Neither the Dynamic Learning Maps Essential Elements or the Common Core State Standards has essential elements listed for Social Studies. The Texas standards list essential elements in the Early Childhood Vertical Alignments and Texas Early Learning Pathways in the domain of Social Studies. The focus of Social Studies includes skills related to people (past and present), economics, geography and citizenship skills. At the pre-school level this includes such goals as:
- Child identifies similarities and differences between himself, classmates and other children inclusive of specific characteristics and cultural influences.
- Child demonstrates understanding of what it means to be a consumer.
- Child explores geography tools and resources.
- Child demonstrates that all people need food, clothing, and shelter.
- Child discusses the roles and responsibilities of family, school, and community helpers.
- Child identifies flags of the United States and Texas.
Skills that are developed prior to pre-school age (5 years) that relate to these essential elements include such things as:
- Turns toward familiar voices; looks intently at new faces
- Enjoys pointing to or naming pictures of family members
- Touches others’ faces, skin, or hair
- Recognizes characteristics of people
- Plays games that have pretend roles (grocer, veterinarian, firefighter)
- Discusses the roles and responsibilities of community workers
- Organizes life around events, time, and routines
- Imitates adult actions (using a stamp on paper, talking on a telephone)
- Moves to explore areas around them
- Goes to the correct location for familiar activities (table for snack)
- Begins to understand where things are located (teacher at school, Grandma’s house in big building)
- Identifies common features in their environment (own street name, name of town)
Identifies similarities and differences between himself, classmates and other children
For many of the children who are blind or visually impaired, their identification of people, places and things will be primarily through touch either exclusively or in support of their available vision. This means the child might identify familiar people through a physical characteristic like their hair, a beard, or a piece of jewelry worn everyday. The adults working with the child need to make sure they introduce themselves to the child each time they interact with them and allow the child time to explore physical features that will help identify the adult. They also need opportunities to get to know their peers in similar ways.
- Playing with dolls or doing activities that help the child begin to recognize that all people have similar features (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, head, etc.)
- Children benefit from doing movement and interaction activities that help the child to become aware of their body parts such as hand-games, utilizing materials such as wrist scarves or things attached to feet and legs, playing with another child or adult trying on over-sized shoes, hats, clothes, etc. Any type of fine or gross movement activity helps the child develop a better body awareness.
Like many other children, children at the earliest developmental levels may need opportunities to experience specific roles of individuals. Children who are visually impaired or blind need to have hands-on experiences doing a variety of activities.
- Take part in various activities such as cooking simple foods, taking care of animals, or growing and tending to plants;
- Explore and play with items associated with various jobs such as a water hose used by a fireman or someone in a plant nursery;
- Play in and explore objects and activities related to jobs people might have such as gardening center, pet center, kitchen center;
- Visit the spaces and professionals they encounter daily at home and school to begin to make these connections. For example, visit the school nurse in her office regularly and explore things like a stethoscope, tongue depressors, or other medical equipment. Regularly greet the school bus driver and, if possible, arrange several opportunities to explore where the driver sits to drive the bus or play with the opening the door and climbing the steps.
Demonstrates understanding of what it means to be a consumer
Part of the experiences a child needs to have is traveling to stores, buying items, and learning about money. Many of children at the earliest developmental levels may have limited ability to participate fully in these activities. Still they can benefit from having some time to explore when they go to a grocery store, hardware store, pet shop or other location.
- As much as possible, try to incorporate visits to these locations when you have time to “browse” with the child. Let the child pick up various objects that have different shapes, textures, weights, etc.
- If the child has a favorite food, let him carry it or give it to the person at checkout.
- Include items like expired credit cards, large coins, even paper money in the materials the child plays with or explores. Put them inside purses or wallets for the child to take out.
Explores geography tools and resources
Geography begins with the spaces the child inhabits on a daily basis. Understanding where you are in space, in a room, in a school, are all skills needed by the child to navigate his world. Children who are visually impaired or deafblind should receive services from an orientation and mobility instructor who can consult with the team on activities related to orientation. Geography also relates to various features of land and spaces and understanding how these features are formed.
Here are some of the skills at a preschool level that appear in a curriculum:
- Child identifies and creates common features in the natural environment.
- Child explores geography tools and resources.
Here are some activities that support the development of these skills:
- When a child is ready for constructive play, let them have opportunities to build roads or railroad tracks that travel to different parts of the room;
- Explore globes and tactile maps;
- Create a pathway or obstacle course for the child to follow;
- Point out geographical features such as a hill or pond on a walk;
- Play in the sandbox and build hills, ponds, roads, etc.;
- Make “houses” out of cardboard boxes to go in and out of or explore outdoor play spaces;
- Ride trikes or other moving toys on sidewalks or outdoor area;
- Take a walk or explore various parts of the yard, playground, or building;
- Throughout the day, set up a regular schedule of routines to begin to create a sense of time and locations associated with specific activities. For example, designate a place for grooming activities, eating, utilizing specific pieces of Active Learning equipment or interacting with specific people;
- Explore a space during independent play by purposefully placing objects on the Resonance Board to find again later;
- Travels back and forth in a HOPSA dress becoming familiar with the location of objects underfoot and their position relative to one another;
- Have the child help collect materials for activities; (Note: At first the child might only help retrieve a favorite object used in the activity and later they might help open cabinet doors and find materials or help pick things up and put them away.)
- When they are at the developmental level nearing 48 months, they may begin to be able to identify the name of the town or street where they live.
- Play games where they hide an object and tell others how to find it using positional terms like up, down, over, under, beneath, in front of and so forth.