Questioning geography and culture

What would happen if we moved from asking, “How does environment shape culture?" to “How does culture shape the environment?”

The former is a guiding question of the third-grade social studies curriculum where I teach, but several weeks ago, a parent interjected a pointed question to a colleague of mine while he presented an overview of the curriculum. This father, a historian, insisted that we should instead consider cultures' influence on environment.

At first, the father's question seemed misplaced and overly academic. And presentations for parents aren't quite an effective forum for debating the appropriateness of the curriculum. Over the following weeks, however, his question lingered in my mind. What if he's right? I'll have to circle back to this at some point.

Questions for later

  • What would we gain from considering both questions?
  • How can the questions be reformulated so culture and environment are not depicted as opposites?
  • What would a developmentally appropriate curriculum based on questioning culture's shaping of the environment look like in primary grades?
  • How can parents be involved in designing social studies curricula?