One to watch!
Parents and teaching colleagues, if you have not had a chance to watch this TED talk by Nathalie Miebach, you need to take some time!
What are you looking for?
1 The first comes with a disclaimer. Cross-curricular and pathways can mean different things, depending on who you talk to about each of these. Watch the video, and then see if you agree with what I classify: "What it has the potential to be," and "a close second."
A close second...
My child does science, does english, and does math, and they do it in a way the three are connected. For example: we do an exercise where we see what will float, what will not, and what hovers in water. Then we read a story about things that float, and she answers questions about the story. Later, she does a math exercise about greater than and less than (bigger and smaller numbers).
vs What it has the potential to be...
My child does a science exercise in which we make observations, write down what we notice and quantify as we go. We make predictions along the way and write about our discoveries, coming up with new questions and support for possible answers. For example: We draw picture of our set-up, including various objects and a glass of water. We make predictions we record, and then start to make other observations of the materials before dropping any objects in water to make predictions. We represent the likelihood of sinking, for each object by stacking blocks, which we sketch on our paper and then write about our reasoning. We drop each in water and write about our new results and new questions we have, and what our observations may suggest about floating and sinking.
In brief - with "cross curricular," mix it up. Take time to write and document in many ways as you go. Children need to learn the interweaving roles of subjects. If a writing skill needs to be honed by the child, then let the experience flush it out and give it real purpose for the learner. Science provides a fun why we are doing this to an english exercise.
Nathalie is not separating art, mathematics, and science. She is combining them. And, the combination is impressive! As much as it may seem to document a phenomenon, to look at her work is to discover something new.
A close second...
Students register for "pathway classes" based on career interest and are grouped with peers who have been identified with similar career interests. They take classes together in which teachers add enriched material which are themed toward the selected career path. They take english, math, and science classes which each follow this theme during the year and work on various projects within each class. The last theme centered around an environmental issue which happened locally. Projects in the science class are related to the chemistry involved in the incident, and in english students do related research papers and readings. Even the math classes solve problems which are scaled down problems similar to the real world occurrence.
vs What it has the potential to be...
In the business and international studies school, a student enrolls in business communication ("english"), business statistics ("math"), sociology, applied chemistry and business graphics ("art") (did I leave anyone out?). The teachers meet periodically and design series of 2 week projects for students. The english teacher takes lead, as communication is job one, and the science and sociology teachers throw out an idea for an investigation based on a local environmental occurrence. During the task, documentation is intense, but the math teacher is meeting with students to develop the math skills they need to investigate further and run experiments mentored by the science teacher. And, the english teacher discusses how to best communicate with various stakeholders. Students research and write about the sociological impact, and use graphic arts to effectively communicate and sell their positions in an open peer reviewed forum. Through a series of ongoing documented experiments, they are able to better understand and communicate the occurrence and its financial and ethical impact on the local community and suggest next steps (including a budget).
In brief - stand-alones versus a teamed approach. Traditional approaches are hard to get past, especially when the instructors have their own expertise. Let the experience drive the curriculum, not the other way around. A guided experience should look more like a completed salad, than the ingredients in the fridge.
It is also important to remember the power (and responsibility) of communication. Documentation will slow down students on the front end, but give power, efficiency, and a realness for students on the tail end. Something they will be proud of upon completion. And never underestimate the power of art to take students to a new level. For students, creating a real and unique experience is very important. And the real and unique is a relative term from their perspective - their life experiences to date. Pathways should guide students to what they consider is an open investigation of the world.
An experience as unique as what Meibach is sharing is what we might expect from our students when guided to an open forum, from the tools of math, communication, arts, and science. I am always surprised at what new and novel idea students are able to come up when given the opportunity.
2 Something to consider. When looking at the work of scientist in the field, the best communications they share are artistic. Artistic ability is amazingly wonderful when used to convey the amazing design in the world around us. My first thoughts after watching the video, is could we line up a dozen of artistic pieces, capturing various hurricanes by Nathalie, and do trend analysis with visual inspection. What new revelations could we find in her visual representations we might miss on a flat screen.
At the ETHOS Innovation Center, we are working to ensure every student has these experiences on a regular basis, and gets to know the amazing wonder of our world. There is something magical about the ease at which a child can grasp the most complex in such simple and unmuddled ways! And, then these fun simple complexities have a chance to stay with them for life.