History & Social Sciences

A laboratory of human experience.

When we study history, we are better able to grasp the forces that affect our own lives and better able to understand how the world really works. Incoming third formers must take two years of history: Modern World History and United States History (taken junior year). Seniors must pass all yearlong courses and all courses in the spring term of the senior year in order to be considered for graduation.

Adv. Comparative Government & Politics

OFFERED: yearlong

Advanced Comparative Government and Politics is a yearlong course designed to help students understand some of the world’s diverse political systems and practices. We will begin by studying the purpose of government and important comparative government concepts and terms, such as democracy (both liberal and illiberal), globalization, political economy, political culture, and social cleavages. Students will juxtapose the structures and practices in developed democracies, developing democracies, and autocracies. The course focuses on detailed case studies of diverse countries, including: the United Kingdom, India, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Iran, Russia, and China. The aim is to help students grasp the political complexities of our global environment, and gain some understanding of both commonalities and differences among modern political systems and their foreign and domestic policies. The focus of the fall term is developed democracies; the focus of the winter term is developing democracies; and the focus of the spring term is authoritarian regimes. This course is open to juniors and seniors by departmental approval.

Advanced Anthropology

OFFERED: yearlong

Students in Advanced Anthroplogy explore human diversity by focusing on cultural similarities and differences. This course explores the impact culture has on our lives and how anthropology is relevant in today’s world. Through engaging readings, films, projects, cooking, games and hands-on activities, students will explore how culture shapes who we are. Topics include differences in cultural core values, race, food, sports, attractiveness, gender, and sexuality. We will study subcultures as diverse as illegal immigrants, drug dealers, athletes, gang members, college culture and New England prep school students. We compare cultures ranging from Vietnam and India to Afghanistan and Africa’s Kalahari desert. The instructor’s own book, Perfectly Prep, will provide both examples of the themes of the course as well as a model for the students’ own primary research. This course is open to juniors and seniors by departmental approval.


Advanced Psychology

OFFERED: yearlong

The Advanced Psychology course introduces students to the scientific examination of the causes and intricacies of human behavior. Students will learn how psychological research is conducted and the ethical standards applied to such research. Human behavior will be examined through the biological, cognitive and social lenses. The evolution of psychological perspectives will lay the groundwork for in depth examinations of the psychology of development, learning and memory, personality, motivation, human relationships, health, and abnormal behaviors. Students will apply the principles of psychological research by designing and conducting their own experiments. Emphasis will be placed on the development of skills used to understand and execute psychological research, including reading psychological research and experiments, identifying and replicating research methodologies, and applying psychological patterns and phenomenon to data analysis. This course is open to juniors and seniors by departmental approval.

Advanced United States History

OFFERED: yearlong

This course examines U.S. political, social, economic, and cultural developments from the American Revolution to the modern era through a combination of both survey and thematic approaches. The course is designed to prepare students for college level rigor by requiring extensive nightly reading, analytical writing, seminar style discussion, and persuasive public speaking. All students enrolled in the course are required to engage in a scaffolded document based question model requiring in depth thematic research. Each of the six units explored will ask students to evaluate significance within chosen individual themes through research and within a persuasive public speaking opportunity. A sample of themes chosen by students includes "Diplomacy" "Media" "Partisanship" "Women" "Immigration", etc. As an advanced course, work is assigned during school breaks where students examine presidential speeches to gain contextual understanding and to evaluate political rhetoric over time. This course is open to juniors by departmental approval. US History, Honors American Studies, or Advanced US History are required courses for juniors who have yet to satisfy the graduation requirement for United States History.


Intro to American Government

OFFERED: Winter term

This course involves the study of general concepts used to interpret U.S. politics. It familiarizes the student with the various institutions, groups, beliefs, and ideas that constitute U.S. political reality. The course focuses on the following topics and questions: the constitutional underpinnings of the United States government; political beliefs and behaviors; political parties and interest groups; institutions and activities of the national government; civil rights and civil liberties; and America’s role in the world. This course is open to juniors and seniors with priority given to seniors.

Constitutional Law

OFFERED: winter term

Constitutional law is the interpretation and application of the Constitution by the United States Supreme Court. This body of law is concerned largely with defining the extent and limits of governmental power and the rights of individuals and groups. This course will survey major Supreme Court decisions and how they affect the lives of everyday Americans. Particular focus will be given to the area of how the Constitution is interpreted during times of peace and during times of war. This course is open to juniors and seniors or by departmental approval.

Contemporary Global Politics

OFFERED: yearlong

The purpose of this course is to introduce the history and structure of the United Nations with the objective of exposing students to major global issues and encouraging them to think creatively about solutions to those problems. During the conferences, students will act as diplomats representing member nations. In their capacity as diplomats, they will compose position papers on various global issues, deliver delegate speeches to their classmates, and debate strategies for resolution that reflect the interests and needs of their nations and other member nations (human trafficking, environmental protection, international peace and security, aid for development, etc.). In addition to participation in our class committee sessions, students will attend one interscholastic Model UN conference in the spring term. Preparation for units and the conference will include knowledge of the structure and functions of the UN, research and understanding of the nation being represented, exploration of the themes of the conferences, and learning and practicing Parliamentary rules of procedures. This course is open to juniors and seniors.


Global & Sustainable Development

OFFERED: yearlong

This yearlong course provides an in-depth look at the interdisciplinary field of sustainable development, utilizing historical and recent developments in the social, political, and physical sciences. The course addresses the fundamental question: how can different countries, communities, and individuals develop in ways that are socially just and environmentally sustainable? The course looks at the complex relationships between governments, economies, societies, and the Earth's physical environment. The fall term examines the reasons societies succeed and fail, while comparing and contrasting different countries' approaches to development. This study carries over into Project: Pomfret and our class trip to Costa Rica, where we will study energy, conservation, agriculture, and urbanization in this developing Latin American country. The winter term focuses on consolidating and applying what we learned in Costa Rica to our lives at Pomfret, while actively comparing the strategies we saw "in action" with sustainable development goals being pursued in specific countries. The spring term shifts our focus to commodities, such as bananas, coffee, and wood, and what these goods and their supply chains teach us about the triumphs and challenges of sustainable development. By enrolling in this course students will gain an understanding of the challenges and solutions to achieving sustainable development now and in the future. This course is open to sophomores, is to be taken alongside Hunaities II: American Studies, and by departmental approval only.

Honors American Studies

OFFERED: yearlong

Inspired by the sight of the American flag waving triumphantly during a successful battle in the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key wrote a poem entitled, “The Star-Spangled Banner” that eventually became the country’s national anthem. Each of the four stanzas end with the iconic line: “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Our goal is to explore to what extent America has embodied this ideal. Who has needed to be extra brave to live in the land of the free? During this interdisciplinary class, we will study American literature and journalism inside its historical context across the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, focusing on the themes of race, gender, and class respectively. We will scrutinize what makes America a home and how some groups of people pushed to expand who belongs. Throughout the year, this course aims to cultivate the skills of perspective taking, close reading, analytical writing, and courageous discussion. This course satisfies a student's U.S. History graduation requirement. This course is open to juniors by departmental approval. US History, Honors American Studies, or Advanced US History are required courses for juniors who have yet to satisfy the graduation requirement for United States History.


Psychology: Disorders, Treatment, and Intelligence

OFFERED: winter term

Madness, Genius, and Creativity.

How do psychologists distinguish between madness and genius, between an extreme characteristic and a disorder that demands intervention and treatment? From Van Gogh to Beethoven to 2019 Schwartz Visiting Scholar, Temple Grandin, we will see that symptoms of psychological disorders can also be revealed in the form of savant or genius characteristics that enable great success in life. Students begin by discussing disorder types, then move to diagnostic tools and treatments, and finish the trimester exploring scientific studies of intelligence and different theories that have emerged. We will discuss labeling, stigmas that unfairly follow psychological disorders, and treatments based on findings from psychologists. Students will do independent research, conduct interviews with people who work in clinical psychology, and read journal articles and texts from the field. Students will be assessed through presentations, group work, and written analysis of psychological behavior. Psychology: Disorders, Treatment, and Intelligence is a one term course, taught in the winter trimester, and offered to juniors and seniors in the History and Social Sciences department.


Psychology: Learning and Motivation

OFFERED: spring term

How do we learn best and stay motivated?

You have taken at least eleven years of school and by now you are a master learner, but do you understand how you learn best or the cognitive stages of building understanding? In Psychology: Learning and Motivation, students will look at different theories of learning, from conditioning to observational learning. Students will also consider cognitive psychology and theories on working memory, which address much of the learning that takes place in schools. In the second half of the term, students consider different kinds of motivation, ranging from physiological, to the need to find mastery and purpose. Students will be assessed the quality of an independent research project, on the strength of their oral and written communication, and their ability to define and apply terminology to their everyday lives. Assigned readings from psychological texts and journals will be much of the other nightly homework. Psychology: Learning and Motivation is a one term course, offered in the spring trimester, and is offered to juniors and seniors in the History and Social Sciences department.


United States History

OFFERED: yearlong

This course will examine ‘we the people’ in United States history and how this group has expanded and contracted over time. In this course, students will develop a variety of skills, including critical thinking, communication (both oral and written), research, and collaboration. Students will examine different themes through the study of pivotal events in United States history. Through their consideration of power, citizenship, identity, and culture, students will investigate the evolution of the United States of America and what it means to be an informed and engaged citizen. Ultimately, students will gain a more nuanced understanding of the reality of the American identity. US History, Honors American Studies, or Advanced US History are required courses for juniors who have yet to satisfy the graduation requirement for United States History.


Humanities I: Global Studies

OFFERED: YEARLONG

Our guiding question this year will be “How do I become a change agent within my world?” In order to explore this question, the fall term focuses on the rise and fall of the authoritarian regimes, the winter focuses on the historical roots of modern issues, and the spring focuses on disasters, aid, and visibility. This course has a focus on skills, while paying particular attention to critical analysis, oral and written communication, collaborative work, understanding self and others, and maintaining integrity throughout. Students learn analytic tools and probing questions to ask when studying historical events. They examine different unsolvable conflicts relating to religion and other ideologies like capitalism and communism. Lastly, they consider how political and economic situations lead to serious consequences when catastrophe hits. We will study world history from the last 100 years through research, structured discussion, and reflection. Ultimately, our class will focus on the role of an individual historian, citizen, and activist navigating, observing, and affecting complex human dynamics, and tackling difficult global problems. Humanities I is required for all ninth graders and it part of a two-year Humanities sequence designed to prepare our students for rigorous upper-level electives.

Humanities II: American Studies

OFFERED: YEARLONG


In this course we will examine ‘we the people’ in United States History and how this group has expanded and contracted over time. The focus of the fall term will be exploring American identity. The focus of the winter term will be exploring marginalized groups within America. The focus of the spring term will be America's role in the world. This course focuses on a broad array of skills, while paying particular attention to critical analysis, oral and written communication, research and writing, collaborative work, and understanding self and others. Students examine different themes through the study of pivotal events in United States history. Through their consideration of power, citizenship, identity, and culture, students will investigate the evolution of the United States of America and what it means to be an informed and engaged citizen. Ultimately, students will gain a more nuanced understanding of the reality of the American identity. This is a required course for sophomores and satisfies the graduation requirement for United States History.

Social Psychology

OFFERED: FALL TERM

Conformity, Obedience, Stereotypes and more.

In Social Psychology, students will learn that humans are social animals and how and why we feel compelled to interact with those around us. Being social and electing whether to engage in social interactions has both positive and negative effects on humans; an understanding of the risks and rewards of interaction offers the observer a powerful behavioral lens, and this knowledge can be put to good use as students navigate social situations and seek success in school and in life. Students will read psychological studies and texts, and students will perform at least one study on their own. Oral and written communication skills, collaboration, and critical analysis of the social world will be central components of the class. We will examine popular media, how theories have changed over time, and how the forces of social interaction act in high school and, specifically, at Pomfret School. Social Psychology is a one term course, taught in the fall trimester, and offered to juniors and seniors in the History and Social Sciences department.


The Presidency

OFFERED: Spring Term

This course will begin with an introduction to American civics as an entry to point to further explore the various roles and responsibilities the office of the president. The course will include a introduction to each of the country's presidents, including the general historical context of their time in office. This course will also investigate current events, asking students to consider media literacy as a critical skill for development while also reading a text that brings humanity to the office of the president and those who have held it. This course is open to juniors and seniors with priority given to seniors.

Meet the History Department Faculty

Patrick Boyd

Patrick Boyd

Form Dean
Patrick Burke

Patrick Burke

Director of Faculty Mentoring and Development, History Teacher
Sarah Chase

Sarah Chase

History Teacher

Hannah Cooke

History Teacher
Katherine Duglin

Katherine Duglin

History Department Head

Mary Georgis

History Teacher

Doug Litowitz

History Teacher
Douglas MacLeod

Douglas MacLeod

History Teacher
Tucker Prudden

Tucker Prudden

History Teacher, Learning Support Team
Quinn Rose

Quinn Rose

History Teacher
Robert Toste

Robert Toste

History Teacher