Pittsfield Public Schools, Pittsfield, MA
During my first interview with a Pittsfield Public School system employee, I learned that local schools do not have a unified social studies curriculum. Essentially, up until this point teachers were struggling to provide students the content necessary to meet the Massachusetts social studies standards. Alongside another intern and two Conte Elementary teachers, my job this summer was to establish a strong foundation from which curriculum creation could easily emerge, in the hopes of better supporting teachers who are already busy.
This work involved collecting and presenting the social studies standards in a clear and concise way and looking toward the already existing ELA curriculum for grades pre-K-5 to match up standards and selected readings that cover similar topics. The goal was to create an academic timeline to inform teachers what content they should cover before teaching the selected stories so that students are not only meeting the social studies standards but also have the background/historical knowledge necessary to fully connect with the literature. Unfortunately, there are some standards not covered by the ELA-selected readings, and so it was up to my team to highlight those and offer suggestions for activities that would present these topics in a simple and engaging way. Our final task was to create a reference for educators to cover the intended standard. It’s my hope that these links to videos, games and general online information reduce the workload for teachers already struggling to integrate new techniques and tools into the classroom. The ultimate goal for the work completed by my team this summer was to present it to other nearby schools and begin to integrate social studies into the curricula that already exists.
Working at Conte Elementary on curriculum management gave me an inside look at the decisions that take place when choosing what information is presented to students. After spending two months sifting through social studies standards and ELA standards, as well as compiling educational resources, I feel I have a better understanding of the workload of most teachers and that our work will help them. I also learned that I am interested in building the frameworks necessary for any project to thrive more than I am interested in carrying out the project—in this case being a teacher. There is so much going on behind the scenes when it comes to education. Personally, I enjoyed the responsibility that came with being part of that crew. Another part of the internship was diversifying the available historical knowledge, and it was very interesting to see/hear what some professors had to say about their willingness to teach specific “difficult topics.” Being part of the team responsible for pushing diverse historical information was gratifying, and I am very glad I had the opportunity to be part of the curriculum team at Conte Elementary, which would not have been possible without the generous support of the ’68 Center and the Public Service Internship Program.