The Shipley Method

A New Type Of History: Your Old History Class Is... History

Academic Milestones

A New History

Your old history class is history.

 —by Melissa Tassoni
In Peter Schumacher’s eighth grade class, the history of the modern world is studied through the interdisciplinary themes of urbanization, technology, and government. The thematic approach aims at getting students to understand the world they live in today—where it came from, how it came to be, and why.
Students’ study of history spirals through time, moving quickly through the dawn of agrarian society, before settling into a multi-faceted study of the modern city. The urbanization unit culminates with an interdisciplinary project in Jeff Hanna ’91’s art class, in which students are asked to create their own urban site in Philadelphia. Students’ work in history serves as a prelude to inform their work in art class, which intersects with the history class’s later units of study as well.
Schumacher’s students then study the history of technological advances: How did early humans make fire? What technologies did people invent to help them farm? The history course takes another, final, turn through time, wrapping up with a unit on government, “because government develops from and causes all of the other things that we do,” explains Schumacher.
The approach emphasizes how life has changed over the course of human history and how those changes are meaningful today. “That’s what I’m looking for,” says Schumacher, “moments of great change and what was happening during those periods. There are different layers and levels and they all fit together.”
BELOW: View a slideshow of photos from an eighth grade field trip to Philadelphia.
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.