Typical Kindergarten Social Science Curriculum

Kindergarten children learning
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When most of us think about the kindergarten curriculum, we think of reading readiness, number basics, and socialization. Few of us think about social studies, including history, geography, economics, and civics.

However, in today's increasingly diverse and connected world, it's more important than ever that kids learn to recognize and respect cultural differences.

The Importance of Social Science Readiness

Today more than ever before, it is important to introduce our children to these concepts early. People around the world have always been interdependent, that interdependence was has not always been easily recognized.

As adults, we have access to 24-hour news cycles and can communicate with people around the globe via the internet. While kindergarteners typically do not watch the news and chat with people on the internet, that is the world they are growing up in.

Today's world is one where an understanding of other cultures and other people is more critical than ever.

In addition to learning about other countries and cultures, children need to learn about all the ways countries and people are connected, including history and economics.

Young children won't learn world history or even the complete history of their own country, and they certainly won't master economic theory. However, even youngsters can benefit from learning the basics.

Here's an overview of why social science readiness is important for today's kindergarteners.

History

One way for children to learn about the connections between the past and the present is for them to learn about their own family history. Where did their family come from? What is their cultural and ethnic heritage?

Some children have ancestors who came to America before it was a country. Others are first generation Americans whose parents have only just arrived in America, or who came with their parents to America.

When learning about the past, kids learn how people lived and about major historical events that shaped humanity. They also:

  • Learn reasons for studying history and traditions
  • Understand the links between the past and the present
  • Get exposed to customs and traditions
  • Learn about furniture, clothing, and tools of the past
  • Discover their family heritage

Geography

Studying geography can help children learn about different cultures and the vast resources of the globe. They also learn how people depend on the resources of Earth found where they live.

Children also come to understand how people's lives can be determined by the land formations in the region where they live. Is it mountainous? Flat? Hot? Dry? Wet? How are people's dwellings suited to their environment?

Geography also helps kids:

  • Develop mapping skills
  • Learn to use a globe
  • Learn uses for charts and graphs
  • Learn about land and water forms
  • Understand the difference between rural and urban life
  • Learn about different kinds of shelters (homes, apartments, etc.)

Economics

Economics may seem like a high school or even college-level topic of study, but young children can grasp the basics of this important subject.

Kids can often understand concepts like trading. Trade essentially means that we work with each other and with other countries to swap goods and services to get what we want or need.

Other economic concepts develop from this basic concept. For example, if there aren't a lot of the goods we want or not very many people providing services, that means that they are scarce.

Kids can also understand the concept of choice. If we have more than one thing we need or want and don't have enough money for all of it, we have to decide what we will spend our money on and what we will go without.

Economics also helps kids:

  • Learn the basics of key economic concepts, including:
    • Scarcity. When all the goods and services we want are not available for everyone.
    • Economic Choice. When someone has to choose between more than one use for a resource.
    • Goods. Physical objects that are what people want.
    • Services. Activities provided by others that people want.
  • Understand how trade works (exchanging money for goods or services or bartering)

Civics Lessons

We don't usually hear about "civics" being taught anymore—but many feel that it should be. It's probably taught more in the early years than at any other time our kids are in school.

Civics used to be primarily taught at the high school level, but many of these concepts can be incorporated into younger classrooms, including:

  • Being a good citizen and recognize responsibilities, which includes:
  • Local community topics, such as:
    • Community workers (firefighters, police, community leaders, etc.)
    • Goods and services (restaurants, libraries, stores, hospitals, clinics, etc.)
    • Volunteers
  • Home country's icons and symbols
  • National holidays

Culture Studies

America has always been a "melting pot." Our nation is home to many people of all different backgrounds who often bring their traditions and cultures with them when they move here.

Initially, many people came from Western European countries with whom we shared some common history and culture. Now, people come to America from all over the world—not just Europe.

With such a diverse nation, it's more important than ever before that kids recognize, respect, and understand cultural differences.

Kids can learn about their own culture and others by:

  • Learning about the many cultures that make up our society.
  • Learning about the ways people in other cultures celebrate different holidays and why they celebrate them.
  • Developing an understanding of how holidays and traditions are expressions of different cultures.
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