Social Studies

OA Graduation: 3 years: 1 year U.S. History, 1 year Civics/Economics, 1 year additional social science; UC requirement 2 years

The philosophy of Orinda Academy’s social studies department is to provide a broadly humanistic approach to the ideas, events, cultures, and extraordinary people that have shaped the world.

U. S. History (8th grade)

Topics covered:

  • Civilizations of pre-colonial America
  • Early European settlements in Florida, Virginia, and New York
  • Founding Fathers/Revolutionary War
  • Louisiana Purchase
  • War of 1812
  • Civil War
  • Emancipation Proclamation/Abolition
  • Immigration and impacts on American society
  • Manifest Destiny
  • Spanish-American War
  • Impacts of Industrial Revolution
  • Suffragette movement and equal rights
  • WW I
  • Civil Rights movement

World Geography (9th grade)

Class topics and projects:

  • Understanding the Five Themes of Geography
  • The evolution of blues music and cultural convergence in America
  • Economic systems of imperialistic, and developing countries
  • Pros and Cons of expanding corporate business in developing countries
  • Contrasting religions of different countries
  • Human-Environment Interaction
  • Physical, political, and thematic maps
  • Physical Geography of North & South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia
  • Create your own country project (tax rate, environmental policy, government system)
  • Internal and external forces shaping the earth
  • Effects of Apartheid on African and international communities
  • Impact of Gandhi’s actions on imperialism and right to self-rule
  • Global commerce in the 21st century
  • Global symposium-how countries will work together for future generations

World Cultures (10th grade)

Topics of discussion:

  • Roman and Byzantine Empires
  • Islamic World in Asia and Africa
  • Rise of the Middle Ages
  • Viking occupation of English kingdoms
  • Impact of Genghis Khan and Mongol Empire on Asian civilizations
  • Renaissance & Reformation
  • Imperialism in Africa and Asia
  • Effects of European Exploration on native civilizations and world commerce
  • Aristocracy and Monarchies in Europe
  • The French Revolution
  • The Russian Revolution
  • Ancient, and modern cultures of China, Japan, Korea, and India
  • Impact of industrial revolutions on national/international economies
  • Suffragette movement and equal rights
  • Causes & Effects of WWI, and WWII

Western Civilization (10th grade)

A year-long course on the political, economic, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the West, with particular emphasis placed upon cultural and intellectual history. The course begins with a brief introduction to human history and then proceeds to an in-depth examination of Greece and Rome. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are covered in the context of the classical world and within the unit on the Middle Ages. Europe during the Renaissance (13th–16th centuries) is followed by units on the history of England and France (1500–1914). The course concludes with a look at late 19th and early 20th century European culture. Continuity and change over 2500 years is a major thematic focus that provides unity to this wide-ranging course.(Students choose between this course and Modern World History for their 10th grade social studies course)

U.S. History (11th grade)

A year-long survey course of American political, economic, social, cultural, and intellectual history (pre-colonial to about 1975) punctuated by more in-depth examination and analysis of key topics and events (The Revolutionary War, The Constitutional Convention and the Constitution itself, The Federalist and Jeffersonian Eras, Jacksonian Democracy, The Civil War, Industrialization, Urbanization, and Immigration, The Progressive Era, the U.S. rise to world power status, WWI and The Roaring Twenties, The Great Depression and The New Deal, WWII, and the U.S. 1945-1975) along with the prominent individuals and groups associated with them. Investigating major American themes and values such as individualism and identity, liberty and equality, etc. (including some integration with the English 3 and honors American Literature courses) provides unity and continuity throughout the course.

Civics (12th grade)

A one semester course that examines the classical, English, and colonial origins of our political system followed by an overview of the constitutional convention and an in depth examination the Constitution itself, including the Bill of Rights, subsequent amendments, and landmark Supreme Court decisions. The origins of modern liberalism, conservatism, and America's political parties are also examined. Special topics include the history of women and African Americans in their respective struggles for political freedom and equality. Student led discussions and presentations based on our reading of Fareed Zakaria’s The Future of Freedom add an extra level of college prep depth to this course. Along with all of the above, weekly integration of current events provides the basis for class discussions, presentations, and debates concerning our continuing experiment in representative government.

Economics (12th grade)

A one semester course (Spring) that examines the origins, evolution , nature, strengths and weaknesses of capitalism and the free market system. Students acquire the fundamental terminology and concepts of economics within a broader historical, political, and cultural context. Biographical profiles of thinkers ranging from Smith to Marx to Friedman provide an additional human dimension. Topics for discussion and debate include economic growth and environmental concerns, globalization, comparative economic systems (with an interesting aside on behavioral economics), rising levels of income inequality in the United States, the Federal Reserve & monetary policy, and the Federal budget.

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