The second grade social studies curriculum centers on in-depth project-based learning about the culture of two nations: 2-Blue is studying India; 2-White, Japan. The overarching goal is to increase students’ empathy for other cultures. For both class sections, this project-based learning expands our students' empathy, or chesed. Students connect their understanding about their own experiences, and this “stretches them to consider other people's experiences and perspectives, with both kindness and curiosity,” says 2-White general studies teacher Rachel Klein.
“By learning about people and cultures around the world, we can become more curious and thoughtful people,” says Sara Goldrath, 2-Blue general studies teacher. “Our students look forward to this social studies unit about India each year. When they see it on the schedule for the day, they are excited to learn. It is wonderful to watch students engage with their learning in this way. I start by asking them what they'd like to know about India, and then I structure the unit around their questions.”
Meanwhile, in 2-White: “This project-based unit,” says Ms. Klein, “asks students to share their own questions and interests about Japan, to guide the activities that help design the unit. This year some of their interests include the Japanese language, school life, sports, and Japanese history and government.”
Both teachers feel that secondgraders truly enjoy learning about the world around them, and that discovering the differences and similarities that they share with other cultures feeds students’ curiosity and fuels their motivation for acquiring knowledge.