The purpose of this unit is to connect the science and social studies curriculum and encourage students to make connections between school subjects and real life. The students will simultaneously understand how the real life experiences of Ghanaians are influenced by science and meet the needs of the science curriculum standards through scientific inquiry, experiments, and observations. The students will learn about weather, how heat affects wind and water movement, and the effects of global wind cycles. They will learn how these concepts relate to the climate, and therefore the nutrition resources of Ghana. The integration of science with social studies and language arts will also activate the various learning styles and academic strengths of my students as we study Ghana.
This unit is designed for second grade at Davis Street Inter-District Magnet School, where every class participates in a school-wide initiative of International Study, by learning intensively about a particular country throughout the year. Our school and consequently, my classroom is comprised of about 90 percent African American students, with the remaining 10 percent made up of students from various ethnicities, including White, Latino, and Multiracial backgrounds. The school is a “Title 1” school with a majority of its student body comprised of families from low socioeconomic background. There is a great need to provide interesting lessons that engage the attention of the students while they are in school. It is especially important to teach science in an engaging way that will inspire them to think critically and prepare them for more advanced science in upper elementary and middle school, since they will need to be prepared for state mandated testing of science in their academic future.
At Davis Street Magnet School, we have many literacy incentives. There has been a great emphasis recently on reading and writing in order to address a need to improve scores on state-mandated tests. Much of our teaching time is spent working on literacy skills, especially writing responses to open-ended questions about stories the students have heard or read. The students are expected to become experts on relating to and responding to literature. Therefore, the social studies and even science activities have to be integrated with the literacy curriculum in a functional way in order to maximize the time provided to teach these subjects. Therefore, I have created reading material at my students’ shared reading level based on my own research on Ghana. This means that I’ve researched what I want the students to learn, and created a written text at a level they can read along with my support, as a guided whole group reading. I’ve created corresponding writing and reading comprehension activities that fit the required literacy curriculum.
Since the majority of the math and literacy curriculum is prescribed by the district, teaching science and social studies requires excellent planning. It also provides an excellent opportunity to provide subject integration and teach creatively. Therefore, through this unit, the students will benefit from an interdisciplinary approach. They will learn through reading, written responses to the reading, journal writing, and research, as well as first hand experience via pen pal letters, guest speakers, and experiments.
This curriculum unit is designed for second grade students, but the content could easily be extended to teach students from second to fifth grade. In order to adapt the curriculum for older children, the reading selections might be supplemented with more challenging and longer texts. The students could delve much deeper into terminology and learn more about the scientific principals. They would be expected to write with much more depth, but the content would be very similar.
Since the unit is designed to complement a year-long study of Ghana and address New Haven Science Standards (as annotated in the Standards Appendix), it will consist of two main sections. The first section will allow students to learn the science behind the facts they will have learned about Ghana in the beginning of the year. They will understand how and why Ghana has a different climate and different seasons than those found here in the northern United States. This will provide multiple opportunities for scientific inquiry, and will address the science content and performance standards for inquiry A1-A7. The second part will allow them to understand how the climate and weather have created the different food sources that are popular in Ghana. This section will directly address the A23 and A24 science standards, which require students to learn about the sources of common foods and describe how people in different cultures use different food sources to meet their nutritional needs. (Another exciting extension would be to explore the scientific forces that created some of the topographic features of Ghana, such as the Kwahu plateau, the Volta River and Lake Volta. This extension would be linked to the standard addressing the properties of liquids and solids.) The majority of this unit will take place during the second and third marking periods of the year, with additional introductory work taking place in the first semester. The presentation of a science fair project in the fourth semester will be the culminating project. Therefore, the unit will essentially tie science and social studies together for the majority of the school year.