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Human systems are composed of population, culture, and settlement as well as the relationship among these factors. Students must understand the interactions of human and environmental factors that explain the characteristics of human populations including their distribution and movement. Early human populations were nomads who searched for edible plants, game, and water. Eventually, they learned how to cultivate crops and domesticate livestock, enabling them to settle instead of wander from place to place in search of food. Early civilizations began as farming settlements in fertile river valleys. Agricultural surpluses made it possible to feed many people, freeing some to develop non-agricultural trades. These permanent settlements grew into villages. Complex societies had five basic features: (1) a stable food supply; (2) specialization of labor; (3) system of government; (4) social levels; and (5) highly developed culture. The movement and growth of populations continues to modern times in two forms: voluntary and involuntary. Migration is one of the most distinctive characteristics of human populations. Migrations can be temporary or seasonal, prompted by push factors that drive people away, or pull factors that draw people to a place. Migrating people carry their culture with them. Culture is the total way of life of a group of people-values, goals, and practices. Language, religion, literature, and architecture are components that give cultures unique identities. A cultural region establishes the location of distinct communities with common elements; cultural diffusion explains how groups with common traits got there. Generally, cultures originate in a particular location and spread outward. Culture is on of the leading concepts taught in interdisciplinary elementary social studies programs.
Teachers should provide effective and successful instruction that demonstrates their understanding of and commitment to practices that confirm and build on the ethnicity of their students. This instruction, known as culturally responsive teaching, is a process described as having the following characteristics:
-it acknowledges the legitimacy of the cultural heritages of different ethnic groups, both as legacies that affect students' dispositions, attitudes, and approaches to learning and as worthy content to be taught in the formal curriculum.
-it builds bridges of meaningfulness between home and school experiences as well as between academic abstractions and lived sociocultural realities.
-it uses a wide variety of instructional strategies that are connected to different learning styles.
-it teaches students to know and praise their own and each other's cultural heritages.
-it incorporates multicultural information, resources, and materials in all the subjects and skills routinely taught in schools.
Social studies programs that are responsive to cultural diversity and pluralism are commonly referred to as multicultural programs or multicultural education. In this chapter, multicultural education is an approach to classroom methodology and content selection that recognizes and values the complex dimensions of American cultures and society. Banks suggests blending four approaches to multicultural education into teaching situations. These include:
(1) the contributions approach-ethnic or cultural content is limited to special days, weeks, months, or events, such as MLK Day, Black History Month, Women's History Month or Cinco De Mayo;
(2) the additive approach-the teacher adds content into the curriculum without restructuring it, but the content is still viewed from the perspective of the mainstream culture. For example, including a section on the Wampanoags while teaching a unit about the pilgrims of New England;
(3) the transformative approach-students experience concepts, issues, themes, and problems from several ethnic/cultural perspectives and points of view. For example, students learn how mainstream American culture emerged from a complex blend of diverse groups that make up American society, and;
(4) the social action approach-contains all of the elements described so far, but includes components that required students to make decisions or take actions related to concepts, issues, themes, and problems. For example, writing letters to agencies and organizations addressing the issue of racial tension in their community.
It is true that all children are special, but children with special needs have extreme differences in the way they develop or behave and may require help because of a physical or mental challenge. They may require medical prescriptions, specialized therapies, corrective care or concentrated help in school other children do not typically need. To effectively implement the spirit of inclusion, teachers must learn about it and though there are no simple solutions, the following general suggestions are offered:
-seek professional support for resources, information and emotional support.
-learn about the child's specific disability-children with disabilities are first children. Take time to learn something about him or her and use information from specialists in the field.
-support and nurture children with disabilities-encourage them to take risks, let them know it is okay to make mistakes.
-arrange a suitable classroom-be sure materials are accessible and explain to other children why adaptations have been made.
-select books that help children learn about and appreciate disabilities-literature can be an important path to understanding and acceptance by promoting questions, conversations, and empathy.
-maximize interactions among children with disabilities and non disabled children-provide short, honest explanations in response to questions and encourage children with disabilities to share their strengths.
Inclusion involves changes in attitudes, behaviors, and teaching styles. Plan you inclusive social studies program to fit your children's various abilities.