The Middle School history curriculum is designed to show the student that the nature of life is to grow and change. As students become more aware of the changes in the past, they will be better prepared to adapt to change in the future. Through learning the rudiments of the historian’s discipline, the boys focus on processes, concepts and skills. The content serves as the vehicle through which they develop reading, writing, note taking and research skills. Learning the importance of geography in the study of history and the relationship of the past to current events are additional goals of the department.
This course begins with an intensive study of the world’s physical geography. Boys develop a thorough understanding of each continent’s major landforms and physical features, as well the earth’s most important waterways. This work segues into an examination of the Age of Exploration (1418-1620), the primary focus of the Grade Five history curriculum. Boys study the historical context and motivation for exploration, the major explorers and their routes, and the dramatic impact exploration had on the world. Maritime innovations such as the caravel and astrolabe, and the Columbian Exchange are also featured. In conjunction with Media Literacy (a course co-taught with Browning’s library staff), the curriculum emphasizes research and presentation skills through projects that blend technology with hands-on work. Major projects include an explorer profile, a traditional research paper on an indigenous civilization affected by European exploration, and detailed building of a model caravel at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Grade Six: Ancient History
The study of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome is used to introduce middle school students to the basis of Western civilization. The particular aspects of these cultures examined include art, architecture, literature, politics, government, warfare and geography. Through the study of these topics, boys become acquainted with the foundation of Western ideas. Map, note taking and analytical essay writing skills are emphasized throughout the year. Whole group, independent and collaborative approaches to work are used to spark interest. The main texts used are “The Story of Ancient Greece” and “The Story of Ancient Rome” by Suzanne Strauss Art.
First Semester: Ancient Greece. The term begins with an exploration of Cretan and Mycenaean civilizations with an emphasis on mythology and archaeology. Students then move to an investigation of the Golden Age of Athens with particular focus on art, architecture, literature, government and warfare. Finally, the study of Ancient Greece concludes with an examination of the Peloponnesian War and Alexander the Great. Throughout the term, boys practice note taking and essay writing skills.
Second Semester: Ancient Rome. The term begins with an exploration of early Rome with an emphasis on geography and the story of Rome’s legendary founders. The boys then move to an investigation of how the republican form of government worked. Finally, the breakdown of the Republic following the Punic Wars and the rise of the Empire are examined. Students consider the similarities between Ancient Rome and the United States.
American History I: 1491-1850. This course begins a two-year sequence in American history for Forms I and II. Form I studies the period from 1491 to 1850, while Form II begins in 1850 and moves to present-day United States. This course provides the vehicle for the further development of important skills such as reading comprehension and analytical essay writing as well as the ability to draw inferences and detect bias in sources. Emphasis is placed on using primary source materials along with an accompanying textbook, American History by Prentice Hall.
First Semester: The English Colonies & Birth of a Nation. The semester begins with an examination of the causes of European colonization, its impact on indigenous peoples, and the political, social and economic foundations of the 13 English colonies. Boys then examine the causes of the American Revolution, the creation of the U.S. Constitution, and the establishment of the Republic. Two novels, Blood on the River: Jamestown 1607 and Woods Runner, present the Jamestown colony and American Revolution from teenage boys’ perspectives. Simulations and debates are employed to sharpen thinking skills while promoting interest. Additionally, skills that include identifying points of view, differentiating between main ideas and supporting details, understanding cause and effect and the sequencing of events are practiced.
Second Semester: Westward Expansion and A Nation Divided. The semester focuses on Westward Expansion. The Louisiana Purchase, Manifest Destiny, the Oregon Trail, Texas and the Mexican-American War are some of the topics covered. Students begin to examine the causes of sectional divisions, and the nature of American slavery. Boys undertakes a five-week research project on the topic of their choice. Finding suitable primary and secondary sources, evaluating the quality of Internet sources, taking notes and citing sources constitute the main research components.
American History II 1850-1990. This course begins where Form I history concludes and follows American history through the 20th century. Students use part two of the same textbook they used in Form I, and the topics are enhanced with the use of primary sources, class discussion, presentations, debates and simulations.
The course begins at the midpoint of the 19th century with expansion westward and the growing sectional crisis over the expansion of slavery. From a domestic standpoint, the growth of modern America characterizes this time—the Civil War, industrialization, rapid immigration, westward expansion and urbanization that define the second half of the century are examined in depth. America’s role on the world stage begins to be defined by the turn of the 20th century, and its early forays into imperialism and its role in World War I are investigated.
The course continues chronologically with the domestic focus of the 1920s and 1930s, providing students with an opportunity to understand the legacy of this important period with regard to modern U.S. economics and politics during the interwar period and the years of the Great Depression.
The course concludes with an investigation of the U.S. experience in the latter half of the 20th century, from both a domestic and foreign policy perspective. Connections are drawn between decisions and events that are closely linked to current events and recent history.