Social Studies Department

Jacob Montwieler - Curriculum Leader


Sixth grade social studies is the first of a two-year sequence in world geography and ancient civilizations. Students learn basic geographic skills and concepts and explore the physical and human geography of Africa and Asia. GRAPES (geography, religion, achievements, politics, economy, and society) is used in every unit of study, to help narrow the focus of analysis and exploration. The focus of the curriculum is to support students’ connection to the world and global citizenship.


Students begin sixth grade with a physical geography unit, setting up a foundation to consider how geography affects human development. We also study the first humans, the great migration, and how the Ice Age set the stage for human adaptability, survival and permanence of settlement.


Africa’s diverse geographic landscape provides the backdrop to the study of the interplay between physical and human geography. Through our study of Africa, students develop a basic understanding of the continent throughout the last 1,000 years, including African empires and societies, colonialism, independence, and case-studies of Sudan and South Africa. They also use GRAPES to analyze the ancient civilization of Egypt.


Our Asia unit takes us from west to east, beginning with Mesopotamia. Students then study Asian geography, economy, politics, resources, and modern religions. We study ancient and modern China and India, exploring the Silk Road, Chinese dynasties, and inventions.

The lens with which we approach the above units include the overarching theme of activism and human rights. We ask students to think about the impact individuals have made on the earth and its people. Activist studies include the legacies of Nelson Mandela, Wangari Maathai, Salva Dut, Malala Yousafzai, and Mahatma Gandhi.


In seventh grade, social studies students complete the second of the two-year sequence in world geography and ancient civilizations.  The curriculum strengthens geographic and critical thinking skills. This class seeks to root students in the five themes of geography and to pursue essential questions in geography and ancient civilizations.  


In this unit, students are immersed in deep reflections about cultural stereotyping and cultural differences. Using different world examples, students learn the anthropological meaning of culture and the implications of cultural isolation. They also reflect and debate about current cases of cultural bias and media stereotyping.

Geography Review and Mapping

This is a unit that reviews sixth grade concepts of geographical terms and mapping. The review exposes students to a pragmatic  application of geographical coordinates as well as developing their analytical map-reading skills.

Ancient Greece.  

The unit begins with the geography of Ancient Greece. As a precursor to the study of Homer’s poems, we spend considerable time on the gods and goddesses of the Ancient Greek religion. We then begin our study of  Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Students identify the universal themes in these poems and point out how and where these themes echo in today’s culture.

The next part of the unit focuses on question “How shall we govern ourselves?”  We study the different forms of government the Greeks created and used, including democracy. During the final part of the unit,  students will compare Athens and Sparta and Athens and Boston. They explain the similarities and difference between these cities and analyze how today’s Western world evolved through contributions from these two ancient societies.

Ancient Rome

The Rome unit begins with an examination of the social structure of Ancient Rome and how Rome’s government evolved from kingdom to Republic to Empire. Students study five different Emperors in an effort to understand that most leaders are not all good or bad, but are a mix of each. We examine the factors that led to the expansion of the Roman Empire and its eventual decline. One of the lenses we use to examine this concept is an exploration of Roman engineering and architecture.  Students answer the question “how did roads, aqueducts, and buildings contribute to the rise of the Empire?”


This unit begins with the physical and political geography of Europe.  Students learn identify the location of all countries in Europe and its main geographical features.  We then move to an exploration of current topics, including the significance of the European Union and  the refugee/immigration crisis.

Latin America

This unit begins with the physical and political geography of Latin America, including the continent South America, the nations of Central America, as well as the island nations of the Caribbean.  Topics may include environmental issues and the impact of European colonization of Latin America. We end the unit reviewing issues that have delayed development in the continent such as corruption, illegal logging, deforestation and immigration policies.


The eighth grade social studies program focuses on two essential questions:


1. Why does injustice occur?

2. How can we create just communities?

We explore these questions through three major units.

Foundations of Justice

In this unit we explore the important roles governments play in establishing justice. We discuss the idea of inalienable rights through a close examination of the Declaration of Independence. Then, we study the layout of our national government. Finally, we learn about the Bill of Rights, paying close attention to the First Amendment. In this unit, we will debate a number of Supreme Court cases involving the rights of adolescents.

Fighting for Justice

In this unit we explore the ways activists have worked to create just communities. We begin by the unit by learning about the struggle for women's rights. We study the events at Seneca Falls, look at the struggle for suffrage, and explore the second wave of feminism. Our next focus is the battle for equal education.  We will learn about the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. We will compare this event with the desegregation of Boston Public Schools in 1974. During this unit, students will design and implement an “activist project” that asks students to identify a problem in our school or our world and to develop a way to respond to this problem.  We’ll end the unit by analyzing how people memorialize the fight for justice. This activity will help us prepare for our trip to D.C.

Justice Denied

In this unit we explore the role of ordinary people in fighting injustice and creating just communities.  We examine what happens when governments and citizens fail to protect the rights of people. Our primary focus is the Holocaust, the systematic murder of six million Jews by the Nazi government and its collaborators. Our goal is to wrestle with the complex moral question surrounding this tragedy.  We study the origins of anti-Semitism and the rise of Hitler. Together, we will try to understand why many Germans supported the Nazi party. We will look at the choices ordinary citizens made when their government began to take away their neighbors’ rights and treat them unjustly. Finally, we will ask who bears responsibility for the Holocaust.

Name Grade Email
Daniel Fernandez-Davila
 7 [email protected]  2418
Matt McCormack
[email protected]  2431
Dylan Merry 7 d[email protected]  2435 
Chitra Mills
 6 [email protected]  2436
Jacob Montwieler
 8 [email protected]
Kelly Naughton
[email protected]
Cynthia_Reynolds  8 [email protected]  2451
Dalia Stewart 6,7 [email protected]
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