6.2 The interdisciplinary problem-based curriculum focuses on deeper learning with real world application.
Students in all grade levels, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, have opportunities to learn in an inquiry-based setting and to explore content in all subjects through real-world problem solving and design challenges.
Teachers at each grade level collaborate to map curriculum for the year using Rubicon Atlas, then develop quarterly plans that align each subject around interdisciplinary connections and cross-curricular themes.
Science Curriculum Map Unit Overview for 3rd Grade – from beaufort.rubiconatlas.org
Examples of Interdisciplinary Units at various grade levels follow:
Second grade begins the year with an integrated curricular unit that ties the study of weather in science to standards in all areas, and also gives students an introductory experience with the engineering design process and expectations at this grade level. Shown here is the Unit Plan, which helps teachers align curricular areas and develop a scope and sequence for the unit, lesson plans from the unit, and an example of student work during the creating and testing phase.
Another example of a curricular unit that integrates all subject areas in fifth grade is their fourth quarter Aviation Unit. Fifth grade classes focus on World War II and technological advancements in transportation at the time, along with Forces and Motion during this unit. While learning about the forces involved in flight and the battle strategies of the Allied and Axis forces, students are asked to design an airplane that will travel as far as possible and land on target (in an effort to simulate the “island-hopping” strategy of the Allies in the Pacific during World War II). They are also asked to improve their vehicles by making them capable of carrying more cargo. This incorporates mathematical skills in measurement of weight and length. Historical fiction texts are also brought in to engage students in the content, such as Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot: A True Story of the Berlin Airlift and the Candy that Dropped from the Sky, by Margot Theis Raven. As an art integration, students research typical symbols and battle flags of the Allied forces who fought in the Pacific, and decorate their planes to become models of real WWII fighters. As a culminating event, fifth grade classes visit the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum to apply their learning to life-sized aircraft and to learn more about American involvement in World War II.
The Kindergarten classes have a curriculum focus which encompasses the voyage of the Pilgrims to America including a science unit on Floating and Sinking, 7 Habits “Begin with the End in Mind” and Lucy Calkins writing. Classes begin with a discussion on floating and sinking with each student participating in a hands-on exploration of the floating and sinking properties of various materials. Using that data, each student is challenged to build a vessel that will float, carry two bear counters, and be able to move from one end of the container to the other using an outside force to represent wind. After the exploration, each student then writes about the vessel they created using the Lucy Calkins method and incorporating the language from the 7 Habits.
Pre-K students design trees and paper in connection with their Trees unit.
Spanning Grade Levels
Our STEM Lab teacher has also collaborated with other engineering teachers across the district to develop curriculum maps that tie curricular strands from each unit to the Engineering Design Process. Below is an example of resources and challenges that were developed to tie multiple subjects together through a common activity. Collaboration provides for expansion of alignment, differentiation, and opportunities to meet the needs of various groups of students by having an accumulation of resources and ideas available.