How did we get here? And what can or should happen next?
These two questions are fundamental to understanding any moment of the past or present for an individual, a community, or a nation. At Beacon, we believe that both context and story are important. Who we are as individuals, communities, and citizens cannot be divorced from the nation or world in which we live, nor the sequence of events that have led to any given moment in time.
At Beacon, we want students in our classes to become engaged citizens who approach the triumphs and disappointments of our world with curiosity and compassion. We strive to build curriculum that is inquiry-based and student-centered. We believe that teaching historical and critical thinking skills require a hands-on approach. Students evaluate the value and limitations of various sources (interviews, primary sources, scholarly articles, media coverage, government policies etc.) themselves to understand the multiple perspectives any story involves. Assessments and projects might ask students to assume the roles of a diplomat, an oral historian, or an activist. Over the years, Beacon students have been diplomats at a simulated Middle East Peace Conference, lawyers arguing cases before a mock Supreme Court, podcast hosts interviewing experts in a field, and policy analysts evaluating educational institutions. These assessments and projects illustrate the types of skills that students are asked to demonstrate a mastery of at each grade level. They then culminate in a PBA research paper that demonstrates their readiness to graduate.
Through a shared inquiry into the past, we hope to help students to not only gain a better understanding of the forces and choices that shaped events then and now, but also to find inspiration in the actions and accomplishments of individuals and communities that we study. With this inspiration, and their growing skills as readers, writers, and thinkers, we push them to engage with the world around them and make informed choices about where they live, how they work, who they cultivate relationships with, how they vote, and how they create more justice in the world, whether it be at the micro-level or the macro-level. For while they may not be able to change the past, they can certainly participate in the critical discussions and choices that lead to what’s next.
The 9th and 10th grade classes focus on Global History and evaluate such questions as: Do conflicts happen over land or ideas? How has the gap between the global rich and global poor developed over the past 250 years? In what ways have revolutions successfully challenged the status quo and achieved justice for the historically marginalized?
The 11th grade curriculum focuses on the trajectory of events that led to the creation of the United States and the intense highs and lows experienced by its people.
The 12th grade curriculum offers students one semester electives that reflect student interests and teacher knowledge. Offerings change regularly, but recent classes have included International Political Economy, New York City in Crisis, Understanding China, Constitutional Law, The System, and Gender and Sexuality.