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Social Studies Courses

REQUIRED COURSES – Students must take the required class or a designated AP/honors replacement to fulfill requirements for graduation.

World History (9th grade required)

This course surveys the development of human societies from antiquity to the present. It serves as a basis for all future work in history and provides a background for work in literature as well. Among the topics studied are: The Rise of Humankind, Early Cities, Belief Systems and the Age of Trade. The course is oriented toward developing analytical skills through a hands-on approach to learning how to be a historian.

African American History  (10th grade required)

This course begins with the study of Africa’s intellectual and cultural history, and extends into the study of the various African cultural groups that were transplanted into the Western Hemisphere. Students will have opportunities to analyze and study the experiences of Africans transported to and enslaved in the Americas. Students will also learn how our nation was built on the parallel experiences of Africans (free and enslaved) who resisted slavery, and European immigrants who fought against colonial oppression, as they struggled over the definition of freedom. The course concludes with an examination of the 20th-21st century topics (racism, sexism, discrimination, etc.) that emerged as consequences of this struggle, and continue to affect Americans today.

*Honors African American History – (10th grade – replaces African American History requirement)

This is a rigorous and intellectually challenging survey course designed to provide students with the “analytical skills” and conceptual knowledge necessary to engage the scholarship, materials, and issues of African American History. In addition to learning about the individual contributions of African Americans, students will learn of the societies that they built, as well as the communities they continue to maintain. The course allows students to discuss how the narratives and scholarship informed the body of work developed by African Americans, and subsequently the “intellectual progression” of the discipline of African American Studies. In addition to reading and analyzing the required materials, students will be challenged to bring to the class discussions their thoughts and ideas about the additional independent sources (scholarly, literary, oratory) and perspectives they consulted. The class discussions will provide space for students to intentionally and deliberately address framing questions; pose additional questions; and explore further questions using existing methodologies employed by the social sciences.

US History (11th grade required)

This course is a study of the political, diplomatic, economic and social history of the United States. Students will learn key events in US History, their causes and results. Students will become knowledgeable in the trends as well as events. They will learn how events follow causes and show how democratic society can direct trends.  The topics to be taught include obtaining independence, the growth of the nation, divisive conflicts, the unifying of the nation, individuals who gave direction to the nation and groups who changed or tried to change the direction of history. Class discussions, reports, speakers, field trips and film augment the course.

*AP US History (11th grade – replaces US History requirement)

The AP U.S. History course focuses on the development of historical thinking skills (chronological reasoning, comparing and contextualizing,  crafting historical arguments using historical evidence, and interpreting and synthesizing historical narrative) and an understanding of content learning objectives organized around seven themes, such as identity, peopling, and America in the world. In line with college and university U.S. history survey courses’ increased focus on early and recent American history and decreased emphasis on other areas, the AP U.S. History course expands on the history of the Americas from 1491 to 1607 and from 1980 to the present. It also allows teachers flexibility across nine different periods of U.S. history to teach topics of their choice in depth.

Social Science  – (12th grade required)

This course contains two areas of study; economics and political science. Contemporary theories that constantly are changing are examined in terms of past developments. Field trips, guest speakers, films and other media enrich the two components. Typical among the economics topics studied are the Federal Reserve System, Keynesian economics and investment operation. The political science component includes study of federal, state, and local government. Comparison of the US democratic system with its counterparts in other societies receives careful analysis. A comprehensive senior project is required of each student in Social Science.

*AP US Government and Politics (12th grade – replaces Social Science requirement)

Students will engage in an intensive study of foundations and structures of US government and ways that politics affect public policy in preparation for the AP exam. At the same time, students will implement an authentic social action policy, and political positions to fulfill their senior project requirement. They will choose a issue that is important to them to focus on, and they will evaluate positions, debate from different perspectives, contact and build connections with community-based organizations, interest groups, media, and elected officials. Students will evaluate their impact of their collective action and present achievements to the community.


*AP Microeconomics (12th grade – replaces Social Science requirement)

AP Microeconomics is an introductory college-level course that focuses on the principles of economics that apply to the functions of individual economic decision-makers. The course also develops students’ familiarity with the operation of product and factor markets, distributions of income, market failure, and the role of government in promoting greater efficiency and equity in the economy. Students learn to use graphs, charts, and data to analyze, describe, and explain economic concepts.


IB History Higher Level Year 1 and 2 (11th & 12th grade – replaces both US History & Social Science requirements)

This is a comprehensive two-year course designed to cover key American and world history topics.  IB History HL puts a premium on developing the skills of critical thinking, and on developing an understanding of multiple interpretations of history. Teachers explicitly teach thinking and research skills such as comprehension, text analysis, transfer, and use of primary sources. There are six key concepts that have particular prominence throughout the DP history course: change, continuity, causation, consequence, significance and perspectives.  Specifically, the junior year focuses on a broad array of topics ranging from European exploration and conquest to the United States’ Civil War.  In the senior year, students embark on an in-depth comparative case study of the Civil Rights Movement in both the United States and apartheid-era South Africa; and a range of 20th Century wars and subsequent independence movements. Prerequisite: Acceptance into the IB Diploma Program.


*Students must meet entrance requirements to take AP, honors, and other designated classes. See the Social Studies Department website for details.


ELECTIVE COURSES – Double up! These courses are taken in addition to required courses. Half-year courses will be taken in pairs.


Intro to IB: English 2 Honors and AP European History (10th grade)

This course is designed for 10th graders who are excited about literature and history and are interested in entering the AP or IB program in 11th grade.  Students will take English 2 Honors and AP European History with the same students in both sections, creating a unique and supportive learning community similar to that of the IB program.  Readings in English will follow the historical eras covered in AP European History (1450-2000), allowing students to explore connections between the two subjects in a manner typical of IB classes.  Finally, students will develop skills necessary for success in AP and IB classes by analyzing historical and literary texts, expressing that analysis through writing, and conducting a year-long research project on a topic of their interest.


Constitutional Law (10th – 12th grade elective)

This course will emphasize problem solving in dealing with the way law, technology and economics have impacted upon modernity. Special attention will be paid to constitutional, consumer and civil law; the impact of technology, and the concerns of the global economy. The course will help the student focus upon the future.


IB Philosophy Standard Level (11th-12th grade elective)

Philosophy is a systematic critical inquiry into profound, fascinating and challenging questions such as: What is it to be human? Do we have free will? What do we mean when we say something is right or wrong? These abstract questions arise out of our everyday experiences, and philosophical tools such as critical and systematic thinking, careful analysis, and construction of arguments provide the means of addressing such questions. The practice of philosophy deepens and clarifies our understanding of these questions, as well as our ability to formulate possible responses. IB Philosophy examines the core theme “Being human,” with a focus on political philosophy. We will explore classic philosophical texts and utilize artifacts from popular culture, specifically films and literature, in order to interrogate the extraordinary nature of “being human” in a political world.

IB Psychology Standard Level / Higher Level Year 1 (11th – 12th grade elective)

This is a one-year course in psychology. It is an intensive study of the subject incorporating three major perspectives: the biological, socio-cultural, and cognitive perspectives. Having acquired a thorough understanding of these approaches, the student will then apply this knowledge to acquire an understanding of dysfunctional behaviors from the point of view of each of these perspectives. The student will also learn the experimental method as used in psychological research so that they can successfully complete projects that are based on classic research in the field. Students are required to take an exam in May of the year in which the course is taken.


IB Psychology Higher Level Year 2 (12th grade elective)

The course aims to develop an awareness of how research findings can be applied to better understand human behavior. Students learn to employ cultural, ethical, and gender evaluations throughout their study of psychology to ultimately better understand the biological, cognitive and sociocultural influences on behavior.  IB Psychology HL is intended to build upon prior higher-level psychology classes; therefore, prerequisites for this class are IB Psychology SL, AP Psychology or Ms. Snyder’s permission.


*AP Psychology (11th and 12th grade elective)

The course introduces students to the discipline of psychology by emphasizing the history of psychology as a science, the different theoretical approaches that underlie explanations of behavior, and the contemporary research methods used by psychologists. The emergence of scientific psychology will help students to understand the major approaches to the science: behavioral, biological, cognitive, humanistic, and psychodynamic.

*Contemporary Issues (Conflicts) (12th grade elective)

A seminar using the New York Times, speakers, and other resources to understand the nature and roots of ethnic/religious/racial/national conflicts confronting the current world. Issues will be selected on a basis of immediacy and interest. Using class topics based upon contemporary international events and shared student research on individually selected topics, students will explore the reasons for the conflicts and search for possible solutions. Permission of the instructor Mr. Hung in room 202 is required.


Geography (10th – 12th grade elective half-year)

An elective course in human, physical and political geography with emphasis throughout the year on the influence of geography upon the course of world events. Some attention will be given also to simple techniques of cartography.

Psychology (10th – 12th grade elective half-year)

Students have an opportunity in this course to study human behavior in its varied forms. The influence of environment upon the individual is considered in great detail. Attention is also paid to the area of abnormal behavior and methods of treatment. The psychology of learning and its application to the students themselves are explored. The role of clinical psychology in the late Twentieth Century is discussed along with its relationship to psychiatry. An historical perspective is maintained throughout the course. Students will prepare and deliver a series of reports and also will participate in classroom panels.

Philadelphia History (10th-12th grade elective half-year)

Students will trace the evolution of one of the world’s first modern cities. Philadelphia is a case study for the development of urban America. Through the study of primary, secondary, and archaeological resources, students will investigate the social and ethnic forces that created Philadelphia and evaluate their interaction. Finally, students will determine whether William Penn’s, “Holy Experiment” has been a success, a failure, or something in between.


Existentialism and the Meaning of Life (10-12th grade elective half-year)

What is the meaning of life? This course attempts to answer that question through the study of existentialism. Existentialism is a philosophical approach that focuses on freedom, choice, and responsibility. Whether seeking freedom, exploring freedom’s possibilities, or facing how freedom can be deprived, existentialism hopes to better understand the meanings of freedom in contemporary life. Existentialism also explores how human beings commit to choices in the hope of realizing their potential. Finally, existentialism studies how exercising freedoms and making choices produces various consequences, most importantly, the question of whether one should take responsibility for their actions. This course utilizes popular culture, specifically films and literature, to interrogate the extraordinary nature of our “ordinary” lives. In sum, studying existentialism allows students to ask deep questions about their lives and the world around them in a meaningful way.

*Students must meet entrance requirements to take AP, honors, and other designated classes. See the Social Studies Department website for details.


Last modified: January 26, 2018