Alberta unveils new draft K-6 curriculum

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Alberta's Education Minister Adriana LaGrange unveiled on Monday new draft K-6 curriculum to be piloted in some classrooms this fall. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)
Alberta's Education Minister Adriana LaGrange unveiled on Monday new draft K-6 curriculum to be piloted in some classrooms this fall. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)

Alberta five- and six-year-olds will learn about the migration and settlement of ancient civilizations, according to a new draft K-6 curriculum to be piloted in some classrooms this fall.

In Grade 2 social studies, children will learn about the origins of democracy, the Silk Road trading route and how Islam, Judaism and Christianity helped shape the world.

They will learn about Roman kings and tyrants, medieval social order, Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire and the Magna Carta. They will also learn about the impact of the plague.

The latest draft of the Grade 3 social studies curriculum, publicly revealed Monday, would have third graders — usually ages seven and eight — learn about the history and governance of New France, the arrival of European explorers in North America and their contact with Indigenous peoples.

"They will be taught how our history, as a place of freedom and refuge for millions around the world, led to Canada becoming one of the most diverse and peacefully pluralistic countries in the world," Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said at a news conference Monday.

"In so doing, students will hopefully develop not only a deep sense of gratitude to past generations and a pride in who we are today, but also the responsibility to carry this legacy forward into the future."

Common cache of knowledge

Years after claiming Alberta's K-12 school curriculum development had been skewed by political influence from the former NDP government, the United Conservative Party government unveiled its first public draft of a new elementary school curriculum in every subject, in English and French.

Unlike the previously proposed curriculum, which was constructed to teach students concepts, the government is now adopting a philosophy that there is a common cache of knowledge every child should know, and which should be taught in chronological order.

It is an approach that curriculum experts have previously panned as outdated and with no basis in modern research.

The elementary social studies curriculum says students will "develop gratitude for the sacrifices of those who came before us, beginning with the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, and a pride in the free, prosperous, peaceful, and welcoming society that they built and that students have the responsibility to carry forward," the newly released document says.

Treaty education will begin in Grade 4, and the harms of residential schools will first be addressed in Grade 5.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action compelled governments to "make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, treaties, and Aboriginal peoples' historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for kindergarten to Grade 12 students."

Black settlements and the contributions of early Black pioneers would be introduced in Grade 4.

Other changes include introducing fractions in math as early as Grade 1, and more emphasis on money, finance and the economy.

English and French language arts will now include a heavy emphasis on teaching reading using phonics in kindergarten through Grade 3.

Coding and computational learning has been added to the science curriculum.

Consent to be taught in all grades

Students will learn about consent in all grades.

Former professional hockey player and sexual assault survivor and whistleblower Sheldon Kenney says he's been pushing for the consent lessons.

"The ability to say no. The ability to say yes. The ability to understand boundaries. It's not only going to keep kids safe, it's going to save lives," he said.

The government will spend $6 million this year developing resources and preparing teachers to test the new curriculum in select elementary classrooms, beginning in September.

The government plans to hold four virtual feedback sessions in April, as well as monthly sessions from May until February 2022. All elementary schools are expected to use the new K-6 curriculum beginning in September 2022.

The Grades 7 to 10 curriculum is under development and is slated to be ready for classroom testing by September 2022. The government wants all grades and schools to be using new curriculum by September 2024.

The redevelopment process began about a decade ago under the former Progressive Conservative government. Curriculum was previously developed one subject at a time. Some of Alberta's curriculum dates back to the 1980s.