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At the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was leaving Independence Hall when a woman approached him and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?”
Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
As citizens, we should adopt as a primary goal of public schools the continued survival of our republic by educating students to take upon themselves, as Jefferson put it, the “office of citizen.” Social studies is the perfect arena in which to promote civic competence. The National Council for the Social Studies has stated: “The primary purpose of Social Studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
Citizenship education, then, is an important function of a school’s curriculum in a democracy such as ours. Kindergarten, first, and second grades provide this initial citizenship education. Gaining a perspective of oneself and others, and accepting the responsibility to respect the rights of our neighbors, is essential to protecting the freedoms that have been brought forth in our founding documents.
Young children possess a keen sense of curiosity and a drive to make sense of their expanding world. Kinder-garten, first and second grade students have the capacity to understand themselves and the cultures that surround them. In order to prepare students to be knowledgeable citizens and leaders in a diverse and fast-paced world, the K-2 Social Studies Curriculum helps students recognize various cultures, traditions, and belief systems and their contributions to our society.
Framework of the K-2 Social Studies Core Curriculum
The Social Studies Core in kindergarten to second grade has two broad components. The first component is one of expanding social themes for the child: self, family, classroom, school, neighborhood, and community. This first component is reflected at the following grade levels.
During the course of kindergarten, students learn basic concepts of historical time sequence and geographic directions. Emphasis is placed on safe practices and the importance of following rules and respecting the rights of others. Students are also taught national symbols and songs.
First grade students focus on learning school rules for personal safety and the safety of others, as well as elements of good citizenship through examples in history and literature that highlight honesty, kindness, and responsibility (e.g., George Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc.). State and national symbols as signs of citizen unity are also addressed.
Second grade students are taught their roles in the school and in the community. Students develop an understanding of the diversity of cultural backgrounds, belief systems, ethnicities, and languages by observing their school, neighborhood, and community. Second grade students continue to develop their knowledge of symbols and map skills. Citizenship and community service are also emphasized.
The second major component of the Social Studies Core Curriculum introduces students to four social studies conceptual strands: culture, citizenship, geography, and financial literacy. Details of each strand are noted below.
The first strand provides for the study of culture and cultural diversity. Culture is the shared social process whereby members of a group communicate meaning and make sense of their world. Culture helps students understand themselves as individuals and as members of various groups. This understanding allows students to relate to people in our nation and throughout the world.
The second strand includes experiences that offer civic ideals, principles and practices of how a citizen should act in a democratic republic. Citizenship includes both the attitudes and the actions of a citizen in a democratic society. The development of responsible citizenship in grades K-2 fosters appropriate participation in group activities such as assuming responsibilities in the school and neighborhood, understanding the civic responsibility to vote, and the importance of state and national holidays, symbols, and landmarks.
The third strand extracts experiences from the student’s neighborhood, towns, and state to supply students with basic geographic knowledge and skills. The purpose of geography is to understand the physical and cultural features of places and their natural settings. Geographic tools such as compasses, maps, and globes are utilized to help students acquire, arrange, and use information to make decisions important to their well-being (e.g., how to get to a friend’s house, or where to shop or how to go to school).
The last strand introduces students to simple economic principles and decisions. Financial literacy gives a student the ability to understand finances and how to manage money. Students learn how to prioritize their economic wants, and make basic financial decisions.
The K-2 Social Studies Core presents the classroom teacher with opportunities for instruction, practice, and application of essential reading skills such as sequencing events, determining the main idea and supporting details, establishing cause and effect, determining problem and solution, and comparing and contrasting conditions and situations. Content vocabulary is also provided at each grade level with each theme and standard, offering many opportunities for critical vocabulary instruction.
The classroom teacher is encouraged to address reading skills as part of ongoing social studies instruction. The social studies Core and accompanying Social Studies material should be utilized during the reading instructional period to support the development of essential content reading skills.
Development of the Core
The creation of a core document for social studies was a community process. This core reflects the best thinking and committed work of a community of stakeholders who care deeply about the educational success of Utah students. It was developed by dedicated Utah teachers; district and building level administrators and specialists; representatives from institutions of higher education; Coalition for Minority Advisory Council; and an advisory committee of community members. The core also reflects the insights and input from teachers across Utah, as well as the best thinking from national organizations including the National Council for the Social Studies, National Geography Standards, and National Center for History in the Schools.
Format of the Core
The core is designed to help teachers organize and deliver instruction. Each grade level includes the following:
A note on the use of the Latin Terms “e.g.” and “i.e.”:
e.g. means for example, the following are examples to use, when necessary, to ensure student understanding.
i.e. means that is, the words or concepts following i.e. are considered essential aspects of the Indicator, extensions of the idea that must be included when teaching that Indicator.
There are two views of the core. The first view displays the four core standards for an individual grade on one page. The second view presents an over-arching examination of one of the four strands for each grade level on one page.
Social Studies Vocabulary That Teachers Should Know and Use:
http://www.uen.org - in partnership with Utah State Board of Education (USBE) and Utah System of Higher Education (USHE). Send questions or comments to USBE Specialist - Robert Austin and see the Social Studies website. For general questions about Utah's Core Standards contact the Director - DIANA SUDDRETH .