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Middle School Social Studies News: May 2012

In Social Studies, we have wrapped up a very successful microeconomics unit, ending with an eventful Bartering Bonanza.  Students raised an impressive amount of items to donate to the Delonis Center, shattering all previous records.  It’s early May and I’m still taking items to the homeless shelters.  Thanks to everyone who popped in to witness the Bonanza or helped out in one way or another.

We have just begun our final unit of the year: Africa.  In line with the Language Arts and Science sub-theme of Mystery, I have created the unit with the intent of having kids do some detective work.  I have presented them with three present-day scenarios and students have to match them up with the following three countries: Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.  Then, they will have to use their research and inquiry skills to determine what factors put each of those countries in its current state.  They will study economics, history, geography, politics and culture to create hypotheses as to why South Africa seems relatively stable while Zimbabwe is in utter shambles.  It’s an ambitious unit for just five weeks but we’ll do our best to cover as much as we can.

Middle School Social Studies News: April 2012

In Social Studies we are swimming in a pool of economics.  Each class period is dedicated to a different concept and thus far we have covered scarcity, market vs. command economies, opportunity costs, factors of production, economic incentives and competition.

We are continuing with a few more concepts, like supply, demand and equilibrium price, and then will begin focusing our attention on the Bartering Bonanza.  This is a big event that will require every middle school student to make a product to market and “sell” in an effort to raise items needed at the local homeless shelters.  Look for this event in the second or third week of April.

Middle School Social Studies News: March 2012

In Social Studies, students finished up a series of debates on homelessness.  Each class argued the civility and constitutionality of various policies that have been passed in cities around the United States.  First hour debated whether camping outdoors should be illegal.  Second hour debated whether panhandling should be illegal.  Third hour debated whether police “sweeps” of homeless people was legal.  And fourth hour debated whether feeding large groups of people in public should be illegal.  Students’ arguments are in the process of being transformed into persuasive essays, which will be on display at the Curriculum Celebration in May.

To finish off our unit on homelessness, we have begun preparing for a simulation in which middle school parents will be asked to go through a week in the life of a homeless person.  Students are taking on various roles, from business owners and directors of homeless shelters to biographers and outreach specialists.  Look for this simulation to occur after school sometime in early March.

MS Social Studies update for January, 2012

In Social Studies we have finished up our very thorough unit on Cambodia and will be putting on a simulation at the upcoming Curriculum Celebration. All are welcome to join us.

Our next project is a bit of a transitional project, which requires students to build either a rural or urban Cambodian dwelling. This fits with our theme this year, Homes and Habitats, but it also connects two units: Cambodia and Homelessness. The latter will begin in the middle of January and will involve another simulation sometime in February.

MS Social Studies update for December, 2011

In Social Studies we are in the heart of the Cambodia unit, studying life under the Khmer Rouge. Students are learning about five aspects of daily life: evacuation of Phnom Penh, work, food/sickness, propaganda and terror. Each class has aspects of both political and social history and is filled with stories from firsthand accounts, cartoons, songs and activities. Students are being asked on a daily basis to simulate the experience of the average Cambodian under the regime by making decisions about work, food, resistance and survival. If they do well, they will see rewards for our next project called “Building a Dwelling,” which will be introduced at the end of December. The Life Under the Khmer Rouge project is due December 16th. Some of the best work I’ve ever seen has come from this project, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the kids produce.

Also in the middle of December, I hope to get some guest speakers in from U of M to discuss modern Cambodia and the citizens’ struggle to deal with its violent past. In an ideal world, we’ll get a Khmer Rouge survivor to come in and speak, but I have not had much luck connecting with her this year.

Finally, parents, you are more than welcome to join us at the Curriculum Celebration where the Middle School will be putting on a Khmer Rouge simulation. Afterwards, we’ll have a question and answer session so that you can truly gauge their level of understanding of this country’s history.

Social Studies Update for November, 2011

In Social Studies, we are deeply entrenched in the Cambodia unit. We’ve spent the last couple of week’s covering the country’s ancient history and are just finishing up on the Angkor Empire. We will be picking up with colonialism, independence and the Vietnam War next.

All of this leads us to the civil war and Khmer Rouge years in the 1970s, where we will spend most of our time. If you have a student in the middle school, please ask him/her about what’s being taught. Hopefully, some of these lessons spark some interesting discussions at home.
Khmer’s history is both rich and tragic and many lessons about power, expansion, ideology, human suffering and human endurance can be learned. We are still planning on a simulation at the curriculum celebration in January.

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