Social Studies

6th Grade: A Global Perspective on the Middle Ages

Following upon the study of ancient civilizations in the 10s, sixth graders delve into the Middle Ages, learning about European, Middle Eastern, African, Asian, and North American civilizations from  the 5th to 15th centuries.  For 6th grade, a key theme of the year is perspective, which is investigated as students learn about world history around the year 1000 CE.  6th graders are encouraged to investigate the questions: How can I seek to understand another person’s perspective? Whose story is being told, who is telling it, and how could it be told in a different way?  Studies focus on the function of class structure and social hierarchies and the role of religion. Classes look at ways in which aspects of modern society such as legal systems and mathematics stem from events and innovations that took place more than 1,000 years ago. By focusing on the theme of historical perspective and bias throughout the year, students learn to analyze history from a critical lens, and look for the perspective of the other, marginalized groups whose stories are not told. This critical inquiry fosters the growth of empathy and desire to create a more fair and just world. 

7th Grade: The American Experiment with Utopia

Seventh graders explore the concepts of Utopia/Dystopia as they consider the founding of the United States. They read dystopian fiction and think about what it means to be a member of society.  Students study the Colonial Era and the American Revolution, previously explored in the Lower School, with a deeper context for the colonists’ desire for independence and change at the same time analyzing parallels to dystopian literature. As part of this exploration of the past, students look into the origins of race and power and the lasting effects of hierarchical structure put in place in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Students analyze patterns in immigration throughout history and make connections both to access to power as well current events.  Students deepen their abilities to track themes in literature, write analytically, and present their ideas publicly. 

8th Grade: Identity, Citizenship, Democracy

Eighth graders extend the study of American history by tracing the path from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. This tumultuous period invites examination of issues of equality and justice, with attention to legal, military, social, and moral drivers of change. Complicated topics such as slavery, voting rights, marriage rights, privacy, and freedom of thought and speech are an important part of students’ exploration of this era. Students make connections between challenges Americans faced in the past and those they continue to contend with today.  The eighth grade Humanities themes of citizenship, identity, and democracy incorporate an emphasis on activism, as students discuss oppression, multiculturalism, and what it means to be a social change maker.  Teachers aim to inspire students to get involved in more activism outside of school by learning about different types of activist work and considering where their own passions may take them.

Essential Questions

What are the roles, rights, and responsibilities of people in society? 

What are the threads of continuity and change throughout history?

How do the beliefs and values of a diverse culture affect individuals and society?

What happens when cultures collide?

What impact does trade have on a culture?

Who has access to power?

How did major scientific, mathematical, and technological advances affect society? 

What insights can historical narrative teach us about the current day?

Key Social Studies Skills: Middle School

  • Consider multiple perspectives.
  • Locate, interpret and integrate a wide variety of primary sources.
  • Analyze the interrelationships of a civilization’s components, e.g. government, religion, trade.
  • Ask probing questions about history that spark conversation.
  • Process information; take notes, outline, summarize.
  • Develop sophisticated arguments; support ideas with logical reasoning and evidence both orally and in writing.
  • Draw connections between historical and current events.
  • Analyze the origins, authenticity and validity of information found in electronic resources.