The Shipley Lower School social studies program is designed to help children develop the skills of a social scientist while nurturing an increasing awareness of self, others, society and the surrounding world, in the present as well as the past. Across the curriculum, the skills and concepts related to the social sciences, including primary research in the form of observations and interviews, text and web-based research, and the recording, analyzing and presenting of data, are emphasized. Interdisciplinary in design, social studies at Shipley incorporates the arts, geography, history, science, math, music, technology, and Spanish. Consistent with the school’s philosophy and mission, SEED (social, emotional and ethical development) is an integral component of the social studies curriculum.
In Pre-K through second grade, the social studies curriculum encompasses an increasing circle beginning with family and the classroom and moving out to the school, local community, and those beyond. Families, culture and traditions, the classroom and school take the center stage in Pre-K, Kindergarten and first grade as children learn through hands-on activities and through their interactions with people and the environment in and around the school. In second grade, the concept of history, past and present, and location, near and far, are explored through a yearlong study of Native Americans across the different regions of the United States. Historical and geographical aspects as well as the concepts of exploration and change, culture and tradition, transportation, shelter, food, animals, and vegetation are introduced. Through this study, second graders also learn developmentally appropriate study and research skills, which they use to gather information for research projects.
In third through fifth grade, history, geography, politics and culture take center stage, explored respectively through yearlong studies centering on immigration, early American history and ancient civilizations. In third grade, the focus on immigration introduces students to the myriad ways in which immigration has historically shaped America leading to the creation of a more diverse and democratic society. Immigration is presented as individual journeys and as the movement of people both voluntary and forced. Students research their own family histories developing personal connections to the narratives they read in textbooks. Throughout the study, students are encouraged to view immigration through a critical and empathetic lens, questioning both the human costs while appreciating the immigrants’ hope and desire for a better life. The study of immigration serves as a vehicle for introducing world geography and map reading skills. The study culminates in a powerful experiential stimulation of the immigrant entry into Ellis Island followed by a field trip to Ellis Island. The year long focus on early American history in fourth grade introduces children to the thirteen colonies with an emphasis on Pennsylvania, the Revolutionary War, the Constitution and the U.S. government, westward expansion, and the Civil War. Utilizing social studies texts, written and primary source visual materials, and fiction, children are encouraged to think critically, pose questions, and engage in debate, as they learn basic skills, including summarizing, outlining, note taking, and test preparation. Taking advantage of our location in and around multiple historical sites, field trips take a prominent role, offering unique opportunities for children to make real-life connections to American history. Field trips include Valley Forge Park, Independence Hall and The Liberty Bell, historic houses of worship, Gettysburg, and Lancaster. The science of archaeology and the study of ancient civilizations is the focus of fifth grade, framed around the related questions of what defines a civilization and what are the common elements of all cultures, both ancient and modern. Geography focuses on the themes of topography, human interaction with the environment, and the interaction among different populations and cultures. Historical facts are presented and discussed along with the means by which this information was discovered by archaeologists. To help children understand the work of archaeologists, at the beginning of the year students participate in a half-day conference exploring the field then participate in a simulated “dig” collecting artifacts, which they analyze to discern their use and what they say about the culture. The social studies program is designed to help students understand common elements of all cultures, appreciate the accomplishments and contributions of ancient civilizations, and develop a sense of historical perspective, while widening their view of the world through history.