Q&A with Kim Sklow About a More Inquiry Based History Curriculum for Grades 4 to 9

Communications Director Sarah Woods hosts a Q&A with Middle & Upper School History Teacher Kim Sklow about Allen-Stevenson's History Curriculum.
Q: Can you explain the thinking and planning that went into the creation of the new history curriculum?
The history team has been meeting for a few years now to discuss the scope and sequence of their curriculum 4-9. During that time, it became apparent that there were some topics, the Civil War for example, that were not being taught thoroughly. Together, we looked at everything we were teaching and realized that we needed to make some changes to the curriculum. As a result, we have expanded our study of American history to include all of the Americas and to go further in our exploration of our own history. In addition, we created some overarching questions that we have begun to use in our studies. Such as, whose voice can we hear? Or, whose voice is being left out? After looking at the broader world and colonization, the study turns to the formation of our nation and eventually, the role we play in the world. 
Q: Why is this change in approach important for the boys?
We wanted the boys to understand that history has multiple perspectives and that a story can be told differently, but that usually one story becomes the more prominent. This approach will give the boys a new lens by which to see history and helps them to understand why different people have different views and from where these views originated. We encourage the boys to evaluate information that is presented and learn that everything has a bias.
Q: How will you encourage the boys to see history differently?
We will be using four Guiding Questions throughout each unit.
1. Whose voices are we hearing and not hearing?
2. Who decides whose voices we hear?
3. What does it mean to be a citizen?
4. Was there another way to deal with whatever it was?
We get the boys to explain where they got the information they were seeking. It expands their scope of inquiry.
We are also committed to doing one simulation in each grade. We’ve already introduced a Constitutional Convention in the Sixth Grade and incorporated several simulations into the study of Native Americans [see story “Fourth Grade Building Empathy for Others in Social Studies”]. 
Q: How are you rolling out the new curriculum?
We’ve begun with the Fourth and Fifth Grade, creating a much broader view of the world.  Sixth Grade will talk about the formation of a country and the problems and positives that come from that. In Seventh Grade the boys will study their place in the world. In eighth grade history, we already talk about slavery from the African perspective, discussing economics versus morality. When we study China in Eighth Grade, we talk about filial piety, getting the boys to understand that there is no right answer, but that it affects decision-making.

Allen-Stevenson’s distinctive “enlightened traditional” approach educates boys to become scholars and gentlemen.