The History Department seeks to equip students with a broad intellectual framework that encompasses local, national and world history. Moreover, it is imperative in today’s competitive environment to foster skills that will be valuable not only in studying history, but also in many other disciplines or walks of life.

To this end students are taught to understand causation and historical change; appreciate historical evidence and be able to analyze it critically; understand historical concepts; be able to empathize with people living in other situations; develop research skills; apply historical understanding to contemporary issues; be willing to listen to and learn from fellow class members; and be able to develop and defend an intellectual position and express one’s ideas in a lucid, cogent fashion both orally and in writing. Students will have numerous opportunities to develop the required skills with class presentations, defenses of research papers and daily participation in discussion-based classrooms.

Our courses view history not only through the traditional prisms of politics and economics, but also through developments in art, science, technology, religion and literature. In an effort to develop skills of research analysis, judgment, argument and writing, we embrace inter-disciplinary approaches to learning. Our extensive digital research library puts countless primary and secondary sources at their fingertips.

The study of history at Nichols is an interactive experience. Students will have the opportunity to engage with faculty members who have studied extensively in their discipline and are committed to the intellectual development of every student.

Grade 5 Central Studies

In fifth grade, history is part of an integrated curriculum called Central Studies. This class, which meets for a double period every day and focuses on medieval Europe, is integrated with literature and writing. This approach promotes the joy and accomplishment that come from knowing a subject well, allows the use of a great variety of materials that appeal to a range of interests and abilities, and offers myriad opportunities for making interesting and original connections.

We begin the year by studying the geography of Europe, its countries, important cities, and bodies of water. We then launch or study of the Middle Ages by taking a close look at the Bayeux Tapestry, an excellent primary source of information for the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. As we discuss the Norman influence on British culture, we note the effects that French had on the English language.

Students are introduced to etymology and to Latin’s important role in the development of English. After discussing the organization of medieval society into the feudal system, we study castles, knights, the manor house and village, monasteries, church and cathedral architecture, the Crusades, the rise of towns and trade, fairs and guilds, and the Black Death. Throughout the year, we discuss how many facets of life in the Middle Ages relate to aspects of our lives today.

The students are taught library and research skills using classroom materials and the middle school library where computers allow access to approved web resources. Students produce both written and oral reports. Study skills and organization are stressed throughout the fifth grade year. Taking personal responsibility for learning and materials is an important aspect of this course. The literature we read, which includes medieval legends and historical fiction, further enhances understanding of this fascinating period of history. In addition to a research paper, many writing assignments – journal entries, poems, creative and expository pieces – are tied to social studies topics.

Grade 6 Geography & World Cultures

Geography and World Cultures familiarizes sixth graders with the world, introduces them to the special vocabulary of geography, and broadens their understanding of world cultures. Basic geography skills are covered at the beginning of the year, centering on the five themes of geography.

These themes then serve as a framework or “lens” for examining Australia, China, Africa, Mexico and Canada. Examining culture, history, literature and geography allows and encourages 6th graders to make connections across the various disciplines. Students explore material in a variety of ways, including reading, answering questions, outlining, working with maps, doing research for papers or projects, reporting on current events, writing paragraphs, studying for quizzes or tests, discussing issues in class, constructing models, and experiencing cultural phenomena through hands‑on activities. There are several major research projects over the course of the year, which employ various means of presentation (oral, written, group). Students discuss current events regularly in order to learn about and examine geographical connections in the local, national and international news.

Grade 7 History

In 7th grade, students focus on the history of the United States from the settlement of Jamestown to the end of the Cold War. During the first trimester, we explore the settlement of the English colonies, the American Revolution, and the creation of the Constitution. In the second trimester, the focus is on the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Progressive Era.

In the second trimester, the concentration will be on the development of the United States in the 1800s with a focus on early presidencies, the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Progressive Era. To close out the year, we look at how the social, political and economic landscape changed during the 20th century. In addition to this, students maintain a social science vocabulary list and complete a number of research and current events assignments over the course of the year. The main theme of the course centers on the role of government in our nation’s history and how that role has evolved over time.

Grade 8 Modern World History

Modern World History 8 focuses on the history of three regions: the Middle East, Europe and East Asia. In addition to studying the basic social, political and economic changes that have shaped the history of these regions, students read historical literature related to the region in order to better understand the contexts surrounding these changes. Research projects form another major component of the course.

Each trimester students submit a full‑length research paper including note cards, bibliography, citations, outline, first draft and a final draft. Specific research projects include the Person of the Century Project, which focuses on the most significant person of the 20th century (political leader, artist, etc.). Throughout the year, students are encouraged to address the issue of American Exceptionalism. In other words, how does America’s development measure up to the development of other nations? Finally, students are required to maintain a social science vocabulary list of relevant terms in your spiral notebook.


Mrs. Margaret Auerbach

Class of '99
Titles: Assistant Director, US History

Mr. James Cammarata

Titles: MS History

Mr. Russell Combs

Titles: US Dean of Students

Ms. Caitlin Crowell

Titles: US History

Mr. Thomas Franz

Titles: IV Form Dean

Mr. F. Greene III

Titles: US History

Sarah Jacobson

Titles: Upper School English Teacher, Upper School History Teacher

Mr. Daniel Nolan

Titles: MS History

Mr. Kevin Powers

Titles: US History

Mrs. Christine Roach

Titles: MS History

Susannah Wales

Titles: Upper School History Teacher