|In third grade there is a focus on moving from concrete to abstract thinking. In particular, third graders are ready to make the leap from learning about “here and now” to understanding “here and long ago.” An important part of learning about cultures of the past is the ability to understand multiple perspectives. Third graders also have a growing capacity to apply foundational skills to gaining new knowledge and using new modes of expression. For example, third graders move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” |
In order to truly understand a new concept deeply, third graders need direct experience with authentic problems and materials. They grapple with open-ended problems that can have multiple solutions, and begin using evidentiary reasoning to support their thinking in math, social studies, reading, and science. In third grade, the social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum. Students learn through discussion, collaboration, and conflict resolution. Their social relationships support their learning and growth as individuals and community members.
Third graders study the early history of New York City, focusing on Manhattan in the 1600s. By taking on the multiple perspectives of the inhabitants of Manhattan at that time — Native Americans, Dutch settlers, and enslaved Africans — students explore the problems of how to survive and how to co-exist as a community of diverse cultures. This curriculum is accessible to students with a wide range of learning abilities and styles. For example, a study of the foods of the Lenape Native Americans may be as concrete as naming the types of food gathered from the wild to the more abstract concept of the interdependence of people and nature. The list maker can help provide details while the categorizer organizes and synthesizes. Both types of learners support each other. A variety of learning abilities is also supported through exploring the concepts and perspectives across disciplines such as art, shop, music, movement, and science.
By taking on the role of a Lenape, students face and try to solve the daily challenges of native people. For example, in order to learn about how the Lenape hunted for food, third graders are faced with the problems of needing food for the winter, planning how they will get that food, making the necessary tools and equipment, and going through the steps of tracking, hunting, and preparing game. Their study of the animals and environments of Mannahatta prepare them to think about where Lenape hunters would go and the methods they would use. Students also read nonfiction texts, engage in discussions with their classmates, and write journal entries from the point of view of a Lenape hunter. In this process, third graders think about what this way of life meant to a Lenape and how it compares to our way of life today.
The third grade year culminates in a final project called “City of the Future”, which requires third graders to use both critical thinking and creativity. Students reflect on and analyze what they have learned throughout the year about Manhattan’s early history, as well as what they know about present-day New York City. They extrapolate the essential components of what makes a community successful, and consider how they all work together to create a way of life. Third graders use those big ideas to create their vision of a future utopian city that encapsulates the best ideas from past and present cultures. They also employ math skills learned throughout the year to solve problems as urban planners. The purpose of their designs is to take everything they have learned and generate unique ideas for a sustainable society.