American History (9th-10th grade two-year course)
American History A and B is a mixed-cohort, two-year cycle that asks students to become historians. Students ask why and how historical change happens over time and learn how to find sources that answer these questions, evaluate those sources (in both their content and their bias), construct an argument that is rooted in the evidence they find, and articulate their argument through verbal and written critical analysis. While these stronger academic skills are one goal the course also embraces a Montessori-based practice to encourage work with the heart, hands, and head while building empathy for those people who lived before us.
IB World History explores the history of the Middle East and Africa after 1914, as well as conflicts and intervention, authoritarian states, and independence movements in the modern world. In this class students will work on the following historical skills: respecting the humanity of all those who have lived through trying to understand their world on their terms; accepting the vast number of historical narratives that can and do exist while rejecting that there is one “truth” of history; at the same time trying to make sense of how and why changes (big and small) have happened over time; being comfortable with not knowing; being resilient in the face of setback; asking historical questions (how and why does change happen over time?); finding and identifying varied sources to help answer those questions; close-reading and analyzing those sources; combining multiple sources to answer a question; articulating those answers as arguments in verbal, written, and other formats; and understanding what other historians have said about question/topics like students’ questions and articulating how students’ arguments relate to/expand on/contradict those historians’ arguments.
The primary emphasis of this course is actually “doing philosophy” – actively engaging students in philosophical activity. The course is focused on stimulating students’ intellectual curiosity and encouraging them to examine both their own perspectives and those of others. Students will be challenged to develop their own philosophical voice and to grow into independent thinkers. The core theme of the course is “Being Human,” which provides an opportunity to explore the fundamental question of what it is to be human. This exploration takes place through a discussion of key concepts such as identity, freedom, and human nature, and through a consideration of questions such as what sets humans apart from other species, where the boundaries of being human lie, and whether animals or machines could be considered persons. Students also develop their skills through the study of other philosophical themes, such as the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of art, and the close reading of a philosophical text. Students will also learn to apply their philosophical knowledge and skills to real-life situations and to explore how non-philosophical material can be treated in a philosophical way.
Civics, Equity, and Social Justice (11th-12th grade course)
We’re all different, so how do we build communities where everyone can belong? In this class we will try to answer that question in two different ways. First, we'll study how communities -- big and small, near and far -- have tried to do this. We’ll learn how they were successful and how they weren’t. Second, we’ll apply what we’ve learned to Beacon Academy. Assignments will ask to students to use what we learn in class to design and implement projects to help Beacon students understand differences, work through and with them, and build a stronger, more welcoming community for all. Assessment will be marked on the project’s design (how well a student can explain what they are doing and how that has been influenced by what we’ve studied in the course) and on their reflections of these projects: Did it go as intended? Why or why not? What did the student learn, both personally and structurally, from completing this project? What would they do differently next time? Topics of study will include multi-generational, cross-racial, -class, -gender, and -sexuality organizing (from Cuba to India to the US); peace talks and restorative justice efforts (from Northern Ireland, to the Middle East, to Rwanda, to Chicago); art (as protest, as unifying force, and as healing), social-emotional development research (including the latest brain-science on teenage brain development, trauma, and community relationships), and more.