The Upper School Social Studies program builds upon the foundational knowledge and conceptual framework developed during Middle School to enable students to view the world from a broader and deeper historical and global perspective. The program endeavors to teach students how to think and supports them in becoming active participants in the learning process and independent learners. Social Studies teaches and scaffolds core skills in the following areas at age-appropriate levels across the curriculum:
  • Analytic skills that include interpretation, synthesis, comparison, causation, argumentation, contextualization, continuity and change over time, and periodization;  
  • Evaluation skills that include critical reading, assessing the validity of opinions, and making informed and reasoned judgments supported by evidence;               
  • Communication skills that include effective written and verbal communication, and collaboration with emphasis on working in groups.
The Social Studies program also aims to:
  • Encourage students to understand and respect cultural diversity, including viewpoints and values different from their own;
  • Teach students to view the world from a historical and global perspective;
  • Equip students with the core skills and foundational knowledge needed for college coursework;   
  • Enable students to gain a deeper understanding of the multiple challenges confronting human societies in the increasingly interdependent world of the 21st century;
  • Prepare and encourage students to make unique and meaningful contributions toward developing solutions to societal problems at the community, national, and global level.

List of 8 items.

  • Ninth Grade: Development of Civilization

    This course explores how human civilization developed. Beginning with the period of prehistory when the ancestral human population first left Africa, we continue through the birth and growth of Islam, with a geographic focus on Africa, Europe, and Asia. We explore and compare the political, economic, social, cultural and intellectual life of many early civilizations. Students pay particular attention to the process of cultural diffusion, the challenges of ruling empires, and the development of the world’s earliest philosophies and religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Students develop many important skills including writing clear, well organized essays; improving vocabulary and study skills; describing and analyzing change over time; comparing and contrasting different sets of ideas and values; interpreting primary sources; working cooperatively in small groups; and developing research skills.
  • Ninth or Tenth Grade: International Relations Honors Seminar

    Students explore the meaning of global security in an interdependent world in the 21st century, and examine major political, economic, and environmental challenges and the complex forces that shape them. Students debate and discuss various solutions to these problems and consider strategies to build a better future in the years ahead. Students also acquire substantive knowledge and develop practical skills to help them become effective delegates at Model United Nations conferences. Participation in Model UN is not required. Model UN is an ungraded extracurricular activity available to students who are enrolled in this course or who have completed it. (Students must submit an application to be considered for admission to this course.)
  • Tenth Grade: Emergence of the Modern World

    This course focuses on the emergence of the “global world” in the Modern Era, from the 14th through the mid-20th centuries. The class allows students to explore the “macro” implications of globalization and modernity from a broad historical perspective but without neglecting the “micro” experience of everyday life. Central to our focus are the numerous, diverse, tensions that have emerged in response to our increasingly interconnected world. For the Transatlantic Unit, students draw upon excerpts from Jared Diamond’s book and documentary series Guns, Germs, and Steel to understand how encounters between Europeans and Native Americans in the 16th century resulted in bloodshed, mass death, and conquest. 
    For the Early Modern Unit, students explore the transformations that allowed Europe to become the most powerful region of the world by the 17th century. For the Colonialism Unit, students assert their historical skills by answering a central “guiding” question: “Why was Great Britain able to colonize the globe in the 19th century?” For the Age of Revolutions unit, students study the radical innovations in industry, society, and politics that led to a fundamental “break” between the “early modern” and “modern” worlds. For the final Modernity Unit, students explore more closely the various innovations in thinking, living, and culture that encapsulate the modern era during the first half of the 20th century. 
    Coursework emphasizes the development of grade-appropriate historical skills, including the critical reading and analysis of different forms of textual and visual evidence, the articulation of ideas and opinions in oral and written communication, and the ability to connect abstract concepts with concrete historical examples. Equally important are grade-specific communication skills: presentation and public speaking, working effectively and productively on group projects, improving quality of note taking, making better contributions during class discussions, and crafting effective academic writing that is reinforced with examples and evidence.
  • Eleventh Grade: History of the United States

    This course is designed to engage students in an exploration of American history and government. Emphasis is placed on how the meaning of “We the People” and the roles of government have changed over time. Major topics include the Colonial Period, the Spirit of 1776, the Constitution and Federalism, Manifest Destiny and Expansion, the Civil War and Reconstruction, Industrialization, Progressivism, the Great Depression and the New Deal, the two World Wars, and the post-war history of the United States. Students develop critical historical skills including comparison, contextualization, interpretation, and historical argumentation. Most importantly, students develop a deep understanding of the nation in which they live and its government.
  • Eleventh Grade: Advanced Placement (AP) United States History

    AP U.S. History is a rigorous course equivalent to a college-level American History Survey Course. AP U.S. History begins with Pre-Columbian America and the Age of Exploration and concludes with contemporary 21st century issues. The course is organized around seven major themes and divided into nine chronological periods. The thematic and temporal structure is designed to make the material more manageable. Particular emphasis is placed on nine specific historical skills, including but not limited to an understanding of historical causation, identifying patterns of continuity and change over time, constructing and analyzing historical arguments, and using relevant historical evidence in making these evaluations. Students who complete this course will develop a much deeper understanding of the nation in which they live and its place in the world today. Students are expected to take the AP U.S. History exam in May.
  • Twelfth Grade: Human Rights in the Post-World War II World

    This course will examine the topic of human rights in the post-World War II world. We will begin by investigating the origins of human rights and consider how the term has expanded in the 20th century to include protections far beyond basic political liberties. We will explore what should be encompassed by the concept of human rights. Should it include a “right” to a living wage, health care, and clean air, or should human rights be more limited? We will consider how “women’s rights” grew to be viewed as an aspect of human rights. We will also explore whether a state can ever be justified in placing limits on human rights such as restricting the right to privacy in order to achieve some other societal goal such as security. Later in the course, we will examine the gap between heightened expectations for human rights and the grim realities of ongoing human rights violations throughout the world. We will consider the effectiveness of new legal frameworks for protecting and enforcing human rights and explore how they can be made more effective. During the course, students will have an opportunity to do individualized research projects to pursue areas of particular interest such as LGBT rights, rights of refugees, or rights of children.
  • Twelfth Grade: Dictatorship

    This course will explore the development of dictatorship in the modern world. We will begin by describing the elements of a dictatorship. We will then consider the conditions that often give rise to dictatorship. In the next part of the course, we will investigate the methods used by dictators to maintain their grip on power. These methods include the use of propaganda, censorship, manipulation of public opinion, force, and terror. We will also consider the puzzling reasons for the popularity of some dictatorships. We then explore the unique dangers and harms caused by dictatorship including the abuse of human rights on a massive scale. Finally, we will examine the methods used to challenge and overthrow dictatorships.
  • Twelfth Grade: Advanced Placement (AP) World History

    Advanced Placement World History is a rigorous college-level course that is structured around the exploration of selected themes and concepts in world history from approximately 8,000 B.C.E. to the present. In this course, rather than collecting and memorizing information, students search for meaning and understanding about the past. Nevertheless, students will need to acquire sufficient foundational knowledge about many different societies in order to understand global patterns and processes in world history. The course is organized around five major themes, divided into six chronological periods, and spread across five geographic regions. This thematic, temporal, and geographic structure is designed to make the course material much more manageable. The course provides balanced geographical coverage of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. Coverage of European history represents around 20% of the course. Students who successfully complete this course will develop a much deeper understanding of the world in which they live. Students are expected to take the AP World History exam in May.

The Kew-Forest School

119-17 Union Turnpike
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 268-4667
The oldest independent school in the borough of Queens, The Kew-Forest School is an independent co-educational, college preparatory school for students in Preschool through Grade 12.