The goal of the social studies curriculum is to prepare students for global citizenship in a diverse society by involving them in discussions and experiences that develop critical thinking and an understanding of the interdependent nature of our world. The curriculum at each grade level investigates important questions about human interactions, values, and choices. Big ideas are explored through integrative lenses to help students gain deeper understanding through multiple perspectives. The Willow School places great value in authentic experiences and provides students with opportunities to perform tasks that are similar to those of social scientists and historians. The School’s programs both facilitate the development of skills necessary for comprehensive understanding and require the application of this understanding to new contexts.
Through studying other cultures, students gain a respect and appreciation for perspectives different from their own. As they gain an understanding of the relationships between culture and environment, students are guided to develop a sense of place. Place-based learning experiences are an integral part of the curriculum. The Willow School’s environment itself becomes a profound teacher. The social studies curriculum is guided at all levels by the themes embedded in sustainability education. Understanding the value of cultural and biological diversity, the actions necessary to create a sustainable community, interdependence and systems thinking, the laws of nature and principles of sustainability, the value of multiple perspectives, and the importance of developing a sense of place, all culminate in a sense of responsibility to create a desired future.
The emergent social studies curriculum for each grade is guided by specified inquiry. Students in the Lower School begin to understand the importance of ethical relationships, both among humans and between humans and the environment. Preschoolers wonder, “Why?”, in order to develop an understanding of the importance of caring for themselves, their place in the world, and all the living things. kindergartners ask, “Who am I?” This question leads them to investigate how they relate to those around them. As first graders explore the nature of community, they ponder the question, “Can I exist alone?” This inquiry expands outwardly from the classroom community to the whole school, and finally to the town. Second graders focus on the past and how communities change over time. The essential question, “Why is the past important to me?” leads them to consider how their family’s history, culture, and traditions impact their lives. Third graders study our country’s early history and address the question, “How does our country’s history affect my life today?” More global in emphasis, the fourth grade curriculum leads students to ask the question, “Why is it important for me to know about cultures other than my own?” Students work to understand the multiple perspectives offered by different cultures as they think about how to create a sustainable future. The study of the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China presents fifth graders with the opportunity to analyze their knowledge while considering the questions, “Why did civilizations form? What did we gain? What did we lose? What is the lesson for the future?”
Through involvement in discussions and experiences that develop critical thinking and an understanding of the interdependent nature of our world, Middle School students are prepared for global citizenship. Sixth graders study ancient China, Greece, and Rome and explore how sustainable actions based on competition and domination are promoting the success and viability of human and natural systems. They confront the questions, “How does culture shape who we are? How can awareness of how we are connected to our past help us shape our future?” Seventh graders investigate the patterns of connections and cultural diffusion and how they created the first phase of globalization. They address the questions, “How do our connections with other cultures change us? Must our connections always create a “winner” and a “loser”? Does being connected require us to act responsibly?” Eighth graders investigate to what extent one’s culture influences one’s values, sense of identity, and decisions. They study the early history of the American nation and the principles on which it was founded. As they consider the question, “What does it take to be the change one wants to see in the world?”, students explore how the problems our nation faces today might be solved in ways that not only benefit Americans, but also lead to a win-win future for all humans without putting the health of the earth’s systems at risk.