Parent Reflection: culture is connection
It's not about math, It's not about social studies, It's not about literature...it's about making connections. When I visited Mr. Yancik's 7th/8th grade classroom, students were studying the different aspects that define the concept of culture. Matt was focusing on how language can define culture - not in variations of dialect, but in how language is used in conversation. The students didn't quite grasp the concept as it was introduced, but as Matt shared his experiences teaching in Japan for 8 years, one by one each student made their own connections: the experience of a bilingual family, the knowledge of a student who has studied Hebrew, an "ah ha" moment from a student who speaks a small bit of a foreign language through family ties, another student contrasting her experiences with a different language in an immersion school setting, and yet another student who suddenly realized direct similarities between Japanese culture and Chinese culture reflected in language. I was wowed not only by the varied backgrounds and experiences of the ten students in the room, but more so by the way in which they shared openly and learned through each other. What could have been a very dry lecture was instead an opportunity not only to learn about culture, but to learn about each other.
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The Social Studies program at Pacific Northern Academy is designed to help students understand the relationship of individuals to the broader community and how this relationship has evolved from early civilizations to the present day. Our youngest grades focus on community and the middle grades broaden the community lens to the state and the country focusing on making a difference. Lower school ends with an in-depth study of United States history.
Throughout the curriculum, an emphasis is placed on cultural awareness and global perspectives. Our students become “real” social scientists by using the following inquiry process and skills: exploring, observing, applying and connecting knowledge; designing and conducting investigations; constructing relationships and conclusions; thinking critically; taking multiple perspectives and communicating information.
Pacific Northern Academy’s Middle School Social Studies program is designed to prepare students for success at the high school level and beyond. Under the rubric of “Humanities,” it is an integrated program where students gain skills and knowledge in geography, history, civics, and culture. The program is built on the philosophy that inquiry skills are the basis for learning in the field of Social Studies. Students further develop the skills learned in their Lower School years - exploring, observing, applying and connecting knowledge; designing and conducting investigations; constructing relationships and conclusions; thinking critically; taking multiple perspectives and communicating information. Research, oral presentations and literature study play increasingly significant roles in assisting students as they encounter the increasingly sophisticated topics of Middle School Humanities.
PNA’s program is strongly influenced by the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies C3 Framework.