The goal of social studies education at The Bridge Way School is to help students become contributing, participating, and knowledgeable actors in today’s social, political, and economic arenas.
To achieve this goal, students must know, understand, and apply the content and concepts of the various subdomains of social studies. The National Council for the Social Studies has identified ten thematic strands “necessary for fulfilling the duties of citizenship in a participatory democracy,” which provide the primary focus of our social studies curriculum and are described below.
Examining various cultures helps us to understand ourselves as both individuals and members of various groups. In a democratic and multicultural society, it is imperative that students understand multiple perspectives that derive from different cultural vantage points in order to appreciate similarities and differences and increase tolerance for the values and customs of diverse peoples.
Time, Continuity, and Change
Knowing what things were like in the past, how things change and develop, and how the past is connected to current and future events is essential to one’s understanding and construction of an individual and national perspective of historical happenings. The ability to read and reconstruct the past, and comprehend the past’s connection to the present, allows the individual to make informed choices about decisions and actions that will affect the future.
People, Places, and Environment
Today’s social, cultural, economic, and civic demands on individuals mean that students will need the knowledge, skills, and understanding to ask and answer questions pertaining to location and the relationship between regions, landforms, climate trends and people. This area of study helps learners make informed and critical decisions about the relationship between human interactions and the environment, particularly as this relates to individual choices and global, national, state and local policies.
Individual Development and Identity
The NCSS notes: “Personal identity is shaped by one’s culture, by groups, and by institutional influences. Examination of various forms of human behavior enhances understanding of the relationships among social norms and emerging personal identities, the social processes that influence identity formation, and the ethical principles underlying individual action.” At The Bridge Way School, one of the ways this thematic strand of social studies is explored is in the context of recovery, how individuals are influenced by peers and institutions, and ways in which individual growth enables one to make better choices and take effective and ethical action in the future.
Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
It is important that students know how institutions – such as schools, churches, government agencies and the courts – are formed, what controls and influences them, how they control and influence individuals and culture, and how institutions can be maintained or changed. Examination of the ways in which institutions organize and perpetuate themselves gives students an opportunity to evaluate the underlying beliefs and assumptions of diverse groups and institutions and determine ways in which they can participate and/or effect change.
Power, Authority, and Governance
In order to develop civic competence, it is critical that students understand the historical development of structures of power, authority, and governance and their evolving functions in contemporary U.S. society, as well as in other parts of the world. By examining the purposes and characteristics of various government systems, students develop an understanding of how groups and nations attempt to resolve conflicts and seek to establish order and security. The exploration of individual rights against the back-drop of social and political institutions allows students to better understand their role as participants in a democratic society.
Production, Distribution, and Consumption
At The Bridge Way School, we recognize that questions of economy in the 21st century far surpass the focus of supply/demand, the means of production, and distribution of products/good/services that characterized the study of this thematic strand in the past. Increasingly these kinds of decision involve a range of economic and sociopolitical systems, and are often global in nature. As such, students consider economic policy as it relates to matters such as health care, resource use, unemployment, and trade.
Science, Technology, and Society
Students consider many forms of technology from those invented by pre-historic humans to the technology at our disposal today. Key to exploring this topic are questions related to cultural beliefs and values and the impact of social media and other forms of technology that link us quickly to those in our neighborhood as well as those on other sides of the globe. Students at The Bridge Way School also explore the ethical implications of topics such as genetic testing and design, medical interventions to sustain life in ways previously impossible, and individual rights to privacy in the face of increasingly sophisticated forms of electronic surveillance.
The students of today’s world face the realities of global interdependence. At times tensions arise between the national interests of one or several countries and global priorities. Studying the patterns and relationships among world cultures helps learners carefully examine the implications of policy alternatives concerning such matters as energy, trade, human rights from the perspective of a single country and from the viewpoints of other political and economic systems within the context of a growing global society.
Civic Ideals and Practices
One of the essential goals of social studies instruction at The Bridge Way School is to help students learn to be fully participating members of a democratic society. Students consider such questions as: What is the balance between rights and responsibilities? What is the role of the citizen in the community and the nation, and as a member of the world community? How can I make a positive difference? Participation in community service is key to our curriculum as is learning how to use democratic process to influence public policy.