Social Studies

Department Head: Jared Levy

Teachers

  • Peter Ammirati
  • Kristina Bauman
  • Steve Buteux
  • Russ Carrick
  • Angelo Coclanis
  • Scott Eckstein
  • Don Kaplan
  • Jared Levy
  • Martin Smith
  • Tom Wilschutz

Curriculum

Every person needs a sound education in history and the study of society, so our Social Studies courses aim to appeal to and challenge every type of learner. The History Department offers a purposeful sequence of core courses from the 7th through the 12th grades that focuses on the following: an understanding of the cultural, economic, political, and intellectual history of the West and non-West; an understanding of US history; an understanding of US government; and an investigation of ethics and the development of character. We supplement these core offerings with a broad array of electives taught by members of the department and by part-time instructors who teach in an area of their expertise.

We collaborate with students in an inquiry into past and present societies, and we want students to find this inquiry relevant to their own lives. Our classes are organized around seminar style discussions that teach students how to listen to and weigh a broad range of ideas, how to advocate their own positions, and how to engage collegially with students and teachers. In this format, students are not passive receptors of lectures; rather, teachers guide students in a group exploration of contending ideas. In this group exploration, we find that a mix of learners is useful, so students who are geared towards math or science or art have much to offer the group.

For those students who want to pursue study at the highest level in high school and college, our program provides excellent opportunities for advanced work through Honors and AP courses in both our core and elective offerings.

The history department is most concerned that students demonstrate competency in the various courses we offer. “Competency” in this context means developing a knowledge base, but at least as important is the way students critically think about the content. Toward this end, our courses focus on teaching the following:

  • Critical thinking: We teach students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate a variety of information sources — and to recognize motive and bias.
  • An appreciation of perspective: Students are challenged to analyze historical and social issues from diverse perspectives, such as those perspectives shaped by race, gender, class, and culture. Students are also expected to interrogate how their own perspective influences their understanding of the world.
  • Research method: Our program builds research skills that are age appropriate, and our graduates are prepared for the research expectations of their college courses.
  • An exposure to technology: Our students frequently use a range of (ever changing) learning and communication technologies.
  • Public speaking: Many informal and low stakes opportunities are provided for students to practice public speaking, and such opportunities help students succeed in formal public speaking situations.
  • Writing: Our courses tend to be writing intensive; we teach various types of writing (from essay to research writing), and we push students to write clearly and cogently.

Communication and assessment: We want students to learn a variety of ways to communicate what they’ve learned, and we use a variety of methods to assess their understanding of material, including the following: in-class discussion; public speaking and various types of presentations; group projects; research writing; essay writing; various types of tests and quizzes; debate; journal writing; interviews; postings on web interfaces; and various types of audio-visual productions.

Twelve credits in Social Studies are required. Six credits must be in United States History. The remaining six credits may come from any other full-year course or combination of trimester courses. Virtually every student elects to take at least 18 credits (3 full years), and many students take more than 24 credits (4 full years).


FULL YEAR COURSES

ICC History: Local and Global Perspectives: The goal of the ICC History class is to encourage students to think critically about increasingly complex material in a fun and creative environment. We will look at the key questions raised in the ICC program through historical and literary lenses (the English and History will offer complementary content), and there will be an emphasis on critical reading to understand perspective and bias. In the 2018-19 school year, ICC will focus on the role that immigration has played in the development of the North American continent and the United States. Through the lens of immigration, resistance, and tyranny, students will examine the values, structures, and conflicts that have shaped this continent and nation. Students will engage in the process of interviewing, evaluating resources, and writing research papers, and they will explore geography and cartography. Due to ICC’s integrated curriculum, students will benefit from interdisciplinary experiences and complete projects drawing from work in their English, history, and science courses. There is a mandatory summer reading assignment and skills work. Required. ICC History is intended for 8th graders. 6 credits.

World History 9: How We Got to Now: From the deep past to today, people have been forced to solve certain social problems, such as: food production and storage; protection against aggressors; provision of shelter from the elements; and the creation and maintenance of social, ideological, and spiritual orders. In meeting these challenges, people’s responses depended, to varying degrees, on their environments and cultures (and sometimes luck!). They developed different civilizations over time, and, as those civilizations became more sophisticated, they began to interact more with other civilizations – through trade, war, conquest, technological and cultural borrowing, etc. In World History 9, we begin with the principal cultural hearths, as it were, and trace world history through time, from the cradles of civilization to the forces, conflicts, and co-operations that have led to the emergence of global interdependence in the modern era. In this course, students will learn to think openly and critically about what they read, to identify and express empathy with different historical perspectives, to mount a historical argument, and to develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Recommended for ninth grade. Global 6 credits

Ethics 10 and Honors Ethics 10: We are all endowed with the power to lead ourselves, to support our families, and to engage meaningfully in our social and political worlds. This fact is particularly relevant to sophomores, who stand on the threshold of forging a path in the upper school and beyond. In order for students to make positive contributions to all of their present and future communities, it is essential that they appreciate the ethical weight of their lives. Our intention is not to provide answers; rather, we encourage students to engage in deliberate inquiry and reflection—often the precursor to healthy decision making—that we hope becomes a lifelong habit. In creating this seminar style class, instructors draw content from world history, philosophy, and the social sciences; we introduce students to deep study in these fields and we hope to inspire further study in all of them. We believe that students benefit enormously from study in Ethics, so we designed this full year course to be taken by all sophomores; as such, it reinforces the habits of thought introduced in the 9th grade World History course and prepares students for the advanced work that they will undertake in their junior and senior years. Recommended for tenth grade. Global 6 credits

United States History: This course examines the social, economic, political, and cultural forces that have influenced the development of the United States. Particular attention is paid to historiographical questions about objectivity, reliability of evidence and sources, and the selection and interpretation of data. A further aim of the course is to build students' skills in research, argumentation, debate, and the presentation of information. Intended for juniors, except for students in American Studies. Required, 6 credits

American Studies (Honors United States History): This two-period course combines Honors American Literature with Honors U.S. History. By focusing on the economic, social, and political connections between the literature and the history, we seek to integrate the two disciplines. As an in-depth exploration of American history and the development of a distinct American literature, this course attempts to replicate an introductory college experience in terms of pace, volume, and complexity of the material. In the course, we embed the works of the major American writers (Irving, Cooper, Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, and Ginsberg to name a few) in U.S. historical context, drawing connections between literary and historical developments. A variety of historical texts will be employed, including primary sources, statistical compilations, and secondary sources. Enrollment is limited. This course includes a mandatory summer reading assignment. Prerequisite: Recommendation of teacher and a B+ or better in 10th grade English and History. Honors. 12 credits (6 for Social Studies, 6 for English)

AP United States History: This year-long course explores U.S. history from the pre-Columbian period into the 21st century. It will follow the trajectories of both colonizer and colonized, and will examine the often messy process of nation building, and America's transformation from a colonial backwater spawned by European nation-states in the 16th and 17th centuries to a great world power by the early 20th century. In so doing, the difficult process by which the country’s promise of freedom and equality was extended to more and more groups over time will also be detailed and analyzed. Students will be challenged to develop and employ historical reasoning and critical thinking skills, and to express themselves clearly and confidently both verbally and in writing. This course is discussion-based, and is designed to emulate the pace and academic rigor of a college-level course. Students enrolled in this course are required to take the AP exam in early May. AP. 6 credits

AP Government and Politics: This course gives students a comprehensive overview of all corners of the American political system. Students examine the constitutional underpinnings of our system, the official branches of government, and the "linkage institutions," such as political parties and interest groups, that connect the people to policy-makers. Students will be responsible for familiarizing themselves with topics such as federalism, selective incorporation, and budgetary procedure, and are required to take the Advanced Placement exam in May. Prerequisites: completion of intensive summer assignment, a B+ or better in 11th grade history, and a demonstrated capacity for independent work. AP. 6 credits

Character Leadership and Development Course: This research-based curriculum is designed to improve the character and leadership traits among high school, middle school and alternative school students. Examples of Character and Leadership serves as the textbook for the curriculum. We believe kids need positive role models to look up to and emulate. Unfortunately, many kids today report they do not have role models. Other times, the role model is, at best, a curious choice. The Role Models textbook highlights 18 individuals who exemplify the different character traits covered in the curriculum. Each of the 18 character and leadership traits have been paired with weekly topics and role models who are worthy of study, but with the material given, there is enough to create three complete trimesters. Although each week (or two weeks depending on the schedule) has a different topic, the format of the class remains the same. This format utilizes ethical dilemmas, lectures, character movies, core readings from the role models textbook, basic skills, leadership principles, current events, local community leaders & weekly writing assignments to provide a framework for consistent and stable learning. 2 credits per trimester—offered every term.

Healthy Relationships: Mental health and healthy human sexuality begin with healthy relationships, and healthy relationships begin with communication. This course begins with the assumption that access to the information necessary to develop healthy intimate relationships and make informed decisions about one’s body is a basic human right. The goal of this class is to provide students with accurate information, but also to help them respect and advocate for themselves while at the same time listening to and respecting others, whether peers, partners, or parents. In this trimester class, students will be provided with information about human sexuality, gender identities, sexually transmitted infections, birth control, and reproductive systems, but in discussions and activities, they will also be encouraged to communicate their own values and preferences. This course fulfills the Health graduation requirement and is intended for students in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade. 1 credit per trimester—offered every term.


FALL TRIMESTER COURSES

Creative Nonfiction: Some of the most powerful, thoughtful, and culturally significant writing is found in the essays of writers like Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace, and others who are published under the genre “creative nonfiction.” To engage with this historical, observational, and experimental writing form, students will read and analyze essays, produce original content, and give meaningful feedback to one another. The habits and skills developed in this course are useful for those interested in journalism, cultural studies, and creative writing. This class may also be taken for English credit. 2 credits.

Cultural Anthropology: This course presents a comparative study of cultures and human societies and allows an opportunity to understand human diversity throughout the world. Students will explore how various peoples use socially learned traditions, religion, politics, kinship, language, gender roles, and much more to structure their lives. Throughout the class students will broaden their understanding of different cultures and will learn new analytical tools to better understand cultural difference, contemporary global change, and social organization. Students will be asked to demonstrate their understanding of the material through class participation, guided fieldwork projects, and individual and group assignments. This class fulfills a global studies program credit. Global. 2 credits.

Fighting “Fake News”: The term “fake news” has come to mean everything from deliberately fabricated disinformation to stories that are merely uncomfortable for the subject in question. How did we get here? This elective attempts to answer this question, first by looking at the ways our own biases can color our judgements of the media we consume, and how certain media outlets exploit those biases. We then attempt to determine for ourselves what makes for authentic journalism, and examine how technology and corporate forces have made such journalism (particularly local and print journalism) struggle. With a deeper understanding of psychology and the media ecosystem, those who finish this course will be able spot, and defend against, all manner of media manipulation. This class may also be taken for English credit. 2 credits.

Honors Economics: Theory & Reality: The purpose of this class is for students to examine traditional economic theory and to compare that theory against real world outcomes. As they grapple with the material, students are encouraged to develop their critical awareness and deepen their understanding of the meaning of a “successful economy” from a variety of perspectives. The overt and covert, subtle and direct influence that the media wields in the economic decision making process is examined in depth. Particular attention will be paid to the issues of: the nature and extent of our freedom of choice; equity, efficiency and environment; and the interrelationship between the market and democracy. Students are evaluated in the following ways: on the quality and quantity of their participation in group and class discussions; on journal writing; on their individual and group presentations; and on a final extensive reflective essay and/or multiple intelligence project. Honors, 2 credits.

Modern Psychology: The purpose of this class is for students to acquire the knowledge and skills to develop an understanding of themselves and the world around them through: an examination of the various schools of thought of some famous modern psychologists including Maslow, Rogers, Fritz Perls and Viktor Frankl; a selection of psychological topics including intra and interpersonal dynamics, emotional intelligence, neuroscience and the development of neural circuits and networks, mental dominion and the development of an intense self-reflective awareness. Students are evaluated: on the quality and quantity of their participation in group and class discussions; on journal writing; on their individual and group presentations; and on a final reflective essay/multiple intelligence project. 2 credits.

Teach2Serve: Developing Capstone: Students planning to continue for a second year of Teach2Serve will need to complete a summer internship or volunteer experience and write up a project proposal in the fall. In the winter trimester, students will begin meeting twice a week as a cohort and one-on-one with an instructor to conceive, plan, develop and implement a capstone project, which is a proposed solution to a social or environmental problem identified by the student. Students start by listening to those in the affected community, educating themselves, educating others, and defining their goals. They will develop and practice an elevator pitch so they can succinctly communicate what they hope to accomplish with their project. Next, they will write a vision and mission statement; a project proposal in which they identify their goals, assets, logistics, marketing plan, recruiting plan, and governance; a preliminary budget; a fundraising proposal; and a self-evaluation. The focus of this student-directed program is on learning by doing. Open to students accepted from the Teach2Serve program only. 2 credits.


WINTER TRIMESTER COURSES

Honors Thesis: This class will provide students with the experience of researching and writing an extended paper. The topic chosen can be anything from history, the social sciences, or the humanities, and should be a topic with which the student is already familiar. Students will be supported through the process of choosing a topic, researching, development of a thesis, writing, and the final oral interview. Honors, 2 credits.

Linguistic Anthropology: This course will introduce students to linguistic anthropology, which investigates the relationship between language and culture. Students will examine how language is shaped by everyday social and cultural traditions, how people utilize language in their daily lives, and how language informs identity. In addition to studying language diversity within cultural contexts, this class will explore the intersections between language and social categories like race, class, nationality, ethnicity, and gender. Integral to the course will be questioning assumed beliefs about language and appreciating linguistic diversity. Students will use anthropological research methods to investigate the linguistic trends they encounter everyday. Class participation, independent research projects, individual and group assignments, and regular readings will be used to evaluate progress. Global. 2 credits.

Moral Conflicts: Throughout the trimester we will explore challenging moral issues around the globe that have a strong hold in the scientific community. There will be a mix of reading assignments, debates, research projects, and presentations. Some topics that will be covered include the death penalty, eugenics, and physician assisted suicide. This class is co-taught with a history teacher and a science teacher, and fulfills a global studies program credit. Global. Moral Conflicts is intended for 11th and 12th graders. 2 credits.

Psychology: Theoretical Roots: The purpose of this class is for students to acquire the knowledge and skills to develop an understanding of themselves and the world around them through an examination of various schools of thought of some famous psychologists including Freud, Jung, Skinner, and Erikson. In addition, students will be introduced to a selection of psychological topics centered on the following: personality; relationship with self, others, and the world; mental health; and the development of an intense self-reflective awareness. Students are evaluated in the following ways: on the quality and quantity of their participation in group and class discussions; on journal writing; on their individual and group presentations; and on a final extensive reflective essay and/or multiple intelligence project. 2 credits.

Teach2Serve: Developing Capstone: Students planning to continue for a second year of Teach2Serve will need to complete a summer internship or volunteer experience and write up a project proposal in the fall. In the winter trimester, students will begin meeting twice a week as a cohort and one-on-one with an instructor to conceive, plan, develop and implement a capstone project, which is a proposed solution to a social or environmental problem identified by the student. Students start by listening to those in the affected community, educating themselves, educating others, and defining their goals. They will develop and practice an elevator pitch so they can succinctly communicate what they hope to accomplish with their project. Next, they will write a vision and mission statement; a project proposal in which they identify their goals, assets, logistics, marketing plan, recruiting plan, and governance; a preliminary budget; a fundraising proposal; and a self-evaluation. The focus of this student-directed program is on learning by doing. Open to students accepted from the Teach2Serve program only. 2 credits.

Teach2Serve: Giving: In this two trimester honors course, which is a requirement of the Teach2Serve program, students will study the history of philanthropy and social service in the public, private, and non-profit sectors and identify the motivations, strengths and limitations of each. Students will become familiar with the actors in the process, the barriers that exist, the points of entry, and the pathways to change. Along the way, they will develop such skills as teambuilding, listening, conflict resolution, negotiation, resource mobilization, and fundraising. Lessons will be communicated more concretely through an examination of articles, books, and case studies related to an area of need chosen by the class. This course will also include workshops and opportunities to meet with dynamic social entrepreneurs and professionals working in the non-profit world. Course requirements include readings, journal responses, group projects and presentations, and a grant proposal. Open to students in the Teach2Serve program only. 4 credits. Winter and Spring trimester

The Search for Enlightenment & World Religions: The desire for a spiritual life has been a driving force in human history and a key component of human cultures. In this course (a study of history, sociology, and literature) we survey “major” and lesser known faiths and practices, and we examine texts that feature individuals and characters who search for enlightenment (by authors such as Basho, Hesse, Kerouac, Black Elk, Thoreau, Krakauer, Malcolm X, and others.) The hope is that students will examine their own lives and worlds as they examine the materials of the course. Students who are open to self-reflection or who are interested in the history of ideas should find this course particularly stimulating. This class may also be taken for English credit. Global. 2 credits.

Writing for College: For many students research papers remain mystifying, unnatural (even painful), but the process can be a straightforward one if approached the right way. By acknowledging the presence of research in our own lives, and employing methodical guided practice, this course aims to turn the written research product from something agonizing and alien into a skill that can be confidently utilized at will. If this is a set of tools you want in your kit, and you are willing to commit some time to make that happen, then this course should help make you ripe for the task. This class may also be taken for English credit. 2 credits.


SPRING TRIMESTER COURSES

Archaeology: Archaeology is the study of past cultures through their material remains. In this course, students will examine how the field of archaeology helps us to better understand the past using mostly unwritten sources and how it shapes the modern world around us. Class topics will include excavation methods, dating techniques, artifact analysis, conservation, and cultural history. This course will also include opportunities to visit an archaeological site and meet professionals working in the field. Students will be evaluated through class participation and discussion, presentations, readings, and writing assignments. Global. 2 credits.

Identity and Diversity: The purpose of this team taught class is to prompt students to acknowledge, review and develop their preconceptions regarding the terms “identity” and “diversity” as they apply to themselves and others in our society. Students will be exposed to literature, non-fiction material, and audio/visual resources relating to identity and diversity, and they will engage in discussion and dialogue to assist in their reflective process. Students are evaluated in the following ways: on the quality and quantity of their participation in class discussions; on their written assignments, including journal writing; and on their individual and group presentations. 2 credits.

Into the Wild: Nature in Writing and Life: To be in the woods is a basic human desire that many great writers have used as their subject. There is healing there, as is captured in Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild. There is adventure, as is tragically recounted in John Krakauer's nonfiction book, Into the Wild. And there is enlightenment, reflected upon in the essays of Emerson and Thoreau. This class will use literature as its starting point, focusing on the writings mentioned above and more as well as film, and then will move beyond the classroom and into the subject itself, nature, with occasional outdoor excursions and journaling. This class may also be taken for English credit. 2 credits Public Speaking: The purpose of this class is to allow students to acquire the techniques and methods of formal speaking and presentations and to develop the ability to speak extemporaneously. The students experience a variety of practical applications and at least five different kinds of speeches including speaking to inspire, to inform, to persuade, to demonstrate and to entertain. Students are evaluated: on each of their formal prepared speeches; on their performance in improvisational speaking; and on their final speech in front of the whole school. This class may also be taken for English credit. 2 credits.

Teach2Serve: Giving: In this two trimester honors course, which is a requirement of the Teach2Serve program, students will study the history of philanthropy and social service in the public, private, and non-profit sectors and identify the motivations, strengths and limitations of each. Students will become familiar with the actors in the process, the barriers that exist, the points of entry, and the pathways to change. Along the way, they will develop such skills as teambuilding, listening, conflict resolution, negotiation, resource mobilization, and fundraising. Lessons will be communicated more concretely through an examination of articles, books, and case studies related to an area of need chosen by the class. This course will also include workshops and opportunities to meet with dynamic social entrepreneurs and professionals working in the non-profit world. Course requirements include readings, journal responses, group projects and presentations, and a grant proposal. Open to students in the Teach2Serve program only. 4 credits. Winter and Spring trimester.

Teach2Serve: Developing Capstone: (spring trimester, year 2): Students planning to continue for a second year of Teach2Serve will need to complete a summer internship or volunteer experience and write up a project proposal in the fall. In the winter trimester, students will begin meeting twice a week as a cohort and one-on-one with an instructor to conceive, plan, develop and implement a capstone project, which is a proposed solution to a social or environmental problem identified by the student. Students start by listening to those in the affected community, educating themselves, educating others, and defining their goals. They will develop and practice an elevator pitch so they can succinctly communicate what they hope to accomplish with their project. Next, they will write a vision and mission statement; a project proposal in which they identify their goals, assets, logistics, marketing plan, recruiting plan, and governance; a preliminary budget; a fundraising proposal; and a self-evaluation. The focus of this student-directed program is on learning by doing. Open to students accepted from the Teach2Serve program only. 2 credits.

US Environmental History: This course surveys the 19th century roots and the 20th and 21st century history of the various strands of the American environmental movement. We will survey landmark events in the conservation, preservation, and "radical ecology" movements, and we will examine current controversies surrounding the state of local and global ecosystems. This course pushes students to grapple with contending positions about environmental policy and to engage with complicated questions about technology, human nature, and culture. 2 credits.

Weapons of Mass Destruction: With Kim Jong Un testing long range missiles and Bashar Al Assad releasing chlorine gas, the international use of weapons of mass destruction is no longer merely hypothetical. This course will look at the technological and historical origins of such threats, study their role in geopolitics, and highlight all the attempts to curb and forestall their use. By using the issue as “a lens on the world” in this way, we will arrive at a better understanding of how diplomacy and international relations function on today’s world stage. Global. 2 credits.