Social Studies

QPS’s Social Studies program prepares students to navigate the world with understanding and with the inquiry skills necessary to make sense of it. Through a comprehensive survey of human civilization, our students learn to make comparisons and perceive connections among past and present events and among happenings in economics, politics, science, cultures, and the arts. Every year adds another layer to our students’ understanding and questioning, starting with our youngest and continuing with increasing complexity to our oldest.

The program emphasizes the development of research, writing, and presentation skills through an ongoing combination of activities that include:

  • Research projects that students choose from a menu of consequential topics relating to world cultures, empires, traditions, beliefs and customs, forms of government, pivotal historical figures, groundbreaking inventions and discoveries, social movements, basic economics, geography, and current events.
  • Independent reading and workbooks that introduce and reinforce basic concepts (including geography) and knowledge of U.S. and world history.
  • Group activities that foster discussion, debate, and collaborative work.
  • A 5,000-year timeline to which all students contribute postings for the topics they study. This activity enhances their awareness of chronological and causal relationships, and visually prompts making connections among events.

All stages target the development of critical and analytical thinking skills, inquiry skills, and imagination.

Students who start QPS later in their schooling typically work in multiple stages simultaneously so as to shore up and solidify foundational areas while moving forward in others.

Stage 1. Exploring the Global Community (approx. ages 5-7)

Students in Stage 1 embark on a virtual tour of the seven continents. Through read-alouds, art projects, food tastings, music, dance, and guest speakers, they "visit" different countries, and experience their varying cultures, always with attention to similarities and patterns. Our world travelers are exposed to:

  • How natural resources affect the way peoples survive and form their cultural identity.
  • Languages, foods, architecture, beliefs, transportation/inventions, rural vs. urban environments, housing and clothing of each region studied.
  • Activities and stories about important groups of people, noteworthy persons, and events for each country,
  • Traditional dances, art, music, and regional ceremonies.
  • The folktales, myths, and legends that reflect a culture's beliefs and values.

Between these adventures, Stage 1 students work independently to learn basic social studies concepts like family, community, early map skills, holidays—and relate them to their own experience and developing selves.

Stage 2. Becoming Historians (approx. ages 7-9)

In Stage 2, students have the necessary reading and writing skills to pursue the study of history, culture, and civilization in a more independent way. Within the framework of the seven continents, students delve into ancient civilizations—Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, India, China, the Mayans, Incas, and other former Native American peoples—with emphasis on comparisons and connections across time periods, cultures, and events.

They complete their first research reports, using level-appropriate resources, and apply to each topic what they are continuously learning about population, climate, agriculture, landforms, natural resources, imports/exports, government, religion, historical events and figures, and symbols like flags and monuments.

As students carry out their research projects, they gain experience in collecting, presenting, and summarizing information, and develop their written and oral communication skills, including the use of digital media. The topics students choose from the QPS social studies curriculum and the depth of their research stem from their interests and where they are within the progression of Stage 2.

Stage 3. Learning to Question (approx. ages 9-12)

It is through a contextualized approach to history that students learn to observe relationships among different time periods, including the present, and to formulate educated anticipations of future events. They learn to ask questions like, When and where did it happen? How do we know this happened? What was its effect on our world? What, in this person's background, may have led him or her to undertake such an endeavor?

In Stage 3, students learn to ask these and other important questions as they study time periods in world history and U.S. history, and are guided to make ever more sophisticated connections to present-day world events and circumstances.

World History
  • Introduction to ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, and India.
  • European Middle Ages and Mongolian Empire
  • Italian Renaissance
  • Colonialism around the world
U.S. History
  • Founding of the United States and the American Revolution
  • Westward expansion—Lewis & Clark through the Goldrush
  • Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Industrial Revolution, workers' rights
  • Civil Rights movement

Students access these topics through diverse learning activities, including more extensive research on empires, cultures, discoveries, wars, social movements, and historical figures. They prepare written and oral reports for which they identify appropriate resources, take notes and cite sources.

Stage 4. Making Connections (approx. ages 11-14)

Stage 4 students explore world history, starting with Mesopotamia, through textbook readings and challenging research projects. They continue to examine inventions and discoveries, wars and conquests, empires, forms of government, cultures, religions, pivotal figures, economics and trade, and social movements as reference points for understanding a given culture or time period, and to examine relationships among these and contemporaneous events.

  • Prehistoric peoples, early human migrations
  • Early civilizations and their development: Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Persia, Indus River Valley, Yellow River Valley
  • Origins of major religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism
  • The Middle East: contemporary conflicts and their origins
  • Islamic Enlightenment
  • Governance and religion in the European Middle Ages
  • Qin and Han Dynasties of China
  • Feudal Japan
  • African kingdoms and trade
  • European Renaissance
  • Scientific revolution and Enlightenment thinkers
  • The colonization of Africa
  • South American revolutions
  • American Revolution and ideas of governance
  • Nationalism: World Wars I and II
  • Russian Revolution and the Cold War
  • Vietnam War
  • Twentieth century social movements: women's suffrage, workers' rights, civil rights, antiwar movement, immigration

Students hone their note-taking and citation skills; learn to differentiate between and use primary and secondary sources; and practice developing a thesis based on research findings. Students also engage in weekly current events discussions with their peers, and debate and ask critical questions about relevant issues of the day.

Stage 5. Taking Part in the Discussion (approx. ages 13-18)

Students in Stage 5 learn world history and U.S. history by delving into a survey of major empires, cultures, religions, and social movements, and into an in-depth study of the U.S. government. They also gain a solid and sophisticated introduction to global economic systems and anthropology, areas that QPS regards as integral to a complete understanding of the world.

As in prior years of Queens Paideia’s social studies program, Stage 5 students work both independently and as part of group studies to research and examine the causes and relationships between historical events and the world today. They engage in critical discourse of historical readings, construct and deconstruct historical narratives using multiple resources and primary source materials, and produce thesis-driven papers—in their own voice—that demonstrate original thought and an understanding of research methods.  

World History

World history is a primary focus at Queens Paideia because in our globalized world, it is essential for students to understand the complex histories of cultures, nations, and individuals from the distant and recent past. World history encompasses the major phases of human history, including our evolutionary roots in Africa, early human migrations, the development of civilizations, the golden ages of India and China, the Greek and Roman Empire, the middle-ages (including kingdoms in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East), the European renaissance, colonialism, nationalism, and social, economic, technological, and information revolutions. Students learn how the natural world, systems of government, religious beliefs and practices, military force, and social orders interact.

Human evolution
Origins of agriculture
Early civilizations: on the Nile, in India and China, first empires,
Early religions: Hebrews and early Judaism, South Asia and Hinduism, Buddhism, Ancient China and Confucianism
Greek Empire: early history, rival city-states, art and literature, Alexander the Great
The Roman Empire: society and culture, rise of Christianity, decline
Africa: North African societies; south of the Sahara; West African kingdoms
The Americas: early societies; the Aztec and Incan empires
The Byzantine Empire
The history of Islam
China's Tang and Song Dynasties
The Silk Road
The Mongols
Charlemagne’s empire
The Middle Ages
The Crusades
Islamic empires
China's Ming Dynasty
The history of Japan
The Italian Renaissance
Major achievements in music, art, dance, literature, architecture
History of England, its monarchy
Conquests and colonies
The Protestant and Catholic reformations
Religious wars and the rise of absolutism
The impacts of major scientific discoveries and inventions
The Enlightenment
The American Revolution
The French Revolution
Latin American independence movements
Nationalism in Europe
The Industrial Revolutions
Business, Labor, and a new middle class
European competition for empire
Asian nations compete
WWI: roots and history
Creating the United Nations
The Russian Revolution
India: colonial history, independence, democracy
The Great Depression
WW II: Roots and history, rise of European dictators, Japan’s role, atomic bomb
Nuclear energy and the arms race
The Cold War
Postwar Latin America; dictatorships
Asia since 1945
Africa: colonialism; modern states
The Middle East: new nations; nationalism; regional conflicts; democratic initiatives

U.S. History

U.S. history covers the history of North America, starting with human migrations during the last ice age, through modern times. With major events in world history as context, students encounter a variety of case studies using primary source documents, adapted resources, and guiding questions. Using these resources, students are challenged to extract evidence and develop interpretations of history.

Colonial history
Mapping the New World
Revolution and early America
Declaration of Independence
Federalists and Anti-Federalists
Slavery in the Constitution
Hamilton vs. Jefferson
Expansion and Slavery
Indian removal
Manifest Destiny
Irish immigration
Civil War and Reconstruction
Emancipation Proclamation
The Gilded Age
Chinese immigration and exclusion
American imperialism
Spanish-American War
Philippine-American War
Japanese segregation
Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. Dubois
Background on women’s suffrage
World War I, U.S. entry, sedition
League of Nations
Chicago race riots of 1919
Mexican labor in the 1920s
The Great Depression
New Deal
World War II
Japanese Internment
The atomic bomb
The Cold War
Cuban Missile Crisis
Korean War
Viet Nam War
Civil Rights movement
Women in the 1950s
Great Society
Anti-Vietnam War movement

U.S. Government

Students examine the cultural attitudes and ideals that inform current and past political institutions in the United States. They learn the roots of political parties, governing branches, and the changing relationship of government to business, religion, and the individual. Students learn how to collect and analyze political data and articulate and support political opinions.

Founding events, figures, ideals
The Constitution
Branches of the U.S. government
How a bill becomes a law
Federal budget
Political participation and voting
Political parties, campaigns, and candidates
Super pacts
Civil Rights
The Supreme Court
Liberty, equality, and self-governance
Gender and politics
Public policy
Foreign and defense policy


Students learn how the global economy works: economic institutions, systems of trade, exchange, interdependence, roles of government, economic booms and recessions, employment, and international economics. And they examine the consequences of individual economic decision-makers by studying how government, private business, and personal finances are interconnected.

Decision-making and cost-benefit analysis
Division of labor and specialization
Economic institutions
Economic systems
Opportunity cost
Productive resources
Property rights
Trade, exchange, and interdependence
Budget deficits and public debt
Business cycles
Economic growth
Employment and Unemployment
Fiscal Policy
Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve
Real vs. Nominal
Competition and Market Structures
Income Distribution
Market Failures
Markets and Prices
Roles of Government


The study of anthropology gives students the opportunity to use observational skills to deepen their understanding of human behavior. As students study cultures of the past and present, they are exposed to fundamental concepts of physical, social, linguistic, and archaeology, and cultural anthropology.