History and Social Sciences


istory and social science courses at Buxton aim to fulfill several interconnected goals: to ensure that students acquire a solid working knowledge of political, social and cultural history; to train students in the skills of critical reading and analysis; to educate students to understand and evaluate competing arguments and to present their opinions in a clear and reasoned way, and to create engaged, informed citizens.

Students acquire a critical understanding of the society around them, learn to appreciate its complexity, grasp the ethical stakes involved in its design, and comprehend that design as historically constructed. With that understanding, they can begin to see themselves as historical actors and agents. The annual All-School Trip, in which the entire faculty and student body travel together to a North American city to study that city intensively for a week, is one of the most pivotal components of a Buxton student’s historical education.

History of the Modern Middle East

Clearly the Middle East is an extremely important part of the contemporary political world, but too many Americans have little understanding of the area.  This course will help give students a sense of contemporary issues in the Middle East, and how the area’s history informs those issues.  Beginning with a brief introduction to Islam, the course will cover the major developments in the area since the decline of the Ottoman Empire with a particular focus on Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Israel/Palestine.  While the class will focus on political history, the readings will primarily be memoirs to help give the history a human face and to give students a more textured sense of life in this part of the world.

Research Skills

A small class for students new to the research process, Research Skills shows how to gather data, determine main ideas and supporting details, take notes, cite, translate information and create presentations. The course culminates with students’ individual presentations to the class.

The Junior Thesis

An important part of each student’s junior year is the Junior Thesis and Project. The thesis is an opportunity for independent research, creative expression, and learning how to plan and execute a long-term project. Students pick a topic that interests them and spend much of the year researching and writing an ambitious paper about it. Additionally, students are asked to produce a creative piece to complement their academic work. Thesis topics have included the history and practice of ballet, the work of the controversial director Elia Kazan, the tradition and significance of Japanese tea ceremonies, and the history of the Middle East. Creative projects have ranged from staging original one-act plays to doing dance demonstrations to preparing a special meal for the entire school.

The Western Tradition

To understand where we are, we have to know where we came from, and much of American culture has European roots. This course will survey the intellectual and cultural heritage of Europe, starting with the Early Middle Ages and continuing through the present. It will draw from Art, Literature, Philosophy, Music and Religion to give students a fuller sense of the development of European ideology and culture. Although it will be a full-year survey, it will be divided into semesters, and students can take either semester by itself. The first will focus on the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, including the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. The Spring will begin with the French Revolution and will continue up to the present, addressing industrialization, romanticism, imperialism, and the principal social, intellectual, artistic and political movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. (open to seniors)


The course will essentially have two overlapping parts.  One will be an introduction to what psychology is, historical influences in the field, and the neuroscience behind the curtain of psychology.  We will learn about influential philosophies, psychologists, and studies in the field that have shaped the way we understand the mind.  In order to place these ideas in context, we will also study the structures and functions of the brain, nerves and nervous systems.  The second part will look at topics within the field of psychology.  These topics may include memory, sleep, development, learning, intelligence, sensation and perception, disorders, drugs, and psychological health.  The topics we explore may be subject to change depending on interest.  Throughout the course we will have a variety of experiments that we reenact or mimic, discussions on how these topics are relevant in our lives, and projects to create and perform our own experiments.


United States History (required of all Juniors who have not yet completed an American History course)

How did the United States end up like this? That is the basic question of this course. But also: how do we know what has happened in the past, in this place? And: did it have to happen that way? And finally: why does it matter? Historians Lisa McGirr and Eric Foner have called U.S. history an act of “collective self-discovery,” and that will be our mission. To work together to understand the place where—for better and for worse—we all currently live. Our studies will take us from the first peopling of the land over 10,000 years ago to the current day, with a focus on the United States since its founding in the 18th century. We will also regularly interrupt our chronology to study civic and political institutions in this country today, as well as the role of the historian in recording, studying, shaping, manipulating, publicizing, remembering, memorializing, celebrating, lamenting, telling, and retelling America’s past for America’s present.

Current Events (9th-10th Social Sci., Fall)

This course aims to provide students with the opportunity to explore, examine, analyze, discuss, and understand major domestic and international issues that affect our society today in a meaningful and respectful way. Subjects may include immigration, health care, gun control, abortion rights, trade, climate change, prison reform, refugees crises and so on. Throughout the course, we will keep up to date on current events and trends. Though the class is mainly discussion-based, we will read about contemporary topics through different media sources and outlets and learn about media biases. You will also independently research an issue of your choice and lead a presentation and a discussion for the class. The goals of this course are: to help us become aware of and literate in societal issues, to encourage us to be informed, global citizens, and to enhance our ability to think critically for ourselves.



  • “Learning doesn’t stop when you leave the classroom, it’s continuing through every moment of the day and your life, constantly shaping and reshaping you.”
    Hollis Lane
    Hollis Lane San Francisco, CA
  • “At Buxton you get to focus on what you want to be learning; whether it is social skills or in-depth studying- you learn to take responsibility of your education.”
    Francis Magai
    Francis Magai Troy, NY
  • “Living your education means to not only learn things, but to use what you learn in your everyday life.”
    Naima Nigh
    Naima Nigh Mexico
  • “To me, living your education means to be independent, to take charge, to not be afraid of asking for help, to learn from your peers, to love to learn, to take what you have learned from a loving environment and take it into the world.”
    Kat Hallowell
    Kat Hallowell New Hampshire
  • “Your education is more than just your time in class, it’s your life as a whole. Learning is not limited to a teacher teaching you something in a classroom.”
    Cynder Johnson
    Cynder Johnson Missouri
  • “To me, at Buxton, it’s not boundaries that you make, but the ones you break through.”
    Roy Malone
    Roy Malone New York, NY
  • “At Buxton, I can choose what I want to do with my education. I can design my own path and invest my time studying topics that I’m really interested in.”
    Nora Mittleman
    Nora Mittleman New York, NY
  • “At Buxton you can experience your intellectual development in a community that accepts your perspective of the world.”
    Ben Nigh
    Ben Nigh Mexico
  • “I felt instantly at home when I stepped on the campus. At Buxton, we are in school 24/7. We learn things in the classroom, but we really learn valuable things outside of the classroom. We learn how to work with others and respect each other’s spaces. Our education surrounds us and we learn new things everyday.”
    Emily Woodside
    Emily Woodside Albany, NY
  • “I chose Buxton over public school because I think I function better in a smaller environment. You’re able to get to know students and faculty on a deeper level, which is rare.”
    Charlie Starenko
    Charlie Starenko Williamstown, MA
  • “Students should be happy when they are learning. They should not feel like studying is a burden to them. You learn things from your living space and environment - you are learning every second you are living.”
    Jiayi Cao
    Jiayi Cao China
  • “Living your education means you become an active learner. You are not just learning in the classroom or while you are doing your homework. You live your life learning and taking in the world’s various educations.”
    Lena Meginsky
    Lena Meginsky Northhampton, MA
  • “Buxton has shown me that it is possible to forge close bonds with teachers as well as students. It also gives you the ability to try new things in an environment where there is no judgment.”
    Kristhal Ayala
    Kristhal Ayala Puerto Rico
  • “I chose Buxton for a small community-based education with focus on the individual as part of the world at large, along with the learning settings.”
    Katie McAvoy
    Katie McAvoy Boston, MA
  • “I love the atmosphere and how tightly knit the community is. At Buxton you take what you learn in the classroom and use it in everyday life - you learn from the world around you and see how you can make it better.”
    Cheyanne Williams
    Cheyanne Williams Boston, MA
  • “At Buxton you bring your education into everything you do, and learn important, relevant things that you can utilize all the time.”
    Rebecca van der Meulen
    Rebecca van der Meulen New Lebanon, NY
  • “At Buxton, wherever I go, whatever I do, I’m learning. Formal classes are just an extension of the learning that happens everywhere else in my life.”
    Kullan Warner
    Kullan Warner Wilton, CT
  • “Being academic feels important. It really helps forge relationships between students and faculty, which is such an important thing here. It is so important that the faculty live in the dorms and everyone has a faculty advisor. You get to know your teachers outside of school life and having those relationships really strengthens the joy I have in learning.”
    Rose Shuker
    Rose Shuker Williamstown, MA
  • “To me, “live your education” means to aim for learning in everything you do - not just in the classes and schoolwork. Every experience in life has educational value, so the more experiences I have the more educated I can be.”
    Will Harris
    Will Harris East Chatham, NY
  • “There are no boundaries between our times for learning and our times for living; this is because of the fact that we have classes at all different times of day, and because all our activities are intermingled with our classes. We live at the place we go to school, so people learn everyday all day even outside of the classroom.”
    Iona Green
    Iona Green Chatham, NY
  • “A sense that everybody matters, that you are in a community where everyone can make a difference and reach their full potential, where you are interdependent and you work together, and most importantly where you understand that you can do whatever you want to do and whatever it is that you do, you have got to make a difference. I think that, more than anything, defines my experience at Buxton.”
    Peter Shumlin
    Peter Shumlin Governor of Vermont, Buxton Alumni

Live your education at Buxton

Start typing and press Enter to search