Thursday, September 5, 2013

Make Social Studies Real, Relevant, and Authentic

 I love to make connections.  From the beginning of my teaching career, my principal said that connections were my greatest strength in the classroom.  Thank you Mike Rutherford teaching strategies. A program not funded anymore in my district but a worthwhile approach to effective teaching.  My principal also gave me guidance that if I wanted my connections to be remembered I better improve my classroom management. Since the beginning, I strive to find the best and most meaningful connections for Social Studies.  Examples of connections can be as simple as linking a history concept like irrigation to digging a trench at the beach for your sandcastle or as higher level as discussing NGM's article earlier this year on whether to bring extinct species back to life.  This connects with our study of Early Humans.  I love thinking about what could be.  Where I've tried to take connections to the next level is bringing in speakers.  These folks offer my students first hand accounts of foreign cultures and that impacts how well students retain the content.

   The first group I had last year and am setting up this year's presentations is Thinking Globally.  They are from the University of South Carolina and seek to bring international students into the classroom to speak to classrooms about other cultures, religions, etc.  I teach world religions and world cultures through ancient civ.  As a result, their program hits a homerun for "authentic" connections to our content and that helps make what we study in class more real.  I can't wait for their arrival on Friday, October 4th.

    The second speaker came this past Friday.  His name is Brad Brown and he is the CEO of Uhuru Child.  His organization seeks to alleviate poverty in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.  They have two main initiatives.  First, build high schools for students who cannot afford to go for further schooling.  The government pays for primary school for everyone and have over 27,000 schools.  High schools number only 7,000 and only those who can pay can get in to these schools.  As a result, the cycle of poverty repeats itself.  Uhuru Child seeks to provide education opportunities to help increase children's freedom.  The second initiative is sustainable jobs.  They provide these jobs by building Shambas (farm in Swahili) that can be a steady income for families but also gain a profit due to selling crops to market or elsewhere.  Where this link of the businesses links to the Uhuru Academy is that the profits made off the farms after paying the workforce go into funding the schools.  This means money from Africa funds the schools rather than the only pipeline of funds coming from the USA.  USA only funded schools unfortunately happen quite often.  As these are well intended efforts, the schools have to shut down when the money stops coming from the USA.  This is where Uhuru Child seeks to separate itself from this approach.  Below I have some pictures from the exciting presentation.  Brad is so passionate about what he does and I am thankful that I know him.  My students are still talking about the presentation and can't wait to see what opportunities will arise.  We're hoping to e-mail, Skype, Google hangout, or something with Uhuru Academy.  The year is full of endless opportunities.

What are you doing to build connections in the classroom?  They come in every size.  Don't miss a chance to make your content more real, relevant, and authentic.  Always do your best.
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Setting up Musical Chairs.
Talking about the shower buckets that do not shower good rain.  
Brad sharing a what motivated them to start working in Kenya.  

1 comment:

  1. I heard great things about your speakers! The kids and teachers didn't want to miss a word!