I must Create a System,
Or be enslav ’d by another Man’s.
I will not Reason and Compare,
My business is to Create. (William Blake)
Bring up the topic of integration at secondary and increasingly faculty admit it can not only be done, but it awakens a spirit of possibility across a school community. The driving force? Mental fuels of serotonin drive teams to discover hidden and unused talents in themselves and in students.
Few “cannot-complaints” linger amidst themes, entry-points, and cross-curriculum initiatives rolled into tasks that enthuse students, parents and faculty. Teams design and showcase innovations to optimize the brain’s plasticity (ability to change) and thereby fuel a new zest to achieve together – across differences.
Obstacles to Overcome
We often encounter initial obstacles to community- building across differences in upper levels. “Nobody’s in charge,” one man feared. “Learning becomes haphazard,” another AP instructor worried. Nothing is farther from the truth when we craft original products and apply content.
Power Shifts Across Differences
Autonomy grew when volunteers across secondary English, Math, Social Studies and Science, shared leadership at every level. Our deliberate autonomy-shift stokes faculty talents, and passes on to their students, who then facilitate student-run celebrations of innovation to conclude each unit. See how facilitators let go, so that faculty, students and parents took over!
LIGHT – Our School-Wide Theme
We gathered volunteers from each discipline to identify a shared hook, and agreed that Plato’s Cave or LIGHT would integrate all four disciples.
Next, we passed a talking stick to ensure all faculty found openings to propose unique springboards and find support as we shaped our interdisciplinary approach. We offered student-ready brain based tasks to help busy faculty launch our common theme – LIGHT.
Mathematics faculty started on the premise that it’s harder for math. Other faculty disagreed – and before long faculty offered LIGHT-themed tasks. Lessons for rays, angles and lines surfaced. Mathematical laws were related to light and to a proposal for a magnification invention. One teacher showed how photography offered tasks to teach both math and light in symbiotic tasks.
When science faculty led our idea-gathering, we sketched graphic organizers on the board for lessons on the human eye, solar power and mirrors. Several suggested assessment tasks to share between science and math and our team soon began to sizzle in new directions.
English faculty read passages from, “Light a Single Candle” to show how atmosphere and mood relate to light. Students would interact with former colleagues of mine in the high arctic where light goes missing for months at a time. That decision led to suggestions for metaphors commonly used to describe light – and a rhetorical device baseball game was added to the mix.
Social Studies faculty led by firing ideas out faster than we could record them. The Renaissance and enlightenment became foundation to their segment of our unit. We agreed that Social Studies lessons would relate more to teens if they included individual revelations. That led to a shared celebration of innovation plan, and rubrics were created to grade innovations together with intelligence-fair criteria negotiated with students.
What would awaken that spirit of possibility and build life-changing innovations across your school community?
This post illustrates one integrated unit among many Ellen facilitates currently in several countries. Units include grades 7 through graduate school at university. Team leadership and complete autonomy is shared in similar ways with all participants, so celebrations of innovation designs differ from team to team.