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History

5th Grade
In the fall, the fifth grade social studies curriculum focuses on sustainability and systems thinking. Students examine their own relationship to their natural environment and the access and equity of resources through class discussions, multiple forms of media, and projects. By viewing sustainability as a system in which the actions of one group affect everyone, fifth graders begin to appreciate the relationship between humans and their environment.

In the winter, the fifth graders finish the sustainability study and then focus on geography. Students continue to examine their relationship to their natural environment and how geography connects to the overarching question: “How do humans use environmental resources to build and develop civilizations?”

In the spring, students continue to examine how humans use their environmental resources by studying the rise and fall of the early civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Students reflect upon and gain insight into the innovations, customs, and societal structures of these groups of people, linking the past with the present. By studying these civilizations through a project-based, hands-on approach, students can design and deliver solutions to topical challenges. This unit culminates in a dramatic representation of an Egyptian Marketplace showcasing the various topics they researched. 

6th Grade
The sixth grade year focuses on revolution and the struggle towards Black liberation across time periods and in different places globally. Our interdisciplinary, project-based pedagogy is based on inquiry and art. It is manifested through multiple modes of learning and we strive to make it student-led.

The students begin by examining the land and the various aboriginal people’s roots on this land before it was renamed “the Americas.” Throughout the year, students learn various ways that Indigenous groups thrived on this land; they investigate ways that Indigenous groups have survived through European invasion and how they have resisted colonialism with their knowledge and traditions. Additionally, the class explores Black and African historical figures that have contributed in multiple ways to the building of the United States. Students use The New York Times’ “1619 Project'” as a case study to dig deeper into the history of enslavement in the colonies and hierarchical structures of racism, capitalism, and patriarchy.

Texts such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are critically examined to gain a deeper understanding of the foundations of American society. Students also study the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments, the three branches of government, and electoral policies. These topics are studied alongside Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Harlem Renaissance, and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and as a bridge to our study of slavery, race, and civil disobedience. Students examine more recent musings on black identity, in particular Black Joy and Afro-Futurism through the arts and literature.  

7th/8th Grade
For seventh and eighth grade, MCS has a two-year rotating curriculum for English, science, and history. In year one, students focus on the events that helped to shape the 20th Century, focusing on themes of expression and advocacy throughout a rapidly changing political and cultural landscape. The year starts with an initial mini-unit on power which is done collaboratively in English and history. This provides students with different ways to think about and analyze power as well as new language to do so. The next unit is on identity to give students a foundational understanding of how social identifiers such as race, gender, and nationality are social constructs. Students explore how these identities shape their experience, access to rights, and place in the national narrative in America. Our nation is diverse, with multiple perspectives, experiences, and lived realities. Students explore these different perspectives and experiences through the words and actions of community leaders and members involved with movements for social change.
 
The first two units on power and identity provide a strong foundation to explore the social movements in the next units. The curriculum includes the American Indian Movement and second wave feminism, as well as a unit on solidarity between movements. Each unit involves looking at the larger history of the people involved. For the unit on A.I.M., students look at Cherokee Removal and boarding schools, as well as other elements of American history as it relates to the oppression and genocide of Native peoples. Students also look briefly at Native civilizations before colonization. In the unit on second wave feminism, students look at earlier women’s rights movements such as the suffrage movement. 

For each movement studied, students explore the historical context, the strategies and tactics used, the narrative they present, and the dominant narrative that they are challenging. Students use primary sources to explore the diverse perspectives within movements and secondary sources to assess and evaluate their successes and failures in the short and long term.

In year two, the history curriculum focuses on colonization and imperialism. Students cover pre-colonial Africa and Asia so that students may understand the wealth, complex social structures, and trade networks in these richly diverse and enormous continents. They then learn about imperialism and colonization, focusing on the strategies and ideologies of both the colonizers and those who resisted being colonized. We explore the political, economic, psychological, and social ramifications of imperialism. Students then learn about American imperialism through the Spanish-American War and the interventions in Hawai’i, Colombia, China, and the Philippines, exploring and representing the experience from both sides. 

The readings are compilations of many secondary and primary sources. Students focus on analyzing and contextualizing primary sources, such as letters, speeches, diaries, novels, photographs and other artifacts. They use knowledge gained through primary source explorations to analyze and critique secondary sources, informing a discussion about historiography and the importance of perspective in historical research. Students will continue to improve their note taking, essay writing and research skills, and they will work on a variety of projects, both as individuals and in small groups.

Assignments require not only original thinking, but also synthesis and analysis of the ideas that they have read about or discussed in class. Students also engage in town meetings, debates, and simulations. Essay and research writing is a major component of the curriculum. Students are also expected to write creatively from a variety of historical perspectives. Additionally, students hone their understanding of geography, familiarizing themselves with the world map at a number of moments throughout the study and analyzing how interpretation affects map presentation.

Throughout these studies and with guidance in History Seminar, students independently develop a research paper based on a topic of their choosing. Through the process, students gain familiarity with Internet and library-based research, note taking, outlining, writing, and editing. They also gain a strong sense of independence and pride upon the completion of their long-term project.

Most importantly, students will learn how to become critical thinkers and effective students of history. Students will develop their ability to identify bias and perspective, the use of language to frame historical narratives, and the importance of viewing history from multiple perspectives.
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