Changes for underclass social studies courses

More options early on create a more prepared student

Maxine Whitely and Katya Tobak

change in curriculum options is set to launch for tenth graders in the fall of the 2015-2016 school year and has already been instituted for ninth graders this year.

    Social Studies Department Chair and a World Cultures teacher, Jennifer  Marien comments, “Whether it was discussing the apartheid in South Africa, the communism era of China with Mao Zedong, or covering the Israel and Palestine issue, World Cultures definitely opened a new perspective to the freshman class and has supported our learning and understanding of history overall.
    “In addition, we even took the time to cover current events of that year[…] We were able to have student-lead discussions with the numerous issues that we believed were not being covered (enough).”

     This class encompassed so much material that teachers decided to break it up into smaller courses so that students could dive deeper into each topic.

     This school year, it was split into  World Cultures: Modern World History anBig History. Next year, the same two courses will be offered based on positive feedback from students.


For sophomores, five different U.S. History classes will be offered in 2015 instead of just one. These options include U.S. History: The American West, Environmentalism and Conservation, Innovation and Technology, Movement and Peoples, and AP U.S. History.

      “It’s been in the works for three or four years  to give freshmen and sophomores a little bit more choice just like the juniors and seniors have,” says Beth Calderone. “We had two very regimented classes and then it opened up into a world of options. We were thinking that it would probably benefit a lot of kids to be able to pick and choose a little bit earlier.”

     A few years ago, we did a pretty massive national search at what ninth and tenth grade history programs look like, and many of the things that we liked the most in that fact  finding mission were places that did offer choice at the ninth and tenth grade level.”

        Calderone also mentioned that many top-level independent schools were increasing choice at a  younger age, and it was important for Blake to stay on par with that caliber of education.