ECMS Inglewood Interdisciplinary Benchmarks Challenge Students to Collaborate and Strategize!
At Environmental Charter Middle Schools, the culminating integration of each quarter’s learning is an interdisciplinary assessment called an interdisciplinary benchmark or IBM. This assessment challenges students to combine the material they have learned across subjects in a way that stretches their thinking and empowers their academic growth. Explore the IBM experience for our students at ECMS-Inglewood this fall:
Sixth Grade: The annual floods of the Nile River Valley made the Egyptian civilization possible. However, Egyptians needed to learn how to manage the flooding. In this Interdisciplinary Benchmark, sixth graders assumed the roles of Water Ministers for their province, and were charged with maintaining sustainable agricultural practices along the Nile. They created irrigation systems, including canals that used gravity and natural resources to distribute the river’s water to reservoirs and farmland, and a shaduf to collect water from the canals to distribute to farmland.
[Photo]: ECMS students work in groups to create their model irrigation systems.
Groups presented their irrigation models in the courtyard of the Pharaoh’s palace (the classrooms). Individually, students wrote a “cause and effect” text about the flood cycle and how irrigation affects the sustainable living of the Ancient Egyptians. Students created a vertical line graph to explain the meaning of each point in relation to the prompt (levels of water during different seasons in the flood cycle). Finally, to connect this study to the present, students discussed what strategies they think California should enact to minimize human effects on our water supply.
[Photo]: Students prepare to present to Pharaoh on IBM culmination day.
Seventh Grade: The year is 1382, a year after a major peasant revolt over taxes, the king has demanded a new tax be levied to pay for the upcoming military campaign. The lord of the manor has become worried that if he were to make the peasants pay the tax, they too might rebel. Students wrote an argumentative letter as the steward (tax collector) of a large manor advising the lord of the manor what to do in responding to the king’s demand. Students were given information about their manor and local environment to provide clues as to changes to the population. In addition, students received data on the physical and biological condition of the ecosystem to be used as evidence to support their claim. Students worked in groups to research different classes within the feudal Europe. They then created group websites describing their class and arguing their importance in the feudal system.
Eighth Grade: Using the American Revolutionary period as a historical backdrop, students explored the principles of independence and interdependence. Students wrote letters from the perspective of a slave who gained personal independence by constructing a ‘freedom ship’ in an attempt to persuade a fellow slave to seek her own independence. Students incorporated their knowledge of math, science and historical content to support an argument in writing. To prepare for the benchmark assessment, students designed and tested their freedom ships in a race to demonstrate their comprehension of optimal design principles. After learning about optimal design principals and hearing from a tall-ships boat engineer, student teams created their own model boats, recorded data, and analyzed the data to inform the optimal design of their full size ship. Students calculated the speed of their ships using the distance rate and time formula and compared rate equations from their empirical observations during the races. On a cloudy October day, students went to Mother’s Beach in Long Beach and test-drove their boats in spirited boat races.
[Photo]: ECMS Inglewood students show off their student-designed boats, after racing them at Mothers’ Beach in Long Beach. In this IBM, students studied optimal design, heard from a boat engineer, and created model boats before taking the large scale boats to Long Beach.