Supporting Curricular Innovation in Lower School Social Studies
In the summer of 2022, fourth grade teachers Nikki Wiseman and Christian Wareikis received professional development funding from Shipley (along with teachers in first and fifth grades) to evaluate and re-design their social studies curriculum. We asked Mrs. Wiseman about the work and the impact it has had in her class.
Q: How does your professional development experience support Shipley's unique approach to educational excellence?
Wiseman: We were able to really look at the curriculum, examine our essential questions, and evaluate what we want to be teaching our students. We created three big essential questions that are the building blocks for every unit we teach: Who gets to tell history, whose stories are told, and whose voices are absent, and why are those stories missing. We looked at the experiences of disempowered people and made connections between the past and present, because in fourth grade we look at early American history from the early 1600s to just before the Civil War. By having the time this summer, we were able to find all sorts of new books that were written in the last five years from up-and-coming authors of color to integrate into our curriculum.
Q: How does this work deliver on Shipley’s mission?
Wiseman: We hope that our new curriculum, and especially our essential questions, create a sense of belonging and connection for our students. With the new literature featuring diverse perspectives and viewpoints, we hope our students can see themselves reflected. Exploring the often-untold perspectives of disempowered groups can also strengthen our students’ character and sense of empathy.
Q: Has this work had an impact on your students?
Wiseman: The changes we implemented have already had a huge impact on our students, and we're only two months into the school year. Everything we're teaching in social studies goes back to those essential questions and our students are able to build enduring understandings around those.
Q: Why is it important for Shipley teachers to have these kinds of professional development opportunities afforded to them?
Wiseman: Without this time over the summer, Christian and I would not have had the proper time to reevaluate our curriculum. We had been doing the work little by little by looking at new literature that was coming out and making sure that we were integrating various voices and perspectives, but we really needed quality time together, consistently so that we could revamp the entire curriculum and roll it out seamlessly.