The Humanities program in grades 9–11 combines the study of literature, history, philosophy, culture and art history in a three-year, chronological sequence. These double-credit courses meet state requirements in both English and history. Classes meet each week in lectures, small-group discussions, and writing conferences with three to four students. The courses are reading and writing intensive. Readings for each topic are taken from primary sources, historical scholarship and from the great literature of or about the period under study. The Humanities program develops higher-order thinking skills by asking students to synthesize concepts and facts from history and to apply them to current situations. The main tool for this exercise is writing—expository and creative—which is required after every major book, topic or idea. Personal responses and oral presentations are also a part of these courses.

  • 9th Grade - The Ancient World Through the 16th Century

    Humanities 9 examines the basic elements of society and explores archetypes from a variety of world cultures. Students engage in a chronological study of cultural world history and culture that will continue through the 11th grade, with ties to current world events. Ninth graders study a sample of world civilizations from antiquity through the early 16th century through the lens of the Five Elements of Society: Political, Economic, Religious, Social and Artistic/Intellectual.

    Current Full-Length Texts

    • Lord of the Flies
    • The Epic of Gilgamesh
    • Antigone
    • The Tang Poets
    • Full play by William Shakespeare (choice varies by year)
    • Student choice of graphic novels, including: Zahra's Paradise, The Kite Runner, This Place: 150 Years Retold, The Color Earth, They Called us Enemy, Vietnamerica
    • Selections from The Canterbury Tales
    • The Secret History of the Mongols
    • Various selections from primary texts drawn from the historical time periods, including selections from sacred texts of major world religions

    Selection of Current Projects

    • Reader's Theatre
    • Missing Tablets and Alternative Endings
    • Creative Writing: Narrative, Poetry, and Memoir
    • Build Your Own Graphic Novel
    • Legacies of the Arab Empires Research Project
    • Silk Routes Research and Historical Fiction Writing
    • Historical Debates
    • Legacies of the Age of Contact Research and Position Paper
    • Current Events Project: Linking the Past to the Present
    • Literary Essays
  • 10th Grade - Resistance and Revolution from the 16th Century to the 19th Century

    Humanities 10 continues the study of cultural history with a focus on the 16th-19th Centuries. Major topics include: African Diaspora, The Enlightenment, the Construction of Race, Revolutions, the US Constitution, Westward Expansion and Indigenous histories, Slavery & the US Civil War, 19th Century Arts, US Immigration, Social Reform, and Imperialism.

    Current Full-Length Texts

    • The Scarlet Letter
    • Homegoing
    • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
    • A Doll's House
    • A Small Place
    • Student choice of novels, including: The Underground Railroad, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, The Jungle, Tracks, The Tao of Raven, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
    • Various selections from historical primary and secondary sources, short stories, poetry

    Selection of Current Projects

    • Literary Essays
    • Create a Podcast: Immigration
    • Uprisings in Latin America: Research Paper and Presentation
    • Legislative Labyrinth
    • World Expos(e)ition: Research Legacies of U.S. Imperialism and Presentation
  • 11th Grade - 20th Century and Contemporary World

    Humanities 11 focuses on the ideas and events of the 20th Century through the lens of race, class, and gender. Major topics include: the Progressive Era, World War I, World War II, Totalitarianism and the Holocaust, the rise of Nationalism and Internationalism, Cold War Cultures, Post-Colonial Case Studies, Civil Rights and other Liberation Movements.

    Current Full-Length Texts

    • Quicksand
    • Company K
    • Citizen 13660
    • Survival in Auschwitz
    • The Fire Next Time
    • Final novel TBD
    • Various selections from historical primary sources, short stories, poetry

    Selection of Current Projects

    • Creative Writing: Imagined Historical Conversations
    • Propaganda Visual Analysis
    • Japanese Incarceration: Curation of a Museum Exhibit
    • The Holocaust: Designing a Monument for King County
    • Theatrical Adaptations
    • Literary Essays
    • Research Paper
    • Structured Academic Controversies
  • 12th Grade - Writing Seminar and Social Studies Track

    In their senior year, Northwest students choose their course of study in both the HUM 12: Social Studies and HUM 12: Writing and Literature tracks. Students pick one course from each track and spend the year delving into a deeper study of that topic. Topics are carefully chosen each year to represent student interest and offer courses that align with the mission of the school in preparing students for college and the world.

    A major component of the senior HUM 12: Social Studies track is a focus on civic engagement. We are committed to nurturing the development of each and every Northwest School student as they find their voice in the world. Students engage with the Constitution throughout their time here, most notably in 10th grade and culminating in their senior year. Each HUM 12: Social Studies class studies the Constitution. This study is connected to the major themes of the specific course, which allows for deeper connections with the real-world issues students have chosen to learn more about.

    As part of the Civic Engagement Project seniors volunteer their time to an electoral campaign, social justice project, nonprofit, or other approved political project of their choosing. Through these projects, students are encouraged to find ways to authentically engage in the political process by channeling their interests. The subsequent study of the Constitution and development of a written, analytical response allows them to reflect on the work they have done as they begin to figure out how to move beyond the school community and into the start of their adult lives.

    Below are the current Humanities electives:

    Hum 12: Social Studies

    • East Asia and the Modern World
    • Law and Society
    • Nature, Race, and Science
    • Revolutionary Imagination/Struggles for Change
    • Social Justice
    • The Art of Change

    Hum 12: Literature and Writing

    • Comparative Lit: Identity, Joy, Justice, and Action
    • Comparative Lit: Imaginations of Freedom and the Afterlives of Slavery
    • Comparative Lit: Introduction to Philosophy
    • Comparative Lit: Hope in Misery - Protest in the Near Future
    • Comparative Lit: Truth and the Power of Narrative
    • Writing Seminar: Criminals & Lawmen - Policing Fictions in the Modern World
    • Writing Seminar: Writing Workshop Intensive