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Articles: Social Studies

Critical Exposure is a nonprofit after-school program that trains District of Columbia Public Schools students to use photography and advocacy to make real changes in their schools and community.

High school students gain skills in documentary, photography, leadership and advocacy as they critically examine their schools and communities, and document issues that affect their lives. The photos are shared with the public through travelling exhibits in galleries and libraries. They are also shown to public officials as a means of advocating for policy changes in the community.

Administrators striving to align instruction with the Common Core have an ever increasing range of curriculum programs from which to choose.

Several new social studies programs focus on keeping students abreast of current and archived news while other materials spotlight America’s history.

Social studies teachers are using controversial news events to drive part of the curriculum in today’s classrooms. Above, an educator at last year’s annual conference discusses the importance of primary sources, such as artifacts, diaries and newspapers, to bring history alive in elementary schools.

Studying controversial events can show students how past events and current conflicts are connected. Examining these stories also can foster critical thinking skills and hone the ability to debate. But such discussions can be a minefield for educators trying to navigate touchy topics.

Louisiana students will be learning more about the Battle of New Orleans, the final major battle in the War of 1812, this school year.

Students in Louisiana will commemorate the upcoming 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans with a new curriculum created by the education team at the state’s Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

High schools will soon have access to a free curriculum based on the Academy Award-winning film and memoir 12 Years a Slave.

The National School Boards Associaton is partnering with New Regency entertainment, Penguin Books and the filmmakers to give public high schools copies of the 2014 Best Picture winner, the book it’s based on and a study guide. Talk-show host Montel Williams is coordinating the distribution of the movie.

The town of Hopkinton, Mass., has served as the starting point for Boston Marathon since 1924. Now, Hopkinton Middle School is incorporating the town’s historical connection with the iconic race into a new curriculum called “Desire to Inspire.”

“From the early preparations in March to the event in April, every year our community and our students become very enthusiastic about the marathon,” says Debra Pinto, a Hopkinton Middle School physical education teacher.

Some educators are making a push to bring a renewed emphasis to social studies, as subjects like history and civics have taken a backseat to math, science and English in the nation’s rush to improve academic achievement.

“The Heart of Matter," by Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, says competing nations are focusing on humanities.

Reduced emphasis on the humanities in school could threaten the nation’s ability to innovate and compete internationally, and leave students less prepared to participate in the democratic political process, according to a new report by the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Abrams Learning Trends, Social Studies Content Area Reading Success, www.abramslearningtrends.com

American Enterprise Institute, What So Proudly We Hail, www.aei.org

Espresso Education, Social Studies Multimedia Learning, www.espressoeducation.com

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, History in a Box, www.gilderlehrman.org

social studies

Many social studies teachers are nervous about the coming of Common Core State Standards. With so much emphasis placed on literacy, social studies teachers fear they will see content slashed to leave time for meeting English’s non-fiction standards.

Already reeling from a lack of attention from the benchmarks put in place by No Child Left Behind, those devoted to social studies feel like they are once again on the outside looking in. However, could the implementation of Common Core actually bring social studies back into focus?

Lakeside High Ga. compete

In the weeks leading up to a presidential election, it’s hard to dismiss the importance of civic education, with campaign speeches, debates and advertisements blaring everywhere. Yet the National Assessment of Education Progress reports that only one-fourth of high school graduates are proficient in topics such as the American political system, principles of democracy, world affairs and the roles of citizens.

There was a time when it seemed a day didn’t go by without reading about Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Rhee, known for her passion for raising student achievement—and for her aggressive style—became a symbol for the new school reform movement.

While looking at maps may belong to an old-fashioned approach to geography, digital mapping, the collection of all kinds of data from space or the ground, has changed the game. Geo-technologist Joseph Berry works on the cutting edge of those changes.

Elementary and middle school students in a Reach the World (RTW) project in New York City learn geography and how it relates to learning.

Geography isn’t what it used to be. Nowadays, that subject is often buried—and therefore inadequately covered—in a social studies curriculum itself under siege because of the extended commitment in schools to reading and math.

Singapore girls

If the results of the most recent international achievement tests were graded on a curve, U.S. students probably would rank somewhere in the B range.

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