Teaching The Enduring Understandings About Culture in Primary Social Studies, pp. 4 of 7

We can reach for depth by focusing on important understandings and characteristics about culture. The following statements are drawn from the National Council for the Social Studies descriptions of the theme of culture (NCSS, 2019) and from Gollnick and Chin (2002, pp. 6-8).

  • Human beings create, and adapt to culture.
  • Culture is learned and shared and a shared culture provides a group with a distinct identity.
  • Culture is an adaptation and accommodates different environmental conditions.
  • Cultures change over time.  They may change in response to advances in technology and challenges in the physical environment and they may change to accommodate different ideas, values and beliefs.
  • There are differences between cultures but cultures also share similarities.

These understandings can guide teachers in re-imagining the content related to the concept of culture.

How Can We Teach For Deeper Understanding?

Content about culture involves the lived experiences of diverse groups. Social Studies content often include the practices, customs, and traditions of different communities. Content of this nature may not be easily found in published material. In fact, much of the experiences, practices and beliefs of different communities may not be documented or published. As practices change and traditions evolve over time, we can and need to learn about them through interactions with individuals and groups.

Suggested Learning Activity: Interviewing Resource Persons

Key understandings about culture that can be taught using this strategy:

  • There are differences between cultures but cultures also share similarities.
  • Cultures are dynamic and change over time. They may change in response to advances in technology and challenges in the physical environment and they may change to accommodate different ideas, values and beliefs.

In this activity, we provide opportunities for children to learn from people around them. Set up interview sessions where children can interact with people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Invite two colleagues or parents from different ethnic groups to co-operate in these series of lessons.  Explain your objectives to your interviewees and prepare them to co-teach the class with you. Your interviewees are important as co-facilitators of the lessons, not just as sources of information and experience. Prior to the interview session, prepare your students by encouraging them to brainstorm relevant questions and teaching them interview skills. In particular, teach them how to probe about cultural differences respectfully.

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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