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Dear Teacher

Apr 5, 2010
12:00 PM

Boosting Interest in Social Studies

How can you nurture your budding historian? Here are a few ways to build on kids' curiosity

Boosting Interest in Social Studies

Parent's question

This year our son, a fifth-grader, has become fascinated with what he is learning in social studies. He wants to know more and more about this subject. How can we help satisfy his curiosity?

Our answer

One thing that seems to guarantee success in school is to develop a passion for a particular topic or subject. It's great that your son has one! Learning more and more about a passion turns into a win-win situation. What has been learned can be used later on as topics for speeches and reports. Plus, the more kids learn, the wider the knowledge base they have to build upon when learning new material.

There are so many things that can be done to enhance what your son's learning in school. Why don't you read some stories at night to him that tie to his current social studies work? There are loads of books and short stories about historical figures and events. Depending on what he is studying, he could enjoy hearing about Lafayette, Paul Revere or President Kennedy, as well as events from Gettysburg to the Boston Tea Party to the Mayflower voyage. What's great about reading stories to him is that you're sharing in his interest.

Several websites also offer virtual field trips to places like the rain forest, Williamsburg, Va. and Washington, D.C. He can easily search for places related to the topics that he is studying in school, and they'll become far more meaningful to him. Not to mention: It's cost-free travel.

This summer, your family could plan to visit historical sites while you are on vacation. Try to choose ones that are related to what he has studied this year in school or what he will study next year. Don't forget about all the history in your community and state. Visits to museums, the capitol and historical re-enactments will further enhance his interest in social studies.

Apr 8, 2010 03:51 pm
 Posted by  CGilmore

Seems that this is a growing problem in not only social studies but in all programs as well. A website that I visited recently took an interesting approach to considering the problem stating that it is not the interest in the subject itself but the initial interest level in the learning process. Example: kids learning complex video games -vs- kids learning multiplication. The video game is normally based on millions of abstract facts while the multiplication chart is 144 numeric facts based on symbols (numbers) that they have been taught all of their lives. Why not find a solution that incorporates the things that they like. Remember the old Carmen Sandiego games or Monopoly. School House Rock is another great example of learning made fun, and most X-Gen cartoon junkies can still remember the lyrics.

When Pokemon first came out they started a craze throughout the US by introducing a cartoon that the kids could watch for 30 minutes once per day. After a month the kids most fans could identify 100 out of the 150 creatures, tell you what type of element they used (water, fire, electrical, etc.), cross reference the evolution and plausible powers that were available to each and which ones were stronger. The same kids still could not tell you what 8 times 7 was based on twelve numbers cross referenced against themselves using base symbols (numbers 0 through 9) that they had learned birth. How can they learn thousands of abstract facts in a month and still not be able to memorize 144 simple facts in 3 years (based on current standards of teaching multiplication from mid second grade through fourth).

Isn’t it about time we build a better mouse trap!

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