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History Electives Draw Students

The History Department is known for offering electives that are responsive to student concerns and interests such as Black Thought & Action in a White World or the Case Study in Social History: Hip Hop. The effectiveness of this approach is reflected in the fact that 80 percent of Grade 12 students take a history class even though only three years are required. This semester the Chair of the History Department Stefan Stawnychy introduced History of the Adirondacks. The Adirondack region is the largest publicly-protected area in the contiguous U.S., encompassing about six million acres and the park itself is 9,375 mi².

Through this course Stefan hopes to give his students a broader understanding of New York. The course is built around case studies related to Indigenous people, the abolitionist movement, conservation and representation in outdoor recreation. The capstone experience will include a five-day trip to the park in May when students will canoe, hike and camp on two remote islands. They will also meet with representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation and other experts. Stefan comments, “The conditions will be primitive. I hope students lean into the discomfort and experience the joy of being in nature.”

Stefan began visiting the region as a teenager, continuing as a camp counselor and camp director. Last summer, he used a Third Century Grant to map out the trip and connect with guides in the park. He comments, “Part of what I love about Friends is having the academic freedom to explore and share my passions. It’s exciting to open a window to part of New York that is new to many students. Outdoor education has been a component of the Friends experience for many years.” Stefan anticipates developing the course into an interdisciplinary one that includes Ecology.

This coming fall history teacher Susannah Walker will introduce Case Study in Social History: Fashion, Dress and Style, another new elective that is sure to capture the interest of students.


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