Rich in content and steeped in current scholarship, the Upper School history curriculum seeks to teach students to develop in themselves the intellectual tools used by historians to analyze the world around them. In discussion-based classrooms students will wrestle with the primary sources of historical inquiry and will become proficient at formulating a thesis and defending it with evidence both orally and in formal, persuasive writing. We offer a wide array of AP level courses ranging from European History to Micro and Macro Economics and Psychology.
Our history teachers seek ways to connect students to the world beyond Nichols campus: Urban Studies, Environmental History and Entrepreneurial Studies give students the opportunity to engage with people passionate about their fields in and around the city of Buffalo.
- Ancient World History: This course is a survey course tracing the development of civilization from the Neolithic Revolution to the emergence of the modern world around 1500 CE. Emphasis is placed on an examination of the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, Greece, Rome & the medieval Mediterranean. A strong emphasis is also placed on the development of key skills through a multifaceted program of instruction. Instruction emphasizes technology and media skills and fosters development of critical thinking and reading. Special attention is also paid to analyzing and interpreting primary sources as a key to understanding history. Finally, connections to contemporary world issues is a critical aspect of this course, promoting historical understanding as well as global awareness.
- Modern European History or AP European History: The course begins with the Renaissance and Reformation, and continues to the present. Topics include the rise of nation-states, social and intellectual development, the great revolutions, World Wars I and II, and changes in society and family life. Critical reading is expected and analytical writing is developed. Students learn to work with primary documents and refine research skills. If enrolled in AP European History, the AP exam is a requirement for this course.
- United States History or AP US History: Students take a course with two major components. The first is a chronological coverage of American history from the Colonial period to the present. In the second component, students examine in depth critical themes of American history. Critical writing and analytical skills are emphasized. So, too, is historiography, the analysis of how historians have viewed controversial events, trends, or people in history. In the second semester, a major 2,000 to 3,000-word research paper is required. Topics are introduced in the spring at the teacher's discretion, and the process of completing a major research paper becomes the focus of the third quarter. If enrolled in AP US History, the AP exam is a requirement for this course.
- AP Economics: This course is a study of the major concepts of economics, using the AP curriculum as a guide. The course begins with a focus on the basic concepts of economics, providing a foundation for the rest of the course. For most of the first semester, the course examines basic economic principles and macroeconomics. The purpose of this half of the course is to give students a thorough understanding of the principles of economics that apply to an economic system. There is an emphasis on the study of national income and price-level determination, while developing students' familiarity with economic performance measures, the financial sector, stabilization policies, economic growth, and international economics. Through an examination of macroeconomic perspectives and ideas, students have a better understanding of economics on the national and international level, and relate them to everyday examples and applications in the classroom. The second semester focuses on microeconomics. Students examine the principles of economics that apply to the functions of individual decision-makers, both consumers and producers, within the economic system. An emphasis is placed on the nature and functions of product markets, including the study of factor markets and of the role of government in promoting greater efficiency and equity in the economy. Both semesters culminate in a comprehensive examination. A macroeconomics exam is given at mid-year and a microeconomics exam is given at the end of the year. In order to take this senior elective, students must acquire a recommendation from the History Department. The course prepares students to take both the macroeconomics and microeconomics AP exams in the spring, which are encouraged.
- AP Government & Politics: There are two segments to this course, which examine government and politics. The first semester of the course begins with a general study of the American political system, taking a look at the constitutional and federal context of the national government as well as the cultural and ideological backdrop against which this system operates. It provides students with an analytical perspective on government and politics in the U.S., including both the study of general concepts used to interpret U.S. government and politics and the analysis of specific examples. The course also provides familiarity with the various institutions, groups, beliefs, and ideas that constitutes U.S. government and politics. The second semester of this course focuses on comparative government and politics. This segment of the course provides students with a global perspective as they compare and contrast different political systems throughout the world. Students examine a variety of countries from Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia, focusing on political institutions and behaviors, and drawing conclusions about the impact that these countries have on each other and the global community. Students also explore the following topics: the concept of sovereignty, political institutions, the relationship between citizenship, state, and society, political and economic change, as well as public policy. By examining both U.S. Government and Politics and Comparative Government and Politics, students have a solid foundation in understanding how the government and countries interact and impact each other. Growing out of this, students also have a solid foundation in understanding how different governing systems work, providing the students with important perspectives and insights into the global community. This course requires an extensive commitment from students if they want to be successful. Daily preparation, attention to detail, refinement of written work, and a commitment to work in class is vital to all students in this course. There are periodic tests and quizzes as well as two exams, one at mid-year and another at the end of the year. In order to take this senior elective, students must acquire a recommendation from the History Department. This course is designed to prepare students for the AP exams in U.S. Government and Comparative Government in May, which are encouraged.
- AP World History: AP World History focuses on developing students' abilities to think conceptually about world history from approximately 8000 BCE to the present and apply historical thinking skills about the past. Five themes prevail in this course: focusing on the environment, cultures, state-building, economic systems, and social structures. This course encompasses the history of five geographic regions of the globe: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania, with special focus on historical developments and processes that cross multiple regions. In order to take this senior elective, students must have received a recommendation from the department. The course concludes with the expectation that all students will take the AP examination given in May.
- AP Psychology: This course is designed to introduce students to the systematic and scientific study of behavior and mental processes of human beings and other animals. Students are exposed to the psychological facts, principles, and phenomena associated with each of the major subfields within psychology. They also learn about the ethics and methods psychologists use in their science and practice. Major topics include history and approaches, research methods, biological bases of behavior, sensation and perception, states of consciousness, learning, cognition, motivation and emotion, developmental psychology, personality, testing and individual differences, abnormal psychology, treatment of psychological disorders, and social psychology. In order to take this senior elective, students must acquire a recommendation from the History Department. This course concludes with the expectation that all students will take the AP exam given in May.
- Psychology: Psychology is a full year course designed to study behavior of humans and our mental processes using the scientific method. Students learn the various perspectives/approaches and the key researchers and psychologists associated with each perspective/approach. In addition, students think critically about psychological claims and studies as well as discover how psychology is used in society. Topics covered include but are not limited to the following: Memory, Research and Statistics, Neurobiology, Developmental Psychology, Sensation and Perception, Consciousness Cognition and Language, Intelligence, Learning, Motivation, Emotion, Stress and Health, Personality, Social Psychology, and Abnormal Psychology.
- Entrepreneurial Studies: This class analyzes the problems of real start-up companies and asks students to present solutions and creative ideas to business owners over a short time frame. Students work in teams to brainstorm, research, interview, and propose ideas to help business owners. After working on two or three real business problems students explore the steps necessary to create a new start-up. The course combines theoretical and experiential learning to prepare students to transform knowledge into practice. Students benefit as they learn to think critically, make well-informed decisions, innovate, and communicate effectively in today's high-tech, fast changing world.
- Urban Studies: This course examines urban space both historically and culturally. We view cities through many lenses including politics, architecture, neighborhoods, religion and sacred spaces, immigration, food and commerce. Using Buffalo as a case study, we examine urban problems shared by many cities, for example, declining population, fiscal crises and economic decline. We also analyze current revitalization and preservation efforts. By reading the seminal writings in urban planning, urban design, and urban theory, we examine how forces such as industrialization, decentralization and suburbanization affect the structure and function of cities. Asking each student to become an informed citizen, I hope to actively engage them in the issues confronting our city today with the hope that they will exert visionary leadership tomorrow.
- Currents in US Foreign Policy/Contemporary Issues: During the fall semester of this course, students examine the role of the United States in the world and the impact of its foreign policy since World War II. Topics include the Cold War, the US in the Western Hemisphere, the US and Asia, and Contemporary US Policy. Students gain an appreciation of how policy is determined and the factors that influence the creation of policy. The course focuses on perceived goals of the US State Department through an examination of late 20th and 21st century events. The goals of the course during the spring semester include an appreciation of the role of the Supreme Court in contemporary issues. The course begins with an introduction of political theory and, specifically, an examination as to how fundamental law works in the United States. The students review the legal limitations placed on government in this nation and how separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism work to shape rule in the US. From there, students read and analyze Supreme Court cases and opinions that have a current focus and directly impact their lives.