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What to expect in preschool: social studies

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By Diana Townsend-Butterworth

Special visitors

Parents, grandparents, and other adults from the community — such as police officers, firefighters, dentists, doctors, and artists — may be invited to come to the classroom to share stories about their jobs and cultural heritage. A parent who grew up in Portugal or Korea might bring in pictures of traditional costumes, tell a folk tale, or teach the children a dance or song. They might also prepare a favorite recipe for children to taste and explain how it is made and where the ingredients come from. Later the children draw pictures and write stories about the visit to reinforce what they have learned.

The classroom library

Children also learn about their history and other cultures through books they see in the classroom. Teachers read stories about children growing up in Russia, Iceland, Botswana, and on islands in the Caribbean. Children may act out the stories or learn traditional songs and dances. Bill Gordh, director of expressive arts at the Episcopal School in New York City, likes to spin a globe and tell a folk tale from whichever country the children point to.

9 ways to help at home

  1. Share the values that are important to you. Talk about the ways these values are reflected in your family's day-to-day life.
  2. Teach your children family traditions, and make these traditions an important part of their lives.
  3. Take your children on walks around the neighborhood and talk about local businesses. Find out what they sell and how they contribute to your community. Point out the schools, playgrounds, drugstores, firehouses, police stations, hospitals, and places of worship that are part of the community. Discuss the different cultures that contribute to the community.
  4. Make maps and drawings of your neighborhood.
  5. Read books about kids growing up in other lands and cultures.
  6. If grandparents or friends were born in other countries, invite them to share their experiences and traditions.
  7. Introduce your children to foods from other countries.
  8. Collect postcards from other countries and talk about them.
  9. Play music and folk songs from other countries and cultures.

Diana Townsend-Butterworth is a former teacher and head of the junior school at St. Bernard's School in New York City. She is the author of Your Child's First School and Preschool and Your Child.