The Lower School social studies curriculum at St. Thomas’s Day School encourages students to explore who they are and identify their place in the world. Students unpack their personal histories and relationships with family, school, and the larger community to expand their perspective beyond themselves, gain a better understanding of their own culture, and recognize how their cultures shape their lives. By sharing and celebrating their family traditions and beliefs, students learn to respect and value themselves, as well as people of other cultures and backgrounds. As students think about themselves in relation to the larger world, they are introduced to the study of geography using maps and globes. Students are also introduced to the idea of community service and “making the world a better place”.
Field trips play a major role in the social studies curriculum at St. Thomas’s Day School. A variety of trips are planned throughout the year in each grade level to support and enrich the classroom curriculum. Field trips provide content and resources that might not otherwise be available and allow students to engage with information in a variety of ways, making learning fun, interesting and memorable. Field trips also support differentiated learning by providing students who learn through hands-on experiences to interact with content in a way that works best for them.
Beginning in second grade, social studies concepts are integrated with other curriculum areas through performing arts. Classroom teachers work with the art, music, technology, and drama teachers to create plays and short, age-appropriate performances that showcase learning. Second-grade students learn about the history of New Haven and perform a play called “Coming to New Haven”. Third graders highlight Native American culture and life by performing short skits about Native American folk tales.
In the month of December, all Lower School students (Grades 1-3) participate in the Lower School Express, a multi-grade, interdisciplinary project designed to help students learn more about geography and about holiday traditions in other countries. Each year, four countries are explored in detail, providing the students with information about twelve different countries by the end of third grade. For each country, students learn about one or more holiday traditions, where the country is located, what language/languages are spoken, and what the flag looks like. In addition, each grade works to investigate and celebrate the diversity in our own community by asking families to share their food, traditions, culture, and art. Presentations, performances, field trips, and connections with people from other countries enhance the experience even further.