Social Studies Courses

For questions concerning Social Studies courses, please contact Mrs. Lisa Sheldon-Matje at

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, analyzing the experiences of Africans (free and enslaved) who resisted slavery and how they defined freedom for themselves. The course concludes with an examination of topics (racism, sexism, discrimination, etc.) that continue to affect American society and the world today.

African American History Honors – (10th grade – Replaces African American History requirement)

For students considering AP and IB studies, 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.

AP African American Studies  (10th grade only – Replaces African American History requirement)

This is a brand new course offered by the college board. Students in African American studies look at the history, politics, culture, and economics of North American people of African descent. From the slave economy to the civil rights movement, and from the blues to hip-hop, African Americans have had a huge role in shaping American society and culture. If you major in African American studies, you’ll learn about their achievements. You’ll also examine the hardships African Americans faced during their history. Further, you’ll dive into the difficult issues, such as unequal educational opportunities, they deal with today. Scholars in African American studies play a key role in the development of modern academics. By focusing on people and viewpoints that have been ignored in other fields, they lead the way in integrating minority experiences into all academic subjects.

United States 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 United States 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.


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.

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

*All Social Studies electives count as Arts and Humanities credits

AP European History / English 2 Honors (10th grade)

This course is designed for 10th graders who are excited about literature and history and are interested in entering the AP Capstone or IB Diploma programs 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.

AP Human Geography (10th-12th grade elective)

The purpose of the AP Human Geography course is to introduce students to the systematic study of patterns and processes that have shaped human understanding, use, and alteration of Earth’s surface. Students learn to employ spatial concepts and landscape analysis to examine human socioeconomic organization and its environmental consequences. They also learn about the methods and tools geographers use in their research and applications. Topics to be covered include: Geographical Perspectives, Human Population and Migration, Regional Variations of Cultural Patterns, Political Organization of Space, Global Economic Development, and Urban Land Use.

AP Research Course Description (11th-12th grade elective)

AP Research, the second course in the AP Capstone experience, allows students to deeply explore an academic topic, problem, issue, or idea of individual interest. Students design, plan, and implement a yearlong investigation to address a research question. Through this inquiry, they further the skills they acquired in the AP Seminar course by learning research methodology, employing ethical research practices, and accessing, analyzing, and synthesizing information. Students reflect on their skill development, document their processes, and curate the artifacts of their scholarly work through a process and reflection portfolio. The course culminates in an academic paper of 4,000–5,000 words (accompanied by a performance, exhibit, or product where applicable) and a presentation with an oral defense. Note: AP Seminar is a prerequisite for AP Research.

AP Seminar with African Diaspora Content – AP Capstone 1 (10th-11th grade elective)

AP Seminar is a foundational course that engages students in cross-curricular conversations that explore the complexities of academic and real-world topics and issues by analyzing divergent perspectives. Students learn to synthesize information from multiple sources, develop their own perspectives in written essays, and design and deliver oral and visual presentations, both individually and as part of a team. Ultimately, the course aims to equip students with the power to analyze and evaluate information with accuracy and precision in order to craft and communicate evidence-based arguments.

This course explores content on the African diaspora (in regions of the Americas and Eurasia) and the peoples of the African continent. It treats the African and diaspora experience as exemplary of human experience in general. The course explores scales from the local to the global, tracing patterns, parallels, connections, and transformations in the lives of people of African descent. Study ranges from the community level to global consideration of the African diaspora. Students are to develop knowledge and interpretation with a focus on the issues of cultural practice, imperialism, and resistance. AP Seminar is a prerequisite for the AP Research course and a requirement for the AP Capstone Diploma.

AP Seminar with Asian American Studies Content/English 3 – AP Capstone 1 (11th grade(

AP Seminar will count as a Social Studies elective)…SELECT AP SEMINAR and ENGLISH 3 in the Academic Planner.

This course is designed for 11th graders who are excited about literature and history and are interested in entering the AP Capstone program. Students will take English 3 and AP Seminar with the same students in both sections, creating a unique and supportive learning community.  AP Seminar is a foundational course that engages students in cross-curricular conversations, exploring academic and real-world issues by analyzing divergent perspectives. Students learn to synthesize information from multiple sources, develop their own perspectives in written essays, and create oral and visual presentations, both individually and as part of a team. Students will use core skills covered in AP Seminar to identify questions related to the Asian American community, including issues regarding identity or history. Students will conduct research with the goal of exploring their questions from different perspectives while making connections across the disciplines of English and Social Studies. Students can earn the AP Capstone Diploma or the AP Seminar and Research Certificate. Students who earn scores of 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research and on four additional AP Exams of their choosing receive the AP Capstone Diploma.

AP Psychology (11-12)

We are currently looking for an AP Psychology teacher.  As of now, we are not offering it, but are optimistic.  Stay Tuned!

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.

IB Global Politics Standard Level  (11th-12th grade elective)

A seminar using newspapers, 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. Students are required to take an exam in May of the year in which the course is taken. Prerequisite: B or better in prior history courses.  This course fulfills the 12th grade history requirement.

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.

LGBTQ+ Studies (10th – 12th grade elective)

LGBTQ+ Studies offers an interdisciplinary engagement with LGBTQ+ identities, literature, film, history, culture, activism, and contemporary issues through an antiracist and intersectional justice lens. It is my hope that we can marry the academic with the personal, theory with action, in an effort to create meaningful experiences within a nurturing community. Throughout this year, we will reflect on our own gender and sexual identities, engage in some freedom-dreaming, and consider our role in building a more just and nurturing future.

We will consider how we define and speak about gender and sexuality, how this has changed across time and place, how our LGBTQ+ identities intersect with our other identities, and how LGBTQ+ communities have fought for their liberation over time. We will do this through a study of YA literature, history, and film. You will research, script, and produce a documentary related to the history of LGBTQ communities, gender, and same-gender desire. We will then focus more intentionally on building your personal and collective power by designing, writing, and editing a class zine (i.e. a publication) focused on LGBTQ content. You will each contribute a creative element to the zine (e.g. poetry, creative nonfiction, one-act play, journalism, short story, visual art). On Fridays, you will lead discussions in pairs on LGBTQ contemporary issues and culture topics of your choice.

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.

Women and Gender Studies Studies (10th-12th grade elective half-year)

Women and Gender Studies actually is the largest interdisciplinary program at the university level in our nation. Courses in Women and Gender Studies are particularly captivating for a number of reasons. First, they return to history the many, many women—and their very powerful impacts—that have been omitted from the historical record. Second, we get to revise—to take a powerful ‘new’ look at the history we already have been taught — and correct the distortions that exist because the impacts of gender and at least half of the historical actors have been left out “in the play” of the past.  Third, the analytical lenses we learn in Women and Gender Studies allow us to gain powerful new insights into the puzzles, challenges, and joys of our own lives and experiences, and those of our families, our ethnic and racial groups, and our communities. In addition, these lenses also can help us gain insight into the multiple and deep-rooted challenges that plague our nation and our planet. Finally, It is very important to note the content in Women and Gender Studies courses focuses not only on how the lives of women and girls are constrained by social restrictions, but also those of men and boys. This means, that as our society tends to treat its two primary genders as mirror opposites, men and boys experience societal restraints and harm based on their gender, too.  Thus, in this course take an in-depth look at he construction of male genders and how these impact each of us and our world.