Social Studies | Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School

Social Studies

The purpose of the Social Studies Department is to train students to intelligently participate in public discourse.  Social Studies disciplines teach a wide range of knowledge, critical thinking, and communication skills, as well as key academic skills for future study and life.

Students apply critical and creative skills to address complex social issues, effectively communicate a position through group discussion and debate, and identify and analyze important information in various sources. You will have the opportunity to  reflect upon and analyze media historic and current media. You may also participate in lab activities that simulate the stock market, elections and debates. You and your teachers will use technology for research, multimedia presentations, discussions and collaborative work.

Three years (30 units) of Social Studies are required for graduation. Unless otherwise noted, all Social Studies courses are UC-approved as college-preparatory core/elective courses. 

Available Courses in 2018-19

World History
Yearlong Course; 10 Units

We often tend to look at history through the eyes of the 4.4 percent of the world’s population that lives in the United States, yet we typically fail to recognize the larger global scale and patterns of interaction that our young country fits into.  This course is devoted to achieving an understanding of these patterns, conflicts, and ideas by recognizing and analyzing the historical significance many events have had on our modern world, specifically focusing on interactions between different cultures, religions, and governmental structures. Through the use of the textbook, interactive maps, student video projects and media sources, political cartoons, and debate tournaments, students grow into critical thinkers covering such topics as the rise and fall of Rome, the crusades and the beginnings of Islam, the Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, and Age of Exploration, and global interactions throughout the 20th century, including the World Wars, Cold War, Israeli- Palestinian Conflict, and the roots of global terrorism. By the end of the course, students will be able to contribute responsibly in today’s global society by understanding the role they play in our world community.

This course is required for all sophomore students.  There are no pre-requisites associated with this course.

World History (AP)
Yearlong Course; 10 Units

This course focuses on developing students’ abilities to think conceptually about world history from approximately 8000 BCE to the present and apply historical thinking skills as they learn about the past.  Five themes of equal importance – focusing in the environment, cultures, state building, economic systems, and social structures – provide areas of historical inquiry for investigation throughout the course.  This course encompasses the history of the five major geographical regions of the globe: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania, with special focus on historical developments and processes that cross multiple regions.

This course is available to qualified students and satisfies the sophomore Social Studies requirement.  Students who earn a C- or higher in this course will earn an extra grade point toward their grade point average.  In order to be eligible to take this course, students must receive department approval (which may include a separate application and/or examination) AND have earned minimum grades in the previous year’s English course (A- or higher in both semesters of Coming of Age Studies OR A- or higher in one semester and B or higher in the other semester Honors Coming of Age Studies).  UC-Approval for this course is pending.

United States History
Yearlong Course; 10 Units

The history of the United States is founded on the search for freedom. From the early British settlers escaping religious persecution and the founding of a new nation to the emancipation of slaves and the struggle for civil rights, Americans have been in a continual pursuit of freedom. This course explores the different types of freedoms and struggles different groups of Americans have faced to achieve these freedoms. The course begins in pre-Columbian America and continues through the late 20th century.

This course is required for all junior students.  In order to take this course, students must have passed any level of World History.

United States History (AP)
Yearlong Course; 10 Units

This course is designed to provide students with the analytic skill and factual knowledge necessary to deal critically with the problems, issues, and movements in U.S. History.  The course covers the political, diplomatic, military, economic, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the United States from 1492 to 1980, which are important components of the average college U.S. History survey course that are critical for success in subsequent history courses.  This history is organized around seven themes as explored through nine historical periods.  These themes structure the course around significant long-term trends and processes in what has become the United States.  Emphasizing overarching patterns allows students to explore specific topics in depth while providing an overarching framework for inquiry that can be used as a guide throughout the course.  All questions on the AP U.S. History Exam will measure student understanding of the specified thematic learning objectives, which are designed to allow students flexibility in drawing on different historical examples to answer questions.  The themes of this course are Work, Exchange, and Technology, Peopling, Ideas, Beliefs, and Culture, America in the World, Environment and Geography – both physical and human, Politics and Power, and Identity.         

American Government
Semester Course; 5 Units

In this course, the classroom becomes an opportunity for students to engage in a participatory democracy. Students will study the philosophers who gave us our constitutional underpinnings. With this knowledge students will recreate these philosophies by analyzing modern political trends and current events. Each student will be tested themselves to see where he or she sits on the political spectrum from Radical to Reactionary. Once placed on the spectrum students will organize an interest group and join a political party. From here, students will engage in platform writing, convention planning, and making political commercials in the effort to win an election. After the election, students will create legislation and work to get their bills passed through Congress. The last unit is designed to allow students to understand how our judicial system operates. Each student will prepare to argue a bill of rights case in front of the Supreme Court. Each student will also participate in an actual criminal trial.  Students are challenged to want to engage in the political process.

This course is required for all senior students.  In order to take this course, students must have passed any level of United States History.

American Government (AP)
Yearlong Course; 10 Units

This is a college-level course that follows the outline of the AP catalog. The students will be challenged to play a role in our participatory democracy. All students will be in an interest group and make a presentation to the class describing what the group does. Along with this activity the students will be part of a political party and help their candidate get elected. We study how the government works and then we recreate the real thing inside our classroom. The class challenges students by asking for extemporaneous speeches, panel discussions, think tank creations, and critical thinking of current issues. All learning modalities will be used to encourage a creative environment for all students.

This course satisfies the senior graduation requirement for Social Studies.  Students who earn a C- or higher in this course will earn an extra grade point toward their grade point average.  Students who take this course must sit for the Advanced Placement examination in May.  In order to be eligible to take this course, students must attend the mandatory AP Information Night AND have passed either U.S. History or AP U.S. History.     


Semester Course; 5 Units

Students will explore the field of psychology through readings, videos, simple experiments, and research projects. Topics covered include the early history of psychology, the nature vs. nurture debate, mental development (cognitive, social, moral), the central nervous system, classical and operant conditioning, memory, biorhythms, hypnosis, and psychoactive drugs. Wherever applicable, an emphasis is placed on the teenage brain. Students will finish the semester with a presentation on an aspect of psychology of their own choosing.

This course is available to any junior or senior student. This course cannot be counted toward the Social Studies graduation requirement. There are no pre-requisites associated with this course.

Faculty and Staff

John Buzzard
Teaches: AP World History, U.S. History
Teaches: Advanced PE: Weight Training, Introduction to Physical Education, Introduction to Weight Training, Lifetime Sports
Teaches: AP U.S. History, World History
Michael Sandberg
Teaches: American Government, AP American Government, Psychology