In History courses, students study the ancient and modern eras from world, regional and national perspectives, explaining the past and assessing its relevance to the present. In Economics courses, students study human decision-making in the marketplace and within business firms. In Cultural Studies courses, student learn about the varied experiences of cultures and groups with distinct points of view. Other courses study contemporary local issues and world affairs.
In all courses, students have frequent opportunities to think, write and speak. Students learn to incorporate analysis of art, literature and film into their historical and cultural studies. All History courses emphasize not only mastery of content but also critical thinking, creativity, and development of skills. Some courses have service-learning components.
The Lower School Social Studies curriculum begins with the subject of children and families. From this starting point, students explore their neighborhood, community, state, and the world. Exposure to history, government, cultures, economics, and global connections is at the root of their learning experiences. Students learn individually and in collaboration with peers. The shared opportunities encourage them to respect and value others. Service learning projects broaden awareness of social issues and the needs of the larger community. Social Studies classes prepare students to be engaged learners, critical thinkers, effective communicators, and productive, responsible, and compassionate 21st-century citizens.
Students who enter the Upper School in grade 7 must complete a full-year course in Geography. Social Studies 8 is comprised of the study of Hawai'i's History as well as an introductory exploration of civics, economics, and contemporary issues. Between grades 9 and 12, students must earn three History credits for graduation. In grade 9 students take a full year of History of the Modern World. In grade 10, they take either United States History or Advanced Placement United States History. In grades 11 and 12, students must take another year's worth of electives. These elective courses include African-American Studies, Asian American Experience, Contemporary Issues in America, Economics and Entrepreneurship, History of American Song, History of American Women, History of Hawai‘i, Hawaiian Studies, Micro/Macroeconomics, and War in the Twentieth Century. The History Department also offers four Advanced Placement courses: Micro and Macroeconomics, United States History, European History, and Government and Politics.
The ‘Iolani School Economics Chair, which is supported through donations, brings a distinguished visiting teacher each year to work with students and deliver a public lecture. ‘Iolani’s Economics Team has achieved distinction in state, regional and national competitions. Students interested in business and economics participate in the ‘Iolani Modern Entrepreneurs Club and the No Free Lunch Club. Students interested in the legal process participate in the ‘Iolani Mock Trial Team. ‘Iolani has a Psychology Club for students interested in social science. The Global Issues Club and the Students’ Peace Institute are just two of the clubs for students interested in current events and politics. Many language and culture clubs enhance students’ awareness of their own culture and their appreciation of other cultures.