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Oakland School for the Arts

Oakland School for the Arts

Social Science

Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions


Giza Pyramids

Social Science 6: Ancient Worlds

The 6th grade Social Science course covers ancient world history from 3000BCE through approximately 200CE. Students will first learn about geography and prehistoric humans and then about historical events and early civilizations in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa. We will do this in a structured way with the ultimate goal of answering our big questions for the year: How do humans create complex and stable civilizations? What things can break the stability of civilizations? 

CrusaderSocial Science 7: Medieval World

The 7th grade social science course covers medieval world history from 25 C.E. through 1800 C.E. Students will learn about historical events and civilizations in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Central America, and South America during medieval times, as well as events and people associated with the Renaissance, Reformation, Scientific Revolution, Age of Exploration, and the Enlightenment.

Cutty SarkSocial Science 8: U.S. History

This class focuses on US history and geography. Students will learn about historical events and civilizations that changed and grew from the Age of Exploration to the Turn of the Century.

Ethnic Studies Woman and TreeIntroduction to Ethnic Studies 9th Grade

The ninth grade Ethnic Studies is designed to provide students with a foundational understanding of the diverse cultural, historical, and social aspects of various ethnic, racial and cultural communities. This course aims to foster empathy, critical thinking, and a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of identities that shape our society. Students will interpret a variety of texts, which depict the oppression and resistance of ethnic groups within the U.S. Students will also engage in learning about the history of marginalized groups in the United States as well as liberation and resistance movements led by these groups.  Students will end the year with a greater understanding of the systemic inequalities that thrive in our society, the actions being taken and how they can contribute to become agents of change to counter these systems.


Soldier in Gas MaskWorld History

Through readings, discussions, projects, and papers, students will learn how to critique and analyze past historical events around the globe and relate those to events presently shaping our world. Students will start by learning the fundamentals of geography and world religions, before moving into specific historical moments, movements, and conflicts. Topics emphasized this semester include geography, world religions, imperialism and colonization, revolutions, wars, and political movements. This course meets OSA’s graduation requirement and the CSU/UC systems A-G admissions requirements. This course meets the California State Standards for 10th grade social sciences. 

American Flag and We The People composite US History

This United States History course is designed to educate the students in the history, the mechanics, and the make up of the United States. Through readings, discussion, and debate the students will learn how to critique and analyze the past and the present and to predict the future in United States events. The students will start by learning the basic skills , such as map reading, time lines, note taking etc. The students will then apply those skills into deeper level of thinking in the contents of United States History. This course is geared towards having the students obtain a better understanding of governments, religion, culture, and events that effect the history of this country. Themes that will be discussed through out the year include the importance of chronologically, control, power, fear and propaganda. This course is a California State graduation requirement. 

CourthouseUS Government and Economics

In the first semester of this course, students will explore economics, which broadly involves how humans use/allocate scarce resources but also includes insights into incentives and human decision making, issues involving international trade, the government’s role in managing the economy, and a fun mix of psychology and economics called “behavioral economics.”  Throughout the semester, we will also track current events, both as they relate to economics but also as background for understanding the upcoming Government curriculum.  In semester 2, students will analyze the American political system.  Areas of emphasis include the people and groups that shape the political landscape, the Constitutional and historical underpinnings of our political system, the people and institutions that make up the US Government, and the policies, laws, and cases that are produced by that government.

Death of SocratesElective: Contemporary Issues

 Students read a variety of texts, including novels, short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Students learn reading strategies and develop their writing skills in the following genres: argument writing, literature response and analysis, narrative writing, reflective writing, expository writing, and poetry. Vocabulary study focuses academic language and the history and origins of the English language. Listening and speaking strategies, including collegial discussion techniques, are emphasized during class discussions, oral presentations, and Socratic seminars.

MOna LisaElective: Art History 

Art forms considered in this class will be visual, musical, performance-based, theatrical, fashion, architectural, literary, film, and dance, reflective of the arts emphasis areas offered here at OSA. The course will be organized thematically as it is impossible to teach about the history of all of the arts chronologically in one school year. What will connect the art we study is that in each unit the chosen artworks will relate to an exploration of a specific philosophical question that will guide our thinking. Studying art in this fashion will help you develop your ability to analyze and make connections that you might not have been able to reach otherwise. This class is also designed to enrich your art practice, so you are encouraged to bridge what you learn here and your creative process.

Muslim Girl CartoonElective: Ethnic Studies Honors 12th Grade

Reflecting on the intersections of race and gender questions, in this 12th grade Ethnic Studies elective course students will study female and non-binary voices from the African diaspora across different creative disciplines, geographical spaces and historical times. By critically analyzing cultural texts like biographies, media, poetry, literature, media, articles, visual arts, film and dance, we will unpack how historically female and non binary voices across the African diaspora use their creativity to make sense of the world they live(d) in, and why it’s important for them to highlight the Afro-diasporic legacy in their work and lives. We will ultimately reflect on their contributions to the arts, history and social change. During the class students will make interdisciplinary collaborative creative projects of their choice relevant to the class topic, including future projects that will explore the intersectionality of less visible voices across other ethnic communities and world geographies.

Mock Trial with JudgeElective: Mock Trial

This elective teaches about the judicial system and how a trial actually works. The years starts off with an overview of our country's judicial branch and how it functions. Around October the class is assigned a “case” that students study in order to prepare to compete against other schools’ teams. Students act as lawyers, witnesses, and other courtroom players. They make a case on why their client should be found guilty or not. This course includes independent and group work and encourages students to have the best presentation of their case. After the trial competition is over, the class switches to debates. Students pick topics and have a wide range of debates against their classmates. This class is great for students who have an interest in the judicial system and want to do fun competitions. The only requirement is that students have a desire to be and participate in class, and participate in the competitions.

Film HistoryElective: History of Film

History of Film is a course that follows the development of the cinematic language from its inception to the modern day. The course takes a Humanities approach to Film Studies and critically examines the ways cinema reflects the people, movements, and communities that produce it.
During the first semester, students study the fundamentals of cinematic language and its development through the Classical Era of Hollywood. Students will be exposed to the development of the Studio System and Hollywood genres, while practicing the basics of film analysis. During the second semester students apply the skills learned first semester to look at contemporary movements in cinema. This semester focuses on how diverse communities in the United States use the cinematic language to communicate ideas about themselves and their place in American society. Modules this semester discuss Black Cinema, Queer Cinema, and Asian American Cinema among others.
Teddi Pontecorvo Head Shot
teddi pontecorvo

            Chair, Social Sciences
teddi pontecorvo

My Name is Teddi Pontecorvo and I grew up in San Francisco. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Medieval History, and a Masters in World History with an emphasis in Imperialism and Colonialism from SFSU. I bring as many stories of the past to my students as possible and really want to help them develop skills that will prepare them for the future. I am passionate about studying history through art!