Interdisciplinary Benchmark Projects
Interdisciplinary Benchmark Projects are fun, challenging tasks that ask students to connect what they learn in English, Math, Social Studies, and Science to a real-world problem. Students are asked to solve problems individually and in groups. Students might persuade pharaohs to implement irrigation systems, implore medieval lords to eradicate the plague, write business plans for Silk Road investors, investigate an Aztec murder mystery, present their research findings to an Ancient Greek symposium, or engineer a railroad bridge. These projects culminate in imaginative performances and presentations that include parents and community members.
ECMS-I offers our students a unique program that sets it apart from other schools. The school is dedicated to three overarching premises which are enacted daily in every curricular area – first, that interdisciplinary learning best prepares students for higher levels of academic challenge; second, that the environment provides a ready lens for the application of academic concepts; and third, that attending to adolescent development and collaborative skills will enable students to succeed in any high school atmosphere.
Our approach to interdisciplinary learning and project-based instruction asks students to draw connections that they might not see when subjects are atomized within strongly demarcated disciplinary boundaries. For example, when learning about the Medieval period, not only do students learn the history of manorialism and feudalism, they also read a novel about a boy who was orphaned during the Black Plague, learn about data collection and population demographics, and even explore epidemiology. In Handwork (art), meanwhile, they create illuminated letters (a medieval art form) and visit the Getty Museum to see actual medieval illuminated letters. The study of history, literature, math, science, and art becomes a fully integrated, intellectually rich experience for students, who are challenged to make these connections independently. Overarching essential questions push students to draw connections and think more deeply and creatively about content, a practice consonant with the demands of the Common Core.
The second driving premise of ECMS is that engaging students through environmental studies and practices helps connect their learning to the outside world and develop a consciousness to act positively and thoughtfully on their environments. Environmental studies provide an intrinsically interesting lens through which students can connect their skills to immediate, local problems. Students can learn about problems of “food deserts” in urban areas in science, and learn about how to address those problems by planting and harvesting food at their own campus.
Finally, our developmental approach involves both a comprehensive counseling program outside of the classroom and the daily use of the Tribes curriculum to teach students the skills of building a strong classroom and school community. Teachers and our counselor challenge students to understand themselves in relation to others, work together, and learn to be positive community members, students, and friends.
The Empowered Girls Program is taught once a week to every 7th and 8th grade girl in the school. The curriculum is a series of self-esteem building modules that provide the tools and resources that teen girls need to gain confidence, build strength of character, make responsible decisions and triumph over obstacles. Volunteer mentors are a key element to exposing girls to role models and career options. Outside support is facilitated through the Los Angeles non-profit organization EmpowHer Institute.
An opportunity for male students to connect with mentors to explore issues of gender, identity and ethnicity.
Free After School Program
Our after school education and safety program, IZONE, is open to all students and administered through our partner, Woodcraft Rangers.