History & Social Science

The study of history and social science is vital in promoting a civic-minded, democratic society. The National Council for Social Studies proposes that social studies courses support college, career and civic life readiness by focusing on planning inquiry, evaluating sources, using evidence in decision-making, communicating conclusions, and taking informed actions.

Courses in History and Social Science are designed to:

  • Develop the knowledge and skills of history, geography, civics, and economics that enable students to place the people, ideas, and events that have shaped our state, nation, and world in perspective.
  • Support students in developing an understanding of diverse cultures, and of a shared humanity.
  • Prepare students for informed, responsible, and participatory citizenship.
  • Enhance students’ ability to seek and recognize patterns and complex relationships such as change and continuity, conflict and cooperation, choice and consequence, and systems.
  • Develop students’ skills in inquiry, debate, discussion, writing, and critical reading.

Social Studies offerings in high school provide students with several means to explore new disciplines and expand on their work K-8 through both required courses and electives. Social science courses introduce complex content and support the development of critical thinking skills that are essential for student success in and beyond school as students grow as lifelong learners.

History & Social Science Course Descriptions

African American History

African American History is designed to provide students with a broad overview of the African American experience and explore ancient Africa moving through modern times. The course, supported by a local division curriculum and five online modules, address the introduction of Africans to the Americas and the African American experience between 1619 and the present. In addition, the course will highlight the social, cultural and political contributions of African Americans to American society.

AP Comparative Government

Following the College Board’s suggested curriculum designed to parallel college-level Comparative Government and Politics courses, these courses offer students an understanding of the world’s diverse political structures and practices. The courses encompass the study of both specific countries and general concepts used to interpret the key political relationships found in virtually all national policies. Course content generally includes sovereignty, authority, and power; political institutions; the relationships among citizens, society, and the state; political and economic change; and public policy.

AP European History

Following the College Board’s suggested curriculum designed to parallel college-level European History courses, AP European History courses examine European civilization in four chronological periods, from 1450 to the present, and also expose students to the factual narrative. In addition, these courses help students develop an understanding of some of the principal themes in modern European history and the abilities to analyze historical evidence and to express that understanding and analysis in writing.

AP Human Geography

Following the College Board’s suggested curriculum designed to parallel college-level Human Geography courses, AP Human Geography introduces students to the systematic study of patterns and processes that have shaped the ways in which humans understand, use, and alter the earth’s surface. Students use spatial concepts and landscape analysis to examine human social organization and its environmental consequences and also learn about the methods and tools geographers use in their science and practice.

AP Psychology

Following the College Board’s suggested curriculum designed to parallel a college-level introductory psychology course, AP Psychology courses introduce students to the systematic and scientific study of the behavior and mental processes of human beings and other animals, expose students to each major subfield within psychology, and enable students to examine the methods and ethics that psychologists use in their science and practice.

AP US Government & Politics

Following the College Board’s suggested curriculum designed to parallel college-level U.S. Government and Politics courses, these courses provide students with an analytical perspective on government and politics in the United States, involving both the study of general concepts used to interpret U.S. politics and the analysis of specific case studies and foundational documents. The courses generally cover foundations of American democracy, interaction among branches of government, political beliefs and behaviors, political participation, and civil rights and liberties.

AP US History

Following the College Board’s suggested curriculum designed to parallel college-level U.S. History courses, AP U.S. History courses provide students with the analytical skills and factual knowledge necessary to address critically problems and materials in U.S. history. Students learn to assess historical materials and to weigh the evidence and interpretations presented in historical scholarship. The course examines the discovery and settlement of the New World through the recent past.

AP World History

​Following the College Board’s suggested curriculum designed to parallel college-level World History courses, AP World History: Modern courses examine world history from 1200 CE to the present with the aim of helping students make connections of historical evolution across times and places. These courses highlight the interaction between humans and the environment; development and interaction of cultures; state-building, expansion and conflict; creation, expansion and interaction of economic systems; development and transformation of social structures; and technology and innovation.


Economics courses provide students with an overview of economics with primary emphasis on the principles of microeconomics and the U.S. economic system. These courses may also cover topics such as principles of macroeconomics, international economics, and comparative economics. Economic principles may be presented in formal theoretical contexts, applied contexts, or both.

Ethnic Studies

U.S. Ethnic Studies courses examine the history, politics, economics, society and/or culture of one or more of the racial/ethnic groups in the United States. These courses may focus primarily on the history of an individual racial/ethnic group or take a more comprehensive approach to studying the contemporary issues affecting racial/ethnic groups overall.

Global Leadership in Action

Global Leadership in Action courses examine the concepts and issues imperative for leadership in the global economy, including managing complex and rapid change; cooperative problem solving; and understanding the interconnectedness of the global economic and political systems. Additionally, students will understand differing political and cultural traditions in order to navigate the political changes across the world and increased interaction among governments.

History Lab

History Lab represents a hands-on “maker” approach to historical inquiry. Students will explore various topics in United States and World History through experiential processes and content creation, such as GIS, interactive exhibits, the creation of historical artifacts, interpretive displays (digital and “brick and mortar”), and other modes of content presentation.

History Through Film

This course will use film/movies as a medium to investigate the history of the United States and the World. Students are asked to explore the boundaries between history and film. Movies and film are given the same analysis and interpretation as any other sources and used as a medium to learn about history. Specific focus is on “valid” historical films, offering glimpses into the social, political, and cultural moments when they were created. Students will examine ways in which films shape and influence understanding.

Humanities 1, 2, 3

Humanities courses examine and evoke student responses to human creative efforts and the world in particular historical periods and in particular cultures. Course content includes exploration, analysis, synthesis, and various responses to cultural traditions, including viewing, listening, speaking, reading, writing, performing, and creating. The courses may also examine relationships among painting, sculpture, architecture, and music.

Humanities 3 is a weighted course.

IB Environmental Systems & Societies

Through studying environmental systems and societies, students will be provided with a coherent perspective of the interrelationships between environmental systems and societies, one that enables them to adopt an informed personal response to the wide range of pressing environmental issues that they will inevitably come to face.

IB History 11, 12

​IB History 11 and 12 are world history courses based on a comparative, multi-perspective approach to history and focused around key historical concepts such as change, causation and significance. The courses involve the study of a variety of types of history, including political, economic, social and cultural, encouraging students to think historically and to develop historical skills. In this way, the courses involve a challenging and demanding critical exploration of the past.

IB History requires students to study and compare examples from different regions of the world, helping to foster international mindedness. Teachers have a great deal of freedom to choose relevant examples to explore with their students, helping to ensure that the course meets their students’ needs and interests regardless of their location or context.

Courses must be taken in sequence.

IB Philosophy

Philosophy is a systematic critical inquiry into profound, fascinating and challenging questions, such as: What is it to be human? Do we have free will? What do we mean when we say something is right or wrong? These abstract questions arise out of our everyday experiences, and philosophical tools such as critical and systematic thinking, careful analysis, and construction of arguments provide the means of addressing such questions. The practice of philosophy deepens and clarifies our understanding of these questions, as well as our ability to formulate possible responses.

IB Theory of Knowledge I

As a thoughtful and purposeful inquiry into different ways of knowing and different kinds of knowledge, this course is composed almost entirely of questions. The most central of these is: How do we know? Other questions include: What counts as evidence for X? How do we judge which is the best model of Y? What does theory Z mean in the real world? Through discussions of these and other questions, students gain greater awareness of their personal and ideological assumptions and develop an appreciation of the diversity and richness of cultural perspectives.

Issues of the Modern World

This is an elective course recommended for students who are interested in the study of current events and recent American and world history. Topics, will be discussed, explored, researched, and analyzed using readings (newspaper articles, academic journals), internet research, films (feature and documentary), broadcast news reports, and class discussions. Topics may include: modern terrorism; the modern global economy (globalization); the environment; America’s “culture wars;” gun control; the modern Middle East; problems and issues in American foreign policy; and more.

Leadership 1, 2, 3, 4

Leadership/SCA at is a one-year elective course designed to prepare students for and offer students leadership opportunities in high school, the community, college and in the work environment. The course offers students with experiential opportunities to foster a variety of essential skills such as communication, organization, goal setting, collaboration, event planning, time management, public speaking, and critical thinking. The purpose of associated student body leadership is to plan and implement activities that not only serve but also enrich the student body, the staff, and the community.

Leadership 3 and 4 are weighted courses.


Philosophy courses introduce students to the discipline of philosophy as a way to analyze the principles underlying conduct, thought, knowledge, and the nature of the universe. Course content typically includes examination of the major philosophers and their writings.

Practical Law

​This course provides the high school student with the practical legal background one needs to function as an adult. It enables the young adult to foresee and avoid legal problems and to obtain professional help when necessary. Topics covered include contracts, property, marriage, wills, civil and criminal procedure, and consumer protection.


​Psychology courses introduce students to the study of individual human behavior. Course content typically includes (but is not limited to) an overview of the field of psychology, topics in human growth and development, personality and behavior, and abnormal psychology.

Psychology Applications & Research

This course provides students the opportunity to continue their study of topics introduced in AP Psychology with added emphasis on independent research and the study of current advances in the field. Students will form research groups that select one general topic (e.g., learning, developmental psychology, social psychology) each quarter to study in greater depth. They will then narrow their focus to a specific application and will conduct research using one of the methods psychologists typically employ (e.g., observation, survey, field or lab experiments.) The groups will collect data, analyze the results, and report their findings following the American Psychological Association guidelines.

Prerequisite: AP Psychology

PVCC ECON 201 Macroeconomics

Macroeconomics introduces macroeconomics including the study of Keynesian, classical, monetarist principles and theories, the study of national economic growth, inflation, recession, unemployment, financial markets, money and banking, the role of government spending and taxation, along with international trade and investments.

PVCC ECON 202 Microeconomics

Microeconomics introduces the basic concepts of microeconomics. Explores the free market concepts with coverage of economic models and graphs, scarcity and choices, supply and demand, elasticities, marginal benefits and costs, profits, and production and distribution.

PVCC GEO 210 Cultural Geography

Cultural Geography focuses on the relationship between culture and geography. The course presents a survey of modern demographics, landscape modification, material and non-material culture, language, race and ethnicity, religion, politics, and economic activities. The course introduces the student to types and uses of maps. It also is the study of the landscape on which human activity occurs. In addition to basic geography concepts, map reading, and the current state of the world, this course will introduce students to the historical and contemporary patterns and processes that are shaping our world. A major focus of this course is the examination of the cultural landscapes resulting from human modification of the environment. This will include the study of the geographic distribution of non-material culture, including language, religion, ethnicity, and political behavior. Another focus is human modes of survival, including agriculture, urban environments, and economic activities.

PVCC HIS 121/122 US History

These courses survey United States history from its beginnings to the present.

PVCC PHI 220 Ethics

Provides a systematic study of representative ethical systems.

PVCC PLS 135/136 US, State & Local Government

These courses teach structure, operation, and the process of national, state, and local governments. Courses include in-depth study of the three branches of government and public policy.​

PVCC PSY 200/230 Principles of Psychology/Developmental Psychology

​PSY 200 surveys the basic concepts of psychology. It covers the scientific study of behavior, including behavioral research methods, analysis, and theoretical interpretations. Included are topics that cover physiological mechanisms, sensation/perception, motivation, learning, personality, psychopathology, therapy, and social psychology.

PSY 230 allows students the opportunity to study the development of the individual from conception to birth.It follows a life-span perspective on the development of the person's physical, cognitive and psychosocial growth.

If taken as a year-long course, PSY 200 is offered in the fall and PSY 230 is offered in the spring. The year-long course fulfills general education requirements for students interested in earning their Associate of Applied Science Degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography or Nursing at PVCC.


Sociology courses introduce students to the study of human behavior in society. These courses provide an overview of sociology, generally including (but not limited to) topics such as social institutions and norms, socialization and social change, and the relationships among individuals and groups in society.

VA/US Government

Course provides a comprehensive overview of the structure and functions of the U.S. government and political institutions and examine constitutional principles, the concepts of rights and responsibilities, the role of political parties and interest groups, and the importance of civic participation in the democratic process. Students may examine the structure and function of state and local governments and may cover certain economic and legal topics.

Women's Studies

​​Students will study history, literature, film and sociology related to Women's Studies. Students will understand the historical and modern roles and contributions of women. Students will analyze the changing issues related to women and discuss the perspectives of women. Students also will focus on women's leadership and consider solutions that will promote women leaders of a variety of perspectives.

World Geography

World Geography courses provide students with an overview of world geography, but may vary widely in the topics they cover. Topics typically include the physical environment; the political landscape; the relationship between people and the land; economic production and development; and the movement of people, goods, and ideas.

World History 1500 to the Present

Modern World History courses provide an overview of the history of human society in the past few centuries—from the Renaissance period, or later, to the contemporary period—exploring political, economic, social, religious, military, scientific, and cultural developments.

World History to 1500

Overview courses provide students with an overview of the history of human society from early civilization to the contemporary period, examining political, economic, social, religious, military, scientific, and cultural developments. World History—Overview courses may include geographical studies, but often these components are not as explicitly taught as geography.