History & Social Studies

The History and Social Studies department employs a humanities-based approach to the study of history and seeks to nurture responsible and informed global citizens who think critically, communicate articulately, and respect one another’s differences. Faculty model and motivate students to cultivate effective writing, research, and thoughtful inquiry skills that connect diverse bodies of knowledge. We are committed to developing life-long learners and compassionate human beings.

Course Descriptions

World History

The first in a two-part World History sequence, World History I is required of all 9th graders. The two part course takes a thematic approach to the development of human thought, innovation, and conflict. In the first year, students explore the origins of human civilization and its religious traditions, the development of different forms of political organization and political thought, the great bursts of creativity in Asia and Europe between 1300 and 1600, and the upheavals caused by the contact of civilizations between 1200 and 1700. Students read both primary and secondary sources regularly, consider examples of artistic expression from around the world, and learn the basics of historical thinking, research, and writing. A research project is required.

World History II

The second in a two-part World History sequence, World History II (or honors World History II) is required of all 10th graders. The course focuses on the emergence of the modern world, from the 1600s to modern times, and the course is organized thematically. It considers the revolutionary upheavals of the eighteenth century, the rapid political and economic change of the nineteenth century, the emergence of totalitarian ideologies and regimes in the twentieth century, and the subsequent strivings of peoples the world over for self-determination. The course emphasizes the refining of skills developed in World History I, including the use of primary, secondary, and artistic sources. A major research project is required.

Honors World History II

Prerequisite: Qualification based on World History I grades
The Honors World History II course examines modern world history through the same thematic and artistic lenses as World History II, but provides students desiring a greater challenge in history with a broader exposure to primary sources and increased frequency and depth of expectation in written work and volume of reading.

American History

United States History is a topical study of American history from Indo-European contact through the present day. By examining the political, cultural, and intellectual foundations of American civilization, students continue to apply the question-asking, writing, and research skills learned during the previous two years. Topics include the America’s colonial foundations, the causes and consequences of the American Revolution and the Civil War, the growth of American Industry, and the role of the United States in the twentieth century world. A major research paper is required.

AP United States History

Prerequisite: Qualification based on European/Honors European grades, as well as a writing sample for students with a B+ in regular/B- in honors
This advanced level survey of United States history (1600–present) asks students to examine the origins and development of the United States through reading, discussion, writing, and research. Special attention is paid to the intellectual, cultural, and political development of the United States as well as to the basics of historical thinking. The reading and writing load for this course is substantial, and a major research project is required.

AP Psychology

Prerequisite: Qualification based on English, History, or AP Biology grades
This college-level survey course in introductory psychology familiarizes students with the basic concepts in the scientific study of human behavior. Particular emphasis is placed on the most current neurobiological findings as well as the important roles of learning, memory, and consciousness in psychological processes. This course prepares students to take the AP Psychology exam in May.

AP US & Comparative Government and Politics

Prerequisite: Qualification, US History may be taken concurrently. Open to grades 11–12.
This yearlong college-level course examines fundamental concepts used by political scientists to study processes, institutions, and outcomes of politics in a variety of country settings. Students learn to analyze and compare data on political structures around the globe. Special emphasis is given to the processes and institutions of the United States government, implementation of public policies, and key figures in charge of making and implementing policies in the United States. This course prepares students for the AP US Government exam and, with additional independent work outside of class, may also be used in preparation for the AP Comparative Government exam in May.

Adolescent Brains & Behavior

Open to grades 11–12.
This course serves as an introduction to how brains function to produce behavior, and starts by providing a common language and understanding from the field of neuroscience. The focus then turns to behaviors of greatest relevance to teenagers, such as peer pressure, emotional reactivity, impulse control, and risk taking. These behaviors are closely looked at in light of research into adolescent brain development and functional imaging.

Education for Social Justice

Open to grades 11–12.
The goal of this course is for students to undertake critical analysis of several forms of social oppression and their operating worldview and to be able to examine alternative ways of understanding the world and social relations. This class includes both an interdisciplinary subject matter that analyzes multiple forms of oppression and a set of interactive, experiential pedagogical principles that help students understand the meaning of social difference and oppression in their personal lives and the social system.

Principles of Economics

Open to grades 11–12.
This course is an introduction to the various facets of economics. A macroeconomics section focuses on economic models involving the government sector, private sector, and international sector; the microeconomics section focuses on individual case studies of industries and companies. Students are exposed to the United States banking industry, stock market, taxation issues, and questions regarding international trade. Students also learn the basics of sound personal finance. Case studies and oral presentations are required.

World Religions

Open to grades 11–12.
Understanding religion offers one key to understanding the cultures and traditions of many societies in the world. This course surveys and compares the teachings and philosophies of major world religions. Students explore Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam, among others. The course concludes with an examination of the roles these traditions play in today’s world and how their interactions influence global events and trends. Substantial reading and writing is required.

International Relations

Open to grades 11–12.
This course explores international relations in the modern world, looking closely at the ways the world has changed since the terrorist attacks of 2001. Students read about and discuss current international issues while engaging in detailed explorations of historical problems and theoretical perspectives in international relations since the end of the Cold War. Additionally, each student becomes a class expert in one geographical area or problem of international relations, and prepares a position paper and a mock “presidential briefing” presentation. Significant reading of periodicals (such as The Economist or New York Times) and key works of scholarship evaluating the post-Cold War and post-2001 world are required.

International Baccalaureate

IB History of the Americas (full year) 
IB 20th Century World History (full year) 
IB Psychology (full year)