SHELDON—Social studies and science in grades five and six have been revamped for the better in recent years at Sheldon Middle School, according to Callie Nordahl and Tami Van Meeteren.
The educators spoke to the Board of Education on March 9 about curriculum changes for those subjects, which each of them teaches.
Nordahl said the process involved updated content for each topic along with new assessments to go along with them.
The change is intended to align courses with Iowa Core investigative standards, though Nordahl said the new curricula are also modernized and more structured.
“It’s been good to create a structure and make it a bit more innovative for our students, but also freshen it up a bit,” she said.
In fifth-grade social studies, students focus on civic rights and responsibilities. They also learn the history of the founding of the United States from the colonial period to the American Revolution. Meanwhile, sixth graders learn about geography and ancient civilizations around the world.
The new curriculum emphasizes making connections between historical events and the lives of students today.
“Hopefully it’s a little more relevant to students instead of just sitting down and reading a textbook and memorizing dates and people,” Nordahl said.
School board members were able to see an example of these historical connections up close. Several Nordahl sixth graders presented a project in which they discussed an invention of an ancient civilization and its evolution to the present.
Van Meeteren spoke about changes to the science curriculum, which are aligned with next-generation science standards and incorporate earth science, physical science, and life science.
The program emphasizes student research, the use of modeling and data, hands-on projects, and trial-and-error learning.
“Something I’ll say, ‘I don’t care if you’re wrong right now. I don’t care if you’re wrong now. It’s okay to be wrong right now,'” Van Meeteren said. But then, as we go through it: “OK, now why were you wrong? What have you learned now?”
Some of his students also came to the council meeting to present their recent projects on the four natural spheres of the Earth: the geosphere, the atmosphere, the biosphere and the hydrosphere.
Van Meeteren also said the new social studies curriculum includes a financial literacy unit, during which students learn about money and how to use it.
She remembers a parent thanking her a few years ago for teaching financial literacy because of the practicality of a skill.
Van Meeteren said implementing and adapting to the new program had not been easy and described it as “a big work in progress”.
“I’ve been at it for many years, and it’s like old dog, new stuff,” she said. “Sometimes the old dog is really tired, but I gave it my all. And it’s hard to change. Change is hard, but we have to embrace that change and do our best.