Forging Links from Within and Without
Social studies is inherently interdisciplinary. Within the field, the various disciplines that comprise social studies link and intertwine. It's difficult to imagine studying historical content without examining the roles of persons (sociology), their motivations (psychology), where they lived (geography), the influences of spiritual beliefs (religion), rules that govern behavior (political science and anthropology), or how people negotiate for their needs and wants (economics). Outside the field of social studies, vital connections can also be made to language arts, mathematics, science and the arts that yield a deeper understanding of concepts and ideas.
But what exactly does it mean to teach through an "interdisciplinary" approach? Does it mean to integrate and correlate subjects, create thematic units, or plan a parallel curriculum? The articles in this journal illustrate that an interdisciplinary approach can take many forms. The idea of creating interdisciplinary curriculum is not new; however, as you read the articles within, we hope they will provide you with some methods for extending such an approach in your classroom.
There is good reason to do so! Brain research suggests that knowledge is learned more quickly and remembered longer when constructed in a meaningful context in which connections among ideas are made. Authors Arthur K. Ellis, and Jeffrey T. Fouts , in their article, Interdisciplinary Curriculum: The Research Base, note the following benefits:
* Improved higher-level thinking skills;
* Reduced curricular fragmentation resulting in a unified sense of process and content;
* Stronger real-world applications yielding increased opportunities for the transfer of learning;
* Greater mastery of content;
* Heightened sense of initiative and autonomy;
* Improved ability to adopt multiple points of view;
* Enhanced motivation to learn.
This issue of Social Studies Review begins with an article by Laurie Mosier, History-Social Science Coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education and Karen Wagner, Elementary Language Arts Coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education on the effective use of interdisciplinary curriculum mapping by a team of local elementary teachers to align and integrate the language arts and history-social science standards. Laurie and Karen describe the process used for this professional development model-ranging from targeted planning to overcoming the challenges the team encountered (particularly with regard to California's Reading First requirements) to piloting, implementation and next steps.
Fran Chadwick, an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at California State University San Marcos, encourages elementary school teachers to look at the curricular links between history-social sciences and the visual and performing arts standards. Using the book, Martin's Big Words, The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., Fran illustrates how she has helped students construct their own understanding of important big ideas based on social studies through the use of dance. She provides specific examples of effective methods to teach the elements of dance, and valuable ways to apply those methods to enhance the social studies curriculum.
Michelle Zachlod, Associate Professor in the College of Education at California State University, Bakersfield, makes a plea for integrating the study of economics into the primary grade curriculum. Though specific examples, Michelle demonstrates how to pull economic concepts out of frequently used children's literature, such as the The Little Red Hen, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tortilla Factory, Fannie's Fruits and Ox-Cart Man, and provides the reader with strategic questions to develop young children's vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Laura M. Wendling, Professor in the College of Education at California State University San Marcos, advocates using field trips as a means to draw interdisciplinary connections within the elementary school curriculum. Through community explorations, children are able to translate the abstract and artificially segregated concepts presented in the classroom into the language of their real life applications. Laura discusses considerations in planning a successful educational field trip, examines various field trip formats, and illustrates how different community settings can be used to support the school curriculum.
Maureen Lorimer, a former middle school teacher, describes her used of aesthetic scanning to teach social studies content and build middle school students' visual literacy skills. Using Asian Civilizations as an example, Maureen illustrates how she uses the aesthetic scanning process as a device to help students think deeply about visual images connected to a historical period. Though sample questions and student responses, the reader learns how to take students from initial inquiry and research on to classroom presentation and further analysis.
Douglas Selwyn, Professor of Education at Antioch University in Seattle, provides a cautionary tale as he examines the ways in which we are swayed by bias and perspective in the media, be it television or school textbook. Douglas describes three classroom activities he uses to help middle school students become acutely aware of how the media filters the telling of world events, particularly news stories. And he reminds social studies educators of our essential role in creating citizens who have a broad interdisciplinary understanding of the world.
Anne Fennell, a middle school music specialist, promotes the value of connecting music and the history-social science curriculum. She notes the natural connection of the two curriculum areas and specific California content standards. Anne asserts that the classroom generalist can make curriculum connections by listening to the music of a particular culture. Steps are suggested to guide the classroom teacher and students in analyzing musical works through the elements of music.
Glenn Whitman, History Department Chair at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland, structures his article around the use of oral history as a pedagogical tool. In his presentation, Glenn demonstrates how engaging his high school students in collecting and analyzing oral histories builds thinking skills, addresses multiple intelligences, connects curricular subjects and meets standards at both the state and national levels. Glenn provides the reader with a wealth of information from reference books, online model projects and professional organizations. Of special interest is the inclusion of graphic tables showing how oral history projects and related themes support national and California curricular mandates.
Al Rocca, Professor of Education at Simpson University and Editor of Social Studies Review, focuses on interdisciplinary studies at the high school level. He begins by describing "Humanitas", an interdisciplinary program offered at his daughter's high school. Inspired by the positive outcomes of this experience for both students and teachers, Al researched the literature regarding intellectual connections and the improvement of learning. He has created a useful Interdisciplinary Concept Model to assist professionals in conceptualizing such an approach to curriculum planning. Al offers a specific example of how to use this model, focusing on content standard 11.7 (World War II). The Unit Design Matrix is also presented as a valuable visual for viewing the interdisciplinary relationships of all planned activities within a unit.
Tom Forbes, Adjunct professor of education at Simpson University teaches the CCTC approved Level I & Level II technology courses. His article strives to assist social science teachers who are seeking methods that can bolster their instructional practice with the use of emerging technologies that take advantage of the excitement that students often have for them and to provide practical examples of how technology can be employed to integrate other subject areas into a standards-based curriculum.
Arthur K. Ellis, Jeffrey T. Pouts, Interdisciplinary Curriculum: The Research Base. Music Educators Journal, 2001.
Fran Chadwick is an assistant professor in the College of Education at California State University, San Marcos where she teaches Social Studies in the Elementary Classroom for the arts cohort.
Laura M. Wendling is a professor in the College of Education at California State University, San Marcos where she teaches Social Studies in the Elementary Classroom, Foundations of Teaching as a Profession.…