and practice how to be historians while developing their understanding of the Social Studies Habits of Mind. As students examine and investigate the religions and cultures of several major civilizations, they will hone geography skills as they scrutinize various types of maps and will utilize reading comprehension strategies while analyzing both primary and secondary source documents. Through various classroom activities and projects, sixth graders will learn how to evaluate sources and develop key 21st century research literacy skills. Additionally, students will develop their analytical writing skills and have the opportunity to share what they have learned through various modes of presentation.
In seventh grade, students will work to uncover how American identity has changed over time. Through deep dives into relevant moments in U.S. history, seventh graders will examine how systemic power is constructed and protected and how different identity groups fought for, and resisted, change. Students will ground their understanding of systems of power by examining the country’s founding documents and working to understand what it means to be included in “We the People.” Possible case studies include the clash between Native American and European cultures; anti-Blackness and Black resistance to oppression; immigration, citizenship, and the pressures of assimilation; the continuous transformations of gender and sexuality; and other issues involving civil liberties and civil rights. Students will address these topics through exploring primary and secondary sources, conducting in-depth research, engaging in class discussions, reflecting in their social studies journals, and writing analytically. The course culminates in a research project focused on an activist of the student’s choice, complemented by a symbolic hands-on construction project.
Eighth graders start to explore their own roles as advocates through studying the patterns of change in the 20th century world. Using a variety of secondary and primary source texts, students will examine the essential questions of the course: “How does societal change happen? How can people cause change in society? How do conceptions of justice lead to societal change? What methods do successful advocates for change employ? How do the changes in the modern world impact us?” After first exploring the changes in the Industrial Revolution that helped set the stage for the beginning of the century, students then go on to investigate the different political, social, and economic shifts that are brought about through imperialism and decolonization, nationalism before the Second World War, and the Cold War era conflicts. Through readings, discussions, simulations, research, and analytical writing, students will explore the ways in which change in society has a range of complex impacts, and the ways in which social and political advocates seek to address the significant injustices still facing our world. Learning to ground their advocacy in research, the course also supports the growing skills necessary to craft a history research-based term paper using evidence to support a thesis.