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History-Social Science in Fourth Grade

Parents - what your child is expected to learn in fourth grade

What You Need to Know:

Fourth grade history-social science is the first time when students’ learning begins in a time period other than their own lifetimes.  Fourth grade is a chronological study of California’s past, beginning with pre-contact native California and extending as far into future as possible.  Historically, students in California spend a great deal of time on certain projects, most notably the study of the missions.  While “the mission project,” in which students were tasked with building mission replicas out of sugar cubes, popsicle sticks, or other household items is now deemed offensive and devoid of historical learning, fourth grade students do continue to learn about missions and the people whose lives were impacted by them.  There are a variety of activities that help students understand the significance of mission as places of contact, conquest, and resistance for natives and missionaries.  Beyond learning about California during the era of Spanish rule, fourth-grade students learn about Mexican-California, and California’s path to statehood, and growth as the most populous state in the nation.  Immigration, migration, and diversity feature centrally in most studies of the state.  Some of the questions that students consider in fourth grade are:

  • Why did different groups of immigrants decide to move to California?
  • What were their experiences like when they settled in California?
  • How did the region become a state, and how did the state grow?

Between April and June: 

Between April and June, fourth-grade students might:

  • Look through this set of sources about the people whose lives were impacted missions (4.2c)
  • Look through this set of sources about the impact of the Gold Rush on California (4.3)
  • Learn about specific topics that impact their lives, like the development of the entertainment industry in southern California, the technology sector in northern California, the agriculture of the Central Valley.  Examples could include: Disneyland, the Monterey Aquarium, Yosemite, which all have histories, photographs, documents that students can research.
  • Learn about how struggles for civil rights developed in California by researching on websites like Calisphere or the Library of Congress

Lessons and Source Sets:

California Missions' Impact on People (4th grade primary source set)
Discovery of Gold (4th grade primary source set)

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