Is Our Humanities Curriculum Effective Enough?

I’ve always enjoyed creating and working on curriculum documents.  To me, it’s like a creative puzzle in need of solving.  Extracting data from various sources and combining it together with creativity, ingenuity, and a love for education is amazing.  When a curriculum comes together well, I’m left with a true sense of accomplishment: I made something.  With the introduction of the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards a few years ago, I’ve been even more excited.  These new standards provide new puzzles and problems to solve.  How can I craft a curriculum that incorporates everything in an engaging and meaningful way?  I love the challenges I face when creating or working on a curriculum.  Each year, I learn something new and find a way to alter and update my curriculum documents.  However, sometimes I wonder if my updates make the curriculum stronger or weaker.  Can I ever be certain that the curriculum I’ve crafted and use in the classroom is the most effective one for my students?  Am I best meeting the needs of my students with the curriculum I use or is the curriculum lacking in areas?

I had an interesting conversation with my co-teacher today regarding our Humanities curriculum.  Over the years we’ve worked together, we’ve completely overhauled the curriculum.  At first, we had two separate classes: Geography and English.  As we realized how well those two classes fit together like pieces in a beautiful puzzle, we created a Humanities class.  We then shifted to the Workshop model of literacy instruction a few years back to allow for choice and engagement amongst our students.  In the past two years, we’ve changed our curriculum even more to provide our students the opportunity to learn about the community in which the school resides.  This year, our community unit spans the entire year.  We spent the first half of the year studying the town of Canaan and its unique history.  We embarked on several field experiences and hands-on learning opportunities.  The students went on an archeological dig, created scavenger hunts for the local town museum, and are in the process of working on an intensive research project regarding a topic about Canaan’s past.  The students seem engaged and interested.

However, is it enough?  Are we best preparing the students for their future history classes?  Are we engaging those students who came to us excited and curious about history?  What about other cultures and communities?  Does it matter that we haven’t covered those in our curriculum?  Is place-based education strong enough to power our kids through their future history and English courses?  While we’ve aligned our curriculum with the CCSS and the NH History Standards, we have left things out.  Is that okay?  We know the English portion of our curriculum is viable and strong, but what about the history aspect?  Is it going to support our students?  We’ve already started talking about how we can set up our spring unit to discuss other communities and cultures around the world.  Perhaps that will help.  Is it necessary though?  If our students know how to think, inquire, investigate, ask questions, and study the world around them, isn’t that enough?  To be effective global citizens, aren’t those the skills our students will need?  Isn’t that enough?

While our curriculum is an ever changing and evolving document, we believe in what we do.  We feel that we have created an innovative, engaging, and relevant curriculum for our Humanities course.  It incorporates so many vital skills and strategies our students need to be successful members of our world.  Sure, it’s good to question and wonder, but it’s also important to have faith and trust as well.

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