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Freshmen Get New Social Studies Course

It's out with the old and in with the new at Staples High School. At Monday night's Board of Education meeting, members unanimously approved a new social studies course that will replace the current ninth-grade requirement.

Starting in the 2011-12 school year, Western Humanities, the current social studies requirement for freshmen, will be replaced by a course called Global Themes. James D'Amico, chair of the Social Studies Department for grades 6-12, had presented the new course to the Board of Education at its Oct. 12 meeting.

"Western Humanities has been the requirement since the 1960s; it's been a while since someone's taken a deep look at the ninth-grade requirement," D'Amico said.

Believing the current course is outdated and no longer fits with the new goals of teaching and re-enforcing 21-century skills, D'Amico researched social studies programs at other schools.

"The mission of social studies is to create effective citizens of the world. This [course] represents a more global approach," he said. "When we examined our curriculum, in terms of our goals as social studies education, with state and national standards, this brings us into greater alignment with those goals. And the way we constructed the course, it's very much in line with district and Staples High School goals."

The new course will be centered on three themes: Global Interconnections, revolutions and imperialism.

According to Catherine Hernandez, a social studies teacher at Staples who joined D'Amico at the Oct. 12 meeting, the current Western Humanities course focuses too much on Western history and culture. As such, the course is "very narrow," and the three themes of the new course addresses "gaps we saw and wanted to fill."

Global Themes will address more of the social sciences, such as political science, geography, economics and sociology, not just history. Current world issues will also be addressed.

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