Social Studies

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Social Studies

 How will you be a hummingbird? 

We launch our Social Studies curriculum with the South American indigenous story The Little Hummingbird.  The story tells the tale of a little hummingbird who, when faced with a roaring forest fire, as well as scared, inactive forest community members, decides to do the best she can by putting out the forest fire one drop at a time. Throughout the school year we will study forests literally and metaphorically as we ask the children, “How will you be a hummingbird? What is the best you can do to help your community?”

Knowing yourself well is an important first step in being able to do the best you can do. Thus, we begin our school year by developing an awareness of our strengths and how we can capitalize on our strengths to both help others and improve our own growth areas. Our neuroscience unit helps children develop an understanding of how their brain works and how they can foster optimal conditions for their own learning. During the unit we ask: How can you prevent downshifting when you are learning? How can you create strong neural pathways in your brain? What can you do to become smarter?

Building upon the neuroscience unit, we discuss eight multiple intelligences each of us possess in unique combinations.  We explore our individual multiple intelligences and develop methods for capitalizing on our own strengths. Throughout  the unit we ask: How do I use the intelligences individually and in combination with one another? What mix of intelligences do I have now? How can I use my intelligences to improve brain stretches? How can I use intelligences to improve my learning? How will understanding my intelligences help me "be a hummingbird?"

Relishing in the trees that make up the landscape of our school campus and our city, we transition to a study of Portland through the lens of how trees have been used and protected as a natural resource. As we contemplate how we can work for the protection our natural resources here in Portland, we will look for inspiration in the life work of Wangari Maathai and the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya. As a culmination of the year’s studies, students will design and implement their own forest-based service learning projects. During the unit we ask: How do humans and forests affect one another? With each decision what are the costs and benefits to forests and humans? How have people in Oregon used and protected trees as a natural resource in the past and in the present? How will we impact the use and protection of Oregon's forests in the future? In what ways is a forest ecosystem interdependent and self-sustaining?