Too often we teach in isolation–we all have our standards, goals, curricula, and tasks we need to accomplish. Time is short. We don’t get out of our rooms. There can be years before I see a colleague.
One time I introduced myself to a person at a conference. It turned we worked together. There’s just no backing down from that embarrassment. I am usually the type of person who goes around to say hi, but things are a bit crazy in education the last few years, and I must not be doing the best job. It’s a waving red flag that we need to get out and collaborate more.
When we collaborate, we see that many of us are teaching things that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. One year, I was teaching Cold War history only to find out two weeks later, science had been studying and creating rockets.
The Space Race, nuclear weapons, and NASA were topics I had discussed. Had we been aware of the other’s objectives, we could have multitasked, providing two-pronged lessons reinforcing each other’s material. The math could have made perfect sense when discussing projectiles, speed, velocity, and distance, and the history would have shown, “Yes, this is a big deal.”
English and social studies could almost be one course. My next-door neighbor is doing lit from World War II, but I’ve walked in on Confucius, Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech, and the other day I covered class for a bit to the tune of the Emancipation Proclamation, which I’ve taught in my class. At many schools collaboration isn’t a possibility due to scheduling, time, and other key logistics. Teachers don’t share the same students for overlapping subject material.
This week’s Learnist feature is dedicated to boards that could be used in more than one class. Maybe you have a school where you are lucky enough to team and collaborate. If you do not have that opportunity, these boards could be used in more than one subject area, but my vision is that teachers from several disciplines will begin creating boards that take one subject area and show it from all the disciplines, making class scheduling objectives moot. Students can comment, add, and engage, regardless of whose class they are in, refreshing the material to keep it relevant to their experience and to all aspects of life.
This is my board, which I’m using in a couple of classes. We’re discussing food insecurity and water rights in Current Events, but I’ve also used it in Civics to discuss social entrepreneurship, and the power one person can have to make a difference. AJ and Melissa Leon do this constantly. This is just one example. The Leons challenged 30 people to raise $500 each to build a windmill that would bring water to the village of Gambella, Kenya. This village had been plagued with resource-instigated conflict, so the windmill was about more than just water. Students see this board and know they can make a difference in their areas of passion. I see this board, and agree. I also see areas for social action, study of sustainability, English, and math in terms of economic impact–every subject area is represented in a project like this.
This Discovery Channel board could be used in a science class, but also in a class thinking about philosophy or an English class combined with a science class. Students can reflect about the answers to things science can or can’t discover. I will use this board in my Science Fiction film class. The deep questions lend themselves to cross-curricular collaboration.
Could you see yourself using a board like this in an art class combined with English literacy or writing? I can. Kids would love this exercise. Take a bad comic, research the background and history of this style of art, and produce. That adds a lesson for the makerspace element as well as pop culture history. It could be a great lesson.
Nature shows the inner workings of the human soul. Whether it’s Jack London or Herman Melville, the conflict between man trying to impose his will on the wild can be intense. This board could straddle a literature-science collaboration with no problem whatsoever.
Studying the plague brings in every academic discipline. From the charts and graphs, to predictive and comparative analytics–looking at death tolls for this pandemic and exploring others in more modern history, the math-history connection is clear. The science behind the plague also brings up other relevant comparisons to the threat of pandemic around our highly connected world.
Issue-based boards are naturals for cross-curricular collaboration. This board could be used in a science class as students discuss conservation of natural resources, and can also be expanded to include social studies because so many conflicts over resources are springing up through the world. There are many resource boards on Learnist that interest students, showing the numbers and impact of unequal distribution of resources worldwide.
This board is an art-business-pop culture mashup that was designed to teach gender studies, and the role of the subliminal and not so subliminal advertising on the attitudes of society. Students used it as a springboard to create their own boards, arguing, writing, and producing work of their own. This board was used in a social studies class, but integrates art, society, and Common Core Standards in literacy and I used it for oral presentation. The math connection is there, too. Students can recognize and discuss the financial impact that marketing of this style has on society throughout history and today.
This piece was popular before Billboard began to chart the hits. Music teaches so much and is not always consciously integrated into lessons, yet it is powerful. Through music history, students can begin to visualize and understand a culture. Students can also use a piece like this to understand math–cadence, rhythm, and pitch represent mathematical concepts, and believe it or not, the study of music theory is highly connected to the development of mathematical aptitude.
Sir David Attenborough is one of the most respected filmmakers of all time. His brother, Sir Richard, went on to produce “Gandhi.” Sir David’s work with the BBC is, without dispute, the best of the nature genre. His influence gives birth to the nature shows most of us watch today. This board ties together science and filmmaking, which includes literacy and speaking skills. It’s also a good board to use in film history, as we see how styles have changed from the time of Sir David to today, yet the influence is clearly seen.
This board shows features from Discovery-BBC’s “Planet Earth” Africa series. The Natural Earth series contains every area of the world. Natural history unites with culture, science, and conservation in this board. There is so much for students to discuss, and write about. I can visualize an endless amount of projects involving all age levels that would originate from this series or its cousins, BBC’s “Earth,” and Discovery’s “North America,” which are also featured on Learnist as well.