Student Choice and Creating Valuable Connections
With the national emphasis on STEM, cross-curricular learning is becoming more and more essential in classrooms today. As a social studies teacher, I’m teaching kids about the history and pioneers of science, technology, engineering, and math, so it made sense to embrace that in my classroom.
When I saw that the Learning Counsel was making this “share to care” platform available to teachers to share our success stories, I felt it was my chance. Using online curriculum from Kids Discover and other resources allows me to make the connection between social studies and STEM perfectly.
When students select a social studies topic online using the Kids Discover site, they immediately see many articles related to that topic and related science content. Recently I had my students reading about Ancient Rome. As they were reading online, they found information relating to Roman building techniques. We then had an engaging discussion on their aqueducts and how and why they worked. My favorite moments are seeing when students suddenly make a connection and realize they’ve just truly learned something.
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Another time where my students learned both STEM and social studies was when we studied about ancient Egypt. One of my students noticed that the early Egyptian society started around the Nile River and made the connection to Mesopotamian society starting around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. We were then able to make connections between the importance of rivers to the development of early civilizations. We were able to research and discuss the science behind what rivers do that would be beneficial to a new civilization.
Student choice is an important part of my teaching. I believe students have more buy-in to the lesson when they have choices about what they learn and how they provide evidence of their learning. Textbooks are “boring” according to many students; I would rather give them a choice of articles that are fairly short, but concise. It helps if they are also visually appealing, with photos, maps, or illustrations.
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When it comes down to it, my job as the teacher is to show my students why social studies is important. I have to show them that learning about Rome, for example, can help us learn about building and engineering today. I have to show them that learning about Mesopotamia gives us great insights into how societies formed and what lives were like. Getting excited about social studies engages them in the learning process, and makes those valuable connections between social studies and STEM and hopefully the real world they live in and will be a part of.Darren Faust teaches 6th-grade general education at Jim Maples Academy in Porterville, CA. connect with him on twitter @dfaust03