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Social Studies

The Social Studies Department develops students who are capable of critical thinking, informed civic participation, and who cherish independence of thought; indeed, we believe these abilities are the foundation of responsible global citizenship.

By engaging students in a spiraling curriculum of carefully designed core and elective courses from freshman to senior year, we focus on the mastery of core educational skills that promote 21st century learning through the study of key historical content. Core skills include the critical analysis of a variety of texts for bias, quality of evidence, and quality of argumentation; effective written and oral communication; effective note taking; collaboration with peers and adults; and facility with ever-evolving educational technology.

In the standard sequence, students are required to take Freshman Foundations/Hawaiian History in ninth grade, AP Human Geography or Modern World History in tenth grade, and AP U.S. History or U.S. History in eleventh grade. Beginning in eleventh grade, students also may enroll in a number of elective courses, including AP Comparative Government, AP Psychology, Current World Issues, Economics, Psychology, and World Religions.

We believe that students who possess an appreciation of history’s complexity and the ability to participate in civil discourse will be the leaders who emerge to help fashion solutions to the great challenges of our day and tomorrow.

Available Courses

Freshman Foundations/Hawaiian History

1.0 credits
Freshman Foundations/Hawaiian History is a required interdisciplinary ninth grade course. Students focus on foundational skills to support future success in all academic subject areas as well as their personal growth. Principal skills include fluency in reading, writing, and speaking, creative and critical thinking, discussing, presenting, and questioning ideas from texts and research, development of self-confidence and self-awareness. This spectrum of skills and the development of multiple historical perspectives is developed by students through the study of our island community (past, present, and future) by analyzing local and native writers and historians that give students a contextual window into the complex historical, cultural, economic, and political life that is modern day Hawaii. Students will interface with HPA’s Haiku platform on a regular basis where discussion boards, quizzes, and assignments are posted. The end of year culminating project is the Mo’olelo project, where students immerse themselves in the genealogy and history of their families.

World History

1.0 credits
World History provides students with a perspective on people and events that have shaped much of the environment in which they live. This course progresses chronologically, beginning with European exploration around the globe beginning in the 1400s and ending with the world of the 21st century. Students’ reading, analytical, and writing skills will be enhanced through daily reading and writing assignments. Analysis of textbook and primary source readings will be shared out during frequent student led discussions. Through the year, students will produce structured paragraphs, essays, and one research paper demonstrating their growing mastery of specific content and of the writing process. Students will have nightly homework assignments, which will be posted on their Haiku calendar page. During the second semester, one research paper will be created on a topic of historical importance that the individual student has chosen. Students will need to bring a notebook to class everyday, for note taking. An electronic device with internet connectivity is highly recommended, as individual online searches will be conducted regularly in the classroom.

AP Human Geography

1.0 credits
AP Human Geography is the systematic study of patterns and processes that have shaped human understanding, use, and alteration of the Earth’s surface. Students employ spatial concepts and landscape analysis to examine human social organization, cultural diffusion and development, as well as the environmental consequences of such processes. Students explore questions, such as: What opportunities or challenges draw populations from one point in the world to another, resulting in increased immigration rates, over-population or depopulation? How do forces like urbanization and industrialization shape culture and vice versa? Students are assigned nightly readings requiring the use of note taking strategies and the completion of Haiku based quizzes. Throughout the course students explore global perspectives and connections, which culminate in the creation and delivery of a TED Talk style presentation. Students are encouraged to bring a device to class for the purposes of research and collaboration. Students must receive a recommendation from their Freshman Foundations instructor to enroll in AP Human Geography.

United States History

1.0 credits
United States History is a chronologically organized survey course that examines our nation’s past from English settlement to the Watergate crisis. The thrust of this course, although factually based, is on students enhancing their ability to think and write critically about historical events. Using a variety of resources to complement the text, class time will be devoted to determining the significance of historical events and their relation to the period rather than thrashing out specific details. Political, economic, and social influences will be considered for each event or period under consideration. Debates, group work, and class discussions will further augment text readings. Students can anticipate 45 to 60 minutes of homework for each class period. Assignments will be posted on Haiku. Analytical writing will be heavily emphasized throughout the year.

AP United States History

1.0 credits
Advanced Placement United States History is a chronological and thematic survey course in United States History. The class is designed to provide students with critical and analytical skills along with factual knowledge to deal critically with the problems and issues in United States History. Key themes will include: American identity, civil rights, demographic and economic transformations, the environment, globalization, international and domestic conflicts, politics and citizenship, religion and more. Students are required to: take the AP exam, maintain the rigorous reading schedule, and regularly and actively participate in class discussion/debates. Prerequisites are the successful completion (teacher recommendation and meeting of the grade requirement) of AP Human Geography or World History.

World Religions

0.5 credits
In this course, students will learn the basic foundations of religion and will explore the belief systems of several major world religions to understand how they impact human behavior, politics and ultimately world peace. Principal skills include fluency in reading, writing, speaking, creative and critical thinking, and discussing ideas from the text that are abstract in nature. Students will be asked to complete weekly homework assignments that will be turned in on Haiku. Students will also be given five formal tests throughout course. As part of their coursework, students will develop a project related to an area of world religion they are interested in. A formal oral presentation will be required at the culmination of their research. This course is open to Seniors only.

Current World Issues

0.5 credits


1.0 credits
Economics introduces students to basic economic concepts (both microeconomic and macroeconomic), explores current issues in the global economy, and considers how decision-making can shift when viewed through a different lens, such as sustainability or justice. Students will practice analytical writing, thinking critically about current events as well as collaborate on presentations to share with the class. Homework will be posted on Haiku; students should expect approximately 45 minutes of homework prior to each class. Students will sit for a culminating exam at the end of the course. This course is open to Juniors and Seniors.


0.5 credits
This course provides a general overview of the field of psychology: the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior. Students are introduced to key concepts, including; mind, thought, and consciousness, moods and mood disorders, personality, and mental health. Reading material will be provided to students via books, and articles that are read in class. Additionally, students will enhance their understanding of the key concepts by examining popular culture as portrayed in a teenage television series, as well as several TED Talks and other presentations. Students are generally assigned 45-60 minutes of homework after each class. Students will have formal assessments in an exam format after the completion of each section of study. Students will complete a self-directed learning presentation on a relevant topic within the field of psychology they are interested in. A formal oral presentation and final exam will be required. This course is open to Seniors only.

AP Psychology

1.0 credits
AP Psychology introduces students to the study of mental processes and human behavior. Students will develop an understanding of the scientific approach to psychological study, as well as the differing perspectives within the discipline. This understanding will be applied in student projects including: designing and implementing a research study, delivering a technically skilled presentation, and analyzing peer-reviewed academic articles. Students should expect up to 90 minutes of homework prior to each class; reading is emphasized and chapter tests are an important component of student assessment. The rigorous curriculum and pace will culminate with the College Board AP exam in May. Juniors and seniors entering the course should be competent readers (12+ grade level) with excellent study skills who are recommended by a faculty member in the Social Studies department.

AP Comparative Government and Politics

1.0 credits
The AP Comparative Government and Politics class is a year course that will culminate in and require the student to take the corresponding AP exam. The course uses a comparative approach to examine the following six selected countries: Great Britain, Mexico, Russia, Iran, China, and Nigeria. Topics will include: sovereignty, authority, power, political institutions, citizens, society, states, political and economic change, and public policy. Students will have regular readings and class debates on a variety of topics impacting contemporary global politics. Prerequisites are the successful completion or dual enrollment in AP US History or teacher approval.

AP European History

1.0 credits
This course, equivalent to an introductory college-level course, examines European History from the Late Middle Ages to the present. Through an intensive study of political and diplomatic, social and economic, intellectual and cultural history of Europe, the AP European student will develop the ability to: identify, analyze, and trace major themes in European history; evaluate primary documents and the interpretations presented by historical research; express ideas effectively both orally and in writing; thrive in a challenging academic environment, by respecting the ideas of others (proper citation!), reveling in the variety of opinions of classmates while developing one’s own opinion. In addition to preparing a student to recognize the impact of the European legacy on today’s society, this course prepares a student to take the AP examination in May. The prerequisite for this course is a teacher recommendation.

Economics Honors: Human Behavior, Social Justice and the Science of Decision-Making

0.5 or 1 credit

This course will introduce students to principles of macroeconomics and microeconomics and how they intersect with issues of social justice. Students will also learn about behavioral economics and the science of decision-making, consider how practical life skills scale up to national and global economic sand contemplate the implications of opportunity cost in a variety of contexts. To bridge theoretical understanding with application, students will work through hands-on activities, conduct experiments and complete projects in addition to readings and lecture. The prerequisite for this course is World History or AP Human Geography. This course is only open to juniors and seniors.

Note: Students may enroll in the course for the fall semester or the year. A research-based individual student project will be the focus of much of the second semester.

U.S. Constitutional Law: American Society through America's Great Court Cases

0.5 credits

U.S. Constitutional Law: American Society through America's Great Court Cases (0.5) This general level elective history course will examine the pressing social and political issues of our time - abortion rights, affirmative action, gay marriage, campaign finance reform, free speech, separation of church and state - beginning with the case law and our evolving notions of rights and freedoms. This seminar-based class will culminate in a student-directed final project. The prerequisite for this course is U.S. History. This course is only open to Seniors.

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