Introduction to Educational Units1
The educational material developed for the Stones project, in many respects, aims to provide instructional models for social studies and history teachers interested in cultivating in their students dispositions empowering them to examine their social world critically and conscientiously. The notion of models is crucial, as these units will inevitably be modified by each instructor to the particular needs of the classroom context. These educational materials stress active engagement with social history research and exploration of primary sources in order to provide students with opportunities to concentrate more on developing habits of mind held by historians than on rote memorization of facts or figures from the past.
There are six historical habits of mind treated in the units. These correspond to the Historical Thinking Benchmarks identified and developed by Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness, the Historica Foundation, and supported by the Canadian Council on Learning. Together, they form a framework for thinking about social studies and history representing a conceptual orientation to the subjects that regards critical thinking about the past as a more important aim than the memorization of historical content. Students can be introduced to each benchmark sequentially, or concurrently, but what these units emphasize is the necessity of scaffolding student understanding through a variety of activities ranging in development from guided activity to independent practice.
The Stones project provides an as yet unexplored avenue for students to focus their newly acquired skills. When students are comfortable with the concepts of historical significance, primary sources, cause and consequences, continuity and change, historical perspectives and moral dimensions of history they can utilize all of them to understand and analyze information about our past and present. Each benchmark is explored in each unit of lessons provided in this project.
- This introduction constitutes part of a larger argument for the importance of social history research and the need for a paradigmatic shift in history teaching and curriculum design, which is to be published shortly in the OHASSTA publication Rapport under the title “Using Social History Research for the Cultivation of Historical Thinking and Historical Mindedness”