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That individual values are created by and exist in a historical context is the foundation of the SAAS History Department. To understand both the past and present, one needs to understand the context shaping and influencing individual, national, and cultural values. The department emphasizes the development of specific thinking, writing, and speaking skills that help prepare students for college and for life. These skills include the ability to research, to analyze, and to develop, articulate, and defend a thesis. Students demonstrate all of these skills through a variety of assignments and projects, showcased especially when students participate in the school’s Culture of Performance during in-class presentations. Such skills and activities expand students’ understanding of major historical causes and effects, and they enable students to become thoughtful, active members in our society.

Middle School

During the 6th grade unit on ancient Greece, students consider the relationship between the individual and society. Seeking to balance the desire for individual freedom with the need for social order, they serve as attorneys and witnesses for the prosecution and the defense during their Trial of Socrates.

Seventh graders engage in U.S. History with a focus on the essential questions “How does the teller shape the story?” and “What are American principles?” These questions help guide our exploration of the differing perspectives shaping the United States.  

In 8th grade Global Systems, students use geography and current events to study the systems that exist in our world. During a trimester-long human rights project, students play roles on a regular basis to understand better the motivations of people around the world.

Upper School

In the ninth grade course, students learn about  a variety of ancient world civilizations, including the roots of western civilization and also civilizations of Asia, Africa, and the Islamic world.  While the focus is on ancient history, a variety of projects also link ideas and developments in the ancient world to contemporary society. 

The 10th grade course emphasizes the development of modern western civilization and also focuses on some non-western perspectives of events that have shaped global cultures. We examine the growth of modern political, economic, and social structures in the eighteenth through the late twentieth century, including revolutions that led to the rise of democracy, industrialization and various economic systems, the impact of and response to colonization in the developing world, and the rise of nationalism and extreme political ideologies.  

For eleventh graders, there are three options, all of which focus on the history of the United States. Students may choose to take the regular American History course, which is a survey-style course focusing on most eras of the country’s history and including the study of both primary and secondary sources. Students may also choose to apply for one of two Honors History options. The first, an Honors American History course, is an accelerated survey-style course with an increased focus on research and use of primary sources. The second Honors History option, American Studies, integrates History and English and includes major projects and performances in addition to historical research and a strong focus on primary sources and documents.

In twelfth grade, students choose from a variety of electives, which feature college-style seminar classes at both regular and honors levels where college-level writing standards are emphasized.  Trimester-length courses are offered on a broad range of topics in history and the social sciences. Recent courses have included the study of Economics, Anthropology/Sociology, Contemporary Global Issues, Political Science and American Government, Pacific Northwest History, and Philosophy and Religion.  

Civil Disobedience 

The 11th grade American Studies Civil Disobedience Project requires students to prepare a solution for a set of injustices set in a school. Students consider ethical and constitutional arguments regarding those injustices. They analyze the situation from the perspective of thinkers like James Madison, Henry David Thoreau, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They consider the real-life ramifications of the divisions created within a community when injustice occurs and create an action plan demonstrating how to repair those divisions.


History at SAAS FAQ

Are there AP or Honors level classes?

Because Seattle Academy offers a college preparatory curriculum, students in 6th-10th grades take the same grade-level course in History. Students can apply for honors level classes in 11th and 12th grades. Seattle Academy does not offer AP courses. We communicate this information to colleges, who understand and appreciate this choice.

Student Profile:

For Anna N. (class of 2018),the American Studies course required that she work hard to gain confidence in her ability to “put herself out there” when she had to perform.  Throughout the year, she developed the poise required to effectively communicate her ideas.  That competence translated to success in our school’s Youth Legislature program.  In her second year, she went beyond her regular role of arguing bills as a Senator to successfully run for a state-level leadership position and serve as a committee chair.  Being able to respond to critique in the moment in an academic setting and calmly defend her position helped her become an accomplished Senator, and Anna described her growth over two years this way:  “I went from not speaking at all, to presenting a topic that I was passionate about and being able to handle the opposition.”