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Curriculum: History and Social Science

Introduction to Ethical Reasoning

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

Human society has always looked for answers to big questions: Why am I here? What is my place in society? How should I behave toward others? What is the nature of good and evil? This course introduces students to tracts of moral and political philosophy from Aristotle to Nussbaum. Ethical reasoning is applied to an examination of contemporary issues such as bioengineering, human rights, social justice, our relationship to the natural world, and the obligations of citizenship. Students will be encouraged to use what they are learning as a framework to develop and support their own opinions on these topics.

Religion and Culture

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

Religion is a universal feature of human groups. All cultures seek answers to questions about their place in the cosmos: Who are we? How did we get here? What is our purpose here? While the questions are similar, the answers differ, and the ways religious beliefs manifest themselves offer a rich kaleidoscope of practices, myths, rituals, texts, and symbols to study. Knowledge about the world’s religions has become increasingly important as students prepare to act as informed global citizens in a hyper-connected and increasingly pluralistic world. Students will engage in an appreciative study of how our world’s religions function, what traits they share, the ways in which they are different, and how they help their adherents to lead meaningful, ethical lives and answer life’s greatest questions. Religions of study will include but not be limited to Indigenous Sacred Ways, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Supreme Court Landmarks

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

Prerequisite: At least one semester of U.S. History

This semester-long course offers an analysis of the history and uses of the U.S. Constitution, and the way it’s been interpreted by the Supreme Court. We will consider the ideology behind the construction of the document and the varying historical contexts in which constitutional principles have been applied. By looking at certain landmark cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson, Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education, Schenck v. United States, Miranda v. Arizona, and Citizens United v. FEC, students will be asked to think about the various ways the Constitution has been “translated” by the Court into the everyday lives of Americans, particularly working people, women, and people of color who may or may not see their interests reflected in the language of the original document. The class will also discuss the tension between individual and collective rights and the ways in which the Constitution has been modified over the past 200 years.

Living at the Margin: Making Optimal Decisions Using Economics

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

This semester-long course aims to apply the concepts of economics to the everyday life of the student. This will be accomplished by studying economic theory to understand how it can be applied to current events, public policy, and daily transactions. Possible topics include free trade vs. protectionism, taxes and spending, and behavioral economics, but topics can be driven by current events and contemporary political debates. The history of economic thought will also be examined through the lens of classic works from Aristotle to Adam Smith and into the 20th century with John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman. Specific periods of economic crises will be used as case studies, including the collapse of the U.S.S.R., German hyperinflation in the 1920’s, and the Asian and Celtic Tigers of the late 20th century. Case studies are vital to the study of economics because they are the “laboratory” in which economists test their theories.

The New Yorker: Contemporary Culture, Art, and Politics

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

Students in this class will read and analyze the current issue of The New Yorker, a “weekly magazine offering a signature mix of reporting and commentary on politics, international affairs, popular culture and the arts, science and technology, and business, along with fiction, poetry, humor, and cartoons.”

Students will look at everything each week’s magazine offers, from reviews of current cinema to cartoon caption contests, comedy, and satire to in-depth essays on current events. Students will work over the course of the term to create their own version of the magazine: illustrating a front cover, reviewing current art, music, and cinema, writing profiles, short fiction and non-fiction (with a particular emphasis on analytical writing) – even drawing their own cartoons and writing letters to the editors.

Students will also pay particular attention to the way in which bias may be at work in the magazine and what role that plays in writing. When applicable, students may examine articles from other publications (ie: The National Review, The Economist, etc.) in an effort to look at issues from both sides of the political aisle.

The only text is a semester-long subscription to The New Yorker magazine.

International Relations and Model UN

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

The International Relations and Model United Nations (UN) course is designed to prepare students to participate in the Model UN program sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Hartford. It features a day-long trip to the United Nations in New York, a visit to the UN mission of a selected country and role-playing in a two-day conference at the University of Hartford. The content of the course will focus on the historical background of the founding of the UN, its structure and goals, and an assessment of various UN missions and programs since 1945. In addition, the course will deal with a wide range of topics dealing with international relations and how the UN has and might become involved in the future.

Inequality in the United States

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

This course satisfies the Ethics requirement for graduation.

This course will introduce students to systems of social inequality in the United States. We will investigate the structural, interpersonal, and social dimensions of oppression. Course materials will explore the ways that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, trans oppression, and religious oppression have developed over time as well as the ways they impact each of us every day. Students will develop the language, tools, and skills to create positive social change.

Don’t Sweat the Technique: An Examination of Hip-Hop’s Social, Political, and Cultural Relevance

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

Students in this class will examine the social, political, and economic circumstances that led to the creation of what has become the most powerful force in popular culture, hip-hop. We will study the ways in which hip-hop emerged as a response to a black, urban America that was being forever changed by the forces of deindustrialization and globalization – forces that are perhaps more relevant now than ever. Some of the questions that will inform our study are: How, where, and why did hip-hop emerge? How and why did hip-hop become the voice of urban youth in post-civil rights America? We will also examine hip-hop’s place in the history of American social and political commentary, particularly of the Black experience. As America and the world has changed, how has hip-hop reflected and adapted to these changes? How and why has hip-hop been able to move out of the South Bronx and into places like Simsbury while remaining relevant and authentic to the wildly different audiences from both of those locales, and what does this move say about America itself?

Contemporary World Issues

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

This semester elective uses a case study approach to investigating current global problems and their potential solutions including issues of poverty and hunger, human rights, environmental challenges, conflict, and migration. Students will delve into the root causes of the problems and become familiar with individuals and non-governmental organizations who are attempting to address them. Topics and areas of study could be explored based on student interest.

Art History: Movements in Art History

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

This course is cross-listed with both the Visual Arts and History Departments.

This course will provide a multidisciplinary approach to the study of art and architectural history. In this class, students view art through the lens of historical events, literature, music and social context of the time periods covered in the course. Students tackle issues such as who decides what is considered art and the ethics around restoration vs. preservation. Students begin this course by looking at the art and architecture of the Medieval world, and work their way through Post Impressionism and the Modern world. By studying great works from within these artistic periods, students gain a better understanding of the visual art of each era and how it can help us to better understand the greater context of the time.

Art History: Art of Ancient Civilizations

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

This course is cross-listed with both the Visual Arts and History Departments.

In this class, students gain an understanding of the cultures of ancient civilizations through the study of the objects they produced. Students grapple extensively with issues such as who decides what is art, the ethics surrounding display and repatriation, and the difference between art, artifact and cultural object. By studying the objects produced by these great civilizations, students gain a better understanding, not simply of the objects themselves, but of how they fit within the context of their time and place.

Art History: Ancient Egypt to the Renaissance

Upper School

Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: .5

This course is cross-listed with both the Visual Arts and History Departments.

This course will provide a multidisciplinary approach to the study of art and architectural history. Students will gain an understanding of the differences between a formal and contextual analysis of a work of art, learn to formulate a thesis, and engage in both forms of analysis. Students will view the art through a lens of historical events, literature, music, and the social context of the time periods studied. This course begins by looking at Ancient Egyptian art and architecture through Europe, the Middle East, and Asia into the Renaissance. By studying great works from within these artistic periods, students will gain a better understanding of the visual art of each era and how they fit within the context of their time.

Advanced Human Geography

Upper School

Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: 1

Prerequisite: Departmental Approval

This course is a fast-paced, upper-level social studies course that introduces students to the patterns and processes that have shaped the understanding, use and alterations of Earth. Students will be expected to understand and analyze maps and spatial data, recognize the different regions of the world, and understand how events and processes influence one another. Topics covered include population, cultural patterns, cities and urban land use, and economic development.

Advanced Economics

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: 1

This course will cover an introduction to basic economic principles including, but not limited to, scarcity and choice, supply and demand, competition, incentives, markets, and price. The course will also explore macroeconomic principles such as national debt, unemployment, inflation and money through different schools of thought. Microeconomic principles such as consumers, firms and income distribution will also be addressed. Students will read and engage with the history of economic thought through books and journal articles. Finally, the course will relate the above concepts to current world and national economic news events.

Advanced Topics in U.S. History

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

History and Social Science

Credits: 1

Prerequisite: Departmental Approval

Open to students who have not yet taken U.S. History; students may not take this course after having taken U.S. History or Honors U.S. History

Advanced Topics in U.S. History requires the ability to read a wide variety of texts closely, write incisively, and argue persuasively. Political and economic forces are viewed through the lens of social movements. Students explore extensive primary and secondary sources, consider the conflict and unity underlying these movements, and draw conclusions. Instead of interpreting issues and evaluating people solely through their 21st-century lens, students are encouraged to consider two questions: what did the people they are studying know and what could they have known? Students compare themes across time, identifying forces of change and of continuity at work. A close examination of the changing ways historians interpret the past illuminates how philosophical leanings affect historiography. Students write four research papers during the year on topics of their choosing. The final paper is presented to an external audience and submitted for publication.

Honors U.S. History

Upper School

Grade 11

History and Social Science

Credits: 1

Prerequisite: Departmental Approval

(May be taken senior year if a scheduling conflict arises)

Honors U.S. History covers the same content as U.S. History at a pace and depth that is greater and more challenging for our top students at this level. This course surveys the history of the United States from early European/Native American encounters up through the 1970s. Extensive use of primary documents familiarizes students with voices of the past, while secondary readings offer students varying scholarly opinions on such issues as ethnohistory, slavery, social reform, labor, Vietnam, and globalization. Students study the influence of geographic features on agricultural and industrial development, foreign policy and the character of American people. The interaction between the private life of citizens and the public world of government is examined in each unit as students consider how people seek to safeguard their way of life or to press for change and, in doing so, alter the role of government.

U.S. History

Grade 11

History and Social Science

Credits: 1

Honors level also available

This course takes a thematic approach to the study of the history of the United States from early European/Native American encounters up through the twentieth century. Extensive use of primary documents familiarizes students with voices of the past, while secondary readings offer students varying interpretations. Students study the influence of geographic features on agricultural and industrial development, foreign policy and the character of American people. The interaction between the private life of citizens and the public world of government is examined in each unit as students consider how people seek to safeguard their way of life or to press for change and, in doing so, alter the role of government.

Honors Foundations of the Modern World

Upper School

Grade 10

History and Social Science

Credits: 1

This course will cover the same content and themes as Foundations of the Modern World, incorporating more challenging readings and aiming for highly developed and nuanced writing. Assessments will largely center around document-based writing, and students will use scholarly sources to complete a final research paper.

Foundations of the Modern World

Upper School

Grade 10

History and Social Science

Credits: 1

Honors level also available

Foundations of the Modern World is an inquiry-based course that investigates how ideas, individuals, and social, political, and economic forces can serve to both integrate people and proliferate differences. Building on students’ understandings of worldwide patterns of interaction from Global Connections, Foundations will zoom in on the world since 1500, beginning with the birth of the modern nation-state. Students will first explore how historians interpret and reinterpret the past, then move into 18th century ideas and revolutions, the causes and effects of global industrialization and imperialism, and global war and peace. The course will culminate with a research project assessing how an individual can impact the world. Within each unit, students will examine how historical themes connect to, and help explain, modern world events as they unfold. Rich content and intentional skill instruction work simultaneously throughout the year, as students engage with a variety of written, visual, primary, and secondary sources, hone their historical thinking skills through developing evidence-based arguments, and communicate their ideas through clear, compelling speaking and writing.

Global Connections

Upper School

Grade 9

History and Social Science

Credits: 1

This course is designed to challenge students to assess the modern globalized world through the study of the systems and processes of globalization throughout human history from our first societies to the present day. Global Connections provides students with an intensive introduction to, and ongoing instruction in, the research and writing process. Students will also develop historical thinking skills such as evidence evaluation, corroboration, and interpretation, deploying these skills not only to study the past, but to grow as critical consumers of information in the digital world. In lieu of a traditional textbook, the course utilizes a variety of rich texts from contemporary social scientists as well as works of literature in order to explore how greater historical movements impact the individual.

History 8: American Identity

Middle School

Grade 8

History and Social Science

Required for Grade 8

The goal of this course is to identify and examine some of the people, ideas, and events that helped shape the American identity from its earliest peoples and colonial development through the Civil War. Students will explore the changing definitions of democracy, rights, justice, and the “American Dream” in their examination of individuals and groups in early America. Using a combination of primary and secondary sources, students will strengthen their reading, note-taking, research, and writing skills. Students will be assessed on a combination of homework completion, writing assignments, unit tests, and projects.

History 7: World Geography

Middle School

Grade 7

History and Social Science

Required for Grade 7

This course focuses on allowing our students to see how our world looks today. With the purpose of allowing our students to understand the way that geography impacts our lives, students will undertake a unit on reading and understanding maps, as well as a unit on important geography terms, including the study of geography itself, climate, and vegetation. They will then study various regions, focusing on themes of geography such as the concept of place, how trade affects an area, and the movement of people and ideas.

History 6: Ancient Cultures

Middle School

Grade 6

History and Social Science

Required for Grade 6

Ancient Cultures emphasizes how anthropologists and historians study the past. Through discussions about prehistory, written documents, and material remains, students identify the sources that inform the study of history. This year-long course focuses on the study of ancient civilizations including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and China. In each unit, students gain an appreciation for the geography, government, art and architecture, religion, daily life, and major achievements of each civilization. With a combination of individual and group work, students learn analytical and critical thinking skills while also developing collaborative skills.