Making History in the Classroom

Posted by BASIS.ed on March 4, 2020 at 2:20 PM

Often noted for its rigorous STEM courses, the robust BASIS Charter School Curriculum also presents a rich balance of humanities and fine arts at every grade level. History plays an important role in the BASIS Charter School Curriculum, because it is critical to our present and our future. As writer and philosopher George Santayana famously surmised "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Progress is possible only if we learn from history.

Digging up the past

BASIS Charter School students study history and social sciences through both primary and secondary sources. In the primary grades, students learn to discern fact from opinion; explore historical events from different points of view; and study geography, including human geography topics such as population analysis, cultural trade, and political boundaries.

history seminar

In grade 5, a bridge year that prepares students for the rigor of secondary school, BASIS Charter School students are introduced to the Classics. They focus on historical understanding of ancient cultures and analyzing the foundations of Western Civilization through text and art. They also study influential periods of U.S. history, such as the colonial period, the American Revolution, establishment of the U.S. Constitution, Westward Expansion, the American Civil War and Reconstruction, immigration and industrialization, and the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Picking up the pace

The accelerated pace of the BASIS Charter School Curriculum leads students to complete state graduation requirements by the end of their junior year, but most all students choose to complete their senior year, which focuses on college preparation, research, and enrichment. Seniors can dig deep into a variety of history topics in Capstone courses, which vary by school, depending both on teacher expertise and student interest. Current students may elect history Capstone courses such as:

  • Culinary History
  • Foundations of Democracy
  • Forensic Science
  • Gender Studies
  • History of Crime
  • History of World Religions
  • Hitler and Nazi Germany
  • Latin American Security
  • Narrative & History
  • The Peloponnesian War
  • Philosophical Origins of American Democracy
  • Race, Class & Gender in American History
  • Rome in Memory & Imagination
  • Twentieth-Century American Pop Culture
  • Visual Culture
  • World History through Film

Collaborative culture

Alex Decker teaches AP Government at BASIS San Antonio – Shavano Campus. He credits the unique culture as a prime factor of the schools’ consistent pattern of success. “BASIS [Charter] Schools foster the strongest community of learners I've ever gotten to work with,” he asserts. “Students value each other's intellectual contributions to collective learning, push each other to be better scholars, and collaborate closely to tackle the challenges that the more advanced curriculum can offer.”

The many varied interests, backgrounds, and ethnicities represented by the diverse BASIS Charter School student body are equally respected—and welcomed—by the whole school community. “Every student brings something unique to BASIS [Charter Schools]. I think what makes it different is that we encourage and celebrate those unique attributes,” says Alex. The diverse and supportive culture at BASIS Charter Schools promotes collaboration that yields greater achievement in school and in life.

Life lessons

Alex’s students grapple with real-life issues, examining and questioning their values and beliefs. “The lessons my students take from history can be applied to contemporary society, and we often directly draw on those parallels in class,” Alex explains. When students leave his classroom, he says, “They’re walking out as better academics, but also as better people.” Discussing history in his classroom provides many opportunities for tough conversations that cultivate emotional and intellectual development for BASIS Charter School students.

BASIS Charter School students are famously responsible and respectful. But, in Alex’s AP Government class, he claims their favorite activity is arguing. “But I mean that in the best way!” he laughs. “I find my students are most excited to explore the gray area between easy questions, and engage in nuanced discussions without clear right and wrong answers.” BASIS Charter School students argue opposing sides of historic cases, engaging in meaningful analysis and decision-making. “I feel like I'm making a difference by helping students develop as human beings,” Alex emphasizes.

Teaching history at BASIS San Antonio Shavano allows Alex to make a significant impact on students and their futures, because studying history at BASIS Charter Schools is much more than learning names, dates, and places. “Anyone can look up the start date of the Second World War, or what the Know-Nothing Party believed in. What you can't find on a search engine is how to critically analyze a political cartoon, or evaluate the bias in a writing sample,” Alex explains. These are some of the skills he wants his students to take forward into the rest of their lives, and which will let them make positive, valuable change to the world around them.history teacher with students

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