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Parents Corner Articles

Parents Corner

Social Studies at UMCA

In the junior grades of public schools, and in many private schools, as well, there is such thing – "Social Studies". It includes a little geography, a little history, and a little bit of civics. The choice of topics often depends on the initiative of the teacher. For example, there is a mandatory topic related to the history of Canada, its pioneers, but nobody insists that the teacher begins with the Babylonians, Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Chinese.

The private school program that goes above and beyond the formal scope of the Ministry of Education provides an opportunity for our students to study History and Geography in the interpenetration, to see the development of humanity as a single process. 

The schooling is carrying the idea of chronological teachings - from simple forms of historical societies to more complexes – from Antiquity, Medieval Times, and the Renaissance - to the history of Canada, and the 20th century.

Thus, Canadian history does not seem isolated from the world history movement. What precedes the formation of our country, what happened at that time in the other places, how it became possible to get to Canada? The joint search for the answers to these questions forms the horizons of the young minds, and the educator's first task.

The study of history, but rather an introduction to it, begins in Grade 1.

We try to understand the basic concepts of Historical science: explain what historical time is, find out the essence of such notions as the past, present and future. Not a secret that for many first-graders, and not only for them, the past is about princesses, dragons and all other things that dwell in the realm of popular fantasy genre.

We are talking about the old household items, projecting them to our day; we talk about important events in the life of a family, and humankind. There is a little museum in our class that shows the elements of cultures of different civilizations (copies, of course). This is an old toy, and that is a ship of the Age of Explorations; African mask, terracotta figurines of guards from the tomb of China's first emperor - all subjects of discussions and personal discoveries.

And next - a map where we can find China with its Great Wall, Africa and other continents, trace the route of the first explorers...

It's not a formal lesson, but a lively conversation. 

The study of early civilizations of prehistory, a review of primitive societies starts in Grade 2... An important part of our work, along with classroom lessons is the visits to the Royal Ontario Museum. The Museum is our permanent partner, and training that our students get in the galleries and   laboratories is a valuable contribution to the school curriculum.

Thus, a three-dimensional representation of the historical era materializes in our approach. This approach is complemented by interesting films or movie clips of ancient customs, manners, and entertainment. For example, in Grade 3, when we talk about ancient Rome and the life of slaves – here comes, as an example, the "Ben-Hur"'s "Ramming speed" scene, or the famous chariot race.

Today, in our school, world literature (taught like other subjects in English) is a cross-cutting element in the study of history. It is tied to the period that is being studied at the moment. You learn in Grade 2 the history of Egypt? - Here's the retelling of the ancient Egyptian myths in the child-friendly presentation. In Grade 3 the Egyptian gods are replaced by the heroes of myths and legends of ancient Greece, Rome, and China, and then - map, where it can be clearly seen where the events described occurred, the place occupied by these countries in the modern world.... This is what I call the relationship of times, cultures, and places.

In Grade 4, students get acquainted with the Middle Ages. Here is just one of many examples: the plan of a medieval castle, which each student creates according to the rules of map-making: the floor plan is a bird's-eye view; symbols are explained in the Legend.

In Grades 5 and 6 the students elaborate on the topics of the Age of Exploration and Aboriginal societies of the Americas, with the emphasis on the pre-contact Canada. And this is how we bridge a gap between the world history and the history of Canada. 

Our student remembers the Egyptians, which they learned so much about in Grade 2, and the company of Greeks - Romans - Chinese, whom they knew since their Grade 3. Well, and the Middle Ages, which they were "immersed" in Grade 4, the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration in Grade 5 ... This was repeated more than once, solidified, and in the senior grades our students are quite ready for a fundamental study of the "Western Civilizations "course. 

We begin Geography in Grade 1 with the introduction of the map. In simple graphic examples, using a large number of illustrations, we are working with the map, studying its elements - the directions, continents, oceans. There is nothing supernatural in this, geography is taught in any school, but we do it in a concentrated form, since Grade 1.

In Grade 2 students learn about the latitude and longitude lines. An important point: while immersing into material, we return to many units again and again, but on a more serious level.

In Grade 3, we have the introduction to Canadian geography. We start with the basics - map of the country, provinces and territories, capital cities, and regions. 

Thus our students grow as the experts in History and Geography. They are able to work with learning material more professional than their peers from public schools, and this is because we help to build the solid knowledge base of the subjects: "Happy is the man that finds wisdom, and the man that gets understanding."

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