The Human Society and its Environment Essay

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Environment (HSIE) syllabus has a two-pronged objective that seeks ultimately to help scaffold students in their development both as persons and as citizens of local and global communities. It seeks to give them a sense of identity, and this involves an understanding of how their talents and opinions are relevant in their society. Research has shown that students (as human beings) develop, not in an isolated context or in a vacuum, but within the context of the family, community, and society in which they live (Panofsky, 2003, p. 411, Azmitia, 2002, p. 355).

Therefore, allowing students to feel themselves true citizens of their society is an important aspect of creating identity and participation, according to the ideas of Vygotsky, Dewey, and Gibson, is therefore a key factor in learning (Rahm, 2002, p. 164; Wong & Pugh, 2001). Separated into four strands (introduction, rationale, aims and objectives, and an overview of learning in HSIE), the syllabus introductory pages demonstrate how its objectives can be addressed in a classroom setting. Each strand clearly outlines how knowledge will be of benefit to the student and by extension to society.

In fact, much thought and effort has been placed into determining the individual outcomes of particular aspects of the HSIE content. Though the syllabus is not particularly explicit about how these goals are to be achieved, nor does it clearly define the ideals of citizenship, it does give the teacher enough direction to facilitate the proper delivery of the information. A detailed look at the formulation of the goals in these introductory pages will demonstrate that the syllabus, though not explicit, is adequate in its explanation of how its aims are to be achieved.

It will also present a view the interconnected aspects of the syllabus and how essential each is to the achievement of HSIEs major goals. The introductory pages of the syllabus indicate that some of its content is taken from research into the thought processes of the children (Human Society and its Environment K-6, 2006, p. 9). Its writers have considered the fact that children might think differently about such issues than adults do, and have suggested suitable ways of teaching.

This indicates that the syllabus intends to address how students are to be taught the material. The syllabus also indicates that the effective classroom practices of many previous teachers have informed its content, and this too indicates that effective strategies for instruction are to be included in the text of the syllabus. It appears that the strategies will involve equipping teachers with the tools necessary to create a classroom atmosphere in which students go beyond the level of hearing or reading the information to the level at which learning becomes an experience.

It implies that teaching should begin on a plane with which the child is familiar and then branch of to less familiar areas, thereby building on schematic knowledge and making connections that allow them to assimilate the information gained (Human Society and its Environment K-6, 2006, p. 7). Though the explanation does not clearly delineate how the will be achieved, it is a promise that the syllabus itself will provide more explicit information on how to do this.

Another way in which the introduction to the syllabus promises to demonstrate how to achieve its goals is in its deliberate organisation to allow for depth of understanding by its readers. It not only categorises the content according to the knowledge, values, and skills students ought to take from the class, but it further breaks down these areas, creating in effect a checklist of goals that teachers can try to incorporate into the planning of each lesson (Human Society and its Environment K-6, 2006, p. 8).

It suggests to a certain extent the different aspects of the subject that the teachers are meant to emphasise. The goals are explicitly defined, though methods are not. Therefore, though details are not given as to how teachers should teach the lesson, this may mainly be seen as a method of allowing the creativity of each teacher to surface. The syllabus introduction appeals to the creativity of the teacher in its conciseness, yet does offer some direction through the thorough way in which the goals are dealt with.

For example, though it does not suggest tasks that students should be made to perform in learning about the transmission of culture, it clearly states a number of ways through which culture transmission can be achieved (Human Society and its Environment K-6, 2006, p. 10). Another example is in the reference to the students gaining a sense of identity through their environment. The syllabus points toward learning the use of globes, diagrams, maps, and other tools that give direction and perspective about the local and global environment.

Though it does not expressly tell how to teach the lessons that incorporate them, it does demonstrate that their use will aid in the achievement of the overall aims of the HSIE syllabus. The syllabus demonstrates a connection among its three main aspects and among the content from different disciplines that make up each of these parts. It argues that knowledge/understandings, skills, and attitudes/values are related in such a way that the student cannot be expected to fully grasp the ideas being presented them unless they have an adequate grasp of each of the areas (Human Society and its Environment K-6, 2006, p. 10).

The knowledge provides a basis for students to gain appreciation for themselves and others, as well as for their societal groups. They are able to gain perspectives on cultures, systems, the environment, and historical facts on how these systems came into being. A key factor that contributes to the interrelatedness of the syllabus content is the fact that all knowledge cannot be acquired within a classroom setting. Along with exposure to this knowledge comes a similar exposure to the tools and skills that will allow students opportunity to acquire more knowledge on their own.

It is to be noted that according to Howard Gardner, people have different ways of perceiving the world (Mbuva, 2003) and should learn different skills that allow them to use their own type of intelligence. All these skills allow for participation, investigation, the ability to identify biases, and the use of higher- and lower-order thinking skills. Yet the knowledge gained through these methods cannot, by itself, lead to understanding without a suitable way of processing it (State of NSW, 2003, p. 7).

According to A classroom practice guide published by the Department of Education and Training of the State of New South Wales, the difference between deep knowledge and deep understanding lies in the assimilation of content that defines students learning (2003, p. 7). Quality instruction blended with the attitudes and values that students are desired to learn will grant them a way of processing the knowledge that they gain through classroom and out-of-class lessons (Human Society and its Environment K-6, 2006, p. 13; 2003, p. 7).

They allow students to see what use they can make of the knowledge that they gain about themselves, others, their history and their environment. It inculcates a level of respect for other cultures and allows them to develop a sense of societal responsibility. Because, for example, the student understands how the society and its governmental systems work”why each part is necessary”he or she is able to appreciate the need to become a good citizen and to preserve the civilisation which he or she has inherited (Harris, 2001, p. 3).

The student, being cognisant of the struggles that ancestors have gone through to create the society, will further respect and honour the traditions that have been passed down. Further historical and cultural studies will also grant respect for other cultures within the Australian society and those of the rest of the world. Students will be able to have respect for the differences between theirs and Aboriginal cultures, and this will enhance their citizenship as they will learn how to treat those citizens whose actions might portray differences to their own (Human Society and its Environment K-6, 2006, p. 13-14).

After considering how each aspect of the syllabus relates to the others, it becomes evident that all sections are necessary to the complete education of the student in HSIE. Though the student might have the resources that contain knowledge, they will not be able to access that knowledge without skills that allow them to tap such repositories as the library, internet, and even textbooks. Even once this knowledge is gained, it is necessary that students be able to process it in order to turn that knowledge into understanding and into good citizenship, which is the reason usually cited for teaching HSIE (Reynolds & Lewis, 1995, p. 3).

Another important aspect of HSIE is to transform students into lifelong learners. All parts of the HSIE learning programme are necessary in order to add meaningfulness to the sense of knowledge acquisition so that students might consider it necessary and worthwhile to use their skills continually to gain knowledge for the betterment of society. It is often problematic that teachers have the ability to make value judgements about particular outcomes of lessons.

Students often place high value on teachers preferences and pay keen attention to how teachers speak and feel about certain topics. However, teachers may use their influence to an advantage. Demonstrating openness especially to diversity of culture and frowning upon intolerance especially as it regards other peoples values and belief systems will help create a more tolerant class and ultimately a more tolerant society. Related to this is the fact that students will become more exposed to different religions and political views”a situation that might offer some discomfort to parents.

It is important that parents be assured that culture sensitivity and tolerance (and not indoctrination) are the main goals of this kind of education. Human Society and its Environment attempts to delineate the different facets of societal groups, show how they connect with each other, and demonstrate to the student how he or she fits within one or all of them. It desires to show the variety of organisations that exist, how these organisations work, and how students with varied interests can become a part of them.

It also involves the inculcation of the individuals debt and responsibility to society”lessons that can be learned through history, environmental, and civil education. The syllabus connects three perspectives: knowledge/understandings, skills, and attitudes/values which students master through the acquisition of low- and high-order thinking skills. Yet all these facets depend upon the provision of quality instruction in a quality learning environment in order to produce deep understanding (State of NSW, 2003, p. 10).


Azmitia, M. (2002). Interpretative reproduction: a tool for unpacking the sociocultural dynamics of development. Human Development. Vol. 45, 355-359. Harris, C. (2001). Curriculum control: at what cost to teachers? AARE Annual Conference 2001. Notre Dame University. Retrieved 3rd August 2006 Available: http://www. aare. edu. au/01pap/har01535. htm Human Society and its Environment K-6: syllabus. (2006). Board of Studies, HSW. Sydney. www. boardofstudies. nsw. edu. au

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