Social Studies Department – Looking for Answers!
What a year to be a teacher of Social Studies! Whether it was the federal election in Canada, the ever-changing COVID world, or the protests in Ottawa, we have never been more inspired to be teachers in this subject area. As well, the current situation in the Ukraine provided incredible opportunities for learning. Students were interested to understand the how and why aspects of such events and showed up for classes curious to hear what had happened in relation to these situations. As well, students were eager to question the world around them and to look for alternative perspectives and to look for new approaches to old problems. The high number of weather events also provided great opportunities to explore the issue of climate change and the impacts it is having and will have on the future of the planet. Many learning opportunities in a variety of different forms and styles were presented to students in-order-to help them understand and explore the ever-changing world in which they live. As well, the skills that are emphasized through this subject area provide students with the opportunity to listen to and respect alternative perspectives, to question sources of information, and to practice discourse. Finally, teachers worked hard to discuss with students the concepts of echo chambers and polarization and the impacts they can have on a society. Much work is left to do, but we know that students were provided the opportunity to grow into active, democratic citizens this year!
This year grade ten Geography classes visited Oak Hammock Marsh. Students learned about wetlands and how this ecosystem is important for supporting migratory birds and other animals. Biodiversity and the interrelationships between living things and the environment gave opportunity to consider the importance of looking after our planet and being aware of how it is changing.
In September, grade 9 Social Studies worked on an election project. They had to research the candidates running in their riding and learned about the electoral process. As part of the project, members of the class helped to organize the Student Vote at West Kildonan Collegiate. West K was one of many schools participating in the Canada Student Vote program. Students discovered that if youth in Canada were allowed to vote, the election outcome would have been very different!
Students in grade 9 Social Studies learned about the legislative and executive branches of government by participating in a mock parliament. Each student drafted a bill and collaborated with their political party to devise arguments supporting it. The class Prime Minister and their appointed cabinet ministers were tasked with making executive decisions on emergency scenarios and defending their decisions in Question Period.
Students in grade 10 Geography were introduced to the writing of a research paper. It gave them a chance to learn about expressing their ideas in written form. Students were given many exemplars and several opportunities to construct and edit paragraphs so they could become familiar with the writing process. Topics they researched related to geographic and environmental issues. When the students finished their assignments, one could tell there was some progress made in their writing skills and that they had raised their awareness of the issue they had researched.
In September, students in Canadian history, Global Issues and American history had the opportunity to follow the Canadian federal election. Students in each course had to research election results and decide who they would vote for if they could. Results were quite interesting as students learned about the political spectrum and their own priorities!
Students in Global Issues also had the opportunity to participate in many Socratic seminars to discuss their thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics, such as the influence of mass media in their lives.
In Social Studies, students in each semester had an opportunity to take a field trip to visit the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa! Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, we ended up just visiting the buildings virtually, but students were able to see where the major decisions that affect all Canadians are made.
In Canadian history, in the second semester, students participated in a Socratic seminar – all for the first time! Students were given an exploratory topic, policies of assimilation of the First Peoples, and they had to research and prepare their responses. On the day of the seminar, each group had 30 minutes to discuss their findings, thoughts and perspectives. The unique aspect of the seminar is that it is totally self-directed, as I am not involved in the process. It was so powerful to watch students having mature conversations about a topic that has had a huge impact on Canadian society to this day!
In the second semester, all classes explored the events and perspectives associated with the protests that took place in Ottawa and across Canada in February and March. Many good discussions and conversations took place as students learned about levels and responsibilities of government. It was also a great time to teach students the facts about processes that are in place and how government decisions are made.
Students in Law had a unique opportunity in May and June to meet, in person, with experts from the field of law. Students heard presentations and had the opportunity to engage with people from various fields within the legal community and learn about ‘a day in the life of…’ from these guests. Speakers included Officer Rob (our School Resource Officer), Crown and Defence counsel, RCMP, Provincial and Federal Correctional officers, and someone from Winnipeg Parole Services. They were all great speakers and students thoroughly enjoyed these opportunities!