Student News

UK students bring social studies lessons to Fayette County elementary school

 Jennifer Rosas, a University of Kentucky senior majoring in elementary education.
ShoShana White, a junior, plans to become dual certified to teach in two areas -- learning and behavior disorders and moderate and severe disabilities.
Caroline Andres, an elementary education major.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 16, 2024) — For Jennifer Rosas, a University of Kentucky student majoring in elementary education, a recent class assignment was a chance to share part of her life with local elementary students. 

“I am Latina and becoming a teacher for all types of students. It is especially an honor to be a part of the education field for Latino students and for them to have someone to look up to. I will never shy away from saying that I was a multilingual student in the free-and-reduced program and never got to see a representation for myself, so I am here for those, and all, students,” Rosas said. 

Rosas, along with classmates in the UK College of Education, recently gained experience preparing and teaching social studies lessons at Rosa Parks Elementary in Lexington. 

The school librarian selected children’s books that represent the cultures of the school community. Then, it was up to UK students to read the books to classes at Rosa Parks and create a lesson to help students analyze and share what they learned. 

Rosas and her partner for the project read "My Two Border Towns" and created a lesson about borders that included a bird’s eye view of counties in the state of Kentucky. They zoomed out to show all the U.S. states and eventually zoomed out to show the borders of Canada, the U.S. and México. Then, they led a discussion. 

Helping young students develop foundational skills in social studies is crucial, says Laura Darolia, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. 

“Through social studies, students learn to answer compelling questions by analyzing sources about civics, economics, history and geography and ideally become engaged citizens. The collaboration with Rosa Parks Elementary was designed to provide pre-service teachers with the opportunity to plan and teach interdisciplinary lessons that included literacy (read aloud books) and social studies (primary sources) that highlighted the cultural diversity of the school community,” Darolia said. 

The read aloud assignment is part of the Elementary Social Studies Methods course (EDC 326). Taught by Darolia, with an emphasis on addressing the individual needs of a diverse student population, the course includes critical analysis of a variety of objectives, instructional materials and strategies as well as evaluation techniques. 

Some of the UK students taking the course are special education majors. ShoShana White plans to become dual certified to teach in two areas — learning and behavior disorders and moderate and severe disabilities.  

“I loved this class and learning all the ways to incorporate social studies. It has taught me how important it is for students and I think it’s a subject that’s vital to help create independent students within the special education community,” White said. 

Caroline Andres, an elementary education major, saw one of the students in her classroom immediately brighten as her group started to read the book "Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey," about a family from Iraq that flees their homeland when it becomes unsafe. 

“He was so excited to see his country represented in the book and it was the sweetest sight to see,” Andres said. “He wrote his name in Arabic and was so proud to show the class. His ideas for helping his community demonstrated how much some of these sweet kids have gone through and was really eye opening to me. He captioned his pictures, ‘People rebuilding the building, people dropped resources at the village and people finding a village to live in.’” 

Rosas said the course has helped students like herself become better teachers by thinking outside the box.  

“We have learned ways to pre- and post-assess student learning and make what is a difficult subject for many students much more fun and engaging,” she said. “Having a social studies course has been very important in my development as a future educator and creating an environment where we can talk about the past and how to create a better future.” 

Soon, the UK students will be in the final stages of the educator preparation program. White said she looks forward to becoming a teacher to share her love of learning with her students. 

“I think it's so amazing to watch students learn and grow,” she said. “I feel like all my life things have worked out for me and now it's my time to give back to my community and be a good change for individuals who can’t advocate for themselves.” 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.