Scientific observation and social studies are interconnected throughout the year. During the fall, we are busy getting to know each other as part of the 4-5s as well as the larger MCS community. We talk about the various members of a community and how we are all important to each other. People as well as animals are an important part of our lives in New York City and we spend the first two months talking about how animals in our homes, around the city and at our farm live together and help each other. In our many discussions, we look at the ways in which we interact with animals in the wild, as pets and as community workers.As we learn about the growth and change of plants and animals during our science observations, we will also look at ourselves and what we need in order to grow. We have already begun our social studies program by bringing in current photographs of ourselves. Through our Baby Study we will begin exploring how we have changed in the past and how we continue to grow and change. The 4-5s enjoy looking back at being infants and toddlers, remembering their first days at Manhattan Country School and appreciating their new skills and growing independence. As we study our development we will be inviting babies and toddlers from our community to visit so that we may observe, ask questions and learn about them. Writing our own personal stories in the form of baby books is an important way of learning more about our classmates and ourselves.
Osito (little bear) is another way for the 4-5s to learn about one another. Osito will travel to each 4-5s’ home several times throughout the year. Children will take turns bringing Osito home and then have the opportunity to write and draw in Osito’s journal. The 4-5s enjoy being hosts for Osito and hearing about its visits to other children’s homes. Osito’s visits begin preparing us for our home visits later on in the year.
In the spring, we will visit one another’s homes and neighborhoods in small groups. These visits help children expand their understanding of the world from a very personal perspective. Children learn more about each other and how we are alike and different. They examine their neighborhoods, geography and types of transportation in New York City through their travels. We will have a parent meeting prior to these visits to further discuss the details of this exciting piece of the 4-5s’ curriculum.
Throughout the year, we will be taking a series of neighborhood walks. We will discuss what things are important in a neighborhood and look carefully at the details of the world around us.
Socio-emotional development is a key part of the 5-6s' year, and is built into our social studies focus on community and tools. There is a growing sense of autonomy in the five- and six-year old; however, we also encourage the children to see themselves as valued members of the classroom and school community. Through role-play, stories, community building activities, and reflective discussions intentionally built into the 5-6s' program, the children strengthen and practice their social and emotional skills. We will begin the year by looking at ourselves as members of the 5-6s’ community, creating our own job chart, interviewing all members of our class, and determining what our class rules should be to ensure that everyone can get what they need. We will widen the scope of our community to include our MCS family: we’ll interview different adults throughout the building, and start discussing physical tools as our interviewees share the tools they need and use to get their jobs done. The children will choose a tool they’ve learned about to study more in depth, and we’ll visit some neighborhood businesses that center around our tool of focus. In addition to physical tools, the 5-6s will learn about abstract tools. “Brain tools” are strategies that help us self-regulate and take risks; because learning is in and of itself a risky endeavor that requires the ability to be aware of and regulate one’s body, these tools will help us be aware of our bodies, develop important frustration tolerance skills, and practice finding many ways to solve problems, as well as help children feel more confident in engaging in activities they have not yet mastered, satisfied more by the pride of their efforts rather than just the outcomes. We introduce these tools through our work with the Brain House, a schema that helps children understand the interplay between their “upstairs thinking” brains and “downstairs feelings” brains. Friendship tools are strategies that help us with the crucial social aspects of school, communicating and problem-solving through conflict, such as using I-Statements and generating win-win solutions. Because young children learn best through hands-on experience, we hope to create physical representations of our abstract tools to better foster the 5-6s’ understanding of how to use these strategies on a daily basis.
Six and seven-year-olds are ready and eager to investigate the world around them. Our Social Studies program focuses on how communities of workers help each other, provide services and share responsibilities. We begin our study by creating and practicing our classroom and school jobs. The study then expands out into our Upper West Side neighborhood. We will take impressionistic walks, and trips to businesses, to examine: services provided in the neighborhood; who provides these necessary services; and how people need to work together to make a community function successfully.After we look at various ways people and organizations serve their communities, we open the 6-7s’ Post Office to help people in our school communicate with each other through letter writing. Later in the year, after visiting museums throughout the city, we will open our own museum. The children will design their own artwork and tour visitors through the exhibits. Our studies will incorporate mapping, interviews, writing, discussions, math, literature and art projects. Trips provide invaluable experiences for children as they raise questions and gain knowledge about the people who work in New York City.Our curriculum, at the beginning of the year, and then frequently thereafter, returns to explorations of the principles of identity, inequity and social justice.
The social studies curriculum for the 7-8s is the crux of the day, and where we integrate other subject areas into our studies as much as possible. The social studies curriculum aims to develop skills in inquiry and research through several studies, including The Family Study and the study of New York City. Through these studies, the students begin by focusing on themselves and then by expanding their scope to investigate the city and world in which they live. Information is gathered through class trips, interviews and book research.The objective of the Family Study is to help children gain a more extensive understanding of themselves in relation to the world at large. The students have already begun to explore social relationships and familial structures through literature, self-reflection and group sharing. There will be numerous opportunities for children to express themselves through dramatic play, art and creative writing projects based upon their discoveries about themselves, their families and their classmates. The Family Study activities help children to reflect upon similarities and differences, discover how members of a community depend upon and help one another, and expand their understanding of the roles and interactions of individuals and groups.As the 7-8s think about themselves, they then turn and think about the city in which they live and we begin to ask the question, “What does a city need?” Through the discussions and the interests of the group, the 7-8s explore the various aspects of the city and what is essential in order to make it run. After spending a year looking closely at themselves and their city, the 7-8s’ final piece of the school year is their first trip to the MCS Farm. There they explore daily life working on and running a farm while developing a deep sense of responsibility and independence.
Because 8-9s are developmentally ready, this is the first year that the children delve into a study of history separate from the history of their own families. To start, the curriculum will focus on the geography of New York State. We will study indigenous people of New York State, specifically the Haudenosaunee and the Lenape. Beginning with exploring what the island of Manhattan looked like long ago, students will then work to build an understanding about how environment shapes culture.In the next unit of our social studies curriculum, we will dive into a short study about the Age of Exploration. After developing an understanding of local Native American culture from our first unit, the 8-9s will come to understand why explorers sought to leave their European countries and settle in new lands. We will also discuss the term “discovery” and other language that often tells the story of these encounters from only one point of view.We will then study the Dutch community of New Amsterdam, the first European settlement in Manhattan. Highlights of this study will be field trips and investigations about life in New York from 1624-1664. The examination of various cultures will include mapping skills, world geography, timelines, discussion, reading, research, cooking, science, artwork, and field trips. The sequence of our social studies curriculum is deliberate. These studies help the students to appreciate other cultures, to see similarities and differences, and to understand the universality of basic human needs and rights.
The 9-10s will explore the experiences of the many people who have come to the United States, from both historical and contemporary perspectives. We will begin by recording oral histories of both citizens and immigrants in process. The experiences that they share with us will deepen the students’ understanding of the issues involved in immigration. Why do people leave their homes? Why do they come to the United States? Is it always by choice? How do they get here? What do they expect and what do they find? Do they choose to become naturalized citizens, why or why not? How do they balance the cultures of their home countries with their new lives? What is the history of immigration in the United States? Later in the year, we will compare the experiences of voluntary immigrants to those of enslaved Africans. What were the experiences of enslaved Africans in New York? How did they work to maintain their home cultures while enslaved? Finally, in what ways have newcomers to the United States influenced the culture of their descendants today?We will also be exploring New York City as a place with a rich history of immigration, as well as a city where new immigrants arrive each day. We will investigate the language, music, food and other customs that reveal the cultures of people who have immigrated here. We plan to visit Ellis Island, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Eldridge Street Synagogue, the African Burial Ground, and the Museum of Chinese in America.Throughout the curriculum, field trips, library research, interviews, dramatizations, and weekly discussions of current events will enrich the students' learning. Current events provide the 9- 10s with opportunities to share articles of interest to them. During the discussions, students are encouraged to ask questions and think critically.