Campus School across the Green

Social Studies Curriculum at The Campus School

  • Montessori Social Studies


    Children as young as three begin an early study of physical and cultural geography. 

    We have two basic objectives in presenting geography to young children. The first is to help them develop a clearer sense of spatial orientation through enriched and intensive interaction and experience. 

    The second is to encourage children to become aware of and accept other cultures through related experiences in cultural studies. 

    Children usually enter school without clear concepts or the vocabulary of spatial relations (up, down, near, far, and so forth). At the same time, young children have a strong need for order in their environment. The order established in a Montessori prepared environment help them to develop these concepts. We study cartography (mapping skills) and physical geography, cultural geography, and economic geography (natural resources, crops, industries, how goods are transported to market). In the early years, we introduce children to these concepts, and build on this knowledge in the later years. 

    Geography is important both as a necessary conceptual framework and spatial orientation, and as a bridge to the development of the child's understanding and appreciation of the story of humankind and nature. As in other areas of the Montessori curriculum, we first give children the big picture, then move gradually to the details: names of countries, rivers and mountains, and a grasp of the cultures of other lands. The framework is always our relationship to the Earth: how we meet our basic needs (shelter, food, clothing, transportation, defense, ornamentation, and self-expression) under varying geographic conditions.



    Montessori’s integrated thematic curriculum allows a broad scope of study in the areas of history, geography, and cultural studies. 

    History begins with the “Big Bang” and the formation of the universe and, within it, of our solar system. Children start with the story of how the world began, how it began to cool, the formation of the atmosphere and oceans, and the emergence of life. 

    They study the story of life on Earth up through the geological eras to the last ice ages and the emergence of the earliest humans. The children also study the emergence of human beings during the old and new stone ages, the development of the first civilizations, and the universal needs common to all humanity. 

    For older Elementary students, the focus is respectively on early humans, ancient civilizations, and early- American history (or the early history of the many other countries in which Montessori schools are found). Montessori tries to present a sense of living history at every level through direct hands-on experiences. Students build models of ancient tools and structures, prepare their own manuscripts, make ceremonial masks, and recreate all sorts of artifacts of everyday life of historical eras. 

    Experiences such as these make it much easier for Montessori children to appreciate history as it is taught through books. While Montessori schools are communities apart from the outside world, in which children can first begin to develop their unique talents, they are also consciously connected to the local, national, and global communities. 

    The goal is to lead each student to explore, understand, and grow into full and active membership in the adult world. Field trips provide opportunities to explore the world outside the classroom. Younger elementary children often use simplified research card material and charts in their studies.


    Primary Social Studies


    Preschool Social Studies Overview –3 and 4 Year Olds


    The preschool social studies curriculum is based upon the PA Learning Standards for Early Childhood. The experiences and activities lay the foundation for children to understand important social studies content as they move into the K-8 Campus School social studies program.


    As human beings we are aware of our environment and the people in it as soon as we are born. Preschool age children are aware of rituals within their home/cultural, curious about all people and are active within their environment. Preschool social studies topics include integrated content that develops throughout the school years. Units and topics include: “Spaces and Geography,” in which children learn about different types of dwellings all over the world, explore what it means to live within different communities, begin to understand the concept of city, state, country, world, and explore maps as visual representations of actual places. Students develop their understanding of how people are similar or different, compare and contrast their own characteristics and their families with others, demonstrate knowledge about community helpers and their roles, identify rules and consequences of the classroom, and learn about other important social skills in the unit “People and How They Live.” They explore essential questions such as How do things, people or places change? Does the sequence of events matter? and Why do we use words to describe time? while studying “People and the Past.” In units “Economic Systems” and “Laws and Citizenship” describe how food and other goods are produced and distributed, develop their understanding of how people acquire money, practice the use of money through role playing. They learn about the need for rules to protect citizens and support community living and how conflicts can be resolved through communication and compromise.


    Through multiple learning strategies, students develop their understanding of themselves and their world so that they are prepared for the next step in their education.


    Kindergarten Social Studies


    The kindergarten social studies curriculum introduces and reinforces a variety of learning skills while exposing students to civics, economics, geography, and history. As kindergartners, students begin to develop an understanding of civics, through our study of school, family and community. For example, in the first quarter kindergarteners start by learning the importance of rules and participate in developing the class rules. There is a strong focus on developing community and learning social skills that help our community become a safe, caring place to learn and play. Students practice skills like negotiating, voting, and coming to consensus. They also learn about citizenship, friendship and basic economics including jobs, consumers, producers, as well as wants, and needs in the first nine weeks of school. Second nine weeks has an emphasis on family, traditions and holidays. We welcome families to share traditions that reflect their own cultural experiences. Transportation, history, U.S. symbols and beginning map skills are the major topics in the third quarter. We end the year by continuing with map skills, landforms, Earth Day and caring for natural resources. These units are supplemented with Harcourt topics and content, big books, and activities. In addition to the themes mentioned we are committed to providing students with monthly lessons on historical figures. These are based in part on relevant holidays but also on student interest, providing a diverse range of stories from our shared history.


    First Grade Social Studies


    In first grade, students build upon the foundations in kindergarten as they explore the importance of community, friendship, and patriotism. Units include Rules and Laws; Where People Live; We Love Our Country; Our Changing World; Meeting People; The Marketplace. Students develop skills using charts and graphs, maps and globes, and strengthen reading skills using social studies content. Primary documents, biographies, and literature connections help students explore big idea and important questions.


    Second Grade Social Studies


    In second grade, community, friendship, and patriotism continue to be a focus as students expand their understanding of their world and their place in it.  Harcourt units in second grade include: Governing the People; The World Around Us; Using Our Resources; People Long Ago; A World of Many People; People in the Marketplace. Each unit includes a focus on a big idea, related skill development, vocabulary development, links to reinforcing activities and games, multimedia biographies, interactive timelines, primary sources, map and globe skills, and a unit project.


    Intermediate Social Studies


    Third Grade Social Studies


    In third grade, topics include Communities and Geography, How Communities Change, how Many Cultures form One Country, how Communities at Work reflect economic connections, and how Communities and Government are related. As part of their studies, third graders create Fantasy Island Salt Dough Maps, study and illustrate landforms, which is a focal point of their study of Native Americans, and create Save Our Resources posters, which explore the topic of renewable and nonrenewable resources. Literature based connections include The Lorax and The Great Kapok Tree, which provide a basis for student study of ecosystems.


    Fourth Grade Social Studies


    In fourth grade, major topics include Colonial Pennsylvania and History and Geography of the States and Regions of the United States.   Students learn about our state and study the regions of Pennsylvania, making salt dough maps representing the regions and landforms.  Students be learn about the Native Americans of our state, the early settlers in Pennsylvania, and English settlements. Their study of Pennsylvania culminates in a research project on Pennsylvania. In the second semester, students study United States Regions, connecting to the Campus School’s beloved traditional State Fair, held in the spring.  Using graphic organizers, post-its, foldables, and choice boards, students continue to practice geography and map skills, increase understanding of cause and effect, and develop note-taking and study skills.


    Fifth Grade Social Studies


    In fifth grade, students are ready to engage in a more global perspective and begin to study world regions. Units focus on North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Building on previous skills, students continue to develop understanding of geography skills, maps and globes, and reading charts, graphs, and time lines.  Note-taking and study skills continue to develop using graphic organizers and other strategies. Students use resources for research and cite resources used in a bibliography. As they learn about geographic regions of the world, students explore world cultures too.


    Middle School Social Studies


    Sixth Grade Social Studies


    The Middle School social studies curriculum builds upon the skills and knowledge students have developed as primary and intermediate students at the Campus School. In sixth grade, the overall theme is Ancient Civilizations.   Units include Prehistory, The Fertile Crescent, Ancient India, an interdisciplinary unit with language arts based on the novel Shadow Spinner, Islam, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome. As part of their studies, students organize and analyze information in several ways. They created human history timelines with different scales, use Venn diagrams to compare Assyria and Babylon, and develop webs about Otzi the Iceman. Because the development of writing is such a key component of civilizations, students experiment with cuneiform writing on clay tablets, study the importance of the development of the alphabet system of Phoenicia, and justify the view that ‘cursive writing is a blessing’ by comparing it to other writing systems. Students learn about another key development of civilizations by studying how law and government began. For example, they examine primary sources such as excerpts from Hammurabi’s Code and compare it to the Campus School Code. Another major theme of the Ancient Civilizations course is a strong focus on the way individuals impact civilization. When studying ancient Greece, students learn about the impact Pericles made on the Golden Age of Athens, and how Socrates shaped western civilization. The study of India includes an introduction of the rich religious connections to cultural development as students learn about Hinduism and Buddhism. They write their own ‘Upanishads’ and create a group essay comparing key ideas of the two religions. The theme of how religion impacts civilization continues when students study the history of the brth of Islam and read the novel Shadow Spinner in language arts class and social studies class. The novel is a retelling of the famous tales of Scheherazade and the 1001 Arabian Nights, allowing students to engage with the history of Persia and the development of Islam, independent research, and oral storytelling. The Ancient Civilization course concludes with a study of Greece and Rome, with a particular focus on the development of government. Students continue to engage with primary documents, explore the role of famous individuals such as Julius Caesar on civilization’s development, and make further connections between civilizations as they explore commonalities and unique features. In the end, students will have a rich background to draw from, as they respond to the question, “How have ancient civilizations shaped U.S. history and the world?”


    Seventh Grade Social Studies


    Students in the seventh grade study American History from 1770-1865. They also have a guiding question that unifies their studies: “How does early U.S. history reflect the development of universal rights?” Units include Revolutionary Times; America’s New Government; The Early Presidents; Jacksonian Democracy; A Dividing Nation; and the Civil War. During our study of American history, students are engaged in several projects and activities. They view the movie 1776, which helps students to relate to so many key historical figures, and develop skits and speeches ‘in character’ that demonstrate their understanding of the issues debated by the Second Continental Congress, the process of writing the Declaration of Independence, and the ways in which historical fiction dramatize and interpret historical events. They analyze primary documents such as Thomas Paine’s The Crisis, Paul Revere’s woodcut of The Boston Massacre, the grievances of the Declaration of Independence, Washington’s Farewell Address, the “Declaration of Sentiments” (the document that set the stage for the birth of the women’s movement) and several primary sources related to the Civil War. They research modern constitutional issues related to the Bill of Rights as they begin to understand the ‘living nature‟ of the Constitution’s ongoing impact on our lives. They analyze and design political cartoons as a way to understand key concepts of the presidency of Andrew Jackson; they read a Civil War novel in social studies class (Bull Run, by Paul Fleischman ) and use analytical skills as they generalize ideas related to the novel and the connections to history. They are challenged to justify their arguments and ideas by thinking and speaking critically, as they gain a deeper understanding of the country they call home.


    Eighth Grade Social Studies


    Students in the eighth grade study late nineteenth century and twentieth century American History, especially as it relates to world history. Units include Reconstruction; the Gilded Age; Social Darwinism and Progressivism; World War One; The Holocaust and World War Two; The Cold War; and The Sixties. Their studies lead them to address the question, “Is the U.S exceptional in world history?” Eighth grade students begin the year with a review of the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era which followed. Included in their study, students view the movie Glory to learn about the important role played in the war by the first African American regiment, the Massachusetts 54th. The movie also helps develop an understanding of battle situations and social situations of the time. After viewing the movie, students also further develop their understanding of how historical fiction employs both historical information and fictional changes. Student discussion centers on just what constitutes “acceptable” historical changes for the purposes of drama, and which changes were significant in changing understanding of the “deeper” historical truths presented in the movie. They also participate in a sharecropper simulation, and analyze the data to help them understand the concept of ‘de facto and ‘de jure’ slavery as they explore topics related to the post-Civil War period, and address the unit’s essential question, “Why was the failure of Reconstruction a tragedy for African Americans? (in fact, ALL Americans?)” Students visit The Frick and the Carrie Blast Furnace when they study The Gilded Age and Social Darwinism and Progressivism, as they learn about late 19th and early 20th century political thinking. As part of their study eighth graders read and analyze an excerpt from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, discuss the role of industrialists in shaping America, and explore their actions as those of “robber barons” or "captains of industry.” Students demonstrate critical thinking as they consider modern issues from a Social Darwinist or Progressivist approach in order to apply their understanding as they use an interactive online tool to balance the Federal Budget. When studying World War One, stduents study key events of the war, and explore multiple primary document resources and video content related to WWI as they engage in independent learning activities.  Following their study of WWI, students view the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as a springboard to explore topics related to the question of cynicism and idealism in American politics, and create a comic strip or movie review that addresses the modern implications of Mr. Smith’s idealism in today’s world. Their study of the Holocaust and World War Two provides a depth of knowledge about these topics. Included in these units is an historical fiction novel, Daniel’s Story, by Carol Matas; a focus on the phases of the Holocaust; an examination of the HBO documentary Reporter, following NY Times reporter Nick Kristof as he investigates modern issues of genocide; analysis of political cartoons of the period; and a look at WWII from the Japanese point of view, with the opportunity to demonstrate critical thinking skills as students discuss and address the question, “Was Truman justified in dropping the atomic bomb?” Students complete their eighth grade social studies class with a survey of Cold War and Sixties topics, with special attention on the Vietnam War, the protest movement of the 60s, and the Civil Rights movement. As their time at Carlow concludes, they will have the skills and strong background in the discipline that will enable them to be successful as they pursue their studies in high school.