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Social Studies Statement

The subject of social studies is very important for molding citizens. One

aspect of social studies is geography. In this artifact you can see how I used the

geography of Africa in a sixth grade classroom to teach more than just identifying

countries and capitals in a foreign place. My goal was to spark curiosity about a

place most of the students only thought about in broad generalities. Generalities are

a good starting place for learning about new places, but are best followed up with

case studies that explain the reason for the generality (Burlbaw, 1994). Geography

is less about political boundaries and more about how or why these political

boundaries were set and why people choose to live together with their own unique

customs within these boundaries (Schmidt, 2011).

“One purpose of geographic education in and outside the United States is

teaching about others with whom we cannot immediately interact” (Schmidt, 2011).

My hope was that by exploring these countries students would not only notice what

makes these countries exotic, but also what makes the citizens in these countries

familiar. Where a person lives also affects how they engage as a citizen. As Schmidt

(2011) stated, “understanding this sense of place also requires understanding how

that sense of place arose, for whom it exists, and the implications when it is asserted

or preserved.” The students choose which areas of interest to follow in this lesson

and I was glad they did not decide to look into the details of each country’s

government. Although each group of students had only around ten countries to

research, they were able to get a glimpse of the values and resources of the people in

their regions. In the whole-class exercises they could visually see how their

countries of interest differed from those that others researched. They could also

reflect on how different their own lives and interests were compared to cultures

they studied.

On a personal note, I wanted to explore teaching a student-driven unit. I

wanted to move away from typical textbook lessons or lecture type of instruction.

After choosing the continent, the students voted on the topics for research. It started

a group conversation about what they wanted to know and how they would

measure or record the information to communicate it to the rest of the class. I only

allowed for six areas of interest that everyone had to stick to for the assignment.

This increased engagement with their research and academic conversation with one

another (Warren, 1996). The most efficient way to do research in today’s world is

with the Internet. We discussed what makes a reliable source online and the

students were left with their graphic organizers to complete their research.

Learning how to use technology as a tool is easiest done with experiential learning.

A skill all citizens need is the ability to keep up with the quickly changing technology

(Akengin, 2008). I hoped to find something to help with the mapping of information

online but could not find a resource so we had to use sticky notes and a large map

on butcher paper that we could show our information in some form. Ideally there

would be an online bank where students could input their information and the

information would be reflected on a map of the continent. If each area of interest is

on a different layers of the map, it would be easy to look at relationships within the

information. I could not figure out how to create this. A form of technology I wish I

had used is a shared Google spreadsheet to gather the info for all the countries. The

physical graphic organizers made it easy for me to visually follow each student’s

progress during the class period but given the chance to teach this again, I would

use a shared spreadsheet. I could still track who input the data and it would create a

functional purpose for using this kind of tool.

Howell and Saye (2018) encourage teachers to remember their primary goal

in social studies instruction. If I can stay focused on educating for citizenship, I can

teach effectively no matter what content I am covering.



Akengin, H. (2008). Opinions of prospective social studies teachers on the use of

information technologies in teaching geographical subjects. Journal of

Instructional Psychology, 35(2), 126–139. Retrieved from



Burlbaw, L.M. (1994). Applying generalizations in middle school geography classes.

Social Studies, 85, 110-113.


Hope, W. C. (1996). It's time to transform social studies teaching. Social Studies, 87,

149-151. DOI: 10.1080/00377996.1996.9958429

Howell, J. B. & Saye, J. W. (2018). Integrating theory and practice: Factors shaping

elementary teachers’ interpretation of an inquiry model for teaching social

studies. Journal of Social Studies Research, 42(2), 201–214.


Schmidt, S. J. (2011). Making space for the citizen in geographic education. Journal of

Geography, 110(3), 107–119. Retrieved from