Social Studies

  • Essex High School’s Social Studies teachers recognize the importance of acquiring the skills, knowledge and understanding of the foundational principles advantageous for students to become active and informed citizens. 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:

    • 9th Grade Social Studies:  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


    Course Number: S330       1 World Studies Credit      Grades: 9   

    This humanities-based course will focus on what it means to be a global citizen. It encourages students to think across disciplines by reading, writing, analyzing, and discussing topics from history and literature. While learning about modern global history, students will study art, novels, drama, short stories, poetry, and non-fiction, throughout the year. An emphasis will be placed on building community, establishing positive learner traits, and helping students make a smooth transition to the high school. 


    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 over the previous 165 years. 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. 


    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 rights and freedoms provided to citizens; the role of the citizen, interest groups, political parties, and the mass media in shaping government policy; and the development of domestic and foreign policies.   

    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. 

    Course Number: S245       .5 Social Studies Credit      Grades: 10-12  

    This course is designed as a discussion-based course focusing on local, national and world issues. Throughout the semester 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.

    Course Number: S246       .5 Social Studies Credit      Grades: 10-12  

    The goal of this course is to explore and analyze the complex factors contributing to the Holocaust, interpret the events of 1933-1945, and evaluate the impact of the genocide on post-war Europe and generations that followed. We will look at several genocides, as well as the Holocaust, both chronologically and thematically. With an understanding of such issues as prejudice, discrimination, and racism, students are equipped to analyze contemporary political situations, think critically about ethical responsibility, and respond actively to injustice. This course is offered every other year opposite Global Military History.  Offered 2018-2019.   

    Course Number: S236         Credit      Grades: 10-12     

    This survey course will examine history primarily from a military perspective. The course will analyze major global military topics with an emphasis on the18th, 19th, and 20th century wars that have shaped the modern world. Furthermore, the course will look at the leaders, strategists and soldiers who waged these wars. The course will also examine the evolution of technology and its impact on warfare.  This course is offered every other year opposite Facing History and Ourselves.  Offered 2019-2020.

    Course Number: S242       .5 Social Studies Credit      Grades: 10-12      

    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. The culmination will be to produce a 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.

    Course Number: S009       .5 Social Studies Credit      Grades: 10-12     

    Students have 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. In addition, students will be asked to 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?” Ultimately, students will think deeply about how to lead an ethical and meaningful life. During the second quarter the class will engage in a service learning activity related to topics in the course. A variety of texts and handouts provide stimulating reading and reflective prompts for personal writing. 

    Course Number: S204       .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 six 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 examine the relationship between geography and other social sciences including, economics, political science, history, sociology, and anthropology.

    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 program 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 state competition 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 citizen in American democracy.  It is expected that students enrolled in this course will have a strong interest in Government and Politics, are willing to work collaboratively with classmates, compete in state competition, and if successful in regionals and the national competition in Washington DC.  This is an intense, demanding, and exciting academic endeavor.   

    Strongly Recommended: Completion of American Government, OR successful completion or concurrent enrollment in AP U.S. Government and Politics.  

    Course Number: S213       .5 Social Studies Credit      Grades: 10-12      

    Students will concentrate on the cultural, social, political, and economic traditions of countries in Africa, Latin and South America, Asia, and the Middle East. Students will use textbooks, periodicals, newspapers, the internet, and speakers to gain a more thorough understanding of other cultures. Students can take this course to fulfill a GLP endorsement requirement. 

    Course Number: S141       .5 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.  

    Strongly Recommended: Successful completion of AP U.S. Government & Politics or American Government.

    Course Number: S136       1 Social Studies Credit      Grades: 10-12  

    This course is intended for students who wish to engage in advanced economic studies equivalent to 2 semesters of college-level coursework. This is an excellent course for students who are considering majoring in Business in college as well as those who plan on a career in public service or public policy fields. After becoming familiar with basic economic concepts (scarcity, opportunity cost, comparative advantage, etc.) students will spend approximately one semester studying microeconomics and one semester studying macroeconomics. Topics in microeconomics include the nature and function of product markets (supply & demand, consumer choice, production and costs, firm behavior and market structure), factor markets, as well as market failure and the role of government. Topics in macroeconomics will include the measurement of economic performance (GDP, inflation, unemployment), national income and price determination, the financial sector, fiscal & monetary policies, as well as international trade and finance. This course is designed to prepare students for the College Board’s Advanced Placement Microeconomics and Advanced Placement Macroeconomics exams. Enrollment is open to all who are interested in the discipline and are willing to work hard and learn. A strong background in mathematics has been a consistent indicator of success for students in this 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 that will be explored are 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 U.S. Government and who are willing to work hard to develop an advanced understanding in the discipline.   Note: This course meets the American Government requirement for graduation but does not fulfill the .5 credit Social Studies elective requirement.

    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. 

    Course Number: S135       1 World Studies Credit      Grades: 10-12    

    This course is the equivalent of a two semester college level introductory course and is designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement World History exam. Students will cover the full history of human societies from 8500 B.C.E. to the present. Students will explore the origins and evolution of interactions between the world’s cultures. Course activities will highlight the nature of change as it occurs over time and comparisons among major societies. 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.


    Course Number: S229       .5 Social Studies Credit      Grades: 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, altered 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. 

    Course Number: S230       .5 Social Studies Credit      Grades: 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, records, and newspapers are used throughout the course.