Angela Scavone
Dec 12, 2018 · 3 min read

While designing my unit plan I was mindful in using Vygotsky’s scaffolding to build students’ knowledge and guide them towards answering the big question of “why is Milwaukee the most segregated city in the country?” Throughout my education, I have come to realize that a major key to high quality social studies instruction is providing students with scaffolded instruction using quality resources. It is important to guide students towards understanding big ideas, so they can in turn begin asking these big questions themselves. I wanted to make my unit progress in a chronological order so students could see how various factors built up in making Milwaukee the most segregated city, which is why I began by looking at the origins of segregation, moving on to why it continues to endure, and finally looking at how it impacts Milwaukee’s citizens today.

Furthermore, in organizing it chronologically students can see the continuity and change that occurred in how Milwaukee maintained its segregation. I felt that in order to answer my big question of “why is Milwaukee the most segregated city in the country?” I needed to take an interdisciplinary approach in having students understand not only the history of segregation but how geography combined with it to create rampant segregation in Milwaukee. Reading Brandon Butler and Stephen R. Burgin’s article “Jamestown and Power Lines: Teaching Controversy in an Inter-Disciplinary Manner,” I saw how powerful interdisciplinary analysis was in bettering students’ understanding of the controversial issue of power lines going through the historic Jamestown settlement. It made me think deeply about how controversial issues do not happen in a vacuum, and to fully understand them we must approach them in an interdisciplinary way.

I wanted students to understand the implications segregation has beyond things like housing and school segregation, and complete their summative assessment in which they identify and analyze a segregation related issue like environmental justice, health discrepancies, racial profiling in policing, etc. This will allow them to get a more well-rounded and holistic view of segregation and its impact on Milwaukee’s communities and citizens.

By making the inquiry unit grounded in Milwaukee, students will be engaging in Core Social Studies Practice 3 “Cultural & Community Relevance,” as students will be using a variety of local resources on segregation in order to gain a better understanding of why their communities look the way they do. In creating their action plan posters, students are researching topics of their choice that interest them. Also through their research posters, students will be engaging in Core Social Studies Practice 5 “Student-Centered Inquiry” as students are scaffolded in their understanding of segregation and are applying the knowledge developed in their independently curated resources to create possible solutions to the problem they have identified, fostering an in-depth understanding of segregation.

Another Core Social Studies Practice students will be engaging in is number 5 “Authentic Assessment,” as students will be integrating a variety of sources and their knowledge gained throughout the unit and apply it to take civic action in proposing ways to improve their segregation related problem. Throughout this semester I have come to truly see the importance of authentic assessments as one of the most important factors in quality social studies instruction. In creating authentic assessments for this inquiry unit, I tried to be very cognizant in making sure Wiggins and McTighe’s “transfer,” was present and that students were applying their knowledge and creating new knowledge, which they did this through their posters by proposing potential solutions they came up with to improve Milwaukee’s break segregation situation.

In deciding upon having students create a poster detailing their problem and potential solutions, I was really inspired by Tracy Middleton in her article “From Past to Present: Taking Informed Action,” in which she had her students create Public Service Announcements that had them identify the California drought problem and determine alternatives that should be taken to alleviate the problem.

As one core goal of inquiry is for students to be active citizens in their communities, I thought that by having them identify these issues in their communities and partake in meaningful research to develop solutions, this would allow them to be more informed, involved, and active citizens in their communities.

My Completed C3 Unit Outline:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kbjz8CDg3HTLYikf45qOwRJcSPUbG2zKF4M4__iM-0c/edit?usp=sharing

Sources:

Butler, Brandon & Burgin, Stephen. “Jamestown and Power Lines: Teaching Controversy in an Inter-Disciplinary Manner” Social Education, 80, 2016, 46–51.

Middleton, Tracy. “From Past to Present: Taking Informed Action.”Social Education, 80, 2016, pp. 362–364.

Wiggins, Grant & McTighe, Jay. Understanding By Design (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.

Investigating Inquiry in the Social Sciences

A future teacher currently taking my social studies methods course. Join me as I document my experience creating a Social Studies inquiry unit at the high school level!

Angela Scavone

Written by

Investigating Inquiry in the Social Sciences

A future teacher currently taking my social studies methods course. Join me as I document my experience creating a Social Studies inquiry unit at the high school level!

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