Primary Social Studies Fieldwork in Children’s Localities and Beyond, pp. 2 of 10

Aspects of Localities and Themes for Fieldwork

Depending on the children’s ages, teachers can adopt an expanding environment approach in identifying possible areas within children’s localities and beyond for fieldwork (see Table 1 below).

Table 1: Localities and Beyond for Fieldwork for Different Levels in Primary School


Localities and Beyond

Primary 1

School grounds and the immediate neighbourhood

Primary 2

School grounds and the wider, extended neighbourhood

Primary 3

Housing estate (where school is located), other places beyond the housing estate

Primary 4 and 5

Heritage sites (Chinatown, Kampong Glam, Little India)

Primary 6

Neighbouring countries in the Southeast Asian region

Starting with the nearest places to children’s schools and homes and expanding outwards can help children build a foundational knowledge of the immediate environment, make connections to the distant places at the later stage and gain an overview of the linkages of the various types of environments at the end of their primary education. However, these gains are not automatic for the child. Teachers themselves must have a good understanding of the localities and beyond in order to help children construct knowledge and make explicit links for them to develop greater understanding of the places. To do so, teachers need to collaborate with their colleagues to adopt a whole school approach in planning a range of fieldwork sites and objectives that are linked to the curriculum, activities and assessment across the six years of primary education to ensure progression in learning.

However, planning fieldwork in children’s localities, especially the immediate surroundings, can be challenging, especially when children do not perceive these places as exciting due to their familiarity with these places. To overcome this challenge of the lack of novelty, teachers can identify themes for the localities (and beyond) to frame children’s perspectives from fresh angles. These themes can enlarge their perspectives to see beyond the mundane and appreciate the uniqueness of their localities and their impacts on their lives. Some examples of themes include geographical (environmental), historical, recreational, economic (commercial, industrial, agricultural), residential and social (communal, cultural and religious) significance of places. Catling and Willy (2018) have suggested several aspects of children’s localities and beyond for fieldwork and the associated inquiry questions for on-site study. Their work is collated in Table 2 below with the addition of more questions and relevant themes by this author for teacher reference when planning fieldwork. 

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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