20 Mar VCE Success and why the HASS Skills we Learn in Years 7 to 10 Matter – by Sonia Slonim (Head of Humanities and Social Sciences)
Two banks collapsed in the USA last week, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and the Signature crypto bank in New York. How did this happen and how is it like the collapse of the banks during the Great Depression in the 1920s? What has the Declaration of the Rights of Man got to do with us Jews? Why do Jews move from country to country? How are Indigenous definitions of family different to the way we define them? What are theories of management and why should we do a SWOT analysis before we open a small business? What are some modern-day challenges to Judaism? What is the purpose of civil law? How do you manage assets? These are just some examples of the topics covered in the Humanities curriculum from Year 7 to 12 which set our students up for VCE success.
The Humanities subjects are challenging to learn and require specific skills to make the most of the learning process. However, these skills taught from Year 7 -10 place the students in good stead for VCE success. We focus on five key skills that are also transferable to whatever they choose to do in life. Students must develop these skills during the early years of their secondary schooling so that they are able to apply them when they reach the final years of school and then to university.
The first skill that is essential for learning history is critical thinking. History is not just a list of dates and facts, but it requires the ability to analyse and interpret historical events. Critical thinking skills enable students to evaluate the credibility and reliability of the sources they are studying. Students learn to ask questions about the context, the author, and the audience of a source. They develop the skills to identify bias, propaganda, and other forms of historical distortion.
The second skill that is necessary for learning history is research skills. Students learn how to evaluate primary and secondary sources, both online and offline. Students learn to synthesize and analyse the information they gather from various sources.
The third is writing skills. Writing is an integral part of the learning process in history. Students are asked to express their ideas clearly and logically in written form. They are taught how to structure an essay, use evidence, and provide proper citations. Developing writing skills helps students to organize their thoughts, clarify their arguments, and communicate effectively.
The fourth skill necessary for learning history is contextualization. Historical events cannot be understood in isolation. A good example is when we teach our students that Jewish History does not happen in a vacuum. Students contextualize historical events within their social, economic, political, and cultural context. Contextualization helps students appreciate the diversity of historical experiences and challenges their own assumptions and biases.
The fifth is empathy. Empathy involves the ability to understand and appreciate the perspectives of people from different historical periods and cultures. While it is dangerous to ask students to imagine how historical events may have happened, it is important to learn empathy and a sense of historical consciousness and to understand the continuity and change in human experience over time.
The skill we teach in the Humanities classroom also apply to the many extracurricular activities in our department. Year 9 students visited the Jewish Museum for the launch of the Roots Project where they learnt how to interview family members, research and evaluate objects and create a family tree. A select group of Year 9 students was chosen to represent Yavneh at the Victorian Young Leaders Global Youth Forum where they will discuss issues such as quality education, life under water, gender equality and more.
As part of their investigation about Jews during the rise of Islam, Year 8 students enjoyed a visit to the Islam Museum where they had the opportunity to hear from Muslims about their faith and explore some of the developments in the Islamic world during the Middle Ages.
Our aim as teachers of the Humanities is to ensure that using the skills outlined here students will be able to answer the sample questions above. We hope that by learning about the Great Depression they will understand why SVG Bank and Signature Bank collapsed. They will understand what makes a historical event significant and show empathy towards those who suffered throughout history. They will be able to write about theoretical concepts in Business Studies and apply them when they enter the workforce. Therefore, acquiring and applying skills taught in HASS is important throughout the school journey. Please take advantage of all the learning opportunities offered to you.