Throughout our curriculum we have been asking teachers to think differently about how they engage students and teach their classes. In 2014-2015, we launched a series of interdisciplinary classes as models that emphasize 21st century teaching and learning, also known as Skills for Knowledge and Success (S.K.S.). While we want all of our teachers to develop curriculum that is relevant and engaging, these interdisciplinary classes have been built from one or more of the follow starting points:
- An emphasis on student engagement and student centered learning
- Building ‘habits of mind’ over and above content is a critical goal: character; persistence; curiosity; listening with empathy; thinking about thinking; communicating clearly; gathering data through all senses; responding with wonderment and awe; taking responsible risks; remain continually open to learning; learning the place of failure as necessary to learning: These become the key takeaways rather than a set of testable facts.
- Emphasis on collaborative learning and teaching/teacher as facilitator/ coach vs. “sage on the stage”
- Content generated as much as possible by a collaborative process and student questions
- Content built around authentic ideas (e.g. High Noon:20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them by J.F. Rischard ). Where possible: make something and/or solve problems
- Some classes might have heavier level of pre-determined “content” then others need to fit the other criteria
- Emphasize thinking outside the box, innovative thinking, Learn to idea-ate; and generate new possibilities
- Experiment with various curriculum models: backward design (Essential Question driven); design theory; Socratic method, project based learning; portfolios, other non-lecture approaches
- Emphasis on technology used as a tool
- Assessments (at least some) developed collaboratively
Each of these classes is co-taught by two teachers and meets a requirement in two (or more) disciplines. Each class meets for two periods, and, as much as the schedule allows, two consecutive periods.
8th grade theme
Hudson Valley as a Learning Laboratory
The curriculum for the 8th grade, especially English, History, and Science focuses on three themes:
- Knowing the Self
- Investigating the Past
- Understanding the Community
The Hudson Valley is used as a learning laboratory to explore these ideas (a.k.a. Place-Based Learning). Literature could begin with stories like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and move into more contemporary stories that focus around/or are set in our area. Teachers collaborate to develop a joint curriculum. Relevant field trips are incorporated into the curriculum.
9th grade theme
Art, Culture, and Global History
Freshman studies cover world history and the art and culture that shaped that history. The art a culture creates becomes the physical record of a civilization. It mirrors the culture and frames the history. The culture a civilization creates is, in turn, the catalyst for the civilization’s achievements which is then reflected in the art work. The study of the art a civilization creates and the history of that civilization are so intertwined, that studying them both gives the student the fullest scope and deepest understanding of any historical era. Freshmen study how human cultures grow using common themes, rather than how individual cultures grow in semi-isolation. These studies are designed to teach world history and art starting with early paleolithic cultures through to the beginnings of the modern world and the 20th century. The course looks at history not through strict chronological study, but through thematic study (adaptation, conflict, self-identification, defining the physical world). Art not only reflects these themes, but pushes culture forward toward new definitions of the themes.
There is a writing and research component in both aspects of the course that includes analyzing historical eras and the art and architecture connections to the cultures. There is also a hands-on component that will involve creating art work based on historical models, exploring the techniques, and adding personal expression to truly understand the motivations of the cultures involved.
10th grade theme
This course meets American History and American Literature requirements. It takes place in the Learning Support Program and in regular sophomore classes. The course examines the history and literature of American culture side by side, as well as relevant art, technology, and disciplines. Many of the readings in the typical literature and history classes that follow form a basis for this joint exploration of America.
11th/12th grade elective options
Language, Logic, and the Golden Mean (offered in alternate years as interest and scheduling allows)
The course meets Math and Social Science credits and begins with a study of the language of mathematics and the application of English grammar to conditional, converse, inverse, and contra-positive statements as well as bi-conditional statements. It includes an in depth study of English grammar through sentence diagramming and applying these diagrams to mathematical concepts. The trimester continues with the study of reasoning and proof through inductive and deductive analysis leading to the examination of valid and invalid arguments based on mathematical interpretation. This course applies concepts of mathematics and English using historical documents as the source for the study. The Golden Mean Portion of the course presents the golden mean through the study of the ratio as employed in the arts and through natural occurrence in science. Students examine great artworks to find incidents of the golden mean in both visual arts and music as well as in the advertising industry. The course then shifts to the study of natural phenomena wherein the golden mean can be identified. The culminating experience for the course is the selection, research, and presentation of the Golden Mean as seen in any aspect of life. Students have the opportunity to work independently in this research project that encompasses the final trimester of the school year. The course employs elements of mathematics, English, history, music, art and science. This is a senior course offering.
Wilderness: What do we think and why? 469
This course satisfies an English or a History requirement. It provides a broad historical perspective of what wilderness is and how the idea developed. It exposes the student to the differing values, ethics, and expectations of wilderness. It offers an account of the origins of the wilderness idea, tracing the beginnings of the conservation movement from the Greek philosophers to today. Topics include the history of the wilderness movement and ways contemporary views of nature have shaped peoples association with the wilderness. The course focuses mostly on reading, “reacting”, critical thinking, writing and debate. As part of this class students are expected to participate in laboratory experiences that include spending time in the wilderness. A minimum of one overnight wilderness experience is included in each semester.