Social studies

Social Studies at Mark Day School begins in kindergarten, when students learn about understanding oneself within the new community of the school and class. In 1st grade, the focus on immigration and African-American history, with stories, activities, and guest presentations that explore different experiences of coming to the United States and living in a new country. Second grade social study curriculum is designed around journeys through distinctive lands of Australia, Kenya, and Japan that broaden student horizons even further. In their last year in the Lower School, 3rd grades brings social studies home to Marin County, as students study the Miwok tribe, Earthquake Trail, the Marin Recycle Center, and local farmers’ markets.

Students’ understanding of their native environment continues in 4th grade, when they study the development of California from its first inhabitants to the time of statehood. Independent research, primary sources, and differing perspectives drive the learning in social studies for 5th grade, with a focus on American history from the 1600s to 1800s. The historical framework for 6th grade humanities is early humans and ancient cultures, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. In practice, these serve as starting points for investigations explored in the Upper Division.

Students reach the Upper Division ready to take on the historian’s mindset. Our program encourages inquiry, skepticism, and debate. The territory covered in 7th grade roams broadly in a survey of world civilizations. Each unit is built around a multidisciplinary project to engage students in the learning experience. Over time, students develop skills in asking creative questions and researching the answers; from there, they make strong arguments by using a variety of sources and corroborating what they learn.

The 8th grade curriculum focuses on U.S. government and history, but the learning now shifts further from nuts and bolts to higher-order thinking skills; students start developing a lens through which to understand historical events and figures. Students are challenged to think deeply, not only about "what’s happened" but also about what it means. They leave for high school well prepared to engage in all facets of the discipline of history.

Featured Project: 3rd Grade Pizza Box

As their first foray into nonfiction, each student identified an individual who has made a positive impact on the world. They then engaged in a new kind of reading by studying that individual’s biography and extracting key information such as early life, accomplishments, important facts, education, and impact. After taking thorough notes, students created a pie-shaped presentation in a pizza box that accurately mapped the different categories of the individual’s life. Students presented their research in the form of a speech--in character and costume--in front of peers, faculty, and families.

Whether developing an iPhone app or improving public transportation, research is a key part of the process. In this project, students learn to gather important facts as they read and organize that information to develop a complete picture. Students understand what it means to become an “expert” on a topic, and how to connect with an audience about what they’ve learned.