In conjunction with these reading activities, in the area of social studies, we will begin developing a general understanding of Latino/Hispanic history and culture in the United States. An attempt will be made to show both the similarities and differences among the various individual groups that are often lumped together as a whole. Children will learn that Hispanics/Latinos are not one nationality or culture, but many. Activities from other areas of the curriculum, such as art, music, and drama, will be integrated to reinforce the information we gain through reading. An investigation into the lives and contributions of specific Latino/Hispanic men and women will be an important part of this section. This thrust of our investigation will begin by presenting the class with a general picture of the location, geography, and climate of Mexico, Central America, South America, Puerto Rico, and other representative countries of the Caribbean. This will be achieved through map study, selected readings, and the use of videos. Pupils will work together making picture and relief maps of these various regions.
Our historical investigation will examine Native Indian groups of the regions, Spanish conquest and colonization, and subsequent revolt and further conquest, until we reach the point where children have a general picture of each area's historical developments and have some understanding of its present relationship to the United States. As this is happening, information about the cultural heritage of each group will be a integral part of learning. Special emphasis will be placed on learning about the development of native civilizations, their accomplishments and contributions. The historical roles played by prominent individuals should also emerge in a natural manner at this point.
As teachers use this unit, the detail and intensity of this search for understanding from the past should vary with the needs, abilities, and time constraints of each classroom, but, in some form, it is an essential step in this unit's progression. The materials used by each teacher will vary, too. Some which have been helpful to me are listed in the bibliography. Most must be adapted for younger children. Also many of the fictional stories which the group will be reading and listening to contain historical references which will reinforce the pupils' more formal investigations. This is particularly true in folk tales which often refer to the rigors of the plantation system and the poverty faced by the common people.