While mathematic and language (reading) play the important roles in primary education as their main functions lead to the contribution to children’s skills and capability to access advance development in higher education or future career, social studies also have significant influence on young generation’s awareness to everyday-related phenomenon like well-being, global issues, human right, family roles, individual achievement, etc.
According to National Council for the Social Studies (2017), “The purpose of elementary school social studies is to enable students to understand, participate in, and make informed decisions about their world. Social studies content allows young learners to explain relationships with other people, to institutions, and to the environment, and equips them with knowledge and understanding of the past.” Here are a few crucial aspects parents and teachers should focus on when covering social studies to teenagers or children:
History not only allows us to take a look of how things used to be in the past but it can also reflect to what the world looks like today. History includes stories of success, glory, bravery, adventure and, of course, stories of tragedy, injustice, failure, etc. Hence, history can warn us for not making the same mistakes again. Moreover, we can learn more about our ancestors, origins, background from learning history, which reminds us that we should not take things for granted.
2. Civic engagement
Social studies should also includes civic education, which gives children the sense and notion of being ‘responsible’ and ‘respect’ to each others. The concept of democracy is one of the essential emphasis in civic engagement. Besides the knowledge of national procedures like ‘how does governments make decision’, ‘how a bill becomes a law’, or ‘who can vote’, the core of democracy is “a way of life that involves a balance between individual rights and social responsibilities” and to “promote human dignity, equity, justice, and critical action” (Hytten, K., 2008)
3. Culture & community
Within a culturally diverse society (like the United States), children are encouraged to be aware of the differences and also be trained to identify similarities and differences between communities. Therefore, for the next step, they can learn how to ‘acknowledge’ as well as ‘respect’ the differences. Younger kids (6-8 yrs old) are suggested to start from ‘recognizing similarities and/or differences between him/her and others’ so it is most likely that they will have a smoother process when learning ‘cultural differences’ in later education. Being able to tolerant the differences between individuals, communities or even nations will help human beings to reduce the prejudices and establish a better world for our next generation.
Elementary social studies should include civic engagement and knowledge from the core content areas of civics, economics, geography, and history. Social studies aim to better enhance children’s skills that facilitate critical thinking, socio-emotional development, prosocial skills, interpersonal interactions, and information literacy. These skills are extremely meaningful and useful when developed within the context of social studies.