Academic journal article et Cetera


Academic journal article et Cetera


Article excerpt

STUDENTS LEARN BETTER when they relate their lessons to their own experiences. According to the Ohio Department of Education's recently adopted Academic Content Standards for Social Studies:

Learning is enhanced when students make meaningful connections between new information that they are learning and their own experiences. Combining social studies instruction with the study of other disciplines such as art and literature helps to reinforce the learning within each discipline. It also helps the students to develop conceptual frameworks that lead to broader understandings. (State Board of Education of Ohio, 2002, p.2)

After eighteen years in the classroom, I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment.

As educators in Ohio, we must provide students with the tools and opportunities that enable them to excel in ways specified by the Ohio Department of Education. Students gain a more thorough understanding and retain more information when they study material that they believe is relevant, and when they "learn by doing." This is especially true in social studies classes. Unfortunately, many teachers still believe that they cannot educate pupils this way in a typical social studies classroom.

It is time to debunk this myth. Meaningful connections can be made in diverse areas, but only if educators are willing to pursue uncommon approaches to teaching and learning.

Traditionally, math and social studies are rare partners in the classroom. Yet, when looking at the Ohio Department of Education's Academic Content Standards for Mathematics, one finds that:

Making connections ... between mathematics and other disciplines is critical for student success in using mathematics effectively ... Students in the classroom need opportunities to recognize and draw upon the connections between and among topics studied. Teachers can facilitate this process by engaging students in multi-layered problem solving situations that cross disciplines and engage students' interests." (State Board of Education of Ohio, 2001, p.198)

This excerpt about math studies closely echoes the above social studies excerpt, and for good reason.

There are many ways to "grab" students' attention, maintain their interest, and engage them in unique and challenging experiences. One strategy I have found successful involves the use of cross-curricular approaches. Since social studies encompass a diverse array of subject areas, myriad connections can be made between this field and others. Discovering those connections is what makes learning exciting for students and teaching exhilarating for educators. In this article, I will share a recently designed and implemented project that successfully integrates social studies and mathematics by utilizing the vehicle of visual arts.

The Problem with the Standard Approach

In my senior psychology class, I have been impressed by how interested students become when we study sensation and perception. They seem particularly enthralled by how our minds can be "tricked" into seeing or believing certain things. To demonstrate this effect in concrete terms, I show movies such as The Sixth Sense, The Others, or The Ring. These movies set viewers up and grab them at the end with "Aha!" moments, similar to techniques utilized in the old Twilight Zone television series. These visual examples prove to be effective tools in relating student experiences to perception and sensation. The climactic "twist" in these movies succeeds in "fooling" them and they are genuinely intrigued by the fact that they were "duped."

However, I wanted students to go a step further, and I challenged the class to reject the notion that such "fooling and duping" is a natural occurrence. I did not want them to experience this feeling of awe and then let it slip away without further analysis. This has happened in the past. I determined to seize upon this teachable moment and lead my students to learn why and how this phenomenon occurs. …

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