Watkinson School is proud to announce a new slate of history electives for 11th and 12th-grade private high school students. Six years ago, in the midst of strategic planning, faculty envisioned redesigning the senior year which would also mean redesigning aspects of the upper school curriculum that leads to the senior experience. During our five years of implementation of the strategic plan, a Humanities approach is being taken in the 9th and 10th grade, the English electives were redesigned last year, and the Senior Project — a yearlong independent study that culminates in a public exhibition — was launched last year. This new roster of history electives, which ranges from “American Exceptionalism and the American Dream” to “The Age of Genocide” to “Revolution: Causes and Consequences” and more, is the latest step in this work.
Upper School Head and history teacher Ryan Reese reflects, “These electives, following the work we’ve put forth in building the 9th and 10th-grade Humanities courses, make real our ideas about what skills and ideas students should build and confront during their time with us in Watkinson’s upper school.”
History Department Co-Chair and 11th and 12th grade Academic Dean Rob Deitelbaum remarks, “Being part of a process that began with, “What are the most important aspects of history that we think every student should learn?”, and distill that to a list of 10 courses, each driven by an essential question, was so invigorating as an educator.” Watkinson’s collaborative culture helped these educators and school leaders do their best work. History Department Co-Chair Justin Zelenka describes, “It was so much fun, and honestly inspiring, to sit with my colleagues week after week and work together to create the ten essential Watkinson History courses.There was so much knowledge and experience in the room, and I’m really proud of what we created together as a team.”
Reese concurs, “As a teacher, it is rare to be given the opportunity to think, create, write, and materialize an entirely new scope and sequence of courses and curricula. Instead of building out traditional survey courses that are content-driven and remain unchanged for years at a time, these electives, each crafted around an essential question, will adapt to various teachers taking up the questions each semester and the changing and evolving world around us. They’re not just “cool courses” that any teacher would love to teach, but they mark our best thinking about the broad and expansive thinking that is necessary for taking up serious historical study in the 21st century. I am so excited for the students to see them, to read the course descriptions, and to begin bringing them to life next fall.
Head of School Teri Schrader adds, “I am beyond proud of this curriculum development. This is how you build a school. You set a cohort of gifted teachers to the task of determining what skills and habits our students need today. This collection of electives represents smart, essential schooling.”