If you’re not a teacher in Ontario, it’s possible that you just might not be aware of that the social studies curriculum was totally revised for Kindergarten through grade 8 this year. Yup, I know: stunning news, it should’ve made headlines. The document itself is a real page-turner, full of scintillating phrases like: “The specific expectations are organized under numbered sub-headings, each of which indicates the strand and the overall expectation to which the group of specific expectations corresponds.” Bidding on the movie rights is fierce.
Once you get past the jargon, though, it's great stuff, especially for Museum folks and people who care about Museum-based learning. On the most simplistic level, the new curriculum shakes up the grade in which you learn about certain topics. So teachers – and all of us who provide curriculum-linked programs – need to develop a whole different set of materials to teach material to younger or older kids than before. But the bigger picture is that the new curriculum is also infused with new approaches to learning history. The Historical Thinking approach emphasizes – among other things - learning from primary sources, learning to read sources for evidence, not just taking text or images at face value. It emphasizes thinking about history as a continuum, instead of as a list of events, and it asks us to think about the different perspectives of the people living in the past, and the causes and consequences of those different perspectives.
This revised approach, as well as an emphasis on "inquiry-based learning", align beautifully with what we've been doing all along in our school programs, and gives us a new opportunity to share our collection with students and teachers. Primary sources – maps, texts, artifacts - we got ‘em, that’s what we DO! Perspectives: many of our school programs explore history through hands-on experiences of historical technologies and skills, and through role plays.
It's also a tremendous opportunity to develop new programs at all grade levels that will be of service in supporting teachers in their implementation of the new approach. There's room to grow, but we’re well on our way with historical-thinking-based programs connected to all middle school levels, and with new early elementary programs on their way in the new year. Take a look at our students exploring grade 5-7 social studies and history curriculum here at the Museum:
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