Integrated Curriculum: Where We Are & Where We’re Headed

Integrated Curriculum: Where We Are & Where We’re Headed

This year at Woodland, we have worked hard to define a very important question:

What does integration look like at Woodland School?

An Integrated curriculum model can take on many sizes and appearances in schools, and is often as varied and unique as the individual school itself. The simplest definition of integration is to make connections. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) describes curriculum integration similarly; it’s how these connections are made within and between disciplines, topics, and grade levels that help determine the method and degree integration is implemented in a given school.

At Woodland, we have spent this school year defining and determining our best blueprint for creating authentic connections within our curriculum at every grade level. Building off of the thoughtful collaboration between teachers, we’ve established important characteristics for what integration looks like at Woodland and have worked together to define several important clarifications. Please review the Woodland Integration 101 infographic for these definitions and priorities we’ve outlined for the upcoming 2019-2020 academic year, as discussed in recent Lower and Middle School Coffee & Curriculum events.

On the continuum of integrated curricular models, the multidisciplinary approach laid out for next year, with the creation of Arcs (themes) at each grade level, and culminations of learning (Expositions), is considered a moderate level of integration in a school. Our priority, always, is to first provide an academic program where foundations are strong. At Woodland, integrating (i.e. connecting) disciplines only takes place when: 1. The connection is an authentic one, not forced or artificial, and 2. If the link between subject areas enhances the curriculum.

Let’s look at two overviews of Woodland integrated units in First Grade and Fifth Grade, respectively, to get a sense of how disciplines are authentically threaded together:

1st Grade Roots & Shoots Program by Ms. Marie and Mrs. Hansen
Disciplines integrated: Reading, Writing, Science & Math

Unit overview:
Roots and Shoots empowers student voice and teaches compassionate leadership. Our first grade students studied the Woodland School community making note of the wildlife, ecosystem, and humans on campus. Students then decided they wanted to bring more nature to the first grade area where they saw too much asphalt. They named themselves the "Nature Kids" and got started! As the year progressed we found that our measurement, geometry, and money skills from our math units really helped us with our project. We studied gardening and building in our non fiction books, and even wrote teaching books about these topics as we became experts. The Roots and Shoots garden project authentically weaved throughout our foundational curriculum and supported the students’ deeper level understanding of their first grade content. Students were able to apply their learned skills to their project and experience how their learning can help them meet their goals in and outside the classroom.

5th Grade Musical Debate by Mrs. Stamos, Ms. Roma, Profé King
Disciplines integrated: English, Social Sciences, Spanish & Music

Unit overview:
To revolt or not to revolt? This is the question fifth graders recently tackled in their Musical Debate. Students studied the perspectives of larger-than-life historical figures of pre-Revolutionary America, carefully examined their motivations, and set their sentiments to music. Using the competitive, increasingly complex rhythms of “The Farmer Refuted” from Hamilton as a jumping off point, students used early American tunes and wrote original lyrics to express their Loyalist/Patriot viewpoints. Students also displayed an impressive adeptness at shifting languages mid song, from English to Spanish, and at communicating subtle shades of meaning. Samuel Adams, Lord Dunmore and others delivered their strongest arguments in a match-up that had us all on the edges of our seats! Thanks to incisive questions from our panel of journalists and excellent teamwork, the debate was a thought-provoking exercise for all involved.

These examples help to demonstrate that, when core academic skills in each discipline are thoughtfully planned, collaborated on by teachers, and linked together when the opportunity presents itself, deep, rich, and lasting learning experiences take place for students.

We look forward to sharing Woodland’s first Curriculum Overview 2019-20 in August, detailing each discipline’s instructional philosophies, grade level benchmarks, and highlighting integrated work in kindergarten through eighth grade. Treated as a snapshot of our academic year at Woodland, this comprehensive resource will be updated and published year after year. Please look for the Curriculum Overview shared digitally on our website prior to the first day of the ‘19-’20 school year, and in print at all divisional Curriculum Nights throughout the month of September.

To learn more about the multitude of integrated models in schools, please visit the following ASCD article link titled, “What is Integrated Curriculum?”