Humanities Course Descriptions


English 9 (1 credit) UC

In the context of Midland’s place-based curriculum, English 9 investigates the relationship between humankind and the natural world with special emphasis on personal growth during adolescence. Students read literature of various genres – novels, epic poetry, Shakespearean drama, and non-fiction – while learning critical reading skills and analytical terminology. Writing assignments include essays, poems, letters, instructions, speeches, journal reflections, and a research paper. Grammar instruction and vocabulary development parallel expectations for essential reading and writing skills.

Midland 101: Ecosystems and Natural History (0.5 credits in Humanities) UC

Midland 101 teaches authentic place-based physical science and cultural history on Midland’s 2,860 acres; the property is the text book for Midland 101.  In the second semester students explore local history, from prehistoric Chumash occupation on Midland’s property to historical and current land use practices in agriculture and ranching. 

World Studies: History (1 credit) UC

World History is organized both chronologically and thematically, encouraging critical thinking. The first semester covers ancient and medieval global worldviews and the development of complex human societies from pre-history to the 1500s. During the second semester, students explore the modern era through the themes of Cultural Collisions and Colonization, 20th Century War and Peace Studies, and Revolutions. Each unit is based on a set of essential questions that require students to apply their historical knowledge to contemporary and ethical issues, creating connections to students’ lives. The entire curriculum is closely coordinated with the literature course, with some assessments counting toward both. 

World Studies: Literature (1 credit) UC

Works of literature are chosen to complement the themes explored in the World Studies: History course. Students read early sacred texts, Greek drama, mythology, memoirs, poetry, plays, narratives, and novels by both Western and non-Western authors set in a wide variety of historical time periods and places (including Africa, Asia, and Latin America). Students continue to develop critical reading and writing skills, while widening their knowledge of vocabulary and complex grammar. Assignments include two joint research projects with World History, analytical essays, creative literary responses, speeches, letters, and narratives with special emphasis on developing an argument based on a thesis.

American Studies: History (1 credit) UC

Through this course, students gain a working knowledge of American History and develop the ability to analyze past and current events. To achieve this end, the major units are organized both chronologically and thematically. Within each unit, students examine the foundational era then trace the major themes forward to the present, exploring history in terms of ideas, issues, and time periods. For example, the course begins with the American Native and Colonization unit, which focuses on the cultures of first civilizations and the changes and conflict resulting from European colonization. To conclude the thematic section, students explore the lives of modern Native Americans. The other units include The American Idea, The Fight for Equality, The American Dream, and America on the World Stage. Advancing their historical thinking skills, students debate issues, analyze secondary and primary source documents, write persuasive and creative papers, and complete research projects. 

American Studies: History Honors UC

History students earn honors credit by completing additional reading, document analysis, and timed essay-writing beyond that assigned to American Studies in order to prepare for the AP Examination in U.S. History. Much of this work is independent, and the course involves additional meetings outside the normal class time. The Honors section is truly designed for the self-motivated, passionate history student.American Studies: Literature (1 credit) UCIn this course, students read works of literature that explore the American experience and relate to the historical periods covered in American Studies: History. Over the course of each term, students read genres including short stories, plays, novels, poetry, and essays while advancing their vocabulary in preparation for the SAT and lifelong, college-level reading. Students develop critical and analytical writing skills and vocabulary through journal assignments, discussion, and formative written assessments. As they consider multiple perspectives of America through literary analysis, students write personal essays designed to potentially aid them in college admissions and formal essays designed for a larger audience through publication, performance, or correspondence. 

English 12 (1 credit) UC

Students explore English literature by reading Old English, Renaissance, and Romantic poetry, as well as novels and drama from the Middle Ages up through the present.  Students will come to an understanding of how literature reflects psychology, morality, and social change, as they explore genres and themes within their historical contexts. Through the use of journals and outside research, students explore universal themes and write to demonstrate connections between the past and present. Students develop their voices as they write personal essays exploring similar themes in their own lives and continue to develop as college-level writers through the study of vocabulary, grammar, and writing format.

English 12 Honors UC

Similar in scope to English 12, Honors students move at a faster pace on an expanded range of topics, including the political and economic contexts reflected in the literature. In particular, Honors students will read more technically challenging works, for example, Waiting for Godot, Heart of Darkness, Dubliners, and Seamus Heaney's Station Island. They will write more deeply analytical essays and responses and will be trained in technical aspects of the literature similar to those measured by the AP tests in language and literature.


Writing and a Sense of Place (0.5 credits) UC

This portfolio-based class expects students to write and rewrite at least every other day. By semester’s end, they will have at least 20 pieces of writing, and each piece will in some way reflect the student’s sense of place – often that place will be Midland. Each student, in consultation with the instructor, will select certain pieces from their portfolios to share with the class and refine until the writing is polished enough to be published in The Midland Mirror, a school publication sent to an audience of 2,000. Examples of the kinds of articles students write include a profile, an editorial, a sports article, historical reflections, a travel piece, personal essays, news items, and reflections on the campus and their experience as Midland students. To complement each major assignment, students will read selected chapters from Models for Writers and On Writing Well and deconstruct various pieces written by professional journalists.

Current Global Issues (0.5 credits)    

This course is designed as a project-based senior seminar where students lead discussions on current social, humanitarian, economic, and political issues they find engaging and relevant. Potential topics to explore include geopolitical concerns such as conflicts in the Middle East, terrorism, and American intervention in foreign countries; globalization of culture and the economy; and humanitarian issues such as poverty, women’s rights, racism, and the impact of environmental degradation. During the course, students complete sophisticated readings, evaluate media sources, conduct research, lead discussions, and create their own clear position papers on current issues. Additionally, participants will take a leadership role in educating the rest of the student body about current affairs. 

Graphic Novels (0.5 credits)

Through academic study and active participation, each student will explore all the steps and create finished artwork for an original graphic novel. Steps include the study of story structure, character development, research, creating a plot outline, creating storyboards, drawing, and inking several pages of artwork and text. Students will become familiar with the vocabulary of visual storytelling by studying graphic novels, reading academic articles about elements of comics and graphic novels, and incorporating this vocabulary into their own work. Students will also gain an understanding of self-publishing and book design as they collaborate to create a class anthology.

Water: California’s Liquid Gold (0.5 credits) UC, Midland Honors

The topic of water use in California has always been, and always will be, controversial.  Historically, agriculture has used 80% of available water supplies, but within the last few decades the West’s population boom and rising concerns for environmental preservation have challenged the traditional approach for allocating and dividing up water resources.  This course will focus on local and regional water issues as they apply to demands from the environmental, agricultural, domestic, and industrial sectors.  Understanding the state’s intricate plumbing system – the Central Valley Project, the State Water Project, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the Colorado River Aqueduct, and thousands of miles of canals and ditches – is crucial to comprehending the big picture of water use in California.

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