Social Studies & History

Through the study of world cultures in addition to our own, the social studies and history program at Norwood builds thoughtful, reflective students who understand and value both the history and diversity of our world. Kindergarten through eighth grade, students study world cultures through the lens of their own experiences. Living in Washington, D.C., our students have tremendous opportunities to connect with different cultures and ideas. Experiential learning is a cornerstone of our program. The program culminates with an eighth-grade history paper that prepares students for the rigors of high school and beyond. 

List of 10 items.

  • Pre-kindergarten

    The social studies curriculum in pre-kindergarten focuses on learning how to be responsible members of the classroom community. The students learn to respect their teachers and classmates. The children also engage in discussions about what makes them special and unique and what attributes they share in common with their classmates. The teachers emphasize the importance of community through Norwood's Value of the Month Program, field trips, interactive lessons, and projects.
  • Kindergarten

    The focus of the social studies curriculum in kindergarten is on learning to be respectful, secure, responsible, and objective thinkers, and to appreciate and understand our own and others' special and unique qualities. Students learn by exploring how each individual fits into our community, and by cultivating a sense of gratitude and responsibility towards others. Helping our young students understand how we are all connected to peers, the classroom, and our school increases their sense of worth and broadens their perspective. Through Norwood's Value of the Month Program, field trips, interactive lessons, holidays, and projects, kindergarten students study and create their connections to our school community.

    Additionally, Guided Discovery, Norwood’s signature kindergarten program presents students with project-based challenges that require and foster critical thinking, collaboration, communication skills, problem solving, creativity, manners, self-advocacy, and public-speaking skills. For example, students are divided into small groups, given specific materials to work with, and asked to build a bridge. Teachers encourage, guide, and support students, but facilitate an environment in which children are leading the project and discovering their own unique solutions.
  • First Grade

    First grade social studies builds on the discussions of community explored during kindergarten. Starting with activities that address green spaces in the community, first graders examine a number of localities, including hiking and exploring around Cabin John Creek. They observe characteristics and traits of the spaces around them, along with the environs surrounding Norwood School. Addressing questions like, “What is a green space and how is it important to a community?” and “How does history shape a green space?” students explore the immediate campus and take several field trips as they explore their community. Students also use maps, satellite images, and pictures to identify green spaces and make their own campus maps as they build their understanding of the topic.
  • Second Grade

    In second grade, students study our region and then expand to other cultures around the world. Looking specifically at the Chesapeake Bay, second graders explore the geography of the Bay as well as how it has shaped the cultures that have lived around it. By visiting rivers and streams in the watershed, they learn how water from the Bethesda area ultimately reaches the Bay. Second graders also visit the Bay to develop a first-hand understanding of the area. As they study other cultures around the world, students cast a wide net, exploring, for instance, a country's geography, art, music, history, government, religion, and economy. They are immersed in different aspects of the countries: While studying Brazil, students learn about the rainforest and the impact of its loss, and while studying Japan, students write in haiku form, study Japanese vocabulary words, and design their own version of a traditional Japanese home.
  • Third Grade

    "Discovery learning” in third grade social studies is guided by the themes of geography and culture. Using resources like the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, students study many aspects of early humans, such as migration, tools, and social structures. They focus mainly on the early civilizations of North and Central America. They take a field trip to a Native American village and the Museum of the American Indian to deepen their understanding of some of these cultures. Each third grader ends the year with the study of one of the 50 states, examining geography, natural resources, jobs/products, landmarks, and historical figures. They use their research to teach others about their state as part of the States Museum project. This unit culminates in States Tasting Day where all third graders sample food from across the United States.
  • Fourth Grade

    The main focus of the fourth grade social studies curriculum is ancient civilizations. The year starts with a unit on archaeology to show students how prehistoric information is discovered. The unit culminates with the Big Dig project, where students take on the role of archeologists as they look for fossils and artifacts in Norwood’s own excavation site. Back in the classroom lab, they organize, classify and catalog their findings. The next unit of study focuses on the various groups of early humans. The move from hunters/gatherers to agriculture leads to the study of the earliest civilizations, beginning with Sumer and then on to ancient Egypt, India, and China. In the spring, students visit the Walter's Museum in Baltimore to see artifacts from these civilizations. Throughout the year, projects and assignments are inquiry-based, which enables students to take on the role of experts as they create connections to the past.
  • Fifth Grade

    In Middle School, the curriculum begins to challenge students to reflect on the study of history, asking questions like, “How does a student conduct research to develop a deeper understanding about a subject?” Continuing the study of the ancient Mediterranean, fifth graders begin the year with the study of ancient Greece and Rome. Immersing themselves in mythology, government, geography, culture, trade, and politics, students’ work culminates in their creation of a virtual Roman city. Additionally, students study the five major world religions in an historical context. Next, the curriculum shifts to the Middle Ages in Europe and Africa, focusing both on the Golden Age of Islam and the Dark Ages of Europe. Building on the interactive, experiential projects in the Lower School, students create and host a medieval banquet, reflecting the domestic and courtly culture of the era.
  • Sixth Grade

    Sixth graders tackle the questions, “What is history?” and "Who writes history?" and study events from multiple points of view. Picking up with the European Renaissance and the Age of Exploration, students dig deeper into their study of history as a discipline. They transition to a study of the colonization of the Americas and the founding of the United States. As they explore the complex beginnings of our country, students consider many experiences and perspectives, including using numerous primary resources. They also begin to learn about civics and the roles and rights of citizens. The year concludes with an in-depth study of the founding documents and figures that helped to shape our country.
  • Seventh Grade

    Seventh graders continue to study history in the United States with a focus on multiple perspectives and primary resources. They begin with the early Republic, moving through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and conclude with the end of the 19th century. Along the way, they study the individuals and events that helped to shape the United States. Through research projects, discussions, class trips, and debates, students explore the issues that continue to impact us today: labor unions and corporate interests, progressivism, immigration, populism, segregation and integration, and imperialism and the emergence of the US as a global power. Students learn how to unpack complex problems and conflicting viewpoints and desires to develop deep understanding that shapes their own beginning worldview.
  • Eighth Grade

    The eighth grade history class addresses 20th century world history through the lens of the Unites States. Starting with the early 20th century, students explore the growth of the Unites States as a global superpower. Because of the period of study is so recent, students take full advantage of first-person accounts through recorded interviews and guest speakers. Building on skills developed throughout middle school, they also continue to make good use of primary resources and original documents. During the year, students complete a high-school level research paper that requires them to utilize the online databases. One of the goals of the paper is to expose students to the rigors and demands of this kind of paper, preparing them for the work they will have in high school. Throughout eighth grade, students connect what they are learning in history to current events.
Social Studies in the Lower School (grades K-4) is taught by homeroom teachers. See grade-level pages for a list of homeroom teachers.

Middle School

List of 9 members.

  • Susan Boyd 

    Sixth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    Providence College - B.A.
    University of Maryland - M.Ed.
  • Craig Hollander 

    Middle School History Teacher and Advisor
    Harvard University - A.B.
    University of Virginia - M.Ed.
  • Jack McCune 

    Sixth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    Boston University - B.A.
  • Kelly McDonough 

    Sixth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    Union College - B.A.
    Lesley University - M.Ed.
  • Mike Risen 

    Interim Head of Lower School - Director of Curriculum and Instruction
    College of William and Mary - B.A.
    Vanderbilt University - M.Ed.
  • John Schmidt 

    Fifth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    Rutgers, The State University - Ed.M.
    Kenyon College - B.A.
  • Imalka Senadhira 

    Fifth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    University of Sri Lanka (Kelaniya Campus) - B.A.
    Johns Hopkins University - M.S.
    Johns Hopkins University - Certificate in Educational Leadership for Independent Schools
  • Nacola Smith 

    Middle School History Teacher and Advisor
    Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University - B.S.
    Cabrini College - M.Ed.
  • Barbara Vaughan 

    Sixth Grade Homeroom Advisor and Reading/Language Arts Coordinator
    Trinity College - B.A.
    Northwestern University - M.A.T.
Located in Bethesda, MD, Norwood School develops students in grades PK-8 into confident lifelong learners who have the academic, character, and leadership skills to succeed in high school and beyond. Recognizing that children are multi-faceted, Norwood provides many opportunities for safe risk-taking, exploration, discovery, and growth in a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive school community.