Science and Social Studies in a mixed grade classroom

Since McGuffey has mixed-age classes, we often get asked how we teach subjects to a wide range of ages and abilities. In subjects such as language and math, children have an individualized curriculum. However, in science and social studies, we are often learning together.

In Lower Elementary, science and social studies instruction often happens as a group, but associated projects are differentiated for each grade. These subjects are taught in a blended curriculum, explored through the lens of biomes. The six characteristics of a biome influence the ecosystem, and the ecosystem, in turn, influences the culture that develops.

First and second graders receive instruction together. As seen in the examples above, first graders are introduced to the elements of a biome, and begin to explore how animals and plants rely on one another in a food chain. During this time, second graders have a chance to review the concepts they were introduced to the previous year, and then build upon them. During this unit, first graders were asked to illustrate the elements of a biome and a food chain that exists within the temperate forest. Second graders were asked to plan, design, and build a three dimensional biome. After choosing the tropical forest, they sketched out their ideas and compiled a materials list. Together, they constructed their model.

Third graders have separate instructional time, which often takes the form of a workshop. As a group, they discuss a biome, research plants and animals, examine the weather and its impact, and investigate the cultures that have emerged. One day they might be researching a reptile of the temperate forest, and the next they may be graphing the impact of settlers on the acreage of forest over time.

Throughout the grades, students are given a variety of ways to communicate their knowledge about a topic. The first and second graders recently completed a play that describes the food chain in the temperate forest. We are impressed with all their hard work!

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