The First Grade social studies curriculum explores two countries that play an important role in the lives of modern-day Americans: Mexico, our neighbor to the South; and China, the most populous country with a rapidly growing economy. Students revisit an earlier taught geography unit as they learn about the geographic features, the culture and the contributions of China and, later, Mexico. Students explore each country’s rich past and ancient civilizations by comparing and contrasting them to the present day.

*A special thank you goes to Mrs. Kronfeld for the photos in the slideshow above!

The Chinese Unit of Study culminates on Chinese New Year with a dragon parade and Chinese feast, where children sample cuisine. This cross-curricular study allows children to read fiction and non-fiction stories through shared reading and Guided Reading, write stories, study maps, discover plant and animal life, learn songs and dances, create authentic art work and become immersed in the culture.

This is a positive community-building unit because students are exposed and taught the similarities of the two cultures.
~Mrs. Myer, first grade teacher

“This is such a treasured tradition in Powhatan’s first grade,” says Mrs. Myer, a first grade teacher. “First graders begin the festivities with a classroom museum to show parents and guests what they have learned and created. Then first graders have a Dragon Parade where they parade into the gym as a traditional Chinese Dragon, perform a Ribbon Dance, and sing songs while playing instruments. This portion of the celebration is open to the entire school and numerous parents attend. Students are taught about the culture and contributions that come from China. This is a positive community-building unit because students are exposed and taught the similarities of the two cultures. First graders are amazed every year by the number of inventions and contributions that come from ancient China. My favorite part of the Chinese New Year’s Celebration is watching the students teach their parents and their peers about the Chinese culture and customs.”

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Cross-Curricular Projects:

There are many types of cross-curricular projects built into the Powhatan experience. Those projects enhance Deep Learning, which implies that students will follow a particular route of inquiry from top to bottom, rather than simply lightly sampling all the possible routes. We are committed to providing this type of robust learning environment throughout the school, and you see examples at all grade levels, including integration with Specials, such as Music, Art, World Language and even Sports.

“I love this particular project because we have the opportunity to collaborate with both Music and Art,” says Mrs. Yoder, a first grade teacher. “In music the students learn how to play different instruments to perform traditional songs. In class first graders learned about the technique of ancient Chinese brush painting and in Art class created their own renderings. Tying the arts into our units of study are important because it can often ignite creativity. This collaboration allows the children to use what they have learned and explored in both classrooms, to enhance their understanding while creating, whether they are creating an art piece or working together to make musical instruments sound like the music they have learned about.”

Cross-Curricular Projects Across Grade Levels:

Methods of teaching like this require copious amounts of teacher collaboration, but also rich student interaction. Deep Learning requires enthusiastic students in order to thrive, so cross-curricular projects engage the students at a more meaningful level. This interdisciplinary approach is best reflected by teamwork and strong student outcomes. The end result is mastery of the material, instead of just merely completing the assignment.

“These types of experiences aren’t just for Early Elementary students,” continues Mrs. Yoder. “There are plenty of cross-curricular projects for the older students as well. Two favorites that immediately come to mind are the Sixth Grade Survival Trip and Royston’s Regatta. I think it is something we do very well as a school.”

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