By studying the exploration of the Western Hemisphere, the consequences of this search and the establishment of different governments, fifth graders can begin to make sense of their own world and past through well-researched reports and gain historical context of their country and culture.
Fifth graders should analyze explorers of the Western Hemisphere as part of social studies in that grade level, says the Mississippi Department of Education. Early explorers, like the Vikings, could be researched in terms of when they reached the North American continent and by what route. Moving forward through history, fifth graders could also consider the consequences of exploration. For example, reports might delve into how Native Americans were affected by explorers like Christopher Columbus, Hernando Cortes and Juan Ponce de Leon.
Many states, like Kansas, require fifth grade students to focus on the process of America establishing its independence from Britain. Being separated by the Atlantic Ocean, America developed an identity that was distinct from Britain and then began to reject certain British policies that sought to establish influence and control. Doing a research paper centering on certain events, like the Boston Tea Party, the Stamp Act or the French and Indian War, helps fifth graders learn the context of America's struggle to establish its own identity and ultimately declare its independence from a mighty colonial power of the time.
The cultural history of the Western Hemisphere is rich, with British, Spanish, French and Native American influences. North Carolina's state standards, for example, seek to help fifth graders to understand these cultures through the study of myths, games, songs and types of art of North, Central and South America. By comparing and contrasting the cultural differences between these areas in a research paper, students develop a working knowledge of each specific region based on its culture.
Legacy of the Past
Like many states, Washington focuses on the exploration of the Western Hemisphere and the founding of the United States in the fifth grade and requires students to examine the legacy of these events and how they impact our lives today. A report dealing with how important historic documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, affect current public policy would be an appropriate choice for a fifth-grader. Additionally, the concept of "no taxation without representation" could be looked at to help understand current public opinion of federal and state taxes.
- Mississippi Department of Education: Mississippi Social Studies Framework
- Kansas Standards for History, Government and Social Studies -- 5th Grade
- Public Schools of North Carolina: Fifth Grade Social Studies Crosswalk
- Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction: Social Studies Unit Outlines -- Fifth Grade
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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