Social Studies

The goal of the Guilderland Central School District’s social studies program is to develop students who can draw upon the lessons of history and the social sciences to make reasoned and informed decisions about economic, social, and political questions, their society, and the interdependent world, and who view themselves as participants, benefactors, and contributors to their society and the interdependent world. We want our students to understand what all humankind has in common and to understand values and culture.

After having completed the Guilderland social studies program students will understand:

  • The fundamental concept of place – both physical and human. This understanding will enable students to explain how these features are interrelated to create the unique character of the place. Students will realize the constraints and possibilities that the physical environment places on human development.
  • How ideas, events, and individuals have produced change over time and recognize the conditions and forces that maintain continuity within human societies. To nurture this understanding “narrative history must illuminate vital themes and significant questions, including but reaching beyond the acquisition of useful facts. Students should not be left in doubt about the reasons for remembering certain things, for getting facts straight, for gathering and assessing evidence. “What is it?” is a worthy question and it requires an answer.
  • The cultures, societies, and economic systems that prevail throughout the world and to recognize the political and cultural barriers that divide people as well as the common human qualities that unite them. This understanding should develop an appreciation for the contributions and perspectives offered within the world and classroom community and lead us to greater knowledge and understanding of one another.
  • The scarcity as the basic economic problem confronting all societies and appreciate the ways economic systems seek to resolve the three basic problems of choice (determining what, how, and for whom to produce) created by scarcity. This understanding will lead to knowledge of the basic economic goals, performance and problems of our economic system and realize that it is one of several basic economic systems.
  • The value, importance and the fragility of democratic institutions, develop a keen sense of ethics and citizens, and care deeply about the quality of life in their community, their school, their nation, and their world. This understanding will be fostered through practical experiences in participation, decision making, and conflict resolution within the school and community.
  • Understand the ethical and moral elements present in individual and societal decision makings. This understanding will develop and appreciation and empathy for the connection between ideas and behavior, between values and ideals that people hold and the ethical consequences of those beliefs.
  • Understand their roots, see connections to the past, comprehend their context, recognize the commonality of people across time, and appreciate the balance of rights and responsibilities.

Our social studies classes engage students in the study of history, geography, economics, government, and civics. Instruction draws on other disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology, archeology, religion, law, art, philosophy, literature and the sciences.

In all social studies classes students read, write and think critically, consider the relationships between this discipline and others and between their lives and the lives of others in the contemporary and historical contexts, and seek, analyze and interpret information from a variety of sources. Students also have opportunities in all social studies classes to make and justify decisions in relation to democratic principles, identify and solve problems, recognize value in individual difference and contribution to the group’s understanding, cooperatively work toward group goals, and actively give and receive feedback on individual and group work.

The key concepts of the K-12 social studies program are:


  • Belief Systems means an established orderly way that groups or individuals look at religious faith or philosophical tenets.
  • Change involves the basic alterations in things, events, and ideas.
  • Conflict is a clash of ideas, interests, or wills that result from incompatible opposing forces.
  • Choice means the right or power to select from a range of alternatives.
  • Culture means the patterns of human behavior that includes ideas, beliefs, values, artifacts, and ways of making a living which any society transmits to succeeding generations to meet its fundamental needs.
  • Diversity means understanding and respecting others and oneself including similarities and differences in language, gender, socioeconomic class, religion, and other human characteristics and traits.
  • Empathy means the ability to understand others through being able to identify in one’s self responses similar to the experiences, behaviors, and responses of others.
  • Identity means awareness of one’s own values, attitudes, and capabilities as an individual and as a member of different groups.
  • Interdependence means reliance upon others in mutually beneficial interactions and exchanges.
  • Imperialism means the domination by one country of the political and/or economic life of another country or region.
  • Movement of People and Goods refers to the constant exchange of people, ideas, products, technologies, and institutions from one region or civilization to another that has existed throughout history.
  • Nationalism means the feeling of pride in and devotion to one’s country or the desire of a people to control their own government, free from foreign interference or rule.
  • Urbanization means movement of people from rural to urban areas.


The six essential elements of geography:*

  • The World in Spatial Terms – Geography studies the relationships between people, places, and environments by mapping information about them into a spatial context.
  • Places and Regions – The identities and lives of individuals and peoples are rooted in particular places and in those human constructs called regions.
  • Physical Systems – Physical processes shape Earth’s surface and interact with plant and animal life to create, sustain, and modify ecosystems.
  • Human Systems – People are central to geography in that human activities help shape Earth’s surface, human settlements and structures are part of Earth’s surface, and humans compete for control of Earth’s surface.
  • Environment and Society – The Physical environment is modified by human activities, largely as a consequence of the ways in which human societies value and use Earth’s natural resources, and human activities are also influenced by Earth’s physical features and processes.
  • The Uses of Geography – Knowledge of geography enables people to develop an understanding of the relationships between people, places, and environments over time – that is, of Earth as it was, is, and might be (*Taken from: Geography for Life: National Geography Standards, 1994, pp. 34-35. Permission applied for.)
  • Environment means the surroundings, including natural elements and elements created by humans.


  • Needs and Wants refer to those goods and services that are essential such as food, clothing, and shelter (needs), and those goods and services that people would like to have to improve the quality of their lives, (i.e., wants – education, security, health care, entertainment).
  • Economic Systems include traditional, command, market, and mixed systems. Each must answer the three basic economic questions: What goods and services shall be produced and in what quantities? How shall these goods and services be produced? For whom shall goods and services be produced?
  • Factors of Production are human, natural, and capital resources which when combined become various goods and services (e.g., How land, labor, and capital inputs are used to produce food).
  • Scarcity means the conflict between unlimited needs and wants and limited natural and human resources.
  • Science and technology means the tools and methods used by people to get what they need and want.

Civics, Citizenship and Government

  • Justice means the fair, equal, proportional, or appropriate treatment rendered to individuals in interpersonal, societal, or government interactions.
  • Nation-state means a geographic/political organization uniting people by a common government.
  • Citizenship means membership in a community (neighborhood, school, region, state, nation, world) with its accompanying rights, responsibilities, and dispositions.
  • Political Systems such as monarchies, dictatorships, and democracies address certain basic questions of government such as: What should a government have the power to do? What should a government not have the power to do? A political system also provides for ways that parts of that system interrelate and combine to perform specific functions of government.
  • Power refers to the ability of people to compel or influence the actions of others. “Legitimate power is called authority.”
  • Government means the “Formal institutions and processes of a politically organized society with authority to make, enforce, and interpret laws and other binding rules about matters of common interest and concern. Government also refers to the group of people, acting in formal political institutions at national, state, and local levels, who exercise decision making power or enforce laws and regulations.” (Taken from: Civics Framework for the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress, NAEP Civics Consensus Project, The National Assessment Governing Board, United States Department of Education, p. 19).
  • Decision Making means the processes used to “monitor and influence public and civic life by working with others, clearly articulating ideals and interests, building coalitions, seeking consensus, negotiating compromise, and managing conflict.” (Taken from: Civics Framework, p. 18).
  • Civic Values refer to those important principles that serve as the foundation for our democratic form of government. These values include justice, honesty, self-discipline, due process, equality, majority rule with respect for minority rights, and respect for self, others, and property.
  • Human Rights are those basic political, economic, and social rights that all human beings are entitled to, such as the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, and a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family. Human rights are inalienable and expressed by various United Nations Documents including the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Social Studies cabinet supports thoughtful current events program guided by the following principles:

  • Provides consistent real-life instructional connections to the key concepts of the K-12 NYS Social Studies Program – history, geography, economics, civics, citizenship and government.
  • Promotes the development of the civic values that serve as the foundation of our democratic society. These values include justice, honesty, self-discipline, due process, equality, majority rule with respect for minority rights, and respect for self, others and property.
  • Supports the development of decision-making skills including the role of citizens on monitoring and influencing public and civic life by learning to work with others; articulate ideas, interests and points of view; build consensus; negotiate compromise and manage conflict.
  • Develops student awareness and appreciation of basic human rights (political, economic and social) to which all are entitled, those human rights that are inalienable and are expressed in the U.N. Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Encourages and supports interdisciplinary connections.
  • Enhances the development of critical thinking skills.
  • Supports the NYS Learning Standards for language arts, social studies, mathematics, science and technology.
  • Provides the opportunity for students to use a variety of mediums such as television, newspapers, the Internet, news magazines and public forums, etc., which enhance the development of visual and auditory literacy.
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