The most exciting way to learn and enjoy history and geography is to experience it. Reading and gathering facts alone do not create a lasting impression. For example, our Chinese history curriculum integrates mathematics, science, reading, writing, the arts, and even sports, exposing students to the entirety of Chinese culture. Children may read colorful myths and stories, write characters and paint with bamboo brushes, practice tai chi, and learn that since ancient times, the Chinese have believed that exercising and eating herbs promote good health. They may replicate art and dress while celebrating the Chinese New Year with music, acrobats, and a dragon dance, and even be treated to a feast of typical Chinese fare. We understand that the most powerful and generative learning occurs when students are immersed in intellectual and creative work rather than simply observing it.
In kindergarten, themes begin small and spread to the global level while naturally integrating science. Kindergartners start by sharing about themselves and move on to family community, classroom community, and then the Stone Age community. That seamlessly takes them to their next GCH strand, Children Around the World, in which they explore other cultures and traditions through the eyes of children.
First-graders study ancient Egypt, China, Greece, Rome, and India through stories, mythology, and fairy tales.
Second-graders delve into ancient American civilizations, including the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Incas, and native North American tribes. Then they study the arrival of the Spanish in America and how the resulting colonization differed from or resembled other colonization efforts on the continent.
Third grade begins the year with a geography unit focused on strengthening mapping skills and moves on to study the Middle Ages, including medieval England and feudal Japan.
In the fourth grade, students begin the year by studying California history, including the Gold Rush, the pioneers, railroads, and influential people, places, and events in the state’s past and present. Students revisit ancient Latin American civilizations in this grade and study the Spanish conquest and the Vikings in America. Finally, they undertake an in-depth study of the Renaissance and the creative explosion that brought new ways of thinking and seeing the world.
Building a foundation for future study of American history by focusing on our country’s beginnings, fifth-graders analyze the reasons for colonization in North America and study life in the Colonies from the perspective of individuals who lived there. They examine the relationship between the Colonies and England, the causes of the American Revolution, and the documents that helped shape the nation. Slavery, the Industrial Revolution, and westward expansion bring students up to the Civil War, when they utilize a variety of materials for learning, including a text, history magazines, role-playing, writing, historical fiction, and research.
Finally, sixth grade focuses on how to think critically and answer questions about the continuity of the human experience. Starting with archaeology and paleontology studies in Africa, students move on to the ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. As they examine social, economic, and political institutions, they analyze similarities and differences between these societies. Concepts are drawn from history and the social sciences, but the primary discipline is geography, especially cultural geography. This focus provides students with a framework for studying local, regional, national, and global issues that concern them; for understanding the interdependence of the world in which they live; and for making informed judgments as active citizens.