Category Archives: Social Studies

Sapiens (hannah)

Note: This class is open to high school students only.

Human history is shaped by three major revolutions: the Cognitive Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, and the Scientific Revolution. These revolutions have empowered humans to do something no other form of life has done – create and connect ideas that do not physically exist (religion, capitalism, politics, etc). These shared “myths” enabled humans to take over the globe and are now putting humankind on the verge of overcoming the forces of natural selection.

This is the theory of humanity put forth by Yuval Noah Harari in his excellent and illuminating book, Sapiens. In this class, we will explore and analyze the newly released graphic novel version of this book. If you are interested in discussing ideas about where we came from, where we’re at, and where we’re going – this class is for you!

Connection to Place (hannah)

Through place-based learning, this class aims to immerse students in the heritage, culture, landscape, experiences, and opportunities of your immediate environment. 

This class will be divided into two units: your home and your neighborhood. We will begin by learning about the tribal lands which our homes now occupy. Later in the term, you will make a community asset map of your neighborhood to learn about the social organizations, structures, and services shaping the sociocultural landscape today. 

A lot of this class will be outdoors. Your yard and your neighborhood will be your classroom. Lessons will be interdisciplinary, including sociology, science, civics, language arts, and self care, with the objective to deeply learn about your immediate surrounding environment.

World of Stories (hannah)

Note: This class is open to middle school students only.

How does culture shape our stories and storytelling? How do stories transform when they’re transmitted from culture to culture? What can we learn about other cultures by reading their stories? 

In this class, we will explore these questions by reading literature from around the world. Types of texts will include excerpts from novels, short stories, and poetry by authors including Jhumpa Lahiri, Haruki Murakami, Homer, Yann Martel, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Oscar Wilde, and Isabel Allende. 

This is a class about reading and discussing texts and culture. There will be some analytical writing assignments in and outside of class.

Old Tactics, New Times: Pushback and Breakthroughs in the Struggle for Civil Rights , Part 2 (Larry Metzger)

Note: This class is open to high school students only.

This class is a continuation of the winter term course, Old Tactics, New Times: Pushback and Breakthroughs in the Struggle for Civil Rights, Part 1. Students who did not take Part 1 can still enroll in this class. In Part 2 of the course we will pick up the story of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1950s with the struggle for school integration in the South. Our exploration of the Civil Rights Movement will culminate with its great victories – the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We will also look at the history of housing segregation in Seattle. From there we will turn to the ongoing fight for racial justice in contemporary America, focusing on the struggles against police violence and efforts to suppress voting in Black communities.

We will organize our exploration around the following big questions:

  1. What were the goals of the Civil Rights Movement?
  2. What strategies did Civil Rights activists use?
  3. Why did certain strategies succeed?
  4. Why did so many whites oppose equal rights for African Americans?
  5. What choices did both supporters and opponents of the Civil Rights Movement make and how did their choices affect events?
  6. How successful was the Civil Rights Movement?

About the instructor: I was a full-time history teacher a several independent schools for many years until my retirement in 2015. Since then I have been volunteering at PSCS, where I have taught a version of this course, as well as classes on the Vietnam War and Nazi Germany. What I enjoy most about teaching PSCS students is their love of learning, enthusiasm, and willingness to engage with tough issues. During my first four years as a volunteer at PSCS, I was living in Seattle. This summer, however, my wife, Elizabeth Alexander; our dog, Dr. Norman; and I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in the high Southwest desert.

Required texts/materials: Pdfs of photocopied materials that I will provide. The instructor will procure the texts/materials.

Cultural Geography (People and Places) – MS (Sam)

Note: This class is open to middle school students only.

How can one expand their knowledge and study people, places, and societies of the contemporary world? Through a number of different activities, students will explore the influence of individuals and groups on historical and contemporary events, and identify the locations and geographic characteristics of various societies throughout the world. In this class, students will be able to identify different ways of organizing economic and governmental systems

Anthropology – HS (Sam)

Note: This class is open to high school students only.

This class studies the various branches of anthropology that deal with the study of culture. The discipline uses the methods, concepts, and data of archaeology, ethnography, folklore, linguistics, and related fields in its descriptions and analyses of the diverse peoples of the world. Called social anthropology in Britain, its field of research was, until the mid-20th century, largely restricted to the small-scale (or “primitive”), non-Western societies that first began to be identified during the age of discovery. Today the field extends to all forms of human association, from village communities to corporate cultures to urban gangs. Two key perspectives used are those of holism (understanding society as a complex, interactive whole) and cultural relativism (the appreciation of cultural phenomena within their own context). Areas of study traditionally include social structure, law, politics, religion, magic, art, and technology.

Constitutional Law (continued) (Nic)

Note: This class is open to high school students only.

Open only to participants from the winter term course.

MS Current Events (elizabeth ortega)

Note: This class is open to middle school students only.

Every week we will dive into a different topic. We will gather opinions about what global issues, political matters, current news, we want to explore. We will read articles, watch short videos, listen to news segments, and look at photos regarding the issues at hand. The content will be relevant to what is going on in the world and we will do our best to keep up with the events of this time.

You will have asynchronous time to complete an assignment each week and then, the following week, we will engage in small group discussion in a socratic seminar style.

What did you learn? What surprised you? What activated you? Do you agree with your classmates? What do you still wonder?

Embroidery and Diverse Voices (elizabeth ortega)

This class is for both returning students and students who are new to embroidery! (I will work with new students to catch you up.)

This class is 2 parts: EMBROIDERY and DIVERSE VOICES.

Embroidery. This is the craft of decorating fabric using a needle and applying thread or yarn. It’s a hand-eye coordination craft. You can decorate anything from a jean jacket to a handkerchief.

You can decorate with words, designs, images, shapes, etc. It’s bunches of fun, requires patience and intention, and is very rewarding when your masterpieces are completed. You can frame your pieces, wear your pieces, or decorate with them.

Diverse Voices. We will listen to various podcasts, Ted talks, and media pieces centering voices that are typically marginalized. We will hear from a variety of folks, from many different backgrounds, across all different identities and life experiences. We will engage in small group discussion during synchronous classes.

I challenge you to join us for some hands on art, listening, connection with each other, and creativity.

This class is for you if you’ve already taken and want to continue to improve your skills and for those who are just beginning and need some extra support with embroidery.