Social Studies classes

  • Essex High School’s Social Studies teachers recognize the importance of acquiring the knowledge, skills, and understanding of the foundational principles advantageous for students to become active and informed citizens. Social studies is the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world. All students should select courses to meet their Social Studies requirements while also thinking about their interests and plans for the future in making selections. 

    Required Courses:

    Selection from 9th Grade Chart        1 credit         9th grade, meets World Studies requirement

    United States History                       1 credit         typically 10th grade, meets U.S. History requirement

    American Government                    .5 credit         meets American Government requirement

    Social Studies Elective                    .5 credit         typically 11th or 12th grade


    9th Grade Courses

    Incoming 9th graders choose either Grade 9 Honors Humanities or one Single Subject course in English and one in Social Studies. 

    9th grade Social Studies choices in chart form 

    9th Grade Courses

    Course Number S960                    1 World Studies credit, 1 English credit                              Grade 9

    This humanities-based, team-based course will meet every day.  It is designed for motivated 9th graders who are confident in their reading, writing, and historical analysis skills.  Honors Humanities focuses on modern global history and world literature, and it will challenge students to think across disciplines through intensive reading and analysis of literary texts and historical documents. Work includes in-depth writing assignments, and where applicable, discussions of literary and historical context. Emphasis will be placed on helping students make a smooth transition to the high school. 

    Access the proficiencies for course S960.

    Course Number S330                    1 World Studies credit                              Grade 9

    This one-credit course examines the major events and turning points of world history from the Age of
    Exploration to the present.  Students investigate the foundational ideas that shaped the modern world by exploring the social revolutions and economic and political changes that have transformed human history. Students will focus on critical events, people, and turning points during these centuries including exploration, the Renaissance, imperialism, and twentieth-century issues. The course is rigorous and relevant with instruction that integrates critical thinking skills, historical analysis, and content so that students are able to apply their learning to their own lives.

    Access the proficiencies for course S330.

10th-12th Grade Courses

  • U.S. HISTORY   ncaa
    Course Number S215                    1 United States History credit                  Grades 10-12

    Typically taken in 10th grade, the purpose of this required course is to have students explore the legacy that they have inherited from the historical events in the United States since 1850. To achieve this, students will begin their studies with the rise of sectionalism in America and the resulting period of war and reconstruction. From there students will explore the rise of modern America as a political, cultural, and economic world power.

    Students will analyze the changing role of government in response to economic problems including the development of monopolies, the Great Depression, and the turmoil of the1960s and 70s. Students will explore the social turmoil of the mid-twentieth century and understand its causes and effects on modern America, while also analyzing the role of the U.S. in international affairs from the world wars to the Cold War and modern conflicts. By the end of the course students will demonstrate a greater understanding of the role of America in the world today and the historical legacy of that role. 

    Access the proficiencies for S215 course.

    Course Number S216                    .5 American Government credit               Grades 10-12

    The goal of this required course is for students to reach an enduring understanding that the American democratic system of government requires an informed citizenry that actively engages in the political process. Toward this end students will examine the foundations of American government; the structure and principles of the Constitution; the Institutions of government; the rights and freedoms provided to citizens; the role of the citizen, interest groups, and political parties in shaping government policy; and the development of domestic and foreign policies.  

    Access the proficiencies for S216 course.

    WE THE PEOPLE   ncaa
    Course Number S011                    .5 Social Studies credit                             Grades 10-12

    Students enrolled in this course will participate in the We the People... the Citizen and the Constitution curriculum established by an act of Congress. The primary goal of the program is to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s students. The culminating activity is a simulated congressional hearing in which students “testify” before a panel of judges. In this competition students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of constitutional principles, government, and politics and have opportunities to evaluate, take, and defend positions on relevant historical and contemporary issues.

    Content covered includes the Philosophical and Historical Foundations of the American Political System, creation of the Constitution, the values and principles embodied in the Constitution, institutions and practices of the American government, the development and expansion of protections in the Bill of Rights, and the roles of the citizens in American democracy. It is expected that students enrolled in this course will have a strong interest in Government and Politics, and are willing to work collaboratively with classmates.

    This course meets the American Government requirement for graduation.

    Course Number S221                    .5 Social Studies credit                             Grades 10-12

    What does it mean to be an American today? This course is a thematic study of different perspectives of Americans from the 1950s through present day. Using primary sources, fiction and nonfiction, students will learn to be open to the ideas of others while appreciating the reality of historical events through the eyes of people who were there. This is a student-centered course, providing an opportunity for active learning through activities such as debate, interviews, journalism, theatre, community service and projects. Students will leave this course with an appreciation of the diversity of American ideas as well as a better understanding of their own heritage and views. 

    Access the proficiencies for S221 course.

    Course Number S245                    .5 Social Studies credit                             Grades 10-12

    This discussion-based course focuses on local, national, and world issues. Throughout this course students will use current publications, media, and technology to stay informed about the issues facing us today at the local, state, national, and global levels. This course will emphasize the importance of being an involved and informed citizen. Learning will be hands-on and actively changing with an opportunity to learn how to develop, articulate, support, and defend opinions and positions.  

    Students can take this course to fulfill a GLP endorsement requirement.

    Access the proficiencies for S245 course.


    Course Number S256      .5 Social Studies credit        Grades 10-12

    Holocaust and Human Behavior leads students through an examination of the catastrophic period in the twentieth century when Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews and millions of other civilians in the midst of the most destructive war in human history.  Through rigorous historical analysis combined with the study of human behavior, Holocaust and Human Behavior’s approach heightens students’ understanding of racism, religious intolerance, and prejudice; increases students’ ability to relate history to their own lives; and promotes greater understanding of their roles and responsibilities in a democracy. Students are equipped to analyze contemporary and past political situations, think critically about ethical responsibility, and respond actively to injustice.

    Students can take this course to fulfill a GLP endorsement requirement.
    This course is offered every other year opposite Global Military History.  Offered 2022-2023.

    Access proficiencies for S256 course.

    Course Number S266        .5 Social Studies credit                                         Grades 10-12

    This course will examine the social, political, military, economic, and cultural aspects of warfare. This course is a survey of the changing patterns of warfare, analysis of principal military thinkers, and the evolving relationship among societies, warfare, and their military institutions. Students examine major and emerging themes in military history, theory, and the study of military affairs, including strategy, tactics, leadership, morality, policies, protests, home front efforts, and technology.

    This course is offered every other year opposite Facing History and Ourselves.  Offered 2023-2024.

    Access the proficiencies for S266course.


    Course Number S247          .5 Social Studies credit     Grades 10-12

    Ethnic Studies courses operate from the consideration that race and racism have been, and continue to be, profoundly powerful social and cultural forces in American society.  The major purpose of this course is to develop an understanding of the role and contributions of African Americans to the growth and development of the United States. The course offers opportunities to examine the historical significance of African Americans from African Origins through present times.  The course challenges students to think about race, and other systems of difference that shape individual and group interactions, American identity, and culture while celebrating the richness, diversity, and contributions of African American culture to national and international life and the world.

    Access proficiencies for S247 course

    Course Number S242                    .5 Social Studies credit                             Grades 10-12

    This course offers students an in-depth understanding of the critical role gender plays in society. We will examine the cultural and social construction of gender, explore the history, experiences and contributions of women/LGBTQ to society, and learn about the influences of gender on our lives.  In this course, we will look at the diverse cultural, historical, and social experiences of women in history as well as a variety of issues facing young women in the world today. We will examine women’s roles and accomplishments in history, literature, politics, art, and music. We will ask critical questions about the portrayal of women in the media and women’s place in politics, and make connections with other cultures. We will also discuss the effects of this portrayal on men. This course will use The Feminine Mystique, excerpts from textbooks, internet, speakers, newspapers, and videos. Students will keep a journal of their reflections, questions, and current events. Students will produce a culminating research project based on a relevant topic of their choice. This course will raise your awareness of the status of women in the world today and throughout history. 

    Access the proficiencies for S242 course.

    Course Number S249                    .5 Social Studies credit                             Grades 10-12

    This discussion-based course will give students the opportunity to explore alternative perspectives on the purpose of our lives. This creative introduction to philosophy and the workings of our minds explores the “great ideas” of history: from Socrates and Lao-Tze to Dewey and Kierkegaard. While focusing on the lives of great thinkers like Buddha and Aristotle, students gain insights into how we live today. Students will explore the nature of change and how our perceptions of reality are altered by our circumstances. Students will actively participate in class discussion through the use of the Socratic Seminar. The two essential questions students will evaluate are “What does it mean to be Human?” and “Who am I?”  Students will think deeply about how to lead an ethical and meaningful life. 

    Access the proficiencies for S249 course.

    Course Number S274                    .5 Social Studies credit                             Grades 10-12

    This course offers a study of people, places, and environments at the state, regional, national, and international level by examining both the physical and human geographical world. Using the essential elements of geography, students will learn content and skills that will help them navigate our society and a changing world. Additionally, this course will include geographic studies of world issues with connections to other social sciences including economics, political science, history, sociology, and anthropology.

    Students can take this course to fulfill a GLP endorsement requirement.

    Access the proficiencies for S274 course.

    Course Number S253                    .5 Social Studies credit                             Grades 10-12

    Students will concentrate on the cultural, social, political, racial, diversity, and economic traditions around the world to help students become global citizens. We will examine ways in which race and culture intersect with other group identifications such as gender, class, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation and disabil- ity. We will focus on understanding  the relationships between culture, ethnicity, diversity, and power. We will explore what it means for individuals and institutions to exist in a multi-racial, multicultural world. We will also investigate the forms race and racism have taken in different areas and time periods.

    Students can take this course to fulfill a GLP endorsement requirement.

    Access the proficiencies for S253 course.

AP Courses

    Course Number S141                    1 Social Studies credit                              Grades 10-12

    This course will provide students with the tools necessary to develop an understanding of some of the world’s political structures and practices. The course will encompass the study both of specific countries and of general concepts used to interpret the key political relationships found in virtually all national politics. Six countries form the core of the course: Great Britain, Russia, China, Mexico, Nigeria, and Iran. These nations will be compared across the criteria of power structures, political institutions, citizen participation, political and economic change, and public policy. Students will be exposed to different theoretical and practical frameworks that are the foundations for a variety of different political systems. Special attention will be paid to the interaction of nations across their own boundaries through warfare, diplomacy, trade, intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations. Students who enroll in this course will prepare for the Advanced Placement Exam in May. Enrollment is open to all who are interested in international comparisons of government & politics and who are willing to work hard to develop an advanced understanding in the discipline.

    Students can take this course to fulfill a GLP endorsement requirement.

    Prerequisite: AP U.S. Government & Politics or American Government.

    Access the proficiencies for S141 course.


    Course Number S136    1 Social Studies credit              Grades 10-12

    This college-level course introduces students to the principles that apply to an economic system as a whole. The course places particular emphasis on the study of national income and price-level determination. It also develops students’ familiarity with economic performance measures, the financial sector, stabilization policies, economic growth, and international economics. Students learn to use graphs, charts, and data to analyze, describe, and explain economic concepts. AP Macroeconomics is equivalent to a one-semester introductory college course in economics. There are no prerequisites for AP Macroeconomics. Students should be able to read a college-level textbook and possess basic mathematics and graphing skills.

     Access the proficiencies for S136 course.

    Course Number S140                    1 American Government credit                Grades 10-12

    This course will give students an analytical perspective on government and politics in the United States. The course includes both the study of general concepts used to interpret U. S. politics and the analysis of specific examples. Topics and questions will include the Constitutional underpinnings of U. S. Government, Political Beliefs and Behaviors, Political Parties, Interest Groups and Mass Media, Institutions of National Government, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and Public Policy.

    Students will examine the various institutions, groups, beliefs, and ideas that constitute U.S. politics. A variety of theoretical perspectives and explanations for behaviors and outcomes will be inspected. Particular attention will be given to events and issues locally, statewide, nationally, and worldwide that are of timely importance. Lastly, the goal of this course is to develop the qualities of civic-mindedness, civic intelligence, and civic literacy through application and analysis of content covered. Enrollment is open to all who are interested in current events and issues, politics, and the U.S. Government and who are willing to work hard to develop an advanced understanding in the discipline.

    **Special Note: this course meets the American Government requirement for graduation but does not meet the .5 credit Social Studies elective requirement.

    Access the proficiencies for S140 course.

    Course Number S134                    1 United States History credit                  Grades 10-12

    This challenging course is comparable to an introductory college course and requires students to be interested in history and self-motivated. Students will actively engage with material covering pre-Columbian times into the 21st century. Higher order skills including analysis, interpretation, and synthesis, will be necessary for success. Writing will constitute a major portion of assessment, and classes will often be devoted to discussion and other interactive strategies.

    This course is designed to prepare students for the College Board Advanced Placement exam. Since the course will be conducted as a seminar, students will be responsible for information covered outside of class. Enrollment is open to all who are interested in the discipline and are willing to work hard and learn.

    The ability to keep up with extensive reading and writing is required.

    Access the proficiencies for S134 course.

    Course Number S135                    1 World Studies credit                              Grades 10-12

    This course is the equivalent of a one-semester college level introductory course and is designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement World History exam. Students will examine the history of human societies from 1200 C.E. to the present. Students will explore the development of and interactions between the world’s cultures in the modern era. The course will be structured around geographic and chronological patterns, as well as the development of historical thinking skills such as argumentation, contextualization, comparison, causation, and change and continuity over time. Students will delve into multiple perspectives on historical evidence and discuss interpretive issues relevant to historical work. Specific themes will focus on technological advances, gender roles, demographic forces, cultural developments, and political structures. Enrollment is open to all who are interested in the discipline and are willing to work hard and learn. 

    The ability to keep up with extensive reading and writing is required.

    Students can take this course to fulfill a GLP endorsement requirement.

    Access the proficiencies for S135 course.

Grade 12 Only Courses

    Course Number S229                    .5 Social Studies credit                             Grade 12

    This course is a survey course of the field of psychology and serves as a valuable basis for college level psychology. Students will learn about many areas in the field, including research methods, genetics and behavior, the brain, states of consciousness, motivation and emotion, personality, personal attraction, stress and mental disorders. Students will have a better understanding of their behavior as well as the behavior of others. Psychology is a useful course for many occupations as well as a good preparation for helping students learn to recognize and cope with problems they will face in the adult world.  

    Access the proficiencies for S229 course.

    Course Number S230                    .5 Social Studies credit                             Grade 12

    Our present world presents one of the more accelerated and comprehensive eras of social change. All areas of social relationships have been or are being examined or challenged, and in many cases are experiencing new patterns and values. This Grade 12 course attempts to relate these changes to each other and to the past. The primary purpose is to learn about basic sociological patterns, while exploring as many points of view as possible. Students will gain insight into some of the problems in our society and into information about the field of Sociology. This course will also help students to handle situations confronting them as individuals. A basic text is used covering such topics as: Heredity and Environment, Social Adjustment, Goals of Marriage and Family, and Behavior Problems of Children and Youth. Current publications, as well as supplemental books and a variety of films and records are used throughout the course.

    Access the proficiencies for S230 course.