How can middle level educators support and defend integrated curriculum when faced with the demands of the standards-based reform movement? Before a response to this thought-provoking question can be proposed, a brief glimpse at the history of and long-standing interest in integrated curriculum might be helpful.
Interest in Integrated Curriculum
Integrated curriculum captured the attention of educators long before the advent of the middle school concept. As junior high schools moved away from a subject-centered curriculum, other curricular options emerged (Toefler, 1997). In the 1930s, for example, the progressive movement advocated a problem-centered, core curriculum centering on themes drawn from social issues (Beane, 1993). In the 1960s, curriculum models became more responsive to middle level students' developmental characteristics, and thus targeted unifying themes. The interdisciplinary concept model described by Jacobs (1989) is a way to systematically connect discipline perspectives when investigating a problem or theme. Beane's multidimensional model (1993) centered on thematic units that drew from the intersecting concerns of young adolescents and issues in the larger world. Many educators concur with Beane's position that "curriculum is a central and crucial factor in the life of a school" (p. 1).
Focus on Integrated Curriculum
In order to help young adolescents make sense out of their life experiences and connect school experiences to their daily lives outside of school, curriculum needs to be integrative (National Middle School Association, 1995). A truly integrated curriculum enables teachers and their students to make connections between their school learning experiences and real life (Caskey, 1996), while the separate subject approach leaves students with a disconnected view of knowledge that "fails to reflect the way that real people attack problems in the real …