VTSD Social Studies Department strives to provide learners with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives needed to become active, informed citizens and contributing members of local, state, national, and global communities in the digital age.

Through courses, clubs, and activities, the VTSD Social Studies Department promotes the education of a population that:

  • Is civic minded, globally aware, values diversity, promotes cultural understanding and socially responsible.
  • Makes informed decisions about local, state, national, and global events, through considering multiple perspectives, based on inquiry and analysis.
  • Recognizes the implications and appreciates the dynamics between people, places, and resources living in interconnected global society
  • Utilizes emerging technologies and 21st century skills: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication to exemplify fundamental values of American citizenship and demonstrate active participation in local and global communities.

VTSD Social Studies in the News

"Vikings in Service" mural honors 360 veteran alumni

VERNON - What began as a quest by two Vernon Township High School teachers for new and interesting ways to motivate their students has culminated in a student-designed project honoring the school’s alumni who have served in the nation’s Armed Forces in the 43 years since the school first opened its doors.

VERNON - What began as a quest by two Vernon Township High School teachers for new and interesting ways to motivate their students has culminated in a student-designed project honoring the school’s alumni who have served in the nation’s Armed Forces in the 44 years since the school opened its doors.

At a ceremonial breakfast held at the school Wednesday morning for veterans and active-duty service members and their families, the five VTHS sophomores behind the project - Austin Carter, Luis Colon, Michael Halatin, Hayden Imbarrato, and T’nasia Washington - unveiled a “Vikings in Service” Wall of Honor featuring the inscribed names of more than 360 of the school’s veteran alumni whose names the students spent two months digging up and researching by combing through old yearbooks and putting out calls on social media.

Interspersed with the heartfelt shows of appreciation by these veterans and the student-expressed gratitude for their service were a lot of jovial reminiscing and retelling of tall tales, much of it embellished by the memories that time has a way of making seem more colorful as the years go by.

But amid it all was a profound sense of connection forged between the generations of these past and future graduates who, as members of the Vernon Township High School family, share a common bond.

Mitchell Ellicott, a 1988 VTHS graduate and veteran of both the Army and Navy who is an active Army reservist, said afterward that he was especially touched.

“It makes me feel really great to see this, because you know why?” Ellicott said. “There was a point in time where nobody cared, and now even when I wear veterans stuff like a hat or whatever, kids will come up and say ‘thank you for your service,’ which is very touching because they’re our future - and with them, I feel like our future’s in good hands.”

It wasn’t always so.

Justin Delia, a 2000 VTHS graduate and veteran of the Army National Guard, said he himself never thought to thank a veteran when he was in high school.

“To have a kid today come up to you and shake your hand, ask you questions about what you did, where you were, and what your job was and say ‘thank you,’ which is something even I never used to do, is very humbling,” he said.

The idea for this project began over the summer when social studies teacher Tricia Coesfeld and English teacher Marc Bray - both of whom collaborate in a program called Viking Success Academy, for nontraditional learners - were brainstorming ideas for the upcoming school year.

At the time, Coesfeld was planning a unit on the American Revolution. Bray, meanwhile, was planning to start the year with the reading of a novel, “The Things We Carry,” by Shane Griffin, about a veteran and his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“For us, the challenge was, ‘How can we make this real?’ And Mark said, ‘Why don’t we do a thematic approach and do a mural?’ And from there, it took on a life of its own,” Coesfeld said.

“When the kids started in September, we presented the idea - but they came up with the design, the idea of encasing the veterans’ names inside military-style dog tags, and from there we just started collecting names,” she said.

To organize it all, the students started keeping records in Google Sheets going back to the Class of 1976, the school’s first-ever graduating class, of which Cindy Lawrick, a Marine veteran, became the school’s first-ever graduate to enter military service.

Along the way, said Coesfeld, they encountered the names of about a half-dozen veteran alumni who died while serving, though not all died in direct combat. Among those whose lives were cut tragically short was Marine Corporal Alexander Ford Buccieri - the son of current Board of Education member Natalie Buccieri - who tragically died in 2013 at the age of 22.

Ellicott said he hopes more young people will be encouraged to approach and strike up a conversation with a veteran whenever they see one.

“A lot of times people will see you wearing a veterans hat and they’ll look away or feel awkward about it,” he said. “I tell these kids not to feel that way, to go up and shake their hand. I’m a veteran and when I see another veteran, I’ll do the same thing and say ‘thank you for your service’ and they thank me. It’s good for us and it’s very motivating.”

Principal Pauline Anderson said the project has yielded a few other unexpected benefits.

“Students who might not otherwise have had the greatest attendance,” she joked, “never missed a day of school because this was something that their names were going to be on.”

“It was that important to them,” she said.

For those who were unable to attend Wednesday’s breakfast, the school will be holding another open house the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 27 - the night before Thanksgiving - from 6 to 9 p.m.

“We thought it would be a great time for people visiting family for the holiday to come have a look,” Coesfeld said. “And we’ll have cookies and refreshments, too.”

Coesfeld said the mural remains a work in progress and will be expanded as more veteran alumni, or their families, come forward. She said she encourages anyone who has such information to contact her by email at tcoesfeld@vtsd.com.

Article: https://www.njherald.com/news/20191108/vikings-in-service-mural-honors-over-360-veteran-alumni

Students visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. This trip was organized by Mrs. Trish Coesfeld.

Mayor Shortway discussing his roles as mayor of Vernon Township in Mr. Falkowski's Civics and Society ACP class. (September, 2019)

Juniors and seniors are inducted into the Rho Kappa Social Studies Honors Society on May 29th

Students conduct a presentation as part of the Tolerance Fair in May, 2019

Pictured above, Vernon Township High School students visited the 9/11 Memorial on November 1.

VERNON — Vernon Township High School’s students in Literature of the Holocaust and Issues of Conscience classes shared what they have learned in the eighth annual Tolerance Fair.

Student groups presented on the present, past, local and global humanitarian crises they have been following and researching all year, topics such as the crisis in Syria, the conflict with North Korea, the water shortage in Africa, prisoner treatment at Guantanamo Bay, modern hate groups, and the plague of school shootings. They also presented historical perspective on the Khmer Rouge, Unit 731, the genocide in Darfur, the tyranny of Joseph Stalin, and the Trail of Tears.

Forty students from Mr. Thom LoGiudice and Mr.John Loggie’s classes presented over five class periods to well over two hundred students. The goals of the day were to bring school-wide awareness to global issues, most focused on the devastating effects of intolerance.