A Pre-Kindergarten - Grade 12 co-educational independent day school in Westchester County, New York

Middle School Curriculum Guide

Social Studies


The Middle School Social Studies department seeks to use the study of history to help our students develop as citizens of their communities and the world. We consider the work of the department to be helping students take steps forward not only in their academic skills, but also in their skills and talents at being civil, respectful, and contributory citizens of their communities. We embrace the charge that citizenship demands not only thoughtful investigation of peoples, beliefs, and events of the past to understand the world as it is, but also students’ sense of what it can and should be. We expect that this begins with their respectful and empathetic engagement with their peers as they investigate and build empathy with the past together. By realizing that a conversation with the past demands a look into the present and hopes for the future, we also hope that students develop a passion for inquiry and learning as a means for individual growth and group development and improvement. 

Keeping with the school’s mission, the department emphasizes the importance of “hearing” from a variety of perspectives in the past, and engaging in the difficult critical thinking necessary to make sense of what are at times competing accounts and perspectives. By coming to sound and complex understandings of the past, we hope to simultaneously challenge our students to value similarly nuanced understandings of the present, continually seeking out and working to understand views that may challenge or conflict with their own. Consequently, such skills as clearly articulating  one’s own and other people’s beliefs; crafting sound historical arguments, utilizing evidence to validate and substantiate those claims; researching original lines of inquiry and assessing the reliability of sources found; and engaging with one’s peers in these discussions and in this work are all vital, highly prized and frequently assessed modes of building understanding in social studies. 

Certain skill-building is department wide, grades five through eight. These skills include the management of materials and time to assure timely completion of both daily work and long term assignments; participation in paired and small group work, as well as whole-class discussions of the topics and source materials; listening thoughtfully to the perspectives of peers and responding respectfully; comprehending and analyzing primary and secondary sources; crafting and defending sound historical arguments through writing and other media.