Social Studies in a transdisciplinary programme

Social studies learning guides students towards a deeper understanding of themselves and others, and of their place in an increasingly global society. It provides opportunities for students to look at and think about human behaviour and activity realistically, objectively, and with sensitivity. Exposure to and experience with social studies therefore opens doors to key questions about life and learning.

BIS recognises that teaching and learning social studies as a subject, while necessary, is not sufficient. Of equal importance is the need to learn social studies in context, exploring content relevant to students, and transcending the boundaries of the traditional subject area. The transdisciplinary themes provide the framework for a highly defined, focused, in-depth programme of inquiry, and as social studies is relevant to all the transdisciplinary themes, all planned social studies learning should take place within this framework. In return, the social studies knowledge and the application of that knowledge will enhance inquiries into the central ideas defined by the transdisciplinary themes.

There will be occasions that present themselves for student-initiated, spontaneous, social studies inquiries that are not directly related to any planned units of inquiry. These are valuable teaching and learning experiences in themselves and they provide teachers and students with the opportunity to apply the pedagogy of the PYP to authentic, of-the-moment situations.

The social studies component of the PYP should be characterised by concepts and skills rather than by content. However, schools should ensure that a breadth and balance of social studies content is covered through the units of inquiry. The knowledge component of social studies in the PYP is arranged into five strands: human systems and economic activities, social organisation and culture, continuity and change through time, human and natural environments, and resources and the environment. These strands are concept-driven and are inextricably linked to each other. They also provide links to other subject areas of the PYP curriculum mode.

Social studies strands

Human systems and economic activities

The study of how and why people construct organisations and systems; the ways in which people connect locally and globally; the distribution of power and authority.

Social organisation and culture

The study of people, communities, cultures and societies; the ways in which individuals, groups and societies interact with each other.

Continuity and change through time

The study of the relationships between people and events through time; the past, its influences on the present and its implications for the future; people who have shaped the future through their actions.

Human and natural environments

The study of the distinctive features that give a place its identity; how people adapt to and alter their environment; how people experience and represent place; the impact of natural disasters on people and the built environment.

Resources and the environment

The interaction between people and the environment; the study of how humans allocate and manage resources; the positive and negative effects of this management; the impact of scientific and technological developments on the environment.