Tuesday, March 05, 2013

More culturally appropriate social studies

Miriam has had some exams this week, so some of her textbooks have been at home to use during revision. My favorite is her social studies textbook. The chapter we went through together yesterday afternoon is all about customs, traditions, and where people live all around the world. And it continues to present the material in a way that is relevant and appropriate for a kid living in the UAE, regardless of nationality.

The book talks about cities, towns, villages, and...the desert, all as equally acceptable habitats for different people. It profiles a kid each living in Dubai, Asyut, and a family living as nomads in the Jordanian desert. Again, it's not presented as "this is something outlandish in a country far away that you may never see but you should know about it just for the sake of it," but as "now you know more about those people you see living in tents in the wilderness" - or even, "ahhh, so that's what you call Grandpa."

It explains what a tribe is, and why it's important to certain cultures. It talks about traditions and customs and even styles of dress, with pictures. In the section about warm-weather climates and the clothing people wear in such places, it assumes long, loose clothes with some kind of head covering as the norm. I know that is counter-intuitive for those of us who grew up in sartorially less conservative places like the US.

There's even a small section on food, and of course they talk about mansaf - a picture of it, a description of it, and a reference to the fact that you are supposed to eat it with a certain three fingers of your right hand (the book is published in Jordan, which is why I say "of course").

I'm probably having more fun than Miriam learning Grade 2 social studies. She can appreciate it on a student level, but I'm so pleased as a parent that it's teaching her interesting things in a relevant way.

Now, if only someone would write a practice-decimals/fractions-using-currency textbook that features UAE dirhams. This year, Miriam's poor teacher (or some other Grade 2 teacher) painstakingly cropped together photocopied images of the different coin denominations into a handmade packet of decimal/fraction practice, because no ready-made materials were available. That said, sometimes I worry that Miriam will never learn 1/100, 1/20, or 1/10 (pennies, nickels, and dimes) as they relate to currency because the dirham's smallest division is 1/4. Ah, the advantages of the American dollar.


Kathy Haynie said...

What language is her social studies text book written in? I agree with you - it's very refreshing to hear about curriculum that isn't US-centric.

Sherwood family said...

Haha! Kathleen's math book uses American money to learn various concepts. Thankfully we had a coin jar that got stuck in our things when we moved. Otherwise... pictures? The coins here comes in 50, 20, 10, 5, 3, and the incredibly rare 1. Sometimes you wonder who makes the decisions about those things.


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