Thursday, December 17, 2015

Interdisciplinary Project Time

Being an MYP School, Hugh Boyd is required to do some "interdisciplinary" work.  That is, there is a requirement from the IB organization that at least some of our students' curricular work is in fact cross curricular.  So, we decided that this last week before winter break was going to be our Interdisciplinary Week and the topic chosen (by the students themselves) was Environments.  Though much of the focus was on the natural environment, some students also worked on social environments.

Thanks to a phenomenal amount of organization by our MYP coordinators, a framework for the week was developed.  Students in grades 8, 9 and 10 were organized into 'pods' with each grade working on units that combined Science and/or Math and/or Individuals and Society (social studies) and/or English Language Arts.  Both students and teachers were working with unfamiliar groups and overseeing unfamiliar topics.  Kids at each of the three grade levels would eventually come up with a final product reflecting the work they'd done.

Here are some take aways from our first ever interdisciplinary week;

Students really appreciate a break from the regular routine of school
We sometimes forget that school, like many facets of our lives, revolves around fairly predictable patterns and routines.  Though there's nothing wrong with this (after all the human brain is programmed to discern and/or create patterns) it's refreshing and healthy to break out of routine sometimes.

As often occurs, fears about kids who wouldn't "buy in" were completely unfounded
As my admin. partners and I wandered from room to room we found a much higher level of engagement with the task(s) at hand than we do when we visit kids doing "day to day" work.  Though some staff members had professed concern about kids not participating, I think this was another example of some teachers apprehension about stepping outside the safety of known procedures.  We encourage kids to try new things, to take risks, but too often educators are unwilling to cede control of their time and space.

Project based approaches using 'big ideas' work
This should not come as a surprise to anyone at this point, research has told us these approaches work, but I think each time we try them we're still a little worried that students will have the wherewithal and "self discipline" to get the work done properly.  I think this is probably a holdover from the more regimented approaches to education that many of us went through in our high school days.  But that's just a guess.

The majority of students have access to devices when necessary
Given the research based nature of the students' projects I was worried when this week started that there would be a run on the laptops in our cart and the school's inventory of iPads.  Though I've seen countless students using devices to research, write and compile information I haven't had one request to borrow a machine.  We need to start accepting and using this ubiquity of technology on a more regular and frequent basis.

Tomorrow marks the end of our first Interdisciplinary Week here at Boyd, and by all accounts it's been a huge success.  It's been a gratifying experience and a great affirmation of our adoption of the MYP program.  As a bonus, it's a fantastic way to wind down the most hectic stretch of any school year.  Merry Christmas!

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