As we go through our Year of Planning to become an Academy of Engineering, we are working on plans to try out an integrated unit. An integrated unit is where students are learning about a common topic across all their classes. The topic needs to be rich enough that it can tie together parts of the curriculum from math, science, literature, language arts, social studies, and engineering.
This idea is not new, and it has gone by other names (“interdisciplinary learning” among them). On a smaller scale, most of the engineering projects that I teach in the Project Lead the Way curriculum bring together a large subset of these subjects. For example, our Introduction to Manufacturing Project in CIM brought together writing and presenting skills (English), research into topics in the history of manufacturing (social studies), calculating costs and striving for efficiency (math), as well as constructing and programming an elevator that can be called to any of three floors (engineering). But that was all in one course, instead of bringing in all those different classes. Our collaborative art-geometry fractals project is another example of small-scale building of units in different courses that spiral together around a common theme.
Next year, as part of the Academy of Engineering model, we may have interdisciplinary teams of teachers who teach the same groups (“cohorts”) of students. That will make integrated unit planning much easier, since the teachers on the team can get together during a common planning period, discuss the concepts, skills, and standards that are coming up in each course, and tailor the integrated unit to address those concepts/skills/standards for that particular group of students. Timewise, that will allow integrated units to be done more frequently (monthly?). And students will get to see connections between disparate subjects when the same topic/project is driving instruction in all four of their classes! This year, though, since we don’t have teachers who teach the same groups of students, we want to give it a try by having all teachers in our academy integrate a common theme into their lessons, sometime between now and the end of the semester. And we hope to try again in spring, improving our implementation of integrated instruction in the interim.
One possibility for our late-autumn integrated unit is the Bombs Away unit, developed by ConnectEd and posted on the NAF website (login required to see NAF curriculum). It takes a lesson on catapults and projectile motion, from the Principles of Engineering course, and ties it together with other academic subjects. For example: discussing parabolas in algebra, while learning about bombings in World War II in history, and debating the morality of bombings in English class. However, not all subjects have a lesson plan in the integrated unit (it was developed for California 10th grade courses, I believe).
So I hoped to do some brainstorming here with the help of my Personal Learning Network. Listed below are the courses being taught in our academy this semester (I hope I haven’t left any out). My goal is to get one or more lesson ideas for each subject that will connect to projectile motion or bombing. Can you suggest one or two?
- 10th grade English
- American Government
- 11th grade English
- World History
- Algebra II
- 12th grade English
- Principles of Engineering
- Computer Integrated Manufacturing
- Digital Electronics
- Design Technology / CAD
- Leadership Education / JROTC
- African-American Literature
- Creative Writing