Fountain Valley School District Students are getting history and social studies lessons that are probably very different from those their parents sat through.
As of this school year, students from kindergarten through eighth grade are learning about history not only from the traditional Western European viewpoint. Students also will learn about Asian and African histories and cultures and about religions of the world. They are encouraged to read literature written by and about people living in the Amazon Rain Forest, in Central Africa or on an American Indian reservation.
The multiethnic, multicultural strategy is the main force behind the new curriculum formally approved last week by the Fountain Valley School District Board of Trustees. The curriculum was implemented when school began in September.
“Our students will not go away with an ethnocentric point of view but a global one,” Supt. Ruben E. Ingram said. “It’s at the cutting edge of where curriculum instruction is.”
The 32 district teachers and administrators on the curriculum committee spent the last two years writing the instructional packets and lesson plans that will be used in all of the history and social studies classes. Whereas new texts were adopted for grades four through eight only, students in kindergarten through third grades will draw from short story books complemented by the district-written lessons.
Significant changes include using literature and primary sources more than texts and a greater emphasis on history and geography, according to Debbie Bowes, assistant superintendent of instruction and committee chairwoman.
She added that economics and geography will be introduced even in kindergarten and that historical, cultural, ethical and geographical literacy would be taught in every level. “We will be teaching the democratic values of the U.S. because that’s where we live, but we’re also teaching respect for other cultural values,” Bowes said.
The program also incorporates interdisciplinary elements, such as how art and literature affect the history of a particular period. “It is also sensitive of minority groups. For example, the role of women in any given time is discussed, not just that of the generals or great leaders of the time,” Bowes said.
“The feel of the program is a story well told instead of just lecturing,” she continued. “It’s an active account of history, getting students involved in talking about the ideas and bringing the past to life through participation.”