At Environmental Charter Middle School – Inglewood (ECMS-I), 360 students in grades 6 to 8 regularly engage in interdisciplinary learning and use the environment to engage, connect, and discover what it means to become stewards of their communities.
Interdisciplinary learning asks students to draw connections between areas that they might not see when subjects are taught within strongly demarcated disciplinary boundaries. Bringing together concepts, methods or forms of communications from multiple disciplines, the study of history or science or literature or math becomes a fully integrated, intellectually rich, experience for students. These projects also encourage students to challenge their worldview as well as those of their teachers and peers. The culminating integration of each quarters’ learning is an interdisciplinary assessment called an “interdisciplinary benchmark.” 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.
This Spring, 6th grade students learned about how the Silk Road facilitated and promoted cultural diffusion over many different geographical regions. Students participated in a trading bazaar simulation along the Silk Road. Students also learned about various products that had major influence on the Silk Road, including silk, horses, gold, glass, felt, spice, olive oil, and perfume. They investigated the product’s origin and usefulness to humans and learned to make several elements including infused olive oil, perfume and tie-dyed silk.
In 7th grade, students used historical knowledge of the three main empires of West Africa (Ghana, Mali, Songhai), to create their own fictional “empire” in West Africa and address a biodiversity problem within their empire. Students learned about the history and culture through artistic expression such as drumming. In their presentations, students performed and watched the fall of the fictional empires through dance and live instruments with narration, a puppet show and storytelling through a skit.
In 8th grade, using history as a backdrop, students created a digital photography exhibit to highlight the importance of photography in depicting different historical perspectives, such as the Holocaust and Japanese Internment. As part of their learning, students visited the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust where they heard from a Holocaust survivor, Jerry Weiser, who shared his mother’s story as well as his own. Students then presented their Museum of Humanization featuring a self-created photograph, historical artifacts and mathematical analysis of a graph. As museum docents, each group presented their exhibits in a Gallery Walk and explained the dehumanization and humanization of a specific marginalized group in history. Parents, community members and staff were invited to attend to learn about the different perspectives that existed during different moments in history.
A special thank you to All Points North Foundation, in which funding support enables ECMS-I to not only transform its interdisciplinary practice, based on innovative Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) conceptual frameworks, but to deepen its understandings of science standards. It also helps to increase student science proficiency and inspire students to pursue STEM learning through creativity and real-world learning. “We envision a nation where every middle school student is excited to learn, and teachers are engaged to guide these children to success,” says Laura Staich, Executive Director, All Points North Foundation. “Through our funding we seek to advance best practices in and out of the classroom that inspires teacher innovation and provides our children with opportunities for a better future.”
For more information and photos, see the full Spring IBMs album