Brooklyn private independent school


Humanities is the study of the human condition. The Middle School Humanities department sees the study of humanity’s moral, spiritual and intellectual struggles and achievements as forming the essence of Berkeley Carroll’s mission and purpose and our curriculum is directly aligned with fostering students’ critical, ethical and global thinking. At the core, our courses explore the question “What does it mean to be human?”

In fifth grade, students study of ancient cultures, journey literature and world geography as a way learn into thinking critically about where they come from and how all people change through experiences. Sixth graders focus on the civilizations of Ancient Greece and Rome and the Islamic Empire of the medieval period, using as a guide the essential questions: Who decides how we treat one another? Who decides how we act? How is a person’s status determined? What does a community care about the most? Seventh graders study our nation's history, literature, art, geography and current events. Students build reading, writing and speaking skills individually and by working in teams on projects, simulations and presentations. Eighth graders use critical, ethical and global thinking to reflect on identity, conflict, social justice and the power of storytelling and narrative.

Humanities Courses by Grade

5th Grade

Fifth grade is a year in which students are transitioning into the Middle School and becoming increasingly independent. Through a study of ancient cultures and journey literature, we will learn to think critically about where we come from and how we change through our experiences. Students will focus on the continent of Africa to gain a deeper understanding of its diverse cultures and histories and read Abel’s Island by William Steig, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, March by Andrew Aydin and John Lewis, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. We push students to use concrete evidence to support their inferences and communicate them clearly through strong writing, experiential projects, and creative expression.

Units of Study in Humanities 5

  • Geography through Africa/Early Humans and Abel’s Island by William Steig
  • Northern Africa Research through 52 Days by Camel by Lawrie Raskin with Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • Ancient Egypt with March by Andrew Aydin and John Lewis and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • African Research Project and Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • Storytelling through writing, art, dance, and music with Anansi Tales
  • The creation of a full Egyptian tomb, replete with artifacts, is a highlight of the fifth grade year.

6th Grade

In Humanities 6, we will focus on the Mediterranean region and the Middle World to understand how cultural diffusion-the spread of religion, ideas, art, and technology- shaped the world. The 6th grade curriculum uses the frame of human dignity as a lens to analyze the key obstacles blocking our view of one another’s full humanity in history, literature, and our current global community. We aim to close the psychological distance between “us” and “them”by analyzing the biases that can cloud our view of one another’s full humanity and individual complexity. Our ultimate goal is to create agents of positive social change by empowering students with vocabulary and a set of skills to analyze and diffuse conflict, support ethical decision making, and ignite their critical thinking.

Units of Study in Humanities 6

  • Metacognition and You (and Me!)
    • Essential Question: How can understanding metacognition support academic and personal growth?
    • Texts: Excerpts from Mindset by Carol Dweck, the film Temple Grandin, “Batman” episode of This American Life
  • The Roman Empire- from Founding mythos to the Fall
    • Essential Question: How can cultural ego create an empire and influence world history?
    • Texts: The Ancient Roman World Oxford, The Outsiders, excerpts of the documentary Guns, Germs, and Steel
  • The Islamic Empire- from Muhammad to Modern Day
    • Essential Question: What is Islamophobia and how can we work to dismantle it?
    • Texts: The Ancient Middle World, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, I am Malala, the film Girl Rising, excerpts from Destiny Disrupted

7th Grade

In the seventh grade, the study of literature and history are interwoven. Students will grapple with definitions of justice, and the role laws and individuals play in creating a just society. Primary sources, novels, and poetry provide students with an interdisciplinary study from the American Revolution through Civil Rights Movements. By mastering U.S. geography, students will understand how place impacts history and community life. Students will be challenged to expand their grammar and composition skills through thesis-driven essays as well as creative writing; they will present and perform, illustrate and instruct, research and report, all in an effort to engage wholeheartedly with the complex narrative of this nation!

Projects include a simulated Supreme Court Case in a real Brooklyn Courthouse! Students acting as justices, prosecutors and defense attorneys take on complex issues involved in the First Amendment. In the final project of the year, students will research a Civil Rights Movement of their own choosing, teaching their peers about historical background, key players, and landmark decisions. In a formal letter, students will reach out to an activist or organization involved in the movement today.

Units of Study in Humanities 7

  • The American Revolution and Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Constitution and Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose
  • Constitution Works
  • Westward Expansion: Manifest Destiny and The Displacement of Native Americans
  • Mexican-American Relations and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • Slavery, Civil War, and Excerpts from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • Reconstruction and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Civil Rights Movements

8th Grade

Humanities 8 focuses on conflict, trauma, and recovery. The course includes an examination of justice and reconciliation in the 20th century through the study of World War I, World War II and the Holocaust as well as Apartheid South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Literature includes Erich Maria Remarque’s All’s Quiet on the Western Front, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Each unit is interlaced with a study of current events, and regular work to continually strengthen core reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. The ultimate goal is to help students succeed academically and grow intellectually so they can navigate a complex world and be empowered to help march humanity into a brighter future.

Units of Study in Humanities 8

  • Understanding Humanity through the Lens of Basic Human Needs
    • the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon
  • Democracy, Civics, and Resource Allocation
    • Townsville in Crisis Role Play Simulation
    • Trip to Eastern Shore (and related readings)
  • World War I - The Traps of Conflict and the Traumas of Combat
    • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
    • To End All Wars: World War I and the League of Nations Debate (Choices Curriculum,Brown University)
  • The Holocaust and World War II
    • Maus by Art Spiegelman
    • The Holocaust and Human Behavior (Facing History and Ourselves curriculum)
  • The 8th Grade Living Wax Museum: The Power of Narrative
    • Biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs selected by students
  • South Africa and Apartheid: Repression, Resistance, and Reconciliation
    • Freedom in Our Lifetime: South Africa’s Struggle (Choices Curriculum, Brown University)
    • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • Gender Roles, Tradition, and Tribalism: Love and Conflict in Elizabethan England
    • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare