It's not just about the classes here at FSHA. In addition to a full slate of class offerings, including 24 Advanced Placement classes and electives that cover all disciplines, learning extends throughout and beyond the classroom.

Research Program
Our innovative program.
Our Teachers
Meet our inspiring faculty.

Social Studies Program Overview

The social studies department offers all students a progression of courses designed to develop knowledge and skills in the areas of geography, history, economics, politics, psychology and historiography. The courses progress along several axes: from national histories (USA) to regional (Latin America) histories to world history, from simple facts and narratives to more complex theories and analyses, and lastly from the use of direct primary sources to more complicated statistical and secondary sources.

The department offers a three-year required curriculum that includes World History, U.S. History, Economics (one semester) and U.S. Government (one semester). In addition, students can select from a large variety of electives. Some are designed to supplement the core curriculum through the exploration of new topics or the use of different media, while others provide students with a rigorous expansion of the core curriculum through college-level classes (all Advanced Placement courses).

Social Studies Courses

List of 17 frequently asked questions.

  • Abnormal Psychology (Online School for Girls)

    Prerequisite:  Completion of Ninth Grade.  This course is offered through the Online School for Girls.

    Abnormal Psychology will introduce students to various psychological disorders as well as theoretical concepts that underlie each one. Students will learn theoretical, clinical, and experimental perspectives on the study of psychopathology.  Within the course, students will learn terminology, classification, etiology, assessment, and treatment of each of the major disorders.  Upon completion of this course, the students will be able to distinguish between normal and abnormal patterns of behavior.

    This student-centered course will feature discussions, partner and group projects, and other activities that will help students to recognize the ways that abnormal psychology manifests in the real world. The Abnormal Psychology class is designed for eleventh and twelfth graders, and may be appropriate for mature tenth graders.
  • American Government

    Prerequisite: Successful completion of U.S. History.

    American Government, Institutions and Policies is a requirement for all Seniors. While it fully covers the formal structures and functions of our political system, it stresses political processes and behavior. Considerable emphasis is placed on the uniqueness of American politics, which is an evolutionary process growing out of political beliefs and institutional arrangements different from those found in other democratic countries. The course incorporates materials from history, economics, philosophy, jurisprudence, and comparisons with experiences of other nations, both democratic and non-democratic. An integral part of the course is an in-depth study of current government affairs as they occur on a weekly basis with their application to the material under study.
  • American Government for International Students

    Prerequisite: International student.

    This rigorous, college-preparatory class is geared to students who have had little or no prior instruction in the workings of American government. At the conclusion of the course, all students will have a thorough understanding of the nation's political procedures. Students are expected to analyze concepts and detail their understanding in written work at a level commensurate with any college-prep course. Class participation is vital and used as one of the tools for assessing comprehension of material. This one-semester class receives college credit and meets all college and university requirements for American government.
  • American Politics in Film

    Prerequisite: None

    In this one-semester course the students will watch a number of movies portraying real and fictional events in both American history and politics. Students will learn what is "real" as opposed to "reel" and be able to differentiate historical fact from fiction. In addition, they will see political conflict played out in the context of the times. Some of the films to be shown include JFK, The Best Man, Fort Apache, All the King's Men, The Last Hurrah, Birth of a Nation, Glory, Nixon, Seven Days in May, and Autobiography of Malcolm X.
  • AP Art History (Online School for Girls)

    Prerequisite: A or higher in at least one year history or instructor approval
    Students enrolled in the AP Art History course examine and critically analyze major forms of artistic expression from a variety of cultures spanning 32,000 years of art. Beginning with global prehistory and ending with global contemporary art, students consider influential forces like patronage, politics, class, belief, gender, and ethnicity in their analysis of art forms. Students become active participants in the global art world, engaging with its forms and content, as they experience, research, discuss, read, and write about art, artists, art making, and responses to and interpretations of art. By investigating a specific image set of 250 works of art characterized by diverse artistic traditions from prehistory to the present, the course fosters an in-depth, holistic understanding of the history of art from a global perspective. Students may select the AP or non-AP track in this course. AP students are expected to delve deeper into the topics, take AP-style assessments, and prepare for the AP exam in the spring. This class meets the UC “A” requirement for World History.  It is College Board approved.
  • AP European History

    Prerequisite: A- in English I or B+ in Advanced English I; department approval. 

    Advanced Placement European History is a college-level survey course that introduces students to the rich intellectual, cultural, political, and social heritage of Europe.  Students are expected to demonstrate knowledge of basic chronology and major events and trends from the High Renaissance of approximately 1450 to the present. Three themes— intellectual and cultural history, political and diplomatic history, and social and economic history— form the basis of the course within that chronology. Goals of the course include developing an ability to analyze primary sources such as documents, maps, statistics, and pictorial and graphic evidence, and an ability to express one's knowledge, understanding, and analysis effectively in writing.  Course curriculum, materials, and expectations are designed to prepare students for success with the AP European History Exam in May.  This course satisfies the sophomore social studies requirement.
  • AP United States Government and Politics

    Prerequisite: A- in English III or B in AP English III; A- in US History or B in AP US History; department approval.

    Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics is a college-level course designed to give students a critical perspective on politics and government in the United States. It is open only to seniors who meet specific departmental eligibility criteria. It involves the study of general concepts used to interpret American politics and an analysis of specific case studies. It emphasizes the branches of government, separation of powers, federalism, political beliefs and behaviors, political parties and interest groups, the media, civil rights and civil liberties. The College Board gives the Advanced Placement exam in May of each year.
  • AP Macroeconomics (Online School for Girls)

    Prerequisite: A- or higher in Algebra II or B or higher in Algebra II Honors; Algebra II instructor and advisor approval required.

    AP Macroeconomics will introduce students to major economic issues such as basic market analysis, the causes of the cycle of economic growth and recession, the problems of inflation and unemployment, the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits, and the causes and effects of international trade imbalances and currency fluctuations. Public policy issues are analyzed in a debate format between conservative and liberal approaches. This course will involve extensive reading, problem-solving exercises, online discussions, quizzes and tests, and research and writing about contemporary macroeconomic issues. Strong reading, algebra, and analytical skills are necessary for success, as is strong motivation. AP Macroeconomics will prepare students to become informed and thoughtful and will thoroughly prepare students to take the Advanced Placement exam in the spring. AP Macroeconomics is recommended for juniors and seniors.

    Approved by: College Board, NCAA, and UC Schools
    Meets UC G Elective Requirement
    Meets FSHA Economics Requirement
  • AP Microeconomics (Online School for Girls)

    Prerequisite: A- or higher in Algebra II or B or higher in Algebra II Honors; Algebra II instructor and advisor approval.

    AP Microeconomics is the study of economic principles that apply to the actions of individual decision makers, both consumers and producers, within an economic system.  Topics covered in this course will include: opportunity cost, supply and demand, free trade, economic efficiency, factor markets, monopolies and other anticompetitive markets, as well as government intervention in the economy. Students will explore critical questions, such as: What role do trade-offs, incentives, and marginal thinking play in individual and firm decision making?  How can economies most efficiently use their scarce resources?  How can governments balance efficiency and equality in an economic system?  As an online, college-level course, significant emphasis is placed on independent work and individual accountability. Students will complete collaborative projects, group discussions, problem sets, quizzes, and tests.  The curriculum is developed to prepare students for the AP Microeconomics examination in May.   Strong mathematical reasoning skills and an interest in finance or business (or even politics) will help students in this course.  AP Microeconomics is recommended for juniors and seniors.

    Approved by: College Board, NCAA, and UC Schools
    Meets UC G Elective Requirement
    Meets FSHA Economics Requirement
  • AP Psychology

    Prerequisite: A- English III or B+ in AP English III, and Department approval.

    Advanced Placement Psychology studies the history of psychology, the research used in psychology and the biological basis of behavior. In addition, the process of sensation and perception, learning and cognition are also studied. Students also learn about motivation and emotion, the various theories used in the practice of psychology, what constitutes normal and abnormal psychology and the treatment of psychological disorders. Many of the assignments are reflective essays culled from the material under discussion.
  • AP United States History

    Prerequisite: B+ in English II or B in Honors English II; A- in Modern World History or B in AP European History; department approval.

    Advanced Placement United States History is a course designed to study the history of the United States chronologically, with considerable emphasis on interpretation and analysis of the material by 19th and 20th-Century historians. It is open only to students who have demonstrated a recognized ability in the social studies, the ability to write coherent essays, the intellectual capacity required to undertake a college level course and who meet specific departmental eligibility criteria. In May of each year, the College Board gives the Advanced Placement Examination. The course requires outside reading of several paperbacks as well as the addition of considerable lecture not found in the text.
  • Economics

    Prerequisite: None

    Economics is a required course for graduation. It may be taken in either the Junior or Senior year.   Topics include Keynesian economic principles, wise use of credit, competition, monopolies, investments, inflation, monetary and fiscal policies, world trade, currency adjustments, and foreign and domestic labor policies.  In addition, companies such as Goldman Sachs, Nike, Walmart, and Costco are examined.
  • Gender Studies

    Prerequisite: None

    This one-semester elective course for juniors and seniors provides an introduction to the way gender shapes individuals, social institutions and culture. It will examine gender, class, sexuality, race/ethnicity and nationality as interactive systems. Topics include biological arguments about gender and sexuality; the cultural construction of gender; the psychology of sex roles; and the ways that gender shapes families, workplaces, and other social institutions.
  • Honors Psychology: Senior Seminar

    Prerequisite: A- English III or B in AP English; department approval.

    Students in this project-based and student-centered course design and complete an original research project with a focus on contemporary mental health issues. The first semester introduces students to foundations of psychological research, theoretical underpinnings, and key diagnostic and treatment approaches being used in the field today. Students formulate and begin to explore their hypothesis and research proposal using a combination of source material and field research. During the second semester, students focus on completing and implementing their project, which integrates a service learning component and culminates in a written summary and presentation to the community.
  • United States History

    Prerequisite: None

    United States History is a one-year course required of all juniors. This course examines primary and secondary sources of information that illustrate the impact of significant people and events from colonization to the present day. Teachers focus on concepts such as democratic institutions, expansionism, diplomacy, industrialization, multiculturalism, social patterns and cultural achievements to develop an understanding of contemporary issues that contributes to effective citizenship. The skills of critical thinking, including synthesis, organization and evaluation, as well as clear, expository writing, are emphasized.
  • United States History for International Students

    Prerequisite: International Student

    This rigorous, college-preparatory class is geared to students who have had little or no prior instruction in the history of the United States. At the conclusion of the course, all students will have a thorough knowledge of important dates, events and people in U.S. history.  Students are expected to analyze concepts and detail their understanding in written work at a level commensurate with any college-prep course. Class participation is vital and used as one of the tools for measuring comprehension of material. This one-semester class receives college credit and meets all college and university requirements for U.S. history.
  • World History II

    World History II exposes students to geographic factors and political, economic, religious, social, intellectual, and artistic forces that have shaped human history from the Renaissance to the present.  Major topics include the influence of classicism in Western culture, the rise of democracy, advances in technology, and the cause and course of two world wars.  Goals of the course include developing critical reading, historical thinking, research, writing, and presentation skills. This course satisfies the sophomore social studies requirement.
"FSHA always challenged me to be a better student. The classes pushed me to expand my thinking and work hard. I'm ready for college because of the education I received here." —Kayla Grahn '15

Social Studies Faculty

List of 6 members.

  • Eric Pals 

    Social Studies Department Chair, Social Studies Teacher
    Pepperdine University - M.A.
    University of California, Los Angeles - B.A.
  • Thomas Badzey 

    Social Studies / AP Psychology Teacher; Lead Advisor
  • Andrew Cramer 

    Social Studies Teacher
    Miami University - BA
    University of Illinois-Springfield - MA
    University of Miami - MA
  • Kathy Desmond 

    Academic Dean, Testing Coordinator, Social Studies Teacher
    George Washington University - M.A.
    Sonoma State University - B.A.
  • Caroline Harris 

    Social Studies / Gov't, AP Gov't and Gender Studies Teacher
  • Michael Thornton 

    Social Studies Teacher
    University of Portland - B.A.
    University of Wisconsin, Green Bay - M.A.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy is an all girls' Catholic, Dominican, independent, college-preparatory day and boarding high school in the hills of La Cañada Flintridge. Overlooking Pasadena, FSHA educates girls from Los Angeles, Southern California and around the world for a life of faith, integrity and truth. 

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy

440 St. Katherine Drive
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
High School Office: 626-685-8300
Admissions: 626-685-8521

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