On Interdisciplinary Learning: Resources We Like

When you year the phrase “interdisciplinary learning,” what comes to mind?

Do you feel a bit overwhelmed? Does it seem eerily unbounded, like a lot of supplies are required?

We are so excited about it — and we’d like to elaborate! By rejecting the idea of “strictly described single-subjects,” (AKA math, science, history, etc) an interdisciplinary approach will instead stir disciplines together. When implemented, it can be highly engaging for students.

Can you give me an example?

In our World History Through Architecture class, students were learning about China in ancient times; one of the major inventions was the ability of the Chinese to harvest silk and produce fine fabrics that people traveled all over the world to see. As we explored this time period, we watched a video on silk production.

After watching this video, we then explored then how it fit with history in the Qin dynasty.

In this example, an interdisciplinary approach allows for an exploration of related subjects, which touch on points important to the history in this time period.

Instead of assuming students know everything about what is involved in silk production (which generally no modern person understands), we stop and explore the story of silk production, and then we move forward to focus on how it impacts the history of a given time period.

What are some resources that capture the spirit of interdisciplinary learning?

The California Field Atlas by Obi Kaufman

“A revelation. Kaufmann educates and delights the reader simultaneously.” —Mike Sonksen, Entropy

This is a rare field guide, truly capturing the largess and variety of life forms in California. The author has created a moving portrait of the Golden State with relevant chapters on water, fire, parks, and wildlife; natural areas are broken down by counties. When readers sit down with this atlas, they will enjoy the watercolor paintings throughout, research weaving together various data about California, and the artistic poetry and beautiful and endearing manner with which the author inventories the land now known as California.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from Medieval Village by Amy Schlitz

“Schlitz is a talented storyteller. Her language is forceful, and learning slips in on the sly.” —The New York Times

This book is a great way to explore the Middle Ages! Featuring 22 monologues of youths of a variety of backgrounds during Medieval times, some of which know each other, it’s a real-time look at the period with all the hardships, mystique, and well-researched details.

History of the World in 1,000 Objects by Smithsonian

“[A] completely fresh perspective on the history of the world.” — Releaselog

Here is another book, which inspires us to write a new curriculum! History is often taught with names, dates, and political boundaries which ebb and flow over time. This book makes history concrete, which would be especially helpful to a visual learner. Many new and unusual questions can arise if the major lens is physical objects:

  • What materials did this group have/need to make this object?
  • Who did they make the object for, and why?
  • How did they make it?
  • What does the object say about what a particular culture finds beautiful?
  • How has the object influenced in our world, or current culture?

The Wonders of Nature by Ben Hoare

“‘The Wonders of Nature’ has a certain quality to it. It is beautiful to look at and feel, the content is informative yet easy to read, and the illustrations are stunning.” – The Stewart Family

Here is another resource which cross-cuts disciplines. This book explores minerals, plants, animals, and teeny tiny life forms. It’s nicely illustrated, and the font is larger, enabling an independent read for grades 3 and above. This book would complement our Earth Party science curriculum.

Do you see a pattern here? Interdisciplinary learning involves a collapse of walls surrounding academic subjects, where an integrated approach can be sussed out and explored. The walls that hold the subjects apart — science, math, economics, literature, history — once breached, allow for a 360-degree study of our amazing world.

We offer a number of classes and curricula that further this interdisciplinary approach! They are:

As Ms. Christine always says…”Life is interdisciplinary!”

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