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The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

History department alters ninth, 11th grade offerings

Changes made using student feedback and faculty reflection

After last year’s decision to end the separate U.S. history honors program, the history department is implementing a slew of additional changes, specifically to the ninth grade history program.

The goal of each of the changes is to promote consistency, Upper School (US) History Teacher Sasha Lyons said.

While the ninth grade history curriculum will continue to include material in rough chronological order, it will now simultaneously provide information regarding the regions in which certain religious were prominent. Previously, the ninth grade team focused on empires in the first half of the course and then world religions in the second half.

Additionally, because the textbook the ninth grade history team had been using to cover the history of ancient civilizations is now out-of print, the team selected a new one. One of the strengths of the new textbook, “Traditions and Encounters” by Jerry H. Bentley is its accessibility, Ms. Lyons said. Student feedback influenced the other two major changes to ninth grade history.

Students will write their research papers after March break instead of at the end of the year, because students said the last few weeks of school are unusually busy.

Student feedback also showed it was upsetting to some freshmen that all the classes were not learning the same material at the same time, Ms. Lyons said. To remedy that, in retreats last school year and this summer, history teachers assembled a list of primary sources and teaching tips for all ninth grade teachers. This list will aid in unifying the ninth grade history curriculums, Ms. Lyons said.

“We’re really trying to just share resources and just give the ninth graders a sense that everybody is taking more or less the same course even though they have a different teacher, which I think was not clear, especially this past year with so many new teachers,” Ms. Lyons said.

By sharing resources, the teachers will benefit from one another’s knowledge, Ms. Lyons said.

“I’ve learned some really great things from looking at other teachers’ lesson plans that I want to incorporate to make the learning more effective, more fun, and more active,” she said. Coordination among the teachers is key,

Ms. Lyons said.

“The way we plan it should be better,” Ms. Lyons said. “There’ll be less shifting around of units and the syllabus. A more organized teacher means a better teaching and better learning experience.”

Aparajita Srivastava ’25 appreciates the changes, she said.

“Consistency across teachers and classes is really important, especially for ninth graders,” she said. “In 10th grade, history classes build off what we learned the year before and it’s always better when the whole class is on the same page.”

The revisions to the ninth grade curriculum come on the heels of a major change to the

U.S. history curriculum–the designating of all the U.S. history classes as honors (See Vol. 52 Issue 2, “History Department ends separate honors program”).

Just like the changes to the ninth grade program, the changes to the U.S. history program are intended to unify student experiences in the course.

U.S. History Teacher Jessica Stokes said, “The decision was made to bring the history

department’s junior year course, U.S. History (now U.S. History Honors), in line with the English department’s junior year course, which is AP English for everyone.”

The history department felt that students benefit from unleveled classes, which make for more robust and dynamic class discussions. Ultimately, the history department decided the existing U.S. history curriculum asks students to perform honors-level work, “particularly because of the big research paper, which is essentially a collegiate-level writing assignment,” Ms. Stokes said.

When asked why the department didn’t follow the English’s department’s decision to call all classes “AP,” Ms. Stokes explained that the school’s U.S. history program has different goals than the AP U.S. history curriculum, she said.

“Our goal is for students to develop skills such as deep analytical thinking, long- form analytical writing, and primary source analysis. To make time to develop those skills, we choose not to teach the full AP curriculum, which is more focused on learning factual content.”

David Driscoll ’24 said he wishes students could still opt in or out of the honors program. “Students will be more meaningfully engaged with something that they opt in to do as opposed to it being a requirement,” David said. “The students who would have opted into the additional workload, now are going to see it as a requirement, which is a mental change.” Though he disagrees with the changes, David said he knows the faculty will continue doing a wonderful job engaging students in

U.S. history.

The history department will continue to gauge student opinions on their history courses, it said.

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Emilia Khoury
Emilia Khoury, Managing Editor
Hi, I’m Emilia, the Managing Editor. I love to hike, spend time with my friends and dogs, and try new foods. 

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