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Social Studies

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Going From Me to We: Social Studies in Preschool

Children learn about their social world from the moment of birth, and observing and interpreting group behavior in preschool is an important part of this. The early childhood classroom can be a perfect setting for acquiring the basic knowledge, skills, and attitudes children need to live as contributing citizens in a complex society. The key dimensions of learning in this content area are captured in the six preschool key developmental indicators (KDIs) in social studies (see below).

KDIs in Social Studies

  1. Diversity: Children understand that people have diverse characteristics, interests, and abilities.
  2. Community roles: Children recognize that people have different roles and functions in the community.
  3. Decision making: Children participate in making classroom decisions.
  4. Geography: Children recognize and interpret features and locations in their environment.
  5. History: Children understand past, present, and future.
  6. Ecology: Children understand the importance of taking care of their environment.

Because young children are concrete thinkers, age-appropriate social studies experiences start with children's own lives and help them relate new learning to what is familiar. After their family, the classroom is the first society that young children belong to. For them, early social studies learning grows from their interactions with the people and materials in the preschool setting.

For example, children learn about human diversity by interacting with adults and classmates, trying on different roles during pretend play, reading books, exploring the arts, and going on field trips.

Similarly, participating in the classroom community is a scaled-down version of the decision-making process in society at large. Children participate in small decisions about classroom jobs and materials, and discuss ways to handle shared problems. Likewise, taking care of the indoor and outdoor learning environment is a rehearsal for their becoming stewards of the planet.

Learning about people and the roles they play in their families, neighborhoods, and schools prepares children for the expanded social world they will encounter as they grow older.

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