First Day of School Activities for Political Science and Social Studies
Second Grade: The Importance of Groups
- It can be difficult to impart detailed knowledge of sociopolitical theory to very young pupils, so instead give them a grounding in the basic principles of social studies. A good early lesson for young pupils is the importance of individuals' interacting and working together in groups; this is how societies are formed. Take your class to the school gymnasium to play a game called ship-to-shore. Show the class which area of the gym is the ship and which is the shore.
Explain to them that you are going to shout out commands, such as "Walk backward to the shore" or "run to the ship," and they will have to comply. However, you will also shout out commands such as "rowing boat," in which three children sit in a line in the "sea" and pretend to row a boat; "octopus," in which groups of four pupils sit in a line and wave their eight arms like an octopus; and "sea star," in which five pupils lie in the "sea" in a star shape. Pupils who do not form a group, or are in the last group to perform the required action, are eliminated from the game.
Building a Classroom Community
- Slightly older pupils can better understand how a society works by taking part in a classroom community activity. Divide the class into pairs -- preferably pairs of pupils who do not know each other well -- and have the members of each pair ask each other questions and get to know each other. After five minutes of question asking, the members of each pair present the information they have learned about their partner to the rest of the class. This exercise teaches children about the importance of diversity in a community and how vital it is to get to know someone before making a judgment about him.
Grades 7 and 8: Wagon Trail Exercise
- An effective first-day-of-school activity for students in grades 7 and 8 is the wagon trail activity, which gets children thinking about the cultural and political aspects that shape nations and national identity. First, ask students which countries they would most like to visit. Chances are they will choose countries with famous landmarks, spectacular natural landscape or exotic wildlife.
To get students thinking about the social and political aspects of their chosen country, teacher Stephanie Schrull developed a set of research questions. Schrull asked her students to research the history of any attractions or special places, asking: How did the feature or attraction come to be there? Why is it there? Do any physical features contribute to its existence? Do any cultural features contribute to its existence, and how? Exercises such as these introduce the broader concepts of social and political influence on countries -- concepts that can be further explored later in the unit.
High School: Nations Presentation
- Divide your high school class into groups and give each group a country to research. Ask each group to focus on art, history, culture and literature and how these factors have shaped the development of the nation and the identity of its people. Each group must produce a computer presentation on its country and feed the information it discovers back to the class.
As the information is presented, members of other groups will begin to notice points of convergence between their countries and those of other groups, either in history or in artistic or literary movements. This exercise gives the students a basis for examining the political and social aspects of the global community, and introduces the concept of how culture molds a people's identity.