Fifth grade social studies focuses on modern and historical immigration and is grounded in this essential question: What does it mean to belong? Students first explore personal and community identities and consider ways that stereotypes about people’s identities can impact their sense of belonging. By analyzing podcasts, primary sources, and the experiences of characters in novels, students gain understanding of the myriad reasons people immigrate to the U.S., the challenges faced throughout the process, and the significant contributions immigrants make to their new homes. They learn that each immigrant experience is unique and personal, even if there are common motivations and challenges between some immigrant experiences. Relating back to the essential question, students consider whether immigrants can hold on to their beliefs, customs, and culture and still feel a sense of belonging in their new home.
Throughout the course, each unit involves exploration of relevant literature and primary sources as well as opportunities for field trips, cross-disciplinary projects, and experiential learning. Students develop critical-thinking, organization, and interpretation skills through written work and preparing and giving oral presentations. Considerable time is devoted to learning how to effectively annotate expository texts for improved reading comprehension and presenting researched topics utilizing technology to inform and excite audience members. The curriculum also emphasizes the skills of listening, questioning, visualizing, making connections and inferences, synthesizing, and comparing and contrasting.