Social studies, kindergarten style

A classroom full of excited kindergartens licked the honey off their fingers. They got special treats that day: yakgwa, a kind of special Korean donut that literally means “honey snack.” Often made from deep-fried rice flour dough dipped in honey, they didn’t look like the kind of donuts Americans grow up with, but no one was complaining.

It was Family History Day in Michael Eldridge’s kindergarten class. On each of the student’s birthdays, their parents and families are invited to give a brief presentation to the class about the history of their family. What does their last name mean, and where does it come from? Where are they from? When and why did they immigrate or move to Chicago?

“This is the most meaningful way to introduce social studies to children,” said Mr. Eldridge. “It gives us an opportunity to dig a little bit more into family history, culture, and even geography.”

Families come equipped with photographs and artifacts that matter to them, and possibly a map or two. They discuss traditions, ancestors, and meaningful rituals or activities.

While eating their yakgwa, students learned about a traditional Korean outfit called a hanbok, and got to see a special one that Claire wore on her first birthday.

“Everyone wanted to try on the outfits!“ said Mr. Eldridge. 

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