Education, especially in the primary school, cannot be far removed from the immediate environment of the learner. Relevant local content should be a part of the teaching-learning process, ideally transacted through activities drawn from local resources. The components of the environment which include plants and animals, soil, water, air, humans, political and economic forces, industries, farms and cities just to mention a few. All these components of the environment have a maximum contribution to the teaching and learning of Social Studies. School stakeholders often forget how much can be learnt by children by interacting with neighbours, friends and family members, by critically observing and exploring the social reality around them while simultaneously enabling them to experience human values like freedom, mutual respect and respect for diversity. Text books should be used to open up avenues for further enquiry based on observation and exploration. It is therefore the essence of this write up to analyse the use of environment in teaching Social Studies with reference to specific topics. These topics include food, Living Together, Rules and Laws, Transport and Communication and Shelter. Key terms such as Social Studies and environment will be defined. Defined by Preston (1955) cited in Kochhar (1998) Social Studies are the portions of History, Geography, Civics and other Social Sciences that are selected for use in teaching. According to this definition, Social Studies is seen as a subject that combines aspects from a number of the traditional and other subject areas which include inter-alia History, Geography, Civics, Anthropology, Archeology, Economics, Philosophy, Political Science, Religious and Sociology. According to Banks (1990), Social Studies is that part of the curriculum which has the primary responsibility for helping students to develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to participate in the civic life of their local communities, the nation and the world. Civic life is the ability to exercise the responsibility and obligations expected of one as a citizen of a country using the knowledge, skills and attitudes acquired in Social Studies. The civic competencies would facilitate successful living and working together. Propounded by Michaelis (1985) Social Studies is concerned with people and their interactions with their social and physical environment, they deal with human relations. Also, Social Studies is primarily concerned with the study of those human relationships believed to be most important in developing responsible citizenship. It is also an integrated study of the social sciences to promote civic competences. Chinoda (1992) is of the view that Social Studies is an inter-disciplinary programme with a contemporary orientation and a focus upon personal and social problems. Environment consists of interactions between the biophysical, economic, social and political dimensions of our life world. According to Tien (1993) environment is a social construct referring to the interactions between social and bio physical systems. It is also defined by Berk (2003) as the conception, interactions between our physical surroundings and the social, political and economic forces that organise as in the context of these surroundings. In other words, the concept environment is socially constructed. As indicated, the environment is the major source for teaching and learning Social Studies concepts (O’donoghue 1995). Information, activities, concrete objects, places just to mention a few, are all found in the local environment. This will enable leaner and teachers to have access to these elements of the environment, interact with them and get equipped in their learning activities. The topic food for instance, derives its information and activities from shops, farms and markets (Kim Le 2000). This experience will give pupils together with teachers to come into contact with shopkeepers, farm workers,...
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