Social Studies

The Social Studies department at ESA is committed to the idea that in order to participate as full members of society, students must know something about the forces that have shaped and continue to shape peoples’ lives. Students at ESA take global history in 9th and 10th grade, and US history, economics and government in 11th and 12th grade.


9th and 10th Grade Classes
Worlds Collide (Fall): Worlds Collide is an investigation of the cataclysmic encounter between Amerindian, African, and European peoples in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. We will focus on using historical sources to question, complicate, and counter prevailing narratives of the development of colonial society in Latin America and the Caribbean. The course begins with an exploration of Taino, Aztec, and West African civilizations as they developed prior to the encounter with Europeans. Next, we will examine the process of colonization, the development of the Atlantic Slave Trade, and the consequences thereof. To conclude the course, students will investigate how Amerindian, African, and European interactions in the early modern period still shape culture, identity, and power dynamics in today’s multi-racial society. 

We will answer such questions as: How can we construct a history of African, indigenous, and Latin American peoples that does not center European perspectives? Did colonized and enslaved people have any agency in the creation of this new Atlantic world, or were they simply passive victims? How is your own present-day life shaped by developments arising from this collision of cultures?


World Religions (Spring): World Religions is a course designed to allow students to explore and analyze trends that connect the World’s religions and conflicts in both historical and contemporary contexts. Unit One focuses on the three monotheistic religions; Islam, Judaism, and Christianity and some of the polytheistic religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Students will learn the basic tenants and compare, contrast and analyze the key tenants of the religions. Unit Two’s focus is on the historical, social, political, and economic effects of religious conflict during the 20th century. Unit Three will continue to focus on the social, political, and economic effects of religious conflict, but with a focus on the conflicts impacting the people of the world today.


11th and 12th Grade Classes

Economics and Climate Justice: Climate Justice explores the climate crisis and efforts to halt climate change. Students learn about the history of the fossil fuel industry, including the system of capitalism and the role of lobbyists in the formation of economic policies. Students investigate the history of the climate justice movement, including very recent history (aka current events). Students will learn about initiatives to address climate change and will develop their own policy recommendations.

US and Immigration: US Immigration Policy is a student-centered exploration of the history of immigration policy in the United States. Students will research their own or someone else’s immigration story and contextualize the events according to policy of the time. Later, students will determine what they believe the typical approach to immigration policy has been for the United States and what the explicit and implicit motivators were. Finally, students will determine, based on their own definition of typical immigration policy, whether current policy is representative or contradictory to historic trends.

Students will continue to develop their skills of thesis development and supporting arguments with evidence.  Students also will work to improve their ability to both read and construct charts and graphs.  Students will refine their research, writing, public speaking and presentation skills.

Constitutional Law: Constitutional Law is a course designed to get students thinking about some of the most important and enduring issues of U.S. Constitutional law.  Students are introduced to legal concepts such as federalism, separation of powers, executive power, due process, and equal protection, among others. The course begins with an overview of the U.S. system of government. Students will then focus on some of the most well-known individual rights (freedom of religious expression, freedom of speech, etc.) by reading the seminal Supreme Court cases and discussing the issues and legal doctrine related to these rights. Throughout the course, students examine the U.S. Constitution and dissect judicial opinions.  Students will practice critical thinking and develop their reading and writing skills. Activities include exploring real-life scenarios involving key issues, seminars on current events involving the courts and other branches, and moot courts in which students prepare legal briefs or judicial opinions based upon the case laws they have studied.  The central project is a research paper exploring the way in which (and extent to which) a Supreme Court decision or Constitutional amendment  is significant or successful.