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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year, we focus on the mastery of core educational skills that promote 21st century learning through the study of key historical content.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.

Global Issues

0.5 or 1.0 credits

Global Issues will explore some of the most important global issues facing us today. Although they are interconnected, we’ll look at issues in these four categories: 1) food, water and energy, 2) environment, 3) quality of life, and 4) economic development, governance and peace. We will read articles and books, view documentaries, and listen to talks. We will discuss, debate, research, write, present, and most of all, think critically about the issues from multiple perspectives. This course is 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.


0.5 or 1.0 credits

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 economics and 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.

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.

History Through Hollywood

0.5 credits

History Through Hollywood will explore reality versus perceptions in a historical context; which is extremely relevant in today’s world of social media and “fake news” influences. We will begin by examining various historical events via various mediums, i.e. comparing and contrasting the events portrayal in: primary sources, books, film, art, video games and social media, and examine how and why a given medium affects the event’s perception the way it does. Also we will address how history is crafted and recorded. The concluding capstone project for the course will be a student selected research project and new depiction/representation of that event.

Historical Cultural Literacy

0.5 credits

Historical Cultural Literacy will examine the relationship between History and Literature. Does History mimic Literature (1984) or does Literature mimic History (Gulliver’s Travels)? The course will examine well known works of fiction and non-fiction, looking for parallels between current historical events (Animal Farm) and proposed changes to society (The Communist Manifesto or Mein Kampf). Students will research, analyze, discuss, and debate topics and ideas, maintaining a journal of what they have learned during the course.

Hawai'ian History and Culture

1.0 credit

Hawaiian History and Culture will look into the legal and political history of Hawaiʻi and how it translates to current times. Great focus will be placed on the monarchs of Hawaiʻi, and the influence each has had on governance. Students will also look into the events that led to the overthrow of the Hawaiian government, and how it altered Hawaiiʻs presence on an international stage. Other topics that will be covered in this course include cultural protocols, crafts, and various hands-on activities. Upon completion of this course, students will have a clear view of Hawaiian culture and history, and will be able to put current events into a larger context of historical events.

Independent Humanities Research

0.5 or 1.0 credits

Independent Humanities Research is an opportunity for students to pursue a project outside the boundaries of our standard English, Art, or Social Studies curriculum. You will propose, research, implement, and deliver a project over the course of the semester, using project management tools and techniques from the professional world to guide your work and structure your time. You will have a mid-semester check-in with a panel of faculty and administrators who, along with other community stakeholders, will be at your final presentation. If you wish to continue your project for the entire year, you may enroll in Independent Humanities Research for both the fall and spring semester. In that case, you will follow a similar schedule of deliverables and presentations for the second semester. Guest speakers from across creative industries will share their experiences in their fields and workshop your project throughout the semester/year. The course's aim is to teach the skills necessary to thrive as a global citizen in the professional and social world. You will gain skills in entrepreneurship, grant writing, digital branding, and critical thinking. You will leave with the skill set necessary to put your ideas into action and influence an organization's ability to thrive.

(Students may enroll in this course as a single semesters [Spring or Fall] or may enroll in both semesters to participate for the entire year.)

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