Curriculum Update: Human Society and its Environment (HSIE)

HSIE in Primary

Schools can be amazingly flexible environments when they need to be. Case in point – online learning. However, this flexibility also allows us to be able to manipulate the curriculum to ensure that students are given the best opportunities to grow and learn. An example of this is the Year 6 History unit which previously was known as ‘Images of Greatness’ and now has a distinctly Australian flavour. This unit would normally be taught during Term 2. However, we decided to swap in a Science unit from Term 3 and move it, now know known as ‘Australian Stories’, into Term 3.

This semester in History, there are two significant themes. In the early years there is a focus on the student’s own history and that of their families. As we move towards the older year levels, the focus shifts more towards Australian History. As always, where the opportunity arises, there are purposeful links made with Hong Kong. This week I have focussed on Years 1, 4 and 5 to share some of the differences that the online structure brought to the learning.

Year 1

Year 1 explored differences and similarities comparing their lives and those of their parents and grandparents. Our students were able to use tools including Skype, Facetime and Zoom to connect with family members spread around the world. Some of the students were surprised when they discovered that this was a difference: their parents and grandparents did not always have video-calling technologies or even a tablet! Imagine! Students were also able to work closely with their parents at home to discover dates of significance to their family and mark these on a calendar. They then shared the different traditions or ways of celebrating events that are special or unique to their family.

Year 4

Year 4 have learnt many independent research skills through online learning. With the guidance of teachers, students have learned to read and evaluate online resources, to paraphrase new concepts and key words into categories.  From there, students learned to formulate cohesive paragraphs to explain the new learning.  Visible thinking tools have been a big part of our online learning.  Some of them have been working on See, Think, Wonder and Peel the Fruit.  Year 4 are going to have a ‘virtual’ excursion to the Sydney Living Museum at the end of Term 2.

Year 5

Year 5 have explored a plethora of resources, enabling them to “travel back in time”. From the virtual tours of the Gold Fields of Sovereign Hill, the wonderfully crafted videos of the early life of convicts and copies of original historical transcripts from people such as Captain James Cook and Governor Lachlan Macquarie, students in Year 5 have been able to look at many more primary sources of information in order to make their own interpretations and analysis of significant documents and events in the development of Australia’s early colonies. These valuable insights have led to rich conversations and debates that have ultimately resulted in a greater understanding of the many complex issues that were present when Australia was first colonised.
Cameron Reed |
Dean of Studies, Primary

HSIE in Secondary 

How the current real-world situation can be explored in HSIE subjects

What an interesting time to be teaching and learning HSIE subjects! Let us think for a moment how COVID-19 has massively affected every economy, every business and every individual in the past 4 months. Our planet as we knew it has been immensely disrupted and left much in question. Central banks are partaking in unprecedented quantitative easing to revive their struggling economies, which may be unsustainable.

However, Economics is not merely about money. In fact, it is more about people, the way they behave and the decisions they make. That is why Economics is so fascinating to study right now. Have people from all walks of life been behaving rationally and have our leaders been making the most appropriate decisions? Do laws need to be changed to adapt to our new environment and do businesses need to become more creative in their thinking to survive? The Year 9 and 10 Commerce classes have been involved in the ASX Sharemarket Game which has been very interesting given the volatility of the stock market.

It is not all doom and gloom, however. In Geography, Year 10 have learned that many ecosystems have been revived and have given a break from the human activity that has detrimentally affected them over the past few centuries. They have also been researching the complexities of how we can sustainably increase global food security to meet the needs of an increasing global population. Year 8 Geography have been studying interconnections and globalisation using COVID-19 as an integral example.

In Psychology, students know the importance of reflection. We have all had time to reflect and consider what is important in our lives. Many kind acts have made a huge difference to many people who are suffering and vulnerable.

Year 9 History students have been learning about WW1 and the Spanish Flu, which are possibly some of the last times the world has been affected to such a large extent. I am sure our grandchildren will be studying the COVID-19 pandemic and the Hong Kong protests in History classrooms in the future. They will be asking many of you what it was like, first-hand, living in Hong Kong in 2020.

Christopher Walsh | Head of HSIE, Secondary