History and Social Sciences in the Upper School

History Courses

Grade 9 HistoryIntroduction to the Modern World (required for Grade 9) 

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the historical context of the Modern World. It emphasizes events after 1750 around the world including South America, Europe, Africa, South Asia, and East Asia. The course is organized into four thematic units, one per quarter: problems of governance, law, and citizenship; issues of identity; introduction to globalization; and the rise of science and the impact of new technology. Ninth grade history also teaches skills necessary to be a successful student at Moorestown Friends School. These skills include building and presenting effective written and oral arguments, analyzing primary sources, and reading critically.

United States History (required for Grade 10) 

This course covers the history of the United States from the first rumblings of the Revolution to the present with special attention to the period before the U.S. emerged as a world power. Topics include the war for independence, the establishing of a new national government, the market revolution, the anti-slavery movement, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the triumph of industrial capitalism and the search for order at the end of the 19th century, the entrance of the U.S. into the ranks of imperial powers, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the sixties and the Vietnam war, and the resurgence of conservatism at the end of the 20th century. In addition, the course focuses on the craft of the historian: understanding what a historical interpretation is, evaluating biases in history, and learning what constitutes historical proof. Students learn how to craft historical essays of their own while exploring the methods of historical research and analysis.

AP United States History 

Drawing on the foundations established in 10th grade, this course allows students to delve deeper into key themes and to broaden their knowledge of United States History in preparation for the AP United States History exam. The course is rigorous; an AP course is meant to offer students a college level intellectual experience. As such, students who take this course write sophisticated papers offering historical analysis, take frequent quizzes and tests, including practice with document-based questions, and write an extensive research paper. All students enrolled take the AP exam in May.

America and the World in the 20th Century (with Honors option) 

The 20th century is commonly referred to as “The American Century.” This course focuses on the history of the 20th century and the complex interactions among the United States, Europe, and the emerging powers of the non-western world. The course includes four main themes: global interdependence, rise of mass society, issues of identity, and the impact of new technology. In this course students demonstrate mastery of certain historical skills: research, critical reading, critical thinking, and effective oral and written expression. Students write a full research paper on a topic of their choice and complete several shorter research assignments.

Students enrolled in the honors course write longer and more frequent papers, complete longer and more advanced nightly readings, and engage in more independent work. They also take a more active role in class discussions and projects. Honors work challenges students who have an interest in history and helps them develop a greater understanding of the discipline.

Senior Courses

Honors / AP Comparative Government 
The course introduces students to fundamental concepts used by political scientists to study the processes and outcomes of politics in a variety of countries. The course illustrates the rich diversity of political life, shows available institutional alternatives, explains differences in processes and policy outcomes, and communicates to students the importance of global political and economic changes. At the end of four weeks of coursework, each student’s performance on in-class assessments determines his/her matriculation status (i.e., honors vs. AP). Once matriculation status has been established, assessments, homework, and the grading standards are matched to the level; honors students take tests designed for honors students, while AP students have more rigorous assessments. All students enrolled at the AP level take the AP exam in May.

Psychology Honors / AP Psychology

The goal of this course, modeled on a half-year college introductory course in psychology, is to teach students how to think critically about psychology. Since “practice makes perfect,” students practice critical thinking by identifying, evaluating and using evidence in case studies and current events. Grades are based upon at-home and in-class work, projects and tests. Students matriculated as AP will be expected to take the AP exam in May.

The Modern Middle East

This course involves a survey of Middle East history from World War I to the war in Iraq. Major themes include the emergence of nation states after colonialism; long-term historical, technological, and cultural trends in the region; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Islam and the West; and North Africa’s burgeoning societies. Students meet guest lecturers from the Middle East and take various field trips to experience Middle Eastern life in America.

Modern African History 

Africa remains an area of the world that is greatly misunderstood. This course investigates modern African history from Europe’s scramble for the continent at the 1884 Berlin Conference through African independence in the 1950s and concludes with the African Diaspora. Students are also introduced to Quakerism in East Africa. The class also takes a field trip to Penn’s African Museum of Archeology and Anthropology and experiences West African language and cuisine in Philadelphia.


The senior economics elective will introduce students to the principles of both micro and macro economics, but will focus primarily on micro economics. The students will examine the ideas of several economists including Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Karl Menger and Friedrick Heyek of the Austrian School. The students will apply economic theory to real world problems both large and small as they learn the power of incentives in a social economic structure. Though the course is focused on capitalism, students will also examine the role of government in an economy.

Examples of Minor Courses

Beyond Google: Finding what you need to know

This class will focus on how to find information and research sources on the internet and evaluate them. For example, do you know how to specify what type of site to limit your search to? Or how to use Google Scholar? Do you know how to use meta sites? Do you know how to choose your search terms to structure what you find? We will also look at options for keeping track of what we find. This is a pass/fail class. Students of all levels of computer knowledge are welcome.

Civil Rights in the U.S. 1950-Present

This minor will trace the development and spread of civil rights in the U.S. from its early focus on African Americans to other communities of color to women to the disabled and finally to the LGBT community. Students will look at how the definition of civil rights has changed. We will also look at how the legal, social, political, and intellectual systems relate to these changes. We will use films, music, literature, and first person narratives. All work will be done in class.

Model United Nations

Model United Nations at MFS provides students with an opportunity to excel in public speaking and debate, while simultaneously delving into global issues and human rights. Students will spend three days away at conference at Rutgers University, The University of Pennsylvania, and The College of New Jersey. Students who sign up for Model UN are required to attend all conferences.

Social History of Chocolate

Cacao functioned as currency in the Americas, but was unknown in the rest of the world until the Spanish began their conquest. This course explores the changing meaning of chocolate as it traveled across the Atlantic to the royal court of Spain and then throughout Europe. Students examine chocolate’s role in British politics and the Quaker roots of the modern candy industry. The class also studies the relationship between slavery and the production of chocolate, as well as modern attempts to develop fair-trade, environmentally sustainable chocolate. Taste testing is involved.