Course Descriptions – Social Studies

Geography and World Cultures .5

Geography and World Cultures offers a tightly focused and scaffolded curriculum that enables students to explore how geographic features, human relationships, political and social structures, economics, science and technology, and the arts have developed and influenced life in countries around the world. Along the way, students are given rigorous instruction on how to read maps, charts, and graphs, and how to create them.

Geography and World Cultures is based on standards from the National Council for History Education (1997), the National Center for History in the Schools (1996), and the National Council for Social Studies (1994) and is aligned to state standards.

Geography and World Cultures is designed as the first course in the social studies sequence. It develops note-taking skills, teaches the basic elements of analytic writing, and introduces students to the close examination of primary documents.

World History

In World History, students learn to see the world today as a product of a process that began thousands of years ago when humans became a speaking, travelling, and trading species.  Through historical analysis grounded in primary sources, case studies, and research, students investigate the continuity and change of human culture, governments, economic systems, and social structures.

Students build and practice historical thinking skills, learning to connect specific people, places, events and ideas to the larger trends of world history. In critical reading activities, feedback-rich instruction, and application-oriented assignments, students develop their capacity to reason chronologically, interpret and synthesize sources, identify connections between ideas, and develop well-supported historical arguments.  Students write throughout the course, responding to primary sources and historical narratives through journal entries, essays and visual presentations of social studies content.  In discussion activities, students respond to the position of others while staking and defending their own claim.  The course’s rigorous instruction is supported with relevant materials and active learning opportunities to ensure students at all levels can master the key historical thinking skills.

World History to the Renaissance

World History to the Renaissance traces the development of civilizations around the world from prehistory to the Renaissance.

The course covers major themes in world history, including the development and influence of human-geographic relationships, political and social structures, economic systems, major religions and belief systems, science and technology, and the arts.

Topics covered in this course include the birth of civilizations; the classical civilizations of India, China, Greece, and Rome; the rise of new empires such as the Byzantine; and an examination of civilizations in  Africa and North and South America. From there, students journey to the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance.

Primary source documents, which appear frequently, encourage students to make connections to evidence from the past. Writing skills are honed through a spiraled sequence of short analytic pieces.

World History Since the Renaissance

World History since the Renaissance covers the development of civilizations around the world from the Renaissance to the present.

The course covers major themes in world history, including the development and influence of human-geographic relationships, political and social structures, economic systems, major religions and belief systems, the effects of science and technology, the vital role of the arts, and the importance of trade and cultural exchange.

Topics covered in this course include the Reformation and its legacy, the Scientific Revolution, European exploration, the Enlightenment, political revolutions, the rise of nation-states, the industrial era, the spread of imperialism, and the issues and conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Primary source documents, which appear frequently, encourage students to make connections to evidence from the past. Writing skills are honed through a spiraled sequence of short analytic pieces.

U.S. History

U.S. History traces the nation’s history from the pre-colonial period to the present. Students learn about the Native American, European, and African people who lived in America before it became the United States. They examine the beliefs and philosophies that informed the American Revolution and the subsequent formation of the government and political system. Students investigate the economic, cultural, and social motives for the nation’s expansion, as well as the conflicting notions of liberty that eventually resulted in civil war. The course describes the emergence of the United States as an industrial nation and then focuses on its role in modern world affairs.

Moving into the 20th and 21st centuries, students probe the economic and diplomatic interactions between the United States and other world players while investigating how the world wars, the Cold War, and the “information revolution” affected the lives of ordinary Americans. Woven through this chronological sequence is a strong focus on the changing conditions of women, African Americans, and other minority groups.

The course emphasizes the development of historical analysis skills such as comparing and contrasting, differentiating between facts and interpretations, considering multiple perspectives, and analyzing cause-and-effect relationships. These skills are applied to text interpretation and in written assignments that guide learners step-by-step through problem-solving activities.

U.S. History to the Civil War .5

This course traces the nation’s history from the pre-colonial period to the end of the American Civil War. It emphasizes the colonial period and the creation of a new nation and examines the beliefs and philosophies that informed the American Revolution and the subsequent formation of the government and political system.

Students first explore the earliest points of contact between individuals from Europe, Africa, and North America. They then probe the economic, cultural, and social motives for the nation’s expansion, as well as the conflicting notions of liberty that eventually resulted in the Civil War. Woven throughout this narrative history is a strong focus on the changing conditions of women, African Americans, and other minority groups. The ways in which Americans lived, ate, dressed, and interacted are also highlighted.

The course emphasizes the development of historical analysis skills such as comparing and contrasting, differentiating between facts and interpretations, considering multiple perspectives, and analyzing cause-and-effect relationships. These skills are applied to text interpretation and in written assignments that guide learners step-by-step through problem-solving activities.

U.S. History since the Civil War

This course traces the nation’s history from the end of the Civil War to the present. It describes the emergence of the United States as an industrial nation, highlighting social policy as well as its role in modern world affairs.

Students evaluate the attempts to bind the nation together during Reconstruction while also exploring the growth of an industrial economy. Moving into the 20th and 21st centuries, students probe the economic and diplomatic interactions between the United States and other world players while investigating how the world wars, the Cold War, and the “information revolution” affected the lives of ordinary Americans. Woven through this chronological sequence is a strong focus on the changing conditions of women, African Americans, and other minority groups.

The course emphasizes the development of historical analysis skills such as comparing and contrasting, differentiating between facts and interpretations, considering multiple perspectives, and analyzing cause-and-effect relationships. These skills are applied to text interpretation and in written assignments that guide learners step-by-step through problem-solving activities.

U.S. Government and Politics .5

U.S. Government and Politics offers a tightly focused and scaffolded curriculum that uses the perspective of political institutions to explore the history, organization, and functions of the U.S. government. Beginning with basic theories of government, moving to the Declaration of Independence, and continuing to the present day, the course explores the relationship between individual Americans and the governing bodies. It covers the political culture of the country and gains insight into the challenges faced by presidents, congressional representatives, and other political activists. It also covers the roles of political parties, interest groups, the media, and the Supreme Court.

U.S. Government and Politics is designed to fall in the fourth year of social studies instruction. Students perfect their analytic writing through a scaffolded series of analytic assignments and written lesson tests. Students read annotated primary documents and apply those documents to the course content.

Economics and Personal Finance

Virginia Economics and Personal Finance develops students’ economic reasoning through an analysis of the U.S. economy, the global economy, and personal finance. The course covers fundamental principles of economics, including an examination of markets from both historical and current perspectives; the basics of supply and demand; the theories of early economic philosophers such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo; theories of value; the concept of money and how it evolved; the role of banks, investment houses, and the Federal Reserve; Keynesian economics; the productivity, wages, investment, and growth involved in capitalism; unemployment, inflation, and the national debt; and a survey of markets in areas such as China, Europe, and the Middle East. The course extends students’ understanding of these principles in the context of personal finance, exploring issues such as career planning, budgeting, credit, taxes, investing, insurance, loans, and major purchases.

In the course, students hone their analytic writing through a scaffolded series of written assignments. They also apply basic mathematics to economic concepts. Students read selections from annotated primary documents and apply those readings to the course content. Journal activities provide introspective opportunities for students to apply concepts on a personal scale as well as analyze scenarios from a third-party perspective. Discussions help students network with each other by sharing personalized strategies and goals and recognizing the diversity of life and career plans within a group.

This course is aligned with Virginia’s standards for Economics and Personal Finance.

Multicultural Studies .5

Multicultural Studies is a one-semester elective history and sociology course that examines the United States as a multicultural nation. The course emphasizes the perspectives of minority groups while allowing students from all backgrounds to better understand and appreciate how race, culture and ethnicity, and identity contribute to their experiences.

Major topics in the course include identity, immigration, assimilation and distinctiveness, power and oppression, struggles for rights, regionalism, culture and the media, and the formation of new cultures.

In online Discussions and Polls, students reflect critically on their own experiences as well as those of others. Interactive multimedia activities include personal and historical accounts to which students can respond using methods of inquiry from history, sociology, and psychology. Written assignments and Journals provide opportunities for students to practice and develop skills for thinking and communicating about race, culture, ethnicity, and identity.

Sociology .5

Sociology examines why people think and behave as they do in relationships, groups, institutions, and societies.

Major course topics include individual and group identity, social structures and institutions, social change, social stratification, social dynamics in recent and current events, the effects of social change on individuals, and the research methods used by social scientists.

In online discussions and polls, students reflect critically on their own experiences and ideas, as well as on the ideas of sociologists. Interactive multimedia activities include personal and historical accounts to which students can respond, using methods of inquiry from sociology. Written assignments provide opportunities to practice and develop skills in thinking and communicating about human relationships, individual and group identity, and all other major course topics.

U.S. and Global Economics .5

U.S. and Global Economics offers a tightly focused and scaffolded curriculum that provides an introduction to key economic principles. The course covers fundamental properties of economics, including an examination of markets from both historical and current perspectives; the basics of supply and demand; the theories of early economic philosophers such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo; theories of value; the concept of money and how it evolved; the role of banks, investment houses, and the Federal Reserve; Keynesian economics; the productivity, wages, investment, and growth involved in capitalism; unemployment, inflations, and the national debt; and a survey of markets in areas such as China, Europe, and the Middle East.

U.S. and Global Economics is designed to fall in the fourth year of social studies instruction. Students perfect their analytic writing through a scaffolded series of analytic assignments and written lesson tests. They also apply basic mathematics to economic concepts. Students read selections from annotated primary documents and apply those readings to the course content.

The content is based on standards from the National Council for History Education (1997), the National Center for History in the Schools (1996), and the National Council for Social Studies (1994) and is aligned to state standards.