Social Studies in the PYP

How social studies practices are changing

Structured, purposeful inquiry is the main approach to teaching and learning social studies in the PYP. However, it is recognized that many educational innovations (or, more accurately, educational reworkings) suffer from the advocacy of a narrow, exclusive approach. The PYP represents an approach to teaching that is broad and inclusive in that it provides a context within which a wide variety of teaching strategies and styles can be accommodated, provided that they are driven by a spirit of inquiry and a clear sense of purpose.

The degree of change needed to teach social studies in this way will depend on the individual teacher. For those teachers who have grown weary of imposed change for which they see little point, it should be stressed that teachers are not expected to discard years of hard-earned skill and experience in favour of someone else’s ideas on good teaching. It is suggested, rather, that teachers engage in reflection on their own practice, both individually and in collaboration with colleagues, with a view to sharing ideas and strengths, and with the primary aim of improving their teaching to improve student learning. In doing so, they will be modelling the skills and attitudes that have been identified as essential for students.

As an aid to reflection, the following set of subject-specific examples of good practice has been produced. It is believed that these examples are worthy of consideration by anyone committed to continuous improvement.

Social studies strands

What do we want students to know?

Human systems and economic activities

The study of how and why people construct organizations and systems; the ways in which people connect locally and globally; the distribution of power and authority.

Related concepts: communications, conflict, cooperation, education, employment, freedom, governments, justice, legislation, production, transportation, truth.

 

Social organization and culture

The study of people, communities, cultures and societies; the ways in which individuals, groups and societies interact with each other.

Related concepts: artifacts, authority, citizenship, communication, conflict, diversity, family, identity, networks, prejudice, religion, rights, roles, traditions.

 

Continuity and change through time

The study of the relationships between people and events through time; the past, its influences on the present and its implications for the future; people who have shaped the future through their actions.

Related concepts: chronology, civilizations, conflict, discovery, exploration, history, innovation, migration, progress, revolution.

 

Human and natural environments

The study of the distinctive features that give a place its identity; how people adapt to and alter their environment; how people experience and represent place; the impact of natural disasters on people and the built environment.

Related concepts: amenities, borders (natural, social and political), dependence, geography, impact, landscape, locality, ownership, population, regions, settlements.

 

Resources and the environment

The interaction between people and the environment; the study of how humans allocate and manage resources; the positive and negative effects of this management; the impact of scientific and technological developments on the environment.

Related concepts: conservation, consumption, distribution, ecology, energy, interdependence, pollution, poverty, sustainability, wealth.

 

Overall expectations in social studies

The Social studies scope and sequence (2008) identifies the expectations considered appropriate in the PYP. It does this by looking at the central ideas presented in the sample programme of inquiry published in Developing a transdisciplinary programme of inquiry (2008) and identifying the overall understandings being developed within each age range.

These expectations (outlined here) are not a requirement of the programme. However, schools need to be mindful of practice C1.23 in the IB Programme standards and practices (2005) that states “If the school adapts, or develops, its own scope and sequence documents for each PYP subject area, the level of overall expectation regarding student achievement expressed in these documents at least matches that expressed in the PYP scope and sequence documents.” To arrive at such a judgment, and given that the overall expectations in the Social studies scope and sequence (2008) are presented as broad generalities, it is recommended that schools undertake a careful consideration of their own scope and sequence document in order to identify the overall expectations in social studies for their students.

3–5 years

Students will explore their understanding of people and their lives, focusing on themselves, their friends and families, and their immediate environment. They will practise applying rules and routines to work and play. They will gain an increasing awareness of themselves in relation to the various groups to which they belong and be conscious of systems by which they organize themselves. They will develop their sense of place, and the reasons why particular places are important to people. They will also develop their sense of time, and recognize important events in their own lives, and how time and change affect people. They will explore the role of technology in their lives.

5–7 years

Students will increase their understanding of their world, focusing on themselves, their friends and families and their environment. They will appreciate the reasons why people belong to groups, the roles they fulfill and the different ways that people interact within groups. They will recognize connections within and between systems by which people organize themselves. They will broaden their sense of place and the reasons why particular places are important to people, as well as how and why people’s activities influence, and are influenced by, the places in their environment. Students will start to develop an understanding of their relationship with the environment. They will gain a greater sense of time, recognizing important events in their own lives, and how time and change affect people. They will become increasingly aware of how advances in technology affect individuals and the environment.

7–9 years

Students will extend their understanding of human society, focusing on themselves and others within their own community as well as other communities that are distant in time and place. They will investigate how and why groups are organized within communities, and the ways in which communities reflect the cultures and customs of their people. They will recognize the interdependency of systems and their function within local and national communities. They will increase their awareness of how people influence, and are influenced by, the places in their environment. Students will explore the relationship between valuing the environment and protecting it. They will extend their understanding of time, recognizing important events in people’s lives, and how the past is recorded and remembered in different ways. They will broaden their understanding of the impact of advances in technology over time, on individuals, society and the environment.

9–12 years

Students will recognize different aspects of human society, focusing on themselves and others within their own community as well as groups of people that are distant in time and place. They will extend their understanding of how and why groups are organized within communities, and how participation within groups involves both rights and responsibilities. They will understand the interdependency of systems and their function within local and national communities. Students will gain an appreciation of how cultural groups may vary in their customs and practices but reflect similar purposes. They will deepen their awareness of how people influence, and are influenced by, places in the environment. They will realize the significance of developing a sense of belonging and stewardship towards the environment, valuing and caring for it, in the interests of themselves and future generations. Students will consolidate their understanding of time, recognizing how ideas and actions of people in the past have changed the lives of others, and appreciating how the past is recorded and remembered in different ways. They will gain an understanding of how and why people manage resources. They will understand the impact of technological advances on their own lives, on society and on the world, and will reflect on the need to make responsible decisions concerning the use of technologies.

Source: Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education (2009)           

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