Sensitivity of Students to the Natural Environment, Animals, Social Problems and Cultural Heritage

By Fidan, Nuray Kurtdede | International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, March 2016 | Go to article overview

Sensitivity of Students to the Natural Environment, Animals, Social Problems and Cultural Heritage


Fidan, Nuray Kurtdede, International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education


Introduction

Doganay (2006) argued that the course of social studies makes use of the content and methods of other disciplines about society and people to deal with the interaction of people with their physical and social environment in an interdisciplinary way and to produce individuals who are equipped with basic democratic values. One of the major goals of this course is to produce active citizens who can make informed decisions and solve problems in a changing world (Öztürk, 2009). Social studies is one of the main courses of the elementary and middle school curriculum in Turkey. Social studies took educators attention because it prepares students as active citizens (Kilinç, 2014). Active citizens are aware of the problems in society and attempt to eliminate these problems. They are also aware of their rights and responsibilities. They are expected to know and make use of their rights, to fulfil their responsibilities and to involve societal activities (Kus, 2013). Karatekin & Sönmez (2014) argued that active citizens should not be insensitive about the problems they meet. Instead, they should search for the reasons for these problems and attempt to solve. It is one of individuals' responsibilities for themselves, other people and the world. In recent periods, the values education has become an effective method in producing active citizens. From 2005, the values education has been part of primary social studies programs.

The values included in the social studies programs in Turkey are as follows: importance of family unity and health, respect for the flag and national anthem, rights and freedoms, differences, fairness, independence, peace, freedom, scientific, industriousness, solidarity, sensitivity, integrity, aesthetics, tolerance, hospitality, cleanliness, nature, responsibility, patriotism and charity (MONE, 2010). Some of these values were included in the programs for different grades while others were grouped into sub-categories. For instance, the value of respect has five sub-categories and that of sensitivity has three sub-categories, which are related to historical heritage, natural environment and cultural heritage (Keskin & Ögretici, 2013). In the social studies program for grades of 4, 5, 6 and 7, which became effective in 2005, the most frequently stated value is that of sensitivity. Sensitivity to the natural environment is one of the most frequent improvements targeted social studies (Merey et al., 2012). In this course, there are certain values which are directly related to the natural environment and its protection. These values are that of love, respect, sensitivity, cleanliness, responsibility, fairness, solidarity, peace and aesthetics (Karatekin & Sönmez, 2014). One of the major goals of environmental education is to produc e individuals who have environmental literacy which refers to cognitive and affective qualities about responsible acts towards the environment. Sensitivity to the environment is one of the significant ingredients of environmental literacy (Sivek, 2002).

In producing responsible and sensitive individuals, informing them about social topics is a significant step. In addition, students should perceive social problems in a healthy way and have sensitivity to problems (Johnson, 2005: cited in Öcal et al., 2013). Kincal & Isik (2003) analysed the democratic values and concluded that the values of sensitivity, responsibility and fairness are among the most included values in education worldwide. Kincal & Isik (2003) found that basic democratic values include equality, respect for life, freedom, justice, honesty, quest for good, cooperation, self-confidence, tolerance, sensitivity and responsibility. Individuals are expected to be sensitive to not only environmental and social problems, but also to cultural/historical heritage which consists of material and spiritual elements from the past. In a similar vein, the social studies program covers a learning domain called culture and heritage. …

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