Meeting Standards with Cross-Curricular Lessons

by Dr. Kimberly Greene

In last month’s webinar series, Professor of Education Dr. Kimberly Greene walked us through how she designs cross-curricular lessons that meet standards with Classroom, our unique lesson planning tool. Take a look at Dr. Greene’s lesson plan in this Prezi (below),  and then read on to get an understanding of how she went about putting together a unit that combines the history of The Underground Railroad with a dose of STEM learning. 

In my role today as an associate professor of education, I don’t get to spend much time actually designing content for the K-12 world world anymore. Yet, when the opportunity was presented, I jumped at the chance because there is so much happening in primary and secondary world regarding online learning – be that in and of itself or as part of the flipped classroom/blended learning initiative. As a huge fan of Kids Discover- starting with my days in the classroom to today with all the wonderful online resources- I was thrilled to put my passion for rich, interactive technology-enhanced learning into action. 

I began with a focus on what I believe technology is so wonderful at providing- the opportunity to bring excitement and passion into the discovery part of learning. Thus, I poured over the Common Core State Standards to ground my work in reality. I looked for standards that opened up the design to something cross-curricular. To a constructivist teacher, creating lessons that are focused on learning through doing is essential to ensure the educational process is authentic, engaging, and goes beyond memorizing for the sake of simply repeating facts and figures. My goal was to combine two seemingly disparate subjects so that the students would craft an understanding through the process of doing all that would go into their projects.

February inspired me to focus on a topic related to Black History month. Additionally, with the strong desire for STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math/ Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), I wanted to infuse the design with a meaningful science focus. It didn’t take long before I recognized a brilliant opportunity- the study of how Celestial Navigation was a crucial part of the success for the conductors of the Underground Railroad.

I started the unit design by focusing on the specific things students would need to produce and demonstrate to validate they had truly met the stated standards of learning. This meant the students needed to do research, synthesize their findings, analyze the validity of the things (ideas, concepts) they were putting together, edit down the extraneous information to focus on the essential knowledge and understandings, and then communicate it in a fashion that was meaningful to them as well as being factually correct. I was able to then design the whole of the unit because of the richness of the resources available through Kids Discover Online.

In my “Classroom”, I created an appropriate bank of research materials (text, charts, interactive mini-simulations) that empowered students to explore, examine, and truly craft the very sort of multifaceted understanding that empowers individuals to be fully immersed in their learning processes. With the move to OER (Open Educational Resources) and online materials that are designed for learners at various stages of prowess, Kids Discover Online allowed me to modify the reading level of the materials to suit both the needs of individuals (stronger readers versus those who are below the normative level) as well as the needs of the lesson design (giving less detail at the beginning research stage to gain a foothold into the topic and more detail as the work became more complex). 

The unit was built with a modified Understanding by Design template and presented live with a Prezi to offer context to the various specifics that went into the final design. Both of those resources are shared here:

The Prezihttp://ow.ly/10AwIm

The Unit Designhttp://ow.ly/10AwKP

The Webinar: http://ow.ly/10Az8Y

Finally, in an attempt to sum up my design experience in one sentence:

“Discover Kids Online supported my desire and ability to design curriculum that focuses on the actions the students must experience (the verbs) in order to actively create understanding that has far more meaning and value to the pupil than simply earning a good grade on a test; KDO’s fluid and flexible interface and range of resources afforded my unit design the power to inspire genuine growth in both knowledge and skill that carries over into expanding one’s ability to enjoy the learning process – at that moment and well into the future.”

Well, I suppose I cheated with the use of that semicolon- but really, what’s the harm in one additional punctuation mark amongst friends?

-grin-

Dr. K