Country Studies Moves 2nd Grade Beyond Initial Perspectives

Before April Recess began, students and teachers in 2nd grade invited the community to take part in a Courtyard Sharing on the unit of study focusing on countries, which they had just wrapped up. The 2nd grade team explained, “At this critically important developmental stage, when children are just beginning to see perspectives outside of their own, gain a greater world view and find their personal voice, we want them to understand that they have more in common with others who live, work, learn and play in vastly different places than they might initially think. Through this understanding, we hope children will see themselves in others and develop empathy.”

For this unit, the grade studied three countries—Australia, France and India—and departments from across campus worked with the 2nd graders to help create a very robust and wide-ranging unit. To begin, they read books for an introduction to geography and learn how it shapes us and how we shape our environment. They then shifted their focus to three main areas: What We Wear: Clothing Around the World, What We Eat: (Common) Food Around the World and Connecting with Stories of Kids Around the World.

Next, community members from around the school joined in to aid these developing minds. For example, the students learned a song to kick off the Country Studies sharing in Music class, a hand-clapping game from India called Saam Seem Soom, “Frère Jacques” and “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.” In ILIS, students built on their understanding of 3D printers to create a print for each classroom: 2BW created the Taj Mahal, 2C focused on the Eiffel Tower and 2W made a Kangaroo. In PE, students learned how to play a game from their assigned? chosen? country, with students in 2BW learning how to play Kabbadi, a popular sport in India. Chef Zac from Quest Food Management Services worked with some classes to learn more about the cuisines from their area and provided food for the Courtyard Sharing. Students also worked with Profe Valentina and interview students on a Zoom call from Mexico and Peru. Finally, family members of students came to their classrooms and gave presentations about their connections and life experiences from these countries.

The 2nd grade team explained, “As teachers, our focus has been on supporting children as they learn: about the people, their language, food, housing, clothing, culture etc. as it relates to their geographical location and available resources, to recognize similarities and appreciate differences and to lean in to the unfamiliar with curiosity rather than judgment.”

After this six-week unit, students shared information about their countries based on their own interests and the curiosities of the group at large. Whether through singing, artwork, food, demonstrations, displays pr conversation, all those in attendance were able to get a glimpse into the 2nd graders’ hard work.

When speaking on this unit, 2nd grade teacher Brittney Washington shared, “This study allows students to have a window into the lives of children in other countries that may differ from their own as well as a mirror that reflects some of the similar experiences that bring us together as children in the world.” And 2nd grade teacher Rose Coll said, “It was so incredible to see the students in my class dive deeper into learning about France. The Country Studies share in the courtyard with all three classes and families was so special and I am excited about how we can continue to build upon this project in the future.”

Click here to see photos from this sharing.
Click here to read some student reflections from 2BW.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.