Why 21st Century Learning Should Cross Disciplines
By Erin Dowd
It’s a truly exciting time to be a teacher, especially now that educators are increasingly focused on implementing cross-curricular, project-based learning (PBL) in their classrooms.
Cross-curricular learning taps into the four C’s: creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking – the skills widely considered essential for the 21st Century learner. Moreover, the newly revised standards (CCSS, NGSS and ISTE) all require students to develop these higher level skills.
Here are some benefits to implementing projects that transcend disciplines in your classroom:
Opportunities for Collaboration: Students need opportunities to talk to each other and grapple with challenges. They need to make mistakes and find solutions. This allows for deep learning to take place.
Authentic Lessons: The more you can connect to real life the better. When students are engaged in solving meaningful problems and learning about the topics they are interested in, learning happens naturally.
Teacher as Learner: Learn with your students and model curiosity. It’s ok not to be an expert in everything when you show students how to follow up on what you are wondering about.
Conceptual Lens: Choosing a concept to drive your instruction can make the difference between just teaching a topic and supporting 21st century learning. It can be a transdisciplinary concept like change, responsibility or connection, or it can be subject-based such as interdependence, family or conflict.
Resources Expand Horizons: You can’t be an expert in everything, but there are probably people in your school who can help. Tap into the wealth of knowledge of your specialist teachers. You can even go beyond your school to contact community experts.
Cross-Curricular options with Level Up Village
LUV provides many opportunities for cross curricular (global) learning that are already built into our curricula. Here are a few examples:
- Global Storybook Engineers pairs language arts with engineering.
- Global Web Designers combines research on climate change with web design skills.
- In Global Explorers, students explore ecosystems and showcase their learning by creating a green screen video.
- In Global Language Lab, students studying Arabic or Spanish exchange video messages with global partners who are native speakers and discuss topics such as their country, culture and specific geographies.
Take a look at cross-curricular LUV courses in action:
The Pingry School: Literacy + Engineering
“Just what does a typical class look like? In ‘Global Storybook Engineers,’ for example, the students read four folktales from around the world and engineer novel solutions to conquer the problem at hand. A few weeks ago, they read and discussed Strega Nona, a tale of an Italian witch doctor. In the next class, they were presented with the problem: the villagers in her small town in Italy faced being trampled by an avalanche of spaghetti—unless, that is, the kids could construct a tower tall and strong enough to withstand its glutinous force. Using only the materials delivered to them by Level Up Village in a giant Amazon box, the students gathered their uncooked spaghetti, mini marshmallows, tape, and string, and set to work.” (Read more about this project in this article by The Pingry School.)
All Saints Academy: Web Design + Environmental Studies
“At the beginning of the course, students and their global partners selected an alternative energy source –such as solar power, hydropower and wind power – to research independently. To get us started, LUV provided a list of websites with useful information the kids could readily understand. Students were able to work together in pairs on their websites with their global partners in Pakistan by accessing the same Weebly accounts. This component of the Web Design course was the piece that truly developed a global partnership between the students… Their earliest activities focused on finding relevant, applicable images and videos. As they continued the collaborative process, they each contributed to unique components of the site, following each other’s suggestions seamlessly. The students could each see at a quick glance the changes made by their global partners, but it was not at all obvious to anyone else. When asked for feedback about the course, Mason replied, ‘I liked the video letter part of the class because you open up to new people and it enhances your confidence to make friends with people in Pakistan you wouldn’t have met otherwise.'” (Read more about Global Web Designers at All Saints Academy in this article by teacher Heather Womersley)
Or take cross-curricular learning to the next level by combining one of our STEAM courses with foreign language:
The Chapin School: Global Scientists + Spanish
At The Chapin School in New York City, Science Teacher Jack Cooley teamed up with Spanish Teacher Ana Agón last spring to combine Global Scientists course with Spanish language. For this project, fourth grade students were paired with partners from both NicaPhoto in Nicaragua and Honduras Child Alliance for a global collaboration that took place in both their science and Spanish classes. They studied the chemical properties of water, the water cycle and the engineering needed to keep water clean. Students exchanged videos in Spanish with their global partners to explain what they had learned and shared their design ideas to address global clean water shortages. This experience helped lay the groundwork for the girls becoming global citizens and led to another exciting project this fall when Chapin piloted LUV’s new Global Water Crisis course, which applies CAD & 3D printing to global water access issues. (Read all about that experience here.)
Park City Day School: Global Web Designers + Spanish
Park City Day School in Utah embarked on an exciting Level Up Village collaboration that brought together a team of teachers across disciplines this fall. Science Teacher Charlotte Friedman worked hand in hand with Communications Teacher Jessie Levesque and Spanish Teacher Jessica Huser, with each one pulling in their specific areas of expertise. Students at Park City Day School co-designed websites that explore renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind and hydro and working together with partner students at NicaPhoto in Nicaragua. The students also applied their language skills directly to the task at hand by exchanging video messages in Spanish.
A cross curricular approach gives teachers an excellent way to not only add novelty to instruction, but also create an authentic learning environment with real-world applications. Why not get started now? For more information, click here.