Grade 5: Visiting ancient history to create learnings for the future

Our stellar social studies program defines the vibrant final year of Primary School. This year is a culmination and practice of all the skills we work on throughout the Primary years – curiosity, spirit of inquiry, research, teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving, independence.

Following the detailed study of Mumbai in Grade 4, the curriculum in Grade 5 revolves around the Indus Valley Civilisation. They correlate the past with the present and the future so they can truly understand their place in their community and the larger world they inhabit. Learning about the Indus Valley drives students’ research and provides reading material to expand their understanding of the concept of ancient and what comprises a civilisation.

We work with the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (Prince of Wales Museum) to create an immersive learning experience that allows students to understand the process of Archeology and its role in studying an ancient civilisation. The year starts with a workshop by an Archeologist from the museum who comes in to introduce them to this fascinating area of study. Studying an ancient civilisation requires an understanding of the various available sources of information.

This workshop is followed by simulated digs at the school and the museum. Students dig through layers of soil and understand how to classify and estimate the age of objects according to how deep below the surface they were found. They learn to make assumptions about what the artefact says about the person it may have belonged to. The museum dig involves the “discovery” of real artefacts.

This introduces them to a deliberate study of the past. Readings focus on specific things we want them to understand about civilisations. They learn about the common threads that link civilisations like governance systems, hierarchies, jobs, culture, art. They go from an understanding of their own community to a broader understanding of civilisations.

They study the art of the Indus Valley. They study ancient seals, architecture and lifestyle. They make assumptions about the script on the seals. They learn about the Rosetta stone and the role it played in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and the fact that we can only surmise the meanings of the Indus Valley script.

The whole of the first semester is preparation for the trip to Kutch and Dholavira in January. While their visit to the archaeological site at Dholavira focuses on ancient history, they also explore modern-day Kutch. They understand the issues that affect its current inhabitants such as water scarcity and the impact of the earthquake. They get a hands-on experience of the handicraft industries that employ the locals. They interact with artisans and learn about their lives. While the focus of the trip is Dholavira, understanding present issues and correlating them to what they have learnt about the past makes the trip a very meaningful experience.

When our students come back from Kutch having solidified their understanding of the Indus Valley, they compare their learnings to another ancient civilisation – either ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia. Each grade 5 class may study a different civilisation entirely. The decision on which civilisation makes the cut is left entirely up to the students themselves. Through their study they look at the components that make up a civilisation; the similarities and differences. They study the importance of the sun, the moon and myths to daily life and, of course, the vital role that rivers play in the establishment of civilisations.

The study of ancient civilisations also feeds into the science curriculum through the study of soil and weather. They learn about the conditions in which civilisations flourish and make assumptions on why they failed. They study the impact of climate. They learn about simple machines like wedges and planes and levers and pulleys, used in ancient times just as now.

In Art and Studio Time, students experiment with materials and ideas from the art they have observed and from which they have learned about the past. They make seals similar to those found at Dholavira.

Students use multiple primary and secondary sources to collect their information including hands-on research, museum visits, books and the internet. Everything they do in Grade 5 is the culmination of all the years of independent learning and inquiry that has guided them from their early years at B. D. Somani. Their study of ancient time, however, makes it necessary they rely more on secondary sources in Grade 5 as opposed to the focus on first-hand research in the younger years.

The Grade 5 social studies curriculum also hones other skills we emphasise at B. D. Somani. They may write from the perspective of a child their age in the time of the Indus Valley or ancient Egypt, making assumptions on what their life must have been like.

Students in Grade 5 are voracious readers. Their reading is often related to their social studies. Some books are chosen for reading aloud, some as class novels they study, and others for the literature circle. They read novels about ancient Egypt and books that deal with age-appropriate issues they are wrestling with in the present. Over the summer break, they read Wonder by R. J. Palacio which led to a lot of conversation about the themes in the book and the correlation to their experiences.

In Math, students develop a firm understanding of all the underlying concepts needed for more advanced study. There is a lot of problem-solving and focus on the relationships between fractions, decimals and percentages. In all grades, the necessary conceptual understanding of fractions is practised using manipulatives and real-life scenarios. They can look at a problem and ascertain what is useful information and what has been included to distract. They analyse the operations they need to use. They learn principles of logic and reasoning. While algebraic thinking starts in Kindergarten, by Grade 5 students have a firm grasp of the concepts in the context of more complex problems.

Within the students’ busy week, the specialist subjects are still given ample time: Art, Music, Capoeira, Hindi, French, Theatre, PE and IT.

All through Primary School, we prepare students to be lifelong learners. They learn to ask the important questions, how and where to find the information they need and to analyse and compare their findings. They can relate what they know to their understanding of something entirely new. They hone their collaborative and problem-solving skills.

We send our Grade 5 students into the future, prepared for a lifetime of curiosity. They are independent thinkers, motivated learners, and thoughtful, empathetic global citizens who will always be able to put their natural curiosity to good use with the skills they take with them when they leave Primary School.

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