ISY Elementary School Faculty Blog

Learning About & Learning From

Mike Simpson

November 12, 2021

This is what I put in the parent’s blog this week just to give some context to what we are covering in Social Studies. I hope you are enjoying exploring this quarter’s Social Studies topics with your students….

When I was an elementary school student, Social Studies was my favorite subject. I particularly liked history. When I was in elementary school in New Zealand, history was basically European (mainly English) history with a small dose of indigenous Maori history. I remember learning about other countries was during the Olympics when we all got assigned a different country. I know I also learned about Ancient Egypt but that might have been from a book that I read at home.

The curriculum at that time in New Zealand would have presumably set this narrow focus for teachers and this would have been narrowed further by the limited resources and knowledge that the teachers had access to. Now it seems that the New Zealand curriculum is a lot more inclusive of different cultures and histories. The advent of the internet and more specifically Google has resourced this shift to a more inclusive social studies curriculum.

But having access to so much knowledge presents its own challenges when developing an inclusive social studies curriculum. Having the resources to learn about every country and culture in the world does not make it possible. Time is limited and we still need to make decisions about which countries and cultures we should learn about.

As a new international school teacher, I found these decisions very difficult to make. I might have had 10-15 different cultures and nationalities in my class and I knew that I did not have the time to do justice to all of their histories. Ancient Egypt is very interesting but, beyond the enjoyment of it, how does learning about its history really benefit the students of other cultures and nationalities living in the 21st century?

A teaching colleague pointed out that it might be correct that learning all about Ancient Egypt might not seem all that relevant to 21st century students. He told me to shift the focus from what we can learn about Ancient Egypt to what we can learn from Ancient Egypt. This was simple advice from him but a revelation to me! 

To learn from something we need to connect it to something else. We also need to know about that something to begin with so I still taught interesting and important Ancient Egypt facts. My students enjoyed these mini-lessons just as I did when I was their age – young children love new knowledge. But as soon as I shifted my focus to seeing what we can learn from Ancient Egypt, I was able to guide my class to connecting what they had learned about Ancient Egypt to their own cultures and histories or even to what was happening that week in the news or to the plot of their favorite cartoon or book. Every lesson needs to start somewhere but it does not need to end there. By using one culture or history as a starting point, I learned that a lesson can still be inclusive of all of the cultures and histories in my class.

A mini-lesson on the Great Sphinx of Giza might develop into small groups of students researching the meaning behind monuments in their own cultures and sharing that research with others. Making these connections not only strengthens their knowledge of Ancient Egypt, it allows them to apply that knowledge to better understand their own cultures and histories. It also allows students to develop an understanding of big global concepts like community, change, justice, government or sustainability. The students can then take these conceptual understandings and apply them when they need to make sense of what happens in the future. And they will always have Google (or probably something better) to remind them of when the Sphinx was built!


Please add any questions, items that come to mind to this ES Collaborative Agenda. The idea is that once we have a few things to discuss that can’t be addressed by email, we will meet.

New Quarter 2 Schedule

Here is the link to the ES Quarter 2 Schedule which is also available on the Elementary School Faculty Pages.

The changes that have been made are highlighted in red.

 Friday Emails + Quarter 2 Offline Learning

Next week is a short week so we won’t send out Friday emails.

ISY Annual Compassion Conference

Friday, March 4

This will be organized under the umbrella of ISY Definition of Compassion: The will and understanding to respect and value the identity, culture, perspective, and experience of others in acting to make a positive difference to their lives.

In addition to a key-note speaker addressing resilience in young people and an ISY student panel presenting on LGBTQ+ issues, teacher workshops will be an important part of this conference. 

Teacher workshops might relate to any of our ISY Inclusive Practices and will be organized under the following strands:

    • Inclusion
    • Service
    • Diversity

Workshops can focus on anything under these strands and we are particularly interested in workshops on the following:

    • Responsive Classroom Strategies
    • Science of Learning – memory, etc.
    • Teaching Creativity
    • Integrating Technology

Our TIF team of Ian and Lindsey will be helping us put this day together and will be popping into classes from time to time to get ideas and encourage teachers. Please reach out to them if you have an idea you would like some support with – whether you intend to present it or not on March 4.

      From the Library

      Lindsey and Christian in the library would be very happy to help get books to you that you might want to read to your class or have your students read. These books can be scanned so they can be used online so let them know if you are looking for something.

      Interdisciplinary Units

      Curriculum Maps and Scope and Sequences

      Here is where you can find our Curriculum Maps (updated for Q1 using report subject comments).

      Here is where you can find our Q1 Scope and Sequence. Please link your planning to the Scope and Sequence. I have done this for PE and Culture and Communication to give you an example. We want to give you some autonomy as to how you organize your planning and resources but your planning needs to be in an ISY Shared Drive. 

      Here is where you can find our Q2 Scope and Sequence

      To fill out this year’s Q2 Scope and Sequence, you might want to refer to the skills you focused on this time last year in these Q2 scope and sequence documents:

      PK-1 Q2 Scope and Sequence 2020-2021

      2-3 Q2 Scope and Sequence 2020-2021

      4-5 Q2 Scope and Sequence 2020-2021

      Please also link your planning to the Scope and Sequence. 

      If you have not already, please check off the standards that you intend to cover in your subject in Quarter 2. Please make sure there is an ‘x’ in the second column of any standard you will cover in these Grade Level Standards Checklists.

      Wednesday Assemblies

      Only 3 more assemblies until we break for the holiday! 

      Thanks to Kristi, Laura and her students, and Mr. Stache and his brother Mr. Mos for entertaining and educating us this week.

      Our next 2 assemblies need games so please sign up on our Assembly Sign Up Schedule if you have any ideas.

       Grades 2-5 Google Classroom Set Up

      Please use the following heading for each week (Quarter followed by the week…)

      From our TIFs

      Here are a curated list of helpful links for students and families as we begin the year. These videos can be helpful as you share information with them. 

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