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A Fourth Grade Curriculum: Social Studies
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Geography: Continents and Oceans
In the United States, there is no such subject as geography. Instead, elementary school children are taught something called "Social Studies". Learning about geographical issues is subsumed under that heading.
This week, my daughter's teacher sent home a note to let parents know what would be on the social studies test: "On Thursday of this week, we will be taking a test on the location of the seven continents and four oceans. They will be asked to fill in the names of the continents and oceans in the proper locations. Practice pages are included with this note."
Attached to the note was the list of the continents and oceans, a map of the world with the continents and oceans labeled, and a blank map for the child to use for a practice test.
- Pacific Ocean
- Atlantic Ocean
- Indian Ocean
- Arctic Ocean
My daughter has a gigantic world atlas that her uncle bought for her when she was just a toddler. For the first few years she had it, the atlas was taller than she was. It's very heavy and comes with its own case. "Let's go look at the atlas," I said, taking the lists of the continents and oceans with me.
"Okay," Sword said. "But you have to help me put it back in the box afterwards." It sometimes takes two people to accomplish that task.
So we looked in the atlas until I was satisfied that my daughter knew where all the continents and oceans were.
Then we went back in the pens, where we had left the blank map. Sword pointed with her finger at each continent and called out its name. Then we did the oceans. When it came to the Pacific, she pointed to a spot in the left part of the paper, just west of the Americas.
I said: "Actually, this is also the Pacific," pointing to the other side of the page, just east of China.
My daughter took out the labeled map the teacher had given her. "No, the word Pacific goes here, see?"
"Yes," I said. "But it also goes here."
Sword gave me a skeptical look. "So there are two Pacific Oceans?"
"No, there's just one."
"Then how come ...?"
"This map is flat but the world is round. In the real world it's all one ocean."
Sword gave me an impatient glare. "I have to do what the teacher says. Pacific goes on the left side."
Note to self: get a globe.
The Global Outlook
That was yesterday, which was a Tuesday. Today is Wednesday: the day before the test. In addition to her gigantic atlas, Sword actually does also have a globe. She received it with the subscription to National Geographic for Kids that she got from her grandmother. The globe is inflatable, like a beach ball. I finally managed to find it this evening in a hall closet. All the air had gone out of it, so it was rather a flat globe. I used our air mattress pump to re-inflate it.
Then I showed Sword the Pacific again. "See, you can go all around. It's still the Pacific whichever way you come from: east or west." I thought she'd be impressed.
"Yes, I knew that already," she said.
"Yes. My teacher showed us that on the globe at school."
"Oh. She showed you today?"
"But I don't understand. Yesterday, you asked me if there were two of them."
"No, you don't understand. I know that it's just one ocean, and so does my teacher."
"Then what's the problem?"
"I'll get counted off if I don't write it the way it is on the study map. The word 'Pacific' goes on the left side."
That must be why it's called social studies.
(c) 2008 Aya Katz