HomeCherry Hill NewsNew social studies courses focus on inquiry-based classes

New social studies courses focus on inquiry-based classes

Eighth graders to learn U.S. history through civics lens


Township schools will move forward with McGraw Hill’s Impact Social Studies at the elementary-school level and with the company’s New United States and World History programs for middle schoolers.

“It had the resources that we were longing for and looking for,” said Diana Ragasa-Tavares, an elementary-school social studies teacher on the revision committee. The board approved the new curriculums on June 7. 

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Ragasa-Tavares noted the courses encompass history, geography, economics and civics and will allow students to look at history through a critical thinking lens. In the younger grades, there is an emphasis on citizenship, civics, economics and geography. The curriculum answers questions like, “How do people learn and work together?” and  “How does the past shape our lives?” 

The curriculum uses an inquiry-based model for students to explore information themselves rather than being told, a plus for teachers who approve of the courses.  Lessons follow a three-step model: investigate, report and take action. Students and teachers will have inquiry journals as well as a magazine that resembles a graphic novel and is compared to a 2020 almanac.

“This is highlighting historical events in a way that is very accessible to students, but also, the variety of biographies has also been found, throughout the different texts, to be diverse,” Ragasa-Tavares explained.

At the middle-school level, the board committee decided to use McGraw Hill’s “World History: Voices and Perspectives” curriculum. The biggest change is that eighth graders will take a year-long civics class instead of U.S. history to accommodate Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2021 civics mandate for 2023-’24.

Because history standards could be integrated into a civics curriculum but not the other way around, eighth graders will learn U.S. history through a civics lens. The course will be organized thematically rather than chronologically.

“For example, when we teach the Revolutionary War, we are not going to be focusing in as much on specific battles,” said Alison McCartney, a middle-school social studies teacher. It’s going to be more about what’s going on in society that’s going to be leading to the creation of the Constitution.” 

At the sixth-grade level to be implemented this fall, students will learn historical thinking  about ancient worlds and classical civilizations. At the seventh-grade level, to be implemented next year, students will learn about the rise and fall of Rome, the Byzantine Empire, Medieval Europe, West Africa and feudal Japan and China. The geography unit has been removed and will be incorporated throughout all units.

In other news:

  • During the board’s Business and Finance Committee meeting, Bob Garrison from Garrison Architects shared updates to previous recommendations and said he would look into bringing all-purpose rooms back to all elementary schools while removing other items.
  • The same committee also concluded that this year’s lunch prices should stay the same, but families can expect an increase in prices for 2023-’24 year to accommodate an increase in the price of materials due to the new ban on Styrofoam. Other materials are five to six times the cost.
  • The Policy and Legislation committee discussed adding a new section for public comment so students can speak at the beginning of meetings and not have to stay for the whole session. Pros include amplifying student voices and allowing them to get back to their work sooner, but the cons included students speaking their thoughts while being less involved with the process.
  • The committee also discussed revising school calendars to include the Muslim holiday Eid, after administrators met with some Muslim student groups, and when to schedule a teacher in-service day during roughly the same time span.
  • Director of Athletics Mike Beirao shared that the addition of e-sports clubs in the middle and high-school levels has been “a tremendous success,” with 235 students participating.

No action was taken during the committee meetings. The next board of education meeting will take place on June 14 at 6:30 p.m., at the Lewis (formerly Malberg)  building.



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