The Social Studies revolve around people and how they interact with the world around them, and part of that entails preparing students to address ever-changing, global issues of the 21st century. This unit will begin with a focus on the geography of the Poles as a way to create a schema on which to build new information as students progress through the unit. The book that is used throughout the unit is available at most public libraries; it is called Poles Apart: Why Penguins and Polar Bears Will Never Be Neighbors (Scott, 2004). This text was the core of the unit design for Social Studies, as the beginning chapters introduce basic geography and the later chapters address the people and wildlife, as well as the effects of climate change on the people and wildlife at the Poles. The text also contains useful graphics with captions to scaffold the learning of visual learners in the classroom.
Select chapters from the book may be read out loud in the first half of the unit and students may fill out note sheets (see the Content Area Packet) so that they will have something to do and not be distracted. The problem of distraction can also be solved if enough copies of the book are found (a classroom set is preferred). The notes will also help them create questions later for their final project (more on that later). To compliment the note-taking aspect of the unit, four daily quizzes will also be administered to check comprehension as well as to ensure on-task listening behavior during read-aloud time.
Towards the end of Poles Apart, there are two chapters pertaining to the explorers of the Arctic and the Antarctic. A true connection can be made between the Social Studies and Language Arts content areas at this point, because their Language Arts text (Antarctica: Escape from Disaster) revolves around an exploring expedition in Antarctica. A discussion comparing and contrasting the two texts may be incorporated.
One class period is allocated to allow students to watch videos on the Internet from an educational website called Exploratorium.edu. This website has a special section dedicated to “climate change” and has several videos from which to choose, covering nearly every aspect of the topic imaginable. The Social Studies teacher is encouraged to preview all of the videos and decide which ones to incorporate into his or her instruction that day. A “Climate Change Videos Notes Page” is included in the Content Area Packet for students should the teacher decide to incorporate it as an assignment in the unit.
Finally, the last week of the unit in Social Studies is set aside for the students’ final project – creating a board game! Creating a board game allows students to be cooperative learners and to showcase their knowledge. Students may be divided into teams of either three or four students and each student will be given a role (see Content Area Packet for more details). By the last day of the unit, board games should be complete and ready to play. Students will display their board games on Open House Night for the community.
This unit will incorporate the following Kansas State Standards for 8th grade Social Studies: