History & Social Studies Philosophy
Social studies and history education provides students with experiences that develop their abilities to think critically and logically, to empathize with others, and to become fully engaged citizens who contribute to their communities. Lab School students participate in the complex social life of their classroom and school communities: they communicate, problem-solve, play, read, think, create, and question. In social studies and history students encounter topics and problems that provoke them into developing a deeper understanding of the patterns and problems of history. This understanding enables them to appreciate the role of the individual including themselves, as a change agent.
Kindergarten Social Studies Program
In Kindergarten, students address three areas of social studies curriculum: self, family, and community. Using the National Association for the Education of Young Children's Anti-Bias Curriculum as a guide, kindergarten teachers "enable each child to: construct a knowledgeable self-identity; to develop comfortable, empathic, and just intersect with diversity; and to develop critical thinking and the skills for standing up for oneself and others in the face of injustice." Teachers help children understand a variety of difficult and complex topics such as adoption, death, disabilities, injustice, segregation, stereotypes, sexual orientation, slavery and war as they come up in daily classroom life. Such topics are addressed at a level of discussion that is appropriate for young children. Young children can begin to think critically about such issues when they have sufficient experience and active involvement in discussion and inquiry.
In Kindergarten students begin to develop citizenship skills appropriate to democracy. The classroom environment provides opportunity to engage in the democratic process of voting and promotes the exchange of points of view, negotiation, problem-solving, critical thinking, conflict resolution, fairness and equality. The classroom environment is based on mutual respect and shared responsibility within a community of learners.
Lower School Social Studies Program
Social Studies is a multidisciplinary investigation of peoples across time and space. The program may draw upon the disciplines of history, geography, anthropology, economics, law, philosophy, religion, sociology, archaeology, political science, and psychology. Lower School teachers are studying several specific areas for development and inclusion in the social studies program for the fall of 2005. These topics are part of the day-to-day experience in each classroom, and the Lower School teachers are committed to an in-depth study of coordinating and collaborating around basic skills and general issues. Lower School teachers are investigating several other strands of social studies for inclusion at each grade level. These include units in geography and mapping, citizenship and the democratic process, the environment, culture, and anti-bias and inclusivity.
Each of the many interdependent strands of social studies are explored and revisited in a spiral pattern throughout the Lower School. Specific topics emerge from the interests and inclinations of students in each classroom. Teachers also rely upon current events as they stimulate children's curiosity about the world.
First through Fourth Grade Social Studies
Social Studies in the Lower School provides a powerful model for the study of community and cultures. In each classroom, collaborative activities and projects provide opportunities for students to learn to value and respect diverse perspectives, opinions and ideas. Students learn geography skills as they investigate and create maps; they practice critical thinking skills as they research, read and evaluate sources of information; they learn interviewing and questioning skills as they research family history; they learn to be citizens as they investigate problems of democracy.
Middle School Social Studies Program
Fifth Grade Social Studies
Social Studies in fifth grade includes a wide range of study on geography, history, cultures, and current events. Students also learn and practice research skills and report writing. In class discussion, they hone their critical thinking skills.
Fifth grade teachers encourage students to develop their interests by completing a research report in which they must define topics and organize information. Students gather information from a variety of sources and express what they learn in their own words. Teachers offer assistance in evaluating sources, particularly Internet sources. Fifth graders also use maps and geographical media to increase their knowledge of the physical world. Current events provide an impetus for classroom discussion, reading and investigation. Students also study human growth and reproduction with a particular emphasis on the changes and pressures of adolescence.
The Humanities program aims to inculcate in students a love for reading and writing and a critical but open-minded view of the diverse world. Through coherently planned thematic units, constructive and consistent feedback, and opportunities for personal choice that include both remediation and enrichment, students leave middle school with a strong sense of themselves as capable writers, readers, and thinkers.
Sixth Grade Humanities
Sixth grade humanities is an interdisciplinary course that uses discussion, projects, simulations, and guided research as a basis for studying language arts, literature, and ancient history. Students engage in an intellectual, creative, and artistic process and work as individuals as well as in whole group and small group formats. The course covers four major interdisciplinary units-geography, Mesopotamia and/or other river valley civilizations, ancient Greece, and ancient China-that link literature selections with historical concepts. Students use the process approach to write a research paper and creative pieces.
Students in sixth grade learn geography and mapping, historical perspective and chronology, political and economic structures of governance, the role of religion in human societies, philosophies of ancient peoples, and the foundations of democracy. The Sixth grade units allow students to explore and understand current world issues by providing a context and framework for human behavior. For example, as they role-play the ancient Greek city-states, they encounter questions of gender and class equity, slavery and ownership, education, and the beginning of democracy. They also begin to understand the philosophies that influence modern political thought and action.
As they read, students begin to ask interpretive questions, notice significant details of plot, character, and setting, recognize figurative language, and acquire and use new vocabulary. They develop writing skills by summarizing both fiction and non-fiction pieces coherently, narrating personal experiences, writing short fictional pieces, organize prose into paragraphs and organizing paragraphs around topic sentences. Students practice note-taking strategies, organize notes into basic outlines, and learn and use correct bibliographic formats. Students continue to revise and self-edit their work with the guidance of teachers. In the revision process, students pay close attention to the details of grammar, usage, and mechanics.
Discussion is an important component of the humanities curriculum because it allows students to develop their capacities to reason. Students listen to and consider others' ideas, recognize and articulate similarities between ideas, support ideas with textual evidence, and carefully further discussion with ideas expressed at appropriate times.
Seventh and Eighth Grade Humanities
The Seventh and Eighth Grade Humanities curriculum explores how people in the past and present express themselves in thought, in the arts, and in action. The course encourages students to engage in a deliberative process that leads them to intelligent and compassionate participation in the world. The course aims to produce active citizens as well as thinkers -- reflective and analytical young people who will apply the habits and the insights they develop to their own decision-making.
In seventh grade, students investigate the problems, challenges, and opportunities of nationhood. As students investigate, discuss, and explore Colonialism, Rebellion and Independence, the Constitutional Convention, Westward Expansion, Slavery, and the Civil War, they develop their skills as critical thinkers and historians.
In eighth grade students build upon the seventh grade experience as they investigate the American experience from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights Movement with the Constitution as a foundation. Chicago provides a case study approach to urbanization, industrialization, and immigration at the turn of the Century. Students explore America in the world as they study Imperialism and World War I. Current events provide a stimulus to many of the discussions and investigations of the past in order to shed light on the problems of today's world.
The Humanities curriculum integrates history and literature and uses the tools of anthropology, sociology, art, music, geography, philosophy and law to help students understand American history. By reading both historical non-fiction and fiction that parallel the topics and periods studied, students make significant connections as they ask meaningful questions about history, literature, and humanity. In humanities, they learn how to ask effective questions and to evaluate primary and secondary sources; how to detect point of view; how to use evidence to support an argument; how to find, define, and research a fruitful question; how to write an analytical essay with a thesis statement using evidence and sources to support their claims.
Students read to understand literal meaning and they reread to make deeper connections. The study of literature allows students to analyze story elements, identify themes in literature, and to enrich their vocabularies. Students' critical reading skills develop as they work to summarize, quote, and paraphrase succinctly. Various types of writing, such as research papers, interpretive essays, and creative pieces, including poetry, drama, journals, and personal narrative, encourage further development. Students refine their writing by using a clearly structured self, peer, and teacher review process in which they focus on both content and grammar, usage and mechanics.
Discussion is an important component of the humanities curriculum because it allows students to develop their capacities to reason, to marshal evidence for their arguments, and to defend their ideas orally. As a result, students are encouraged to listen and respond to the ideas of other students. They recognize important issues and interests and engage in problem solving during discussions. Student ownership of discussion grows progressively from small group, student-led discussion in 7th grade to whole class, student-led discussion in 8th grade. Teachers carefully work with students to develop analytic questions and to hone students' listening and responding skills.
High School History
The serious study of history teaches students to examine the multicultural and interdependent character of the world. The principles of toleration, openness, civility and fair play that are the hallmarks of a liberal education provide a foundation for the study of history in the high school.
The inquiry approach to learning is the preferred method of teaching history at Lab. Students are led in a process of discovery to ask open-ended, interpretive questions that are linked to watershed events in history. Students form their own questions and response strategies while teachers provide some of the background resources and introductory materials for understanding the chronology and context of the questions. Students develop the evidence, analysis, and conclusions in the formation of their opinions about each historical issue. A variety of instructional styles including reading and discussion, group work, debate, simulation and lecture are used to foster greater understanding of historical issues and events.
Students are required to complete three years of history and they may enroll in courses that address a wide range of historical topics and issues. Early World History, Modern World History, European History, United States History, and African-American History are offered both as regular and advanced placement courses. Additionally, students may select from a number of electives that include Advanced Placement Economics, The Holocaust, Islam and the West, and an Introduction to Philosophy.
In all high school history courses, students will engage in research, writing and speaking that teaches them to read critically, take notes, recognize bias, and marshal evidence in support of arguments. Students will also learn to develop a thesis, formulate paragraphs, design effective transitions, and create persuasive introductions and conclusions. Students will learn to be attentive to audience in both written and oral presentations.
In student-centered debates, simulations, and oral presentations, students practice and demonstrate their understanding of historical topics and issues. Students write short, critical essays, take objective tests and occasionally complete longer projects in their history coursework.