8th Grade Social Studies
Eighth graders study United States history through units based on key themes in our story as a nation. Along the way, they are encouraged to be curious and to apply critical thinking skills alongside historical thinking skills that are specific to the discipline, including articulating the relationships between events across time, posing historical questions, discerning the difference between fact and opinion, summarizing key ideas, synthesizing research from multiple sources, seeing events from multiple perspectives, using historical evidence to support interpretations of the past, discerning between primary and secondary sources, and how to effectively research and gather information about the past. Students learn to read with a historian’s mindset and evaluate the credibility and reliability of sources.
Thematic units include an in depth study of Native Americans and how the arrival of Columbus and the colonization of the “New World” impacted indigenous peoples across the continent. The next theme centers on immigration, and students explore the question “What is American?” through readings and investigative research. In this unit, students conduct in-depth research into their own family’s history and stories, and produce a professional Family History Documentary. Students then undertake an in-depth study of government and civics. In this unit, students will learn to understand the meaning of a right and learn which rights and responsibilities are part of citizenship of the United States. Students study the intent, impact, and context of founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution. Students learn about the powers of the three branches of government and the relationship of checks and balances between them.
In the second half of the year, students study the causes and effects of the Civil War, and they will encounter the complicated issues that led to the breakdown of the Union and the secession of the Confederate states. This will include a brief study of the war itself, including the advantages, disadvantages, and motivations of the various groups involved. Next, students study the period of Reconstruction with an eye for what life was like for various groups of people after the war. Students analyze laws known as Black Codes and understand the birth of the Jim Crow South. They specifically research ways Jim Crow laws and practices are still alive today. The year concludes with an in-depth study of the Civil Rights Movement. Students research important leaders and movements that worked to abolish segregation and learn about action taken on both the grassroots and government levels as well as specific legislation enacted during this time.
Perhaps the most important skill students develop during this course is the ability to constructively discuss ideas, disagree effectively, and explore complex meanings together. Students often learn to see their own opinions and perspectives evolve and grow as they view events and ideas from multiple points of view. Class discussions and Socratic seminars are a common practice in semester two as students prepare for the transition to high school.
- 8th Grade