The Study of History at Watershed School

Engagement and Interpretation

Starting in the ninth grade, students begin the process of engagement with history through reading primary sources. In this way, students participate in the process of making meaning and interpreting historical context. They are not passive consumers of others’ work as one might experience using only a history textbook; rather, they themselves become historians making sense out of the past and determining relevance to the present. The teacher facilitates this process through selection of historical documents, direct teaching of study and research skills, and by providing supportive feedback and additional context.

Deliberation and Debate

Deliberation is the central activity through which students learn about history. Deliberation involves a thinking through out loud with the teacher and six to eight other students. Focus is provided with a key question and discussions provide opportunities for greater clarity and understanding of the issues that shape history and influence modern current events. Equally important in the process is the opportunity for each member of class to gain an appreciation for the perspectives of others. Ultimately, each student makes a decision regarding how to interpret historical events and apply them to their own life experience today.  By contrast, students also learn and practice the art of debate, including the essential skills of formulating an opening statement, crafting leading questions, applying cross-examination, and  developing an effective rebuttal.  Each year, the entire student body travels to Bates College on Martin Luther King Day to see the Annual Bates vs. Morehouse College Debate live.  

Connections with Community

Students make history relevant to our own school community  and midcoast Maine through a variety of forums and outreach events, including the annual Student Forum on Foreign Relations, volunteering at the Camden Conference, attendance at the Midcoast Forum on Foreign Relations, or changing local city ordinancesto reduce light pollution. In addition, we travel to participate in events such as the National High School in New York City, Research the City of Boston, attend Bowdoin College lectures, research in Bowdoin’s library,  and attend Marfin Luther King Day at Bates College.

Credits in History

Ninth graders take a course in Western Civilization to 1650, and two semesters of US History during their junior year. In addition, students select from a variety of upper level electives in their sophomore and senior years.

All history classes are conducted in a seminar style with an emphasis on primary source analysis and student-led discussions.


Nazi Germany and the Holocaust

Instructor: Joe Kleinman
Fall 2018

Watershed School

Course Description

“How could the Holocaust have happened?” Historians have debated this question since the end of World War II. This course will offer both a broad overview and a detailed examination of the political, economic, social, and cultural forces at work behind one of largest acts of genocide in world history. The course will be divided into two main parts: (1) the historical background to the Holocaust, including an examination of Nazi policy toward the Jews until 1939; and (2) the destruction of European Jewry between 1939 and 1945.

Within these larger themes, the topics covered will include

  • the legacy of anti-Semitism in Christian Europe

  • the impact of World War I on German society

  • the rise of the Nazi movement to power

  • the racial ideology of the Nazi state

  • Jewish resistance to the Nazi state and to the Holocaust

  • Perpetrators and bystanders

  • the implementation of the “Final Solution”  

The course will conclude with an examination of how the meaning of the Holocaust has changed over time, with a particular emphasis on the issues of historical memory and commemoration.


Unit One: Nineteenth Century Germany, “Race Science”, Social Darwinism, Anti-Judaism, and the Rise of Antisemitism

Unit Two: Weimar Germany, the Emergence of Adolf Hitler, and the Rise of the Nazi Party

Unit Three: The State, Society, and Culture in Nazi Germany

Unit Four: Hitler’s Wars: From Lebensraum to the Final Solution

Unit Five: The Holocaust

Unit Six: Historical Memory and the Holocaust


World Civilizations

World Civilizations

Instructor: Joe Kleinman

Watershed School



Course Description:

World Civilizations is a college preparatory course.  This is a rigorous course designed to challenge students in the context of the study of world history and in historical research.  The course is a full year course and students will earn one credit if they are successful in fulfilling the course expectations. Using the themes of faith and reason students will gain an understanding of the rise and fall of societies throughout history. The Essential Question we will focus on is: How do societies create order from chaos?

Course Materials:

There is no textbook for World Civilizations. The students will be using a number of primary and secondary sources for each unit. We will focus on both ancient and modern texts with the intention of building skills such as sourcing, close reading, contextualization and corroboration.

Foundational Skills: Fall Semester

1. Reading:

  1. adjust approach to reading based on purpose and text.

  2. B.form comprehensive summaries of information gleaned from the text.

Students will be using a number of both primary and secondary sources and focusing on the following: sourcing (who wrote the text), contextualization (when was the text written and for what purpose), close reading (examining the text closely to ascertain the bias in the language itself) and corroboration (to what extent is this source supported by other sources.)

2. Writing:

  1. word (word choice, spelling, precision and tone.)

  2. sentence (grammar/punctuation, clarity, rhetorical technique)

  3. paragraph (thesis development, summarizing, sequence, role of paragraph)

  4. Writing form (audience, frame, topic, choice, form-specific conventions)

Students will be asked to write a number of pieces including: summaries, analyses, persuasive essays, and research essays.

8. Information gathering and analysis:

  1. question formation

  2. effective note-taking

  3. information research using internet or library sources: primary sources, databases, maps, journals, websites.

Students will be engaging in analysis of text and materials with the goal of surfacing more questions in relation to the overarching essential questions. The expectation will be for students to work together to build a list of inquiries and to work as a group to address the inquiries with the goal of creating an in-depth understanding of the extent to which societies were able to create order from chaos.  Central to this process will be discussion and deliberation in pairs, small groups and whole class.


Geography of the World

Geography of the World

Janet McMahon

Fall 2014

Watershed School

Course Description

Geography brings together the physical and human dimensions of the world. This survey course introduces basic concepts and topics in geography, such as the Earth’s surface and processes that shape it, the relationships between people and the environment, and the connections between people and places. We will make extensive use of maps to identify and explain patterns and flows of people, wealth, and natural resources. The course will introduce issues of global importance, such as demographic change, urbanization, migration, food and water supplies, and international conflict. The overarching goal is to increase geographic literacy so that we can better understand the ideas and events that shape our lives.   This is a one semester ½ credit course.

Course Materials (this list will be supplemented with other short readings)

Text: National Geographic Concise Atlas of the World, Third Edition. 2012

Additional Readings:

Glaeser, Edward. “Triumph of the City [Excerpt].”  Scientific American, August 17, 2011.

Johnson, Steven.  “The Ghost Map.”  New York: Riverhead Books.  (Chapter 1)

Kramer, Steven P. “Baby Gap:  How to Boost Birthrates and Avoid Demographic Decline.”  Foreign Affairs, May/June 2011.

Woodard, Colin.  “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.”  New York: Penguin Books. 2011.  (introduction)

2013 United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report Overview and website

Foundational Skills Addressed:

2. Writing

  1. Increased competence in descriptive and persuasive writing.  

Students will choose a developed country and a developing country and, over the course of the semester,  prepare a series of five bulletins addressing a different geography topic (physical description, population issues, cities, wealth and quality of life, and finally their predictions on what their countries will be like by midcentury.   They will use a variety of sources from the literature, their atlas, graphed and tabular data from the CIA Factbook and other sources, maps, and Google Earth imagery analysis.


  1. Competence in creating and interpreting graphs.  

Students will learn to make climographs, population pyramids, and other graphs, and will interpret graphs as part of their bulletin research.

4. Discourse

  1. Increased competence in public speaking (planning and delivery).  

Students will give several in-class presentations and will participate in round table discussions on the topics covered in their bulletins.

Additional skill:  Use of maps to identify, describe and analyze physical and cultural features and patterns.


US History Since 1945

US History Since 1945
Instructor: Joe Kleinman
Spring 2019
Watershed School

Arguably, the history post 1940 is essential to understanding contemporary America.  Students analyze the development of both domestic and foreign policy from the Roosevelt through the 21st century. Topics include new global perspectives in U.S. foreign policy; origins and development of the Cold War and U.S. emergence as a superpower; McCarthyism; the Civil Rights Movement; the changing role of women; popular culture; the impact of the Vietnam War; Watergate; the conservative shift in politics; the Reagan Revolution; and the dawning of the 21st century. The class draws on a series of primary and secondary source documents from the period. The foundational skills include reading, writing, information gathering and analysis, discourse, and visual presentations.

Course Requirements and Expectations

Readings and Homework

The nightly reading assignment will usually include a selection from the text, Joshua Freeman’s American Empire: 1945-2000. In addition to the textbook, supplements will include primary and secondary sources. Most nights you will be assigned questions on the reading to help shape the thinking you do in preparation for the class. I encourage you to take notes on the readings since you are responsible for all assigned material regardless of whether we discuss it in class.


Class discussion is an important part of our investigation. Thoughtful participation is essential to the course’s success, and I will take it into account when determining whether credit has been earned.

Essays, Quizzes, Tests, Projects, and Final Paper

For each of the units students will write short papers that brings your knowledge to bear and advances a strong argument sometimes responding to a DBQ we have read for/discussed in class. Moreover, several student presentations will be required. Furthermore, students will complete a project related to the history of the American civil rights movement and comparing that to another social/human rights movement. Finally, assessments include quizzes and tests.


It is imperative that you maintain an organized notebook throughout the semester. You will need well-organized notes on readings and class discussions to prepare for your assessments.

Lateness and Absences

You are expected to be in class, ready to work when class begins. You are responsible for making up all work that you miss. If you miss a class you should see a classmate to find out what you missed and to copy any important notes. I am always happy to meet with you outside of class to discuss the work.

Grading/ Earning Credit

  • quality of class participation and respect for classmates, teacher, and material

  • unit essays, tests, presentation

  • quizzes and homework

  • semester project 

Global Climate Change


2019  Spring Semester

Instructor:  Janet McMahon

Course Description

Climate change is a complicated global issue that cuts across many disciplines.  In this course students will be introduced to the science of past and present climate change, how human societies could be affected by future changes, and how governments are responding to what is known.  In addition we will explore some of the ethical ramifications of this issue. There will be several hand-on components, including shadowing an energy auditor, tracking state energy legislation, and, in the final weeks of the course, working as a group on a climate change vulnerability assessment for the town of Camden.  The final project results will be summarized in a report and presented to town officials and community members.

Note that this is a content-based course, however I will work with students to hone several foundational skills.

Foundational Skill Objectives  

  1. Students will be able to produce, interpret and explain graphs; be able to discern signal from noise, whether looking at graphs or the media’s representation of scientific information; be able to identify primary data sources (Skill 3D: Numeracy – interpret and create graphs; Skill 8: Information Gathering and Analysis B, D and E).

  2. Improve each student’s ability to write clearly, factually, and persuasively (Skill 2: Writing)

  3. Increase each student’s comfort and effectiveness when presenting to an audience (Skill 4: Discourse).

Content Objectives  Students will be able to...

  1. Understand and use basic climate science and building science vocabulary.

  2. Draw conclusions about past and current climate patterns and future climate conditions through analysis of instrumental, proxy, and anecdotal climate data.

  3. Understand the relationship between population growth, economic well-being and energy use.

  4. Apply future climate change scenarios projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific groups to the midcoast.

  5. Have a basic understanding of type and scale of emissions reduction scenarios needed to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels.

  6. Apply a basic ethical framework to the issue of climate change.

Senior Seminar linked to Camden Conference

Senior Seminar

Instructor: Pete Kalajian


Watershed School

Course Description

Senior seminar will be taught with the intention of preparing students for active participation in the Camden Conference. This year’s conference:

From the Conference Website:

More than 600 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty, and President Xi Jinping promises to eliminate poverty in his country by 2020. China’s emerging middle class seeks an ever-rising standard of living. Chinese investment on all continents is both welcomed and regarded with some anxiety, while Chinese diplomatic intervention has been essential to stability on the Korean peninsula and China is attracting European as well as Asian nations to new multilateral institutions. In Beijing, the absolute authority of the Chinese Communist Party has been reconfirmed, and President Xi now has the option to remain his country’s leader for as long as he wishes.

On the other side of the globe, America’s role in global affairs may be less predictable than at any time in recent history. How long will the US economy be #1? How strong is the US commitment to alliances, treaties and rules that shaped post-war world order? Is American democracy strong – or vulnerable? What role in global affairs do Americans want for their country?

“Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing mankind” can help solve global problems, says President Xi. But Is China ready for global leadership? And if its global role expands, by intention or by default, what will that mean for the United States, for Japan, India, Russia and other neighboring nations?

The 2019 Camden Conference will explore what is happening inside China today and how this will affect China’s international role. We will start by asking what historical events have shaped China’s global ambitions, what its leaders’ current priorities are, and how they assess the ambitions of other nations. Speakers will then look inside Chinese society today, exploring the important demographic challenges the country now faces, the relationship between the individual and authority, the rural-urban divide, confrontation over dissent and the rights of minorities, and the role of the Internet and social media.

Next, we will explore the Communist Party’s leadership and its control over individual lives, the workplace, media and other institutions. The Chinese economy is now the world’s second largest and probably on a path to become #1. Among the topics our speaker will address: how the Communist Party exerts authority over the Chinese economy, the role of the military, the extent of Chinese investment abroad, and the impact of China’s Belt and Road project. Another speaker will focus on China’s aspirations to be the global leader in technology and innovation. In what sectors can China be most competitive?

One session will look at China’s activism on environmental issues. President Xi strongly supports the Paris climate agreement. China now invests more than any other country in renewable power. At the same time, China also must find solutions to immediate health threats such as polluted groundwater and air pollution.

Conference speakers will also explore China’s relations with her Asian neighbors, including disputes over the South China Sea and competition for resources, including water. Where is Chinese investment welcomed, and where has it become a point of friction? What security concerns do the neighbors have about Chinese military expansion?

Finally, our speakers will explore what the ascent of China will mean to the United States. What issues matter most now, and what will be the areas of future competition or potential cooperation? How shall we define US interests vis-à-vis China, and what can the United States itself do to ensure a peaceful, fruitful relationship?

Throughout the conference, panels of speakers will have an opportunity to comment and share opinions on each other’s remarks. Always a highlight of the Camden Conference, the Sunday panel of all speakers will bring together their broad expertise and very diverse viewpoints on China’s achievements at home and its aspirations for a large, respected role in world affairs.

Some of The Essential Questions (in addition to the ones above) we will cover over the course of the semester are:

● How has the geography of China influenced its history?

● How has the early history of China impacted the China of today?

● How are the US and China similar? How are they different?

● What is Chinese art traditionally, and how has it changed in the modern era?

● How has Chinese culture radiated outward from China over the ages?

● Is China poised to replace Western Cultural Hegemony with something more aligned with its own culture?

● Does the rise of a new global empire mean the fall of the existing global empire? How does China’s rise influence the decline of US influence around the world.

Course Materials

Students will be using a variety of course material, including a short text, China, World History, by Paul S. Ropp. Much of the readings will be in the form of documents, articles, and websites that are all linked on the Senior Seminar course page.

Foundational Skills addressed

1. Reading: A. adjust approach to reading based on purpose and text.

B. form comprehensive summaries of information gleaned from the text.

Students will be using a number of both primary and secondary sources and focusing on the following: sourcing (who wrote the text), contextualization (when was the text written and for what purpose), close reading (examining the text closely to ascertain the bias in the language itself) and corroboration (to what extent is this source supported by other sources.) Each student will also be required to read one of the book recommended by the Camden Conference and journal weekly regarding the work they have chosen.

2. Writing:

A. word (word choice, spelling, precision and tone.) B. sentence (grammar/punctuation, clarity, rhetorical technique) C. paragraph (thesis development, summarizing, sequence, role of paragraph) D. Writing form (audience, frame, topic, choice, form-specific conventions)

Students will be asked to write a number of pieces including: analyses, preces, persuasive essays, and research essays.

8. Information gathering and analysis:

A. question formation B. effective note-taking C. information research using internet or library sources: primary sources, databases, maps, journals, websites.

Students will be engaging in analysis of text and materials with the goal of surfacing more questions in relation to the overarching essential questions. The expectation will be for students to work together to build a list of inquiries and to work as a group to address the inquiries with the goal of creating an in-depth understanding of China and its past. Central to this process will be discussion and deliberation in pairs, small groups and whole class.

*The Senior Seminar will carry over into the spring semester and students will earn 3⁄4 credit for the course. It will run until after the Camden Conference (February 22, 23, 24, 2019)

** In the spring semester we will be focusing on the following foundational skill in preparation for the conference:

4. Discourse

A. planning: determine purpose; choose scope and topic, provide effective visuals, word choice and transitions. B. delivery: clear articulation, varied delivery, language appropriate to audience, visuals employed effectively, effective nonverbal behavior.

Course Expectations

1. All students are required to choose a different book from the Conference Reading List.

Camden Conference Reading list: You are required to buy or check out one of these books - you will have until January to complete the reading and will be required to write a journal entry about the book each week.

Journal entries:

● Should be in a google document entitled SS_journal_lastname_firstname in the senior seminar google folder that is shared with me.

● We will discuss ways to structure your notes during the class

● Be sure to question your text and think analytically about the author’s perspective.

● Need to be completed in order to earn credit.

2. Readings/viewings need to annotated and will be used for class discussion. You will be expected to be able to engaged in class discussion regarding the material.

3. All students will need to attend one community event and the Camden Conference in its entirety.

a. You should take notes during the event, and approach the speaker afterwards to ask at least one question. You should summarize the event and present the essential learnings to your class in a 5 minute well-thought-out TED talk. NO bullet point slides, but visual aides that help summarize are welcome.

4. All students will need to complete the final assessments:

a. Precis/Book Review Due prior to the Camden Conference (early February) b. Final Narrative > Due the week after attending the Camden Conference. (late February) 5. All students will need to attend the conference in order to receive credit. Dates: February 22, 23, 24, 2019. Please plan ahead with your family ASAP.



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The objective of this course is to deepen students’ understanding of civic values and the role these play in shaping an equitable and just society. Seminar sessions invite students to grasp the complexity of such values within a pluralistic society, inviting them both to deepen their critical understanding of their own viewpoints on contested ethical questions and to broaden their capacity to engage others who might hold different views in a constructive manner.


In the first months we will read a variety of texts that formulate visions of a just society, including The Declaration of Independence, The Communist Manifesto (1848), the Seneca Falls’ Declaration of Sentiments (1848), and excerpts from the Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society (1962). Such readings will prepare students to draft a “manifesto” of their own followed by a common “manifesto” written as a class. Seminar sessions will require students to examine their personal convictions and viewpoints in a critical and constructive manner, sharpening their understanding in conversation with historical texts that have played a formative role in shaping modern society. This work calls upon the skills of close and critical reading of such sources as well as developing the capacity to listen and respond to those—in the seminar or in the broader society—holding differing beliefs and approaches. The overall goal is that of strengthening students’ grasp of what is at stake in complex and disputed social questions while enhancing their ability to engage others, with empathy and insight, who might hold different views to their own.


Students will submit short critical responses each week to questions related to readings or topics under discussion. They will also complete two larger projects during the year: first, a formulation of their own “manifesto,” written in conversation with sources studied and discussed in the seminar; and, second, a final paper on a topic of their choice that explores a disputed question in the field of social ethics. This capstone project should both draw on their own experience and reflect their broader educational aims and vocational interests. The values of Watershed School as expressed in the school’s mission statement together with the essential foundational skills identified by the faculty provide the context for such work.