What are social studies in primary school?

Social studies cover a wide range of topics and subjects we learn about early on. These usually have to do with the world around us and the society we live in, whether in the past or the present.

It deals with human behavior, resources, relationships, and institutions at the highest level. Fields include history, geography, sociology, politics, economics, and anthropology.

Does that seem a bit heavy for children? Don’t worry! In primary school, learners will be working towards developing a general understanding of the world around them. They’ll learn about other people, other cultures, other value systems, and world history.

The main goal is to introduce children to different environments that they otherwise wouldn’t meet at such a young age, but there’s so much more to it than that. Keep reading to learn more about social studies in school, what children will learn, and why it’s an important part of their education!

Experiences and Outcomes of Social Studies

Under the Curriculum for Excellence, social studies aren’t categorized the same way they are in other countries. Based on the CfE experiences and outcomes that serve as a clarifying guideline for both teachers and students, social studies are grouped in the following way:

  • People, past events, and societies
  • People, place, and environments
  • People in society, the economy, and business

While these wider areas are the same for all three levels, the experiences and outcomes change over the different age groups. Let’s take a look at an example:

  • At an Early Level, children will learn that different types of evidence help them study the past.
  • By the end of the First Level, they should know which evidence can be trusted and used to study the past.
  • During Second Level, they’re taught how to interpret historical evidence from various periods. This helps them build a picture of Scotland’s heritage and their sense of chronology.

What are the three areas of social studies?

  1. People, Past, Events, and Societies

Focusing on the past and comparing it to the present, children will discover important events in their country’s history, from the Scottish Wars of Independence to Mary, Queen of Scots – and beyond!

It also includes topics more directly related to issues in the world today, such as information about Scottish Black History.

Examples of wider topics might include:

  • Scottish History
  • British History
  • World History
  • Then and Now
  1. People, Place, and Environment

In this area of social studies, children will look at how human activity has impacted nature, the advantages and disadvantages of different modes of transport, and many environmental issues facing today.

This unit covers many topics, and many have links to other curriculum areas. This includes links to both the sciences and technologies. Here are a few issues that you can find resources for at Twinkl:

  • Climates of the World
  • Community and Environment
  • Countries and Continents
  • Farming
  • The Rainforest
  • Maps
  • Scotland’s Environment
  • The Water Cycle
  • Weather and Natural Disasters
  1. People in Society, Economy, and Business

The last area of social studies (but certainly not the least) covers a broad spectrum of topics. These focus on modern or present-day issues, including the world’s global goals on climate action and business running. In addition, younger learners will explore simpler, more age-appropriate topics, such as learning about the different adults they can turn to if they have a problem, from teachers to police officers.

Once again, many points cross over into different subject areas – especially health and well-being.

  • People Who Help Us
  • Bullying and Discrimination
  • Citizenship and Global Issues
  • The Scottish Political System
  • The World of Work
  • Enterprise

Why is it important to learn social studies in primary school?

There are several benefits of introducing children to social studies in school. Some of the main ones include:

  1. Children can become curious, open-minded, and accepting by learning about other people with different backgrounds than themselves. These are brilliant traits that will serve them well in the future, both socially and academically.
  2. Even from an early age, they’ll be working on their self-image. This means they can understand their place in the world and realize their footprint. What does it mean to be a citizen of Scotland, the United Kingdom, or Europe? What does it mean to be a citizen of the world?
  3. The curricular area includes some of the most important topical issues of our time, especially regarding the environment. For example, children can learn about the effects of deforestation on the climate and the people who live in deforested areas. Not only does this raise awareness, but it also helps them to form opinions based on ethics and make morally-informed decisions.
  4. Social studies as a topic encourage children to build skills and knowledge that will be useful in later life. This includes understanding the political history of their country, as well as the value of money and how simple trades work.
  5. Searching for connections, patterns, and ‘chain reactions’ throughout history, such as finding out about the actions of one famous figure and how they impacted the world today, can build critical thinking skills.
  6. Most of these social studies topics are taught via reading through fact files, online resources, or non-fiction books. Therefore, it’s important to improve reading and analytical skills. Some that will prove useful include active literacy strategies like skimming, scanning, and taking notes.
  7. Social studies can tie in nicely with many other curricular areas, not just literacy and English. For example, any topic on renewable energy offers interdisciplinary learning opportunities with the sciences. Likewise, learning about different cultures can be followed up with an expressive art lesson on their traditional music or art.
  8. Children will work towards some of the ‘soft skills’ promoted by the Curriculum for Excellence, also known as the four capacities. It will help them become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, and effective contributors.
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