Importance of History and Geography in Primary Years
Importance of History and Geography in Primary Years
There is a misconception about the significance of social studies in the elementary school. Usually, it is considered that reading and writing are enough for small children. However, it is not correct. While basic skills in reading, writing, and math are essential for the kids, social sciences are just as significant as the other subjects. One of the reasons for such a misconception is a lack of understanding of the core concepts of this framework. Thus, it is important to reflect on the identification, concepts, and the aims of the social studies in the elementary school. Today is the era of communication, cultural intelligence, the importance of national identity, and the connection between people. It is believed that scientific skills can be taught only through the social studies, where the subjects of History and Geography play a particularly important role. Social studies promote civic competence among children, the lessons will enable them to make reasoned decisions as well as to understand the importance of other cultures, which altogether will help to build a democratic society in the independent world.
Social sciences teach how to connect with the world and how to interact with the environment. For instance, Geography helps students to understand the physical and cultural features of the environment. It might seem complicated for the little children, as they are not aware of the structure of the world or about the past of the nation. At the same time, geographic education enables the students to learn the values, concepts, and social scientific skills in order to understand themselves, the relationship of humans to the earth, as well as people’s interdependence with each other across the globe (Kayali, 2009). The knowledge of history helps to understand the past and its connection to the present, which will enable the children to make a connection between the past and the present in order to make logic and concise decisions as well as to recognize the cause-and-effect relationship in the world.
In the time of rapid globalization and extensive integration of all nations, the necessity to develop culturally knowledgeable nation is essential. It is necessary that the children to recognize the multitude of perspectives existing in the world that will enable them to choose their own path. It is crucial for students to be aware of the other cultures, the physical structure of the world, people’s connection to the environment, and the past experience of their predecessors (Catling, Bowles, Halocha, Martin, & Rawlinson, 2007). While the knowledge provided by the history and geography in the elementary school differs significantly from the curriculum in the higher education, the main aim of the teacher to provide the basis of these disciplines to the small children. The main aim of the Australian curriculum of the social studies is to provide all opportunities for children by teaching them how to communicate with the world and how to both embrace their identity and respect the heritage of other Australian citizens. At the same time, while the teaching of history and geography has similar goals, the academic outcomes provided by these disciplines are different.
During the first year in the elementary school, the main goal of the educators is to motivate the students and increase their curiosity in order to develop social science skills. To reach these goals, the Australian curriculum developed for the foundation year applies the framework of the inquiry-based education (Australian Curriculum, 2016). Specifically, the educators seek to develop students’ knowledge, understanding, and skills through the theoretical material, practical exercises, and inquiry-based questions. The curriculum proposes the teachers the set of lessons where it is specified how the students will have to be taught (Australian Curriculum, 2016).
Specifically, set of lessons in history during the primary years presupposes the learning how children, their parents, and friends commemorate past events significant to them (Australian Curriculum, 2016). Such set of lessons develop critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, and intercultural understanding. The elaborations during these set of lessons in History presuppose to creating a calendar of commemorative events, which students, their parents, and friends celebrate. For instance, the families might celebrate birthdays, religious feasts, and family reunions. During the class, the students discuss why they are important. The teachers also point students to the importance of Acknowledgement of Country’ and ‘Welcome to Country’ signs during certain ceremonies and events. These lessons teach the children the traditions and customs in Australia as well as the importance of traditions connected to sea, land, water, and sky. Additional goal of these sets of lessons is to acknowledge the students with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories as well as the Asian and Australian cultures.
These questions appeal to the basis of knowledge provided by History in the primary years. According to the main agenda of the Australian curriculum is to create a connection in students’ mind between the theoretical information and practical experience children will have in life. These questions are adapted to suit local contexts, which will allow students in the primary years to make a link between humanities and social scientific thinking. As it is possible to see, the students have to find out the traditional and aboriginal vision of the world that will help the students to increase their awareness about the historical heritage of the country. The following analysis of these subjects taught within the domain of the social sciences reveals the core strategies utilized in the country to attain necessary aims and ensure that the levels of curiosity and motivation in the elementary school students are increased and they are willing to continue their academic experience.
The Role of Geography in Elementary School
Every country justifies the learning of certain subjects in its own way, yet in Australia education has the goal to develop a diverse and intelligent nation that will promote the values of democracy, freedom, and social security. In this case, Geography in the discourse of social sciences plays a crucial role and has become the primary tool for the government to reach its main goals regarding education. The study of Geography in the Australian elementary schools has the following goals:
and finally, to develop a wide array of unique social scientific skills like literacy, decision-making, communicability, and numeracy.
Nowadays, the importance of Geography in schools has boosted, as the last several studies claim that the knowledge in this subject has decreased. It was determined that there was a dramatic reduction in the number of students that expressed their desire to study Geography in Australia. Also, some studies emphasized that the number of geography teachers has decreased while Geography has been absorbed by the generic subjects. These changes led to the inability of the Australians to obtain basic geographical understanding and social scientific skills , which had detrimental outcomes on the Australian society that will be unable to make informed decisions regarding the problems like climate change and aging populations.
As the part of the social sciences curriculum, Geography helps children to develop their social scientific thinking through increasing their curiosity about the world and environment they live in. Students in primary school undergo a developmental period, thus, it is essential to increase their potential in critical social scientific skills , perception, decision-making, and boost the interest in the outside world. Social scientific thinking is crucial in the modern environment, as the communication and interaction play the essential role in people’s lives. Moreover, in addition to the personal social scientific skills of the students, it is important for the country to develop a highly intellectual nation that is aware of the environmental problems and social issues as well.
According to the studies, Geography in primary and elementary education is effective in boosting basic knowledge and social scientific skills in this subject (Brewer, 2006). Small children have the possibility to learn how to observe, classify, organize, and distinguish crucial points as well as the way of their interpretation. Students in elementary school will have the opportunity to measure attitudes regarding people in other nations. According to the several studies, children have a passion for knowledge and new experiences, they are particularly curious in the outside world, and it is essential not to hinder their curiosity in the primary level (Zarrillo, 2004). This knowledge has to be taught in the elementary school in order to prepare children for more complex concepts, interpretations, and understanding of the world. Without this basis, children will not develop accurate and precise knowledge about the environment and their place in it. There is a great need to improve the quality of geographic education in the primary level for overcoming the ignorance on this subject.
Geography is taught in the elementary schools through different tools, methods, and frameworks. Place names and locations are usually emphasized during the lessons in geography in the elementary school; also, the maps and globe skills are presented during the lessons to teach the students to recognize the locations. Educators foster promote the learning process through several strategies, such as personal experiences, approved books for the lessons, printed material, and interactive tools (Palmer-Moloney & Bloom, 2001). For instance, the teachers ask the students to record their personal experience, from walks to field trips with the help of simple essays. They also may choose to use maps and symbols drawn by them or created with the help of interactive tools.
Interactive formal instructions that are also used during the geographic curriculum are embodied in the cardinal directions that aim to teach children how to orientate in the environment through learning left and right or north and south. Interactive learning is accomplished by communicating directly with other people through stories and pictures. This type of educational strategy teaches them to recognize the existence of other locations in addition to their own. Children are proposed to interact with the world and present their own interpretation of their experience, which increases their awareness of the outside world.
Overall, Geography knowledge has to enable the students to recognize space, place, and an environment. They are learning to interact with the world and to interpret it. For instance, the students are required to write an essay of how they have spent their holidays in terms of experiences, observed environment, and interesting places they may visit. Through such experience, the elementary students will learn how to make conclusions and observations on the basis of their knowledge obtained during the lessons of Geography. Children are also taught how to use the compass and how to orientate in the different places and times of the day. While the modern world has the necessary and more sophisticated tools for this purpose, the students still have to be aware of the ways to be in nature.
The Role of History in the Elementary School
History has always been a part of the social studies, which the main role was to enhance social scientific thinking among children. In the elementary schools, students encounter with the historical knowledge for the first time. Social scientific thinking is difficult to transfer through the traditional methods of teaching history, therefore, the educators nowadays are trying to find new tools to make the process of learning more productive for the students. Social scientific thinking is possible to learn through the knowledge of history, which can be developed by new tools applied in the academic curriculum.
Research evidence showed that elementary-age children cannot think formally about history. The study developed with the help of theory designed by Jean Piaget (Slekar, 2009), determined that the elementary students are incapable of comprehending conceptual abstractions, sustaining prolonged time frames, understand general terms, as well as the complex causal relationships between the subjects (Vukelich, 1993). All of these social scientific skills may be attained by the discipline of history. At the same time, the study described above does not claim that children are unable to comprehend the information about history or to explore important values and develop necessary social scientific skills during the history lessons. The educators have to take into account the limitations of their students in the first stages of learning history.
It was hypothesized by Lovorn (2014) that a limited ability to deal with time frames may lead to the serious difficulty for the students to think historically. Dealing with periods of time and recognizing a precise line between past, present, and future, according to the studies, is learned by the students only in adolescence (Lenhardt, 2001). At the same time, it is necessary to admit that the scholars did not dedicate a lot of studies to this subject. While the teaching of history in schools, in general, was explored by several researchers, the elementary school has not been noticed by the scholars. It is considered that it is particularly difficult to make the elementary students think historically due to the specificities of the developmental changes. The other researchers admit that to achieve this goal, the educators have to use specific strategies, like enquiry-based education, narrative-based approach, and interactive learning concerning the history instruction.
It was emphasized that the narrative approach works better comparing to the conventional textbook teaching, as it activates reflective thinking and logical decision-making in students, which puts them way closer to the participant's view of history. Inquiry –based learning enables the students to become active participants in the process of learning, helps them to construct questions and answering them, as well as to create their personal research in particular subjects. This type of learning develops not only the ability of the students to learn the history but also prepares them to the future academic activities. According to this idea, historical understanding is rooted in literary understanding and comprehending the causalities.
According to Bryan, Ortlieb, & Cheek (2013), studies on the teaching of history in primary school implies that traditional practices are ineffective in evolving historical understanding and realization of the time and space. Social studies teachers have to apply the methods of “response to literature research” and discover the power of inquiry in history. It is necessary to remember that the teaching and learning of history in the elementary school do not resemble the traditional learning where the students read the textbook, learn the dates, and reflect on the main events in history in the essays or oral presentations. It is less focused on developing definitive knowledge, but it is aimed at providing the elementary students with the basic information on the time, place, and importance of certain events for people.
During the first years in the elementary schools, the students will learn how to identify the past and its relation to the present and the future. It is a particularly difficult task, yet it is necessary to ensure the students that the past events are real, even if it sounds quite vague. However, the developmental processes during the period of the elementary school do not allow the children to comprehend untouchable abstractions understood only in the adulthood. Other necessary objectives of history learning in the elementary school are to evolve knowledge of the Australian heritage, teach to recognize the historical context in everyday events (Brown, 2007). For example, in order to promote understanding of time and chronology, the students may be given a task to describe their actions a day earlier and then to recognize how these actions affected their present day. Of course, these goals have to be targeted carefully due to the cognitive limitations of children in the primary school. Initial instruction will help students to recognize their own place in history, by showing that their actions have a potential to affect others and their future actions.
History education is usually enhanced through the utilization of literature. Books and written material for the elementary students are constructed in a way to make them understand the most important issues on this subject. Instruction about the past is aided by multimedia tools, like videos, films, trips to museums. Simultaneously, the educators have to select the materials carefully and meaningfully in order to integrate the learning material into the curriculum of the primary students. Special experiences make the history education more versatile for the children and broaden their perspective on the time periods and importance of historic events. When students are prepared by the teachers for such experiences, their ability to learn history increases.
The learning of history may be advanced by several learning strategies used by the educators during this period. For instance, the teachers divide the students into groups and giving each of them individual assignment in describing their experience in one event that they spent together in the past. As the practice shows, the collective recollection of the events may be helpful for the students to recognize the totality of the event and its importance in their life. The children may share their knowledge about the field trip or visit of the museum and through the collective recollection to restore the past. In this way, the students are learning how to try thinking historically.
Elementary students have a specific understanding of the reality, environment, and time, but it is possible to create an effective program that will enable them to understand the basic concepts of the social education, including the Geography and History. It is crucial for the educators to abandon the traditional teaching strategies of these subjects, as the small children are unable to follow the instructions relevant to the middle and high school students. Therefore, interactive, inquiry- and narrative-based learning are the main strategies applicable in the elementary school, which will be helpful for the elementary students. The more students know before entering the experience, the better they will be able to see during the experience. In conclusion, history and geography must be a vital part of the elementary social studies plan because these disciplines aimed to develop the abilities of critical thinking, orientating in space, and connecting with the environment and other people. The curriculum of the social sciences has much to offer students who are eager to learn about their world as well as to recognize their own place in it. The educators have to be willing to increase the scope of their techniques in teaching elementary students by using the non-traditional method and implementing them into their daily practice.
Australian Curriculum. (2016). Humanities and Social Sciences: F–6/7 HASS. Retrieved from: https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/humanities-and-social-sciences/hass/curriculum/f-10?layout=1
Brewer, E. A. (2006). Keep Social Studies in the Elementary School. Childhood Education, 82(5), 296-314.
Brown, S. (2007). An Arts-Integrated Approach for Elementary Level Students. Childhood Education, 83(3), 172-188.
Bryan, G. D., Ortlieb, E., & Cheek, E. H. (2013). A Comparative Study of Reading Instruction in Differentially Successful Elementary Schools. International Journal of Education, 5(3), 36-47.
Catling, S., Bowles, R., Halocha, J., Martin, F., & Rawlinson, S. (2007). The State of Geography in English Primary Schools. Geography, 92(2), 118-121.
Curriculum Guidelines for Social Studies Teaching and Learning: A Position Statement of National Council for the Social Studies. (2008). Social Education, 72(4), 211-218.
Kayali, H. (2009). Effects of Near-to-Far Principle and Other Factors on Learning and Teaching Some Geography Subjects in the Social Studies Course. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 36(2), 175-188.
Lenhardt, A. M. (2001). Proactive Strategies for Advancing Elementary School Counseling Programs: A Blueprint for the New Millennium. Professional School Counseling, 4(3), 187-197.
Lovorn, M. (2014). Deepening Historical Themes in the Elementary School: Four Developmentally Appropriate Ways to Engage Young Students in Historical Thinking and Historiography. Childhood Education, 90(5), 370-374.
Palmer-Moloney, L. J., & Bloom, E. (2001). The Classroom as the Field for Studying Geographical Education. The Geographical Review, 91(4), 641-654.
Slekar, T. D. (2009). Democracy Denied: Learning to Teach History in Elementary School. Teacher Education Quarterly, 36(1), 5-18.
Vukelich, C. (1993). Standards: What's an Elementary Teacher to Do? Childhood Education, 70(2), 96-107.
Zarrillo, J. (2004). Teaching elementary social studies: Principles and applications (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall