In New York State, sixth grade students study the Eastern Hemisphere including ancient civilizations along with Europe during the Middle Ages. According to the New York State Core Curriculum, during this academic year the concepts and themes taught are identity, empathy, culture, interdependence, change, place and regions, human systems, and physical systems.
One of the major areas of study in sixth grade is the unit about ancient Egypt. Throughout this unit the students typically learn about the geography and early settlement of Egypt and the surrounding areas, the pharaohs and daily life during that time period. Even though social studies can be enjoyable for students, many students think that there is too much writing, reading, and homework involved in it. This often leads students to dislike social studies because they associate it with a lot of seatwork.
With the creation of the new Common Core Curriculum, a lot of emphasis is being placed on higher-level thinking and analytical skills. One of the major components of the Common Core Curriculum is having students reading informational texts. Social studies really lends itself to this component of Common Core, since students are not only reading their social studies text book, but they are also reading primary and secondary sources. For sixth grade social studies, the Common Core focuses skills such as citing evidence to support primary and secondary documents, finding the central ideas in a source, and figuring out whether what they are reading is a fact or an opinion. However, students might begin to view social studies as interesting if their textbooks were to be only used as a reference, and more primary and secondary sources were used instead.
This project will focus on teaching a unit to sixth grade students about ancient Egypt using hands-on, interactive methods to present information to the students, while still meeting the standards set by the Common Core Curriculum. This unit will also focus on art from ancient Egypt, social structure, rituals such as mummification, and paper making (papyrus). While this project will be mostly using hands-on, interactive methods of teaching, there will be some guided note taking to help the students learn what will be expected of them in higher grades.
When teachers teach social studies in a hands-on, interactive manner they are ensuring that their students will remember what they learned. While the students may not remember the exact details about what they learned, they will certainly remember that time in sixth grade when they mummified a chicken, or that time in seventh grade when they created their own museum “artifacts” from Native American tribes around the United States. Even though the Common Core places a lot of emphasis on higher-level thinking, many hands-on (and memorable) activities can still be done in the social studies classroom.