The National Geographic Society, the National Council for Geographic Education, and the Association of American Geographers have all taken steps to improve the teaching of geography by publishing guidelines intended to facilitate and organize geography in K-12 classrooms. The Five Themes of Geography-location, place, relationships with places, movement, and regions used in conjunction with the six essential elements of Geography for Life standards-the world in spatial terms, places and regions, physical systems, human systems, environment and society, and the uses of geography are typically used by states and school districts to develop their standards. All places have physical and human characteristics that distinguish them. Physical characteristics include landforms, oceans, rocks, etc. A region is an area on Earth's surface defined by characteristics that are either natural or artificial unifying properties. Geographers recognize three types of regions: formal, functional, and vernacular. Formal regions are characterized by common human property, such as political, physical, language, culture, and economic class. Functional regions are organized around point-to-point activities such as transportation systems and communication systems. Vernacular regions are based on peoples' perceptions and feelings about an area and varies from person to person, for example, the Sun Belt or the Coal Region. The National Geographic Standards divide the Earth's system into four interacting physical spheres: the lithosphere (land), hydrosphere (water), atmosphere (air, climate, and meteorology). No part of Earth's system is considered in isolation from one another. Students must be aware that the physical environment is the catalyst for all human activity on Earth and to understand that the systems work through interactions of its components; Earth is a dynamic planet with many separate but interacting spheres. Geographers and other scientists study how the spheres are interconnected in order to understand Earth as a system made up of numerous interacting parts. Geography is often described as a bridge of disciplines, integrating the natural and social sciences with topics that frequently overlap such as the hydrologic cycle, the weather and climate, tectonic forces, wave action, earthquakes, volcanoes, soil-building processes, and seasons. 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. Is the process of teaching fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles that unite all Americans. The elementary curriculum provides the conceptual framework for character education. Children participate in character education as they learn in democratic classrooms where adults model civic character and children experience the ideals of citizenship. Historically, teaching values has been controversial because of opposing viewpoints with respect to its appropriateness. With respect to these viewpoints, there are questions regarding which values an whose values. The Center for Civic Education states that there is a list of basic democratic values, found in the Constitution and other documents, that children ought to have and schools ought to teach. Students should be able to explain the importance of (1) individual rights to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness; (2) the public or common good; (3) justice; (4) equality of opportunity; (5) diversity; (6) truth; and (7) patriotism. Four pedagogical techniques are helpful in teaching and reinforcing character and civic virtue: reading and discussing books exemplifying civic character, engaging in decision-making activities, working to promote values and principles of American democracy, and recognizing the importance of symbols and holidays to national identity. Students must know that the world is divided into many nations and that each is made up of its own people, laws, and government. The ways governments serve citizens of countries around the world vary greatly. Globalization is the process of interaction among the people, companies, and governments of different nations driven by international trade, human mobility, and information technology. Globalization affects political systems, the environment, culture, economic development and prosperity, and human physical well-being. Intergovernmental organizations have assumed an increasingly important role in global economic affairs. Nongovernmental organizations bring together people from around the world to deal with issues such as human rights, health, climate change, energy use, and child labor regulations. All groups have a culture-a unique system of behaviors, beliefs, and customs. Culture consists of all the accepted and patterned ways of a group's behavior; its ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. Hidalgo's three levels of culture (1) concrete, (2) behavioral, and (3) symbolic are useful for incorporating into the curriculum and planning elementary instruction. When studying culture, plan carefully, verify the subject matter content, and provide authentic activities. Rather than being culturally confirming, activities may be culturally assaultive and disrespectful. Review all teaching resources carefully and ensure your teaching of culture is not culturally assaultive. Anthropologists speculate that long ago, humans searched for answers about their world. Some consider animism (spirit worship) to be one of humanity's oldest attempts to create explanations for the mysteries of the world. Animists believe that life-spirits inhabit natural features. These spirits have a consciousness and affect the well-being of humans. Animism exists in various forms today. Examples include the Shinto religion in Japan, some Hindu groups and some Native American religions. The New Age movement supports that everything has a soul. Polytheism, or belief in multiple gods also includes many contemporary religions including Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism and some trial religions of Africa and the Americas. Monotheism is the belief that there is only one God. The largest monotheistic religions today are Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Sikhism. Henotheism is the worship of one god without denying the existence of others. Most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic. The classroom implications of the Supreme Court rulings are articulated in "Religious Liberty, Public Education, and the Future of American Democracy" which explains that public schools may not teach religion in a devotional or doctrinal manner, although teaching about religion in a historical, cultural, or literary context is permitted. Public schools are forbidden to promote, inhibit, or denigrate any religion or lack of religious belief, and when teaching about religion, instruction must be carried out in an objective, factual manner. In summary, teaching about religion in a secular context is permitted and encouraged, teaching religion is considered indoctrination. The American Academy of Religions identified four approaches to teaching about religion: (1) the historical approach (2) the literary approach, (3) the traditions-based approach, and (4) the cultural studies approach. In elementary schools, the study of religion focuses on histories, customs, basic beliefs, and histories of the world's major religions. Anthropology is a comprehensive discipline that deals with human beings across all times and all places-the totality of a group's beliefs, behaviors, language, customs, values, arts, norms, morals, rules, tools, technologies, products, organizations, education, religion, and institutions. Respect for differences means weaving all facets of diversity into the school curriculum when comparing cultures around the world. Over the years, a variety of strategies have been used to incorporate cultural perspectives into social studies programs. Dynamic social studies programs do not exist merely to transmit a massive data package that often results in partial or shallow understanding of our world. Instead, they encourage comprehensive and interconnected experiences that enlighten students' understandings of cultures, past and present. The United States is a culturally diverse nation. We are of many colors, speak many languages, and celebrate many unique customs and traditions. The United States experienced its first major wave of voluntary immigration during the colonial era, slavery and successive waves of immigration brought people from Africa, Asia and Europe. Other than slaves who were brought to America against their will, immigrants left their homelands to escape religious, racial, and political persecution as well as famine and poverty. Eventually the term melting pot gained popularity as the way to describe how people of different cultures could be dissolved, mixed and blended into an existing society. Today, a new wave of immigration is bringing immigrants from Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, motivated mainly by political instability in their regions and better economic opportunities. The notion of a melting pot has given way to alternative analogies, such as salad bowl, mosaic, pizza or patchwork quilt, where each culture retains its unique characteristics that are still identifiable within the larger, overall structure. The foundation of social studies instruction is based on this idea of cultural pluralism-becoming aware of and sensitive to the various ethnic groups that make up society as a whole. 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.
The lines between sociology and anthropology can be fuzzy. The two disciplines study behavior of humans within groups. They share the same social phenomena-such as family dynamics-and often use the same approaches to scientific inquiry. There are differences however, sociologists concentrate primarily on the behavior of people in social groups, while anthropologists work most actively to study humanity. The second difference is found in the way they carry out their research. The preferred anthropological research is participant observation, but they also dig to locate artifacts, carry out interview, historical analysis, and cross-cultural comparisons. Sociologists on the other hand gather date through distinctive statistical methods such as survey research, case studies, interviews and content analysis. In this text, sociology is the scientific study of social groups, as well as patterns of group interaction and behavior. 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.