Big Ideas in Second Grade Studies

Submitted by: Jean Kosky, Second Grade Teacher at Trevor Day School

Some of the greatest challenges, and greatest joys, of teaching second grade at Trevor Day School can be realized during the special studies my colleagues and I embark on in January.  During these 4-6 week units each second grade class plunges into a study that is theirs alone.  Teachers and students work together to become experts in one subject that they then translate into a play or presentation that is used as a teaching/learning vehicle for the rest of the Trevor community.  These studies are often quite different on the surface. This year’s studies included; the Wolf Study, a discovery of the reality vs. literary images of wolves with a large dose of environmental science thrown in; the Peace Study, an exploration of peace makers and what that profile looks like on a personal and global scale; Social Justice, including a visit to the United Nations and in depth studies of organizations that promote social justice world-wide; and finally the Harriett Tubman Study that evokes an era of deep injustice and unparalleled courage.

After my class had presented their play WOLF and we had watched the other three plays and presentations I decided to hold a So What? discussion where I asked the students to reflect on why we had spent this substantial amount of time and energy on these subjects.  These discussions begin as a gentle “in your face” challenge by the teacher to justify a learning experience.




Since we frequently reflect on systems in second grade, not surprisingly, the student’s discussion quickly turned to what these disparate subjects might hold in common.  Here are some of the comments from their discussion.

In defense of second grade studies………

What are some of the big ideas that our plays had in common?

·         Everyone has the right to certain things

·         Keeping the Earth healthy helps everything

·         Humans should not threaten each other or other species

·         People need to work hard for what they believe

·         Find peaceful ways to solve problems

·         Collaborate/cooperate

·         Discuss things

·         Listen

Big ideas – Peace, Human Rights, Species Diversity, Environmental Protection, Civil Rights, Advocacy

As I reflected on this animated and often passionate discussion I realized…………

How wonderful that our second grade students at the tender age of 7/8 are invited to consider these intricately interlinked ideas that will most certainly be in the global forefront of their lives. Our Second Graders have been invited into these conversations – to problem solve, to attempt solution and to dare advocacy. They are now, without reservation, wholly a part of these global considerations.