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11th Grade Students to Get Civics Class

High School juniors in Sanford will be getting a dedicated civics class beginning in September under a revamping of the Social Studies curriculum for grades 5-11.

Erin Barry and Shane O’Connell, social studies Department Chairs at Sanford Middle School and Sanford High School respectively, made a presentation on the new curriculum to the School Committee on March 21, 2022.

Ms. Barry explained that the revision was badly needed because the existing curriculum only covers history through the early 1900s. She said Maine state standards for social studies curricula were updated in 2019, but Sanford wasn’t in line with them.

In the state standards, known as Maine Learning Results, there are four content areas – history, geography, civics & government, and personal finance & economics. Under Sanford’s new curriculum, middle schoolers will get a strong base of US history through 9/11, as well as introductions to the other three areas. High school classes will delve more deeply into each subject. Maine history and African-American history will be woven throughout the lessons.

Mr. O’Connell said the driving force behind the restructuring at the high school level was civics. The current curriculum includes civics along with history, but by having it as a separate course, teachers will be able to go more in depth and give students the information they need to become adults. He also noted that in high school, personal finance becomes part of the math department, so it falls off the social studies curriculum beginning at grade 9.

Specifics of the new curriculum by grade level are as follows:

  • Grade 5: The Ancient World. Students will explore ancient civilizations including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Maya and the Aztecs.
  • Grade 6: Development of the United States:  From the First Americans including Maine Wabanaki, colonization, Revolutionary War, the Constitution, westward expansion, slavery and through the Civil War, plus an introduction to personal finance.
  • Grade 7: The United States, Past and Present: Including migration, cities and industry; World War I and II, the Holocaust, containing Communism, civil rights, 9/11 and modern conflicts. Students will get their first introduction to citizenship as well as a continuation of personal finance.
  • Grade 8: The World and Its People: Includes geography, globalization, religion and culture around the world, government and economic systems around the world, current events and more on personal finance.
  • Grade 9: Geography and Global Perspectives: In this year, students will build on their knowledge by investigating regions of the world and the influence of physical geography on the development of human systems and interactions. Includes Maine, the US and the world. A final project will be required.
  • Grade 10: Two classes will be offered: Early US History, through the Spanish American War; and Modern US History, from the turn of the 20th century to today. Only one is required, but students may take both if they wish.
  • Grade 11: Civics: The fundamentals of the US government, from local to national, its structures and function, democratic ideals and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.  Civic participation and a public policy project will be required.

There is no grade 12 social studies requirement, but students may take elective classes that are offered.

Ms. Barry and Mr. O’Connell both spoke positively about the collaboration between the middle school and high school. By working together as a team, they were able to ensure all areas were covered with no gaps and no repetitions, and that the information learned in grades 5-8 provides a solid foundation for grades 9-11.

Ms. Barry also spoke about the Junior Achievement programs coming to SMS in the next few weeks. On March 30, “JA in a Day” will bring volunteers from local businesses and the state JA organization to SMS to teach 8th graders about the global marketplace.  Students will rotate through five classrooms to get five different lessons. On April 13, the 7th graders will have a similar day focused on economics for success. She said they are really excited to bring the program back after skipping a year due to Covid.

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