School of Integration Curriculum and
School Prospectus, Curriculum, and Planning documents

 

Introduction: This article explores a truly integrated studies school experience and curriculum. The information is presented as a: school prospectus, which includes curriculum and planning documents for our integrated studies school based philosophy.

An overview of the topics and categories is included in a box to the right.

We begin with a short comparison of an integrated curriculum and subject oriented curriculum.

School of Integrated studies

Comparison of Integrated Contexts and Subject Contexts

Integrated Curriculum

Subject oriented Curriculum contexts

Our school's Assumptions for teaching, learning, education, and schools

Our School of Integration Mission Statement

Our school provides a vigorous dynamic educational system characterized by:

That will educate students who:

Our School of Integration will be

Students will be more inclined to:

Expected outcomes for our integrated school

Outcomes are expressed as observations and artifacts that can be seen by participants and visitors to our school. They will witness:

  1. An integrated curriculum as "Life in all of its manifestations." A community with a diversity of objects, people, other living and nonliving things and ideas which are used as the primary sources and resources for students to wonder, question, experience, and participate in learning to achieve our seven goals.
  2. A learning community that is a supportive, sensitive, responsive, and accepting learning environments that strives to enhance self-worth, creative intellectual endeavors, responsible behavior, and self-efficacy. A community where ownership, responsibility, and accountability are assumed to be synonymous with membership in the community.
  3. A learning community that reflects the interests and capabilities of all students where each has much power over her learning environment as she is capable of handling.
  4. A learning community with cooperation and synergy where everyone is both a learner and a resource for everyone else. With goals set and outcomes achieved that challenge the intuition, creativity, imagination, knowledge, and skills of the members, including the instructors.
  5. A learning community which extends beyond the walls of the classroom.
  6. A community with participants who are involved intellectually and emotionally in learning experiences with little or no fear and anxiety.
  7. A community where decisions are consistent, ethical, and responsive to the needs of all members and the community itself.
  8. Assessment as learning experiences which is regular, unbiased, consistent, appropriate, and communicated through a variety of feedback loops.
  9. Achievement of the school's seven goals through its four contextual areas.
  10. Diverse groups of heterogeneous individual students, who are randomly assigned to a classroom resulting in a genuine dependable learning community.

Our School Goals

Students will:

  1. Develop literacy to find and use information effectively.
  2. Exhibit creativity.
  3. Think critically to understand the world and establishing meaning in their lives by defining ethical goals and demonstrating skill in using them in their decision making and actions.
  4. Communicate effectively.
  5. Display interpersonal skills, self-understanding, and ethical conduct.
  6. Demonstrate global responsibility and cross-cultural understanding.
  7. Develop and maintain personal wellness practices.

Summary of School Goals in a table format

School
goals
 
1. Literacy Develop literacy to find and use information effectively.
2. Creativity Exhibit creativity.
3. Think critically Think critically to understand the world and establishing meaning in their lives by defining ethical goals and demonstrating skill in using them in their decision making and actions.
4. Communicate effectively Communicate effectively.
5. Interpersonal skills Display interpersonal skills, self-understanding, and ethical conduct.
6. Global responsibility Demonstrate global responsibility and cross-cultural understanding.
7. Personal wellness Develop and maintain personal wellness practices.

Contextual areas and ideas for an integrated curriculum

An integrated curriculum needs a context for ideas or content information to teach. In a traditional curriculum these ideas come from the subject areas. Ours come from the follow four context categories:

Four contextual areas with concepts and relationships:

1. Global: Our experiences and relationships with the world: physical reality, the biosphere, and the global ecological systems. This context emphasizes a global perspective with: interdependence, sustainability and recognition of limits, diversity, partnership, competition, cooperation, change, cycles, and energy flow. Emphasis is on the organic nature of planet Earth and all its physical, cultural, and knowledge systems.

2. Relationships: People have relationships with others and themselves. Relationships are subjective and participatory with respect to the nature of human knowledge and experience. We must constantly be aware of our responsibilities to make principled and ethical decisions as individuals which affect ourselves and our community as well as decision made collectively within different communities.

3. Time: Our place in time relative to the past, present, and future. How our relationship to time has changed, is changing, and will change. Seeing time as a continuous and constant process that progressively changes as it incorporates a historical perspective with a present perspective, and expands into a future perspective; which impacts our understanding, critical thinking, and decision making processes.

4. Symbolic: Our relationship to the world of information and knowledge. We recognize ideas, symbols, relationships, and metaphors as human creations and as such the significance that different perspectives can have in shaping our thoughts and actions. Constantly reminding ourselves that the same information can mean different things to different people. In the symbolic context we emphasize: observations, facts, concepts, relationships, generalizations, and connectedness as resources in a systematic approach to selecting, organizing, and processing information with critical thinking and higher-order skills to answer questions and solve problems with a focus on the quality of information rather than the quantity.

The four contextual areas: 1. global, 2. relationships, 3. time, and 4. symbolic become the contexts in which learning is organized, planned, implemented, and assessed relative to our educational goals and outcomes.

Summary of contextual areas in a table format

  Global Relationship Time Symbolic
Contextual Areas
  • Interdependence
  • Sustainability
  • Diversity
  • Partnership
  • Change
  • Cycles
  • Energy flows
  • Individual and group relationships
  • Individual views and responsible decisions and actions
  • Collective community actions and decisions
  • Past, present, and future orientation
  • Consider changes through time for understanding, critical thinking, and decision making
  • Information and knowledge is arranged by humans resulting in the same information meaning different things to different people
  • Critical thinking with systematic approach using observations, ... for understanding and decision making based on quality.

 

In curriculums organized around subjects (mathematics, science, literature, art, music ...) it is the subjects that are used as contextual areas for study. In our integrated curriculum these four contextual areas will be used to organize learning and teaching. To illustrate this difference the following table has sample questions for each of the four contextual areas that may be asked when seeking and using information to achieve the seven goals of the school.

Later, examples will be shown how the four context areas are merged with the seven goals to plan units or sequences of study. First, a table is presented with examples of questions whose answers will provide information and understanding related to the contextual areas.

Planning table with sample questions related to the four Contextual Areas of our Integrated Curriculum

 

Contextual Areas Global Relationship Time Symbolic
Contextual Areas sub categories
  • Interdependence
  • Sustainability
  • Diversity
  • Partnership
  • Change
  • Cycles
  • Energy flows
  • Individual and group relationships
  • Individual views and responsible decisions and actions
  • Collective community actions and decisions
  • Past, present, and future orientation
  • Consider changes through time for understanding, critical thinking, and decision making
  • Information and knowledge is arranged by humans resulting in the same information meaning different things to different people
  • Critical thinking with systematic approach using observations, ... for understanding and decision making based on quality.
Possible sample focus questions for the four contextual areas:
  • What objects can be grouped into systems?
  • With what do the system interact?
  • What can we learn by thinking about systems?
  • What are the limits for different systems?
  • What are the natural limits that humans must learn to live with?
  • How are natural systems similar and different?
  • How do systems work in partnerships?
  • How do they evolve?
    Are there changes that are cyclic?
  • How does energy flow through the system?
  • How does my body work as a system?
  • How do I depend on the Earth?
  • What is my relationship to Earth?
  • How do I use natural resources?
  • How do people relate to me?
  • How does civilization depend on me?
  • How do I depend on civilization?
  • What is the communities'; relationship to me and me to it?
  • How does the community fit with my individual preferences?
  • How do communities interact?
  • What have people about this in the past?
  • What do people think about this now?
  • How might this idea change in the future?
  • How has human's relationship to the Earth changed over time?
  • What will the future be like?
  • When and how was this object or idea invented or created?
  • What is this object?
  • What is this idea?
  • What are its properties, attributes, characteristics?
  • How do we know?
  • What do different people think about this ...?
  • How do natural systems function?
  • What are the patterns that are similar in human systems and natural systems?
  • How do we represent natural systems?
    How do we represent systems for science, literature, mathematics, language, art, music, literature, movement...;
  • How do we know what we know?
    How important is observation and factual information for knowing...?

 

Focus Questions for Big Ideas to Use as Themes of Study

To merge the context areas with our goals a focus question for a big idea is helpful to plan units of study for students. Possible focus questions for big ideas to explore:

Finally bringing it all together in a big idea planning matrix for the theme water and questions related to contextual areas and school goals

To illustrate this the following table has sample questions for each of the four contextual areas that may be asked when seeking information and understanding related to achieving the goals of the school. While topics are best chosen by students and questions generated by them it would be the responsibility of the teaching staff to chart and modify the information as students present their questions for their topic.

The following table present ideas related to the topic of water and possible questions and information as it relates to the context areas and school goals.

What do I know about water?
Is there more I should know about water?
Contextual Areas Global Relationship Time Symbolic
School Goals
  • Interdependence
  • Sustainability
  • Diversity
  • Partnership
  • Change
  • Cycles
  • Energy flows
  • Individual and group relationships
  • Individual views and responsible decisions and actions
  • Collective community actions and decisions
  • Past, present, and future orientation
  • Consider changes through time for understanding, critical thinking, and decision making
  • Information and knowledge is arranged by humans resulting in the same information meaning different things to different people
  • Critical thinking with systematic approach using observations, ... for understanding and decision making based on quality.
Develop literacy to find and use information effectively.
  • How are people and all other living things dependent on water?
  • Doesn't water purify itself in the water cycle?
  • How and why are the weather cycles related to water on land and in the ocean?
  • How can we create a model to describe water use that describes the subcategories of global awareness:
    • Interdependence
    • Sustainability
    • Diversity
    • Partnership
    • Change
    • Cycles
    • Energy flows?
  • What goals do I need to set to achieve understanding of water...?
  • How can I work with my team members so we can collectively understand ideas necessary to solve problems related to water use?
  • How much water does one person use a year? In a life time? Other animals?
  • What information is available about past cultures and how the availability of water affected them?
  • What possible possibilities is there for the world with relationship to the availability and use of water.
  • What are the physical properties of water? States, density, ...
  • Water is essential for life. Why and how do living organisms use water?
  • Why do they say it is easier to swim in salt water than fresh water?
  • How does the water cycle work?
  • What is ground water and the aquifer?
  • How do they effect water use?
  • What is pollution and how does it affect the water?
  • What does air pressure have to do with boiling?
  • Why does the Earth have water?
  • What is acid rain?

 

Exhibit creativity.
  • How can we insure everyone has access to clean water?
  • How can people be convinced it is everyone's responsibility to conserve water?
  • How can we convince people to get involved in keeping water clean?
  • What are new ways or better ways to conserve water?
  • How can information about the physical aspects of water, the water cycle, waters interaction with soil and other Earth materials impact creative ideas for water conservation?
Think critically to understand the world and establishing meaning in their lives by defining ethical goals and demonstrating skill in using them in their decision making and actions.
  • How can we insure everyone has access to clean water? In a manner that considers using the subcategories of global awareness:
    • Interdependence
    • Sustainability
    • Diversity
    • Partnership
    • Change
    • Cycles
    • Energy flows?
  • How can we convince people it is everyone's responsibility to insure how to share water resources equitably?
  • Will there be enough water in the future?
  • What variables can be used to better predict the availability of water and how to maximize the survival of a diversity of life?
  • How can choices be made when there is a limited availability of water?
  • How much water does one person use a year? Can the amount of water usage change with time?
  • How does our understanding of water, society, economics, politics ... effect our decision making?
Communicate effectively.
  • How do we communicate the global aspect as it relates to our water use and need for change?
  • How do we communicate to individuals and groups the importance of our water conservation discoveries?
  • How do we communicate the differences of time and its relationship to water and the ideas being explored?
  • How can we communicate the importance of water?
Display interpersonal skills, self-understanding, and ethical conduct.
  • How and when should I ask myself if I am considering a global relationship when I should be?
  • How important is it for different groups of people to cooperate for clean water?
  • How do encourage myself to think about the future and not my immediate wants.
  • How do I determine if a use of water is an essential need or an unessential want?
  • How does clean water affect me?
Demonstrate global responsibility and cross-cultural understanding.
  • How can we create a model to describe water use that describes the subcategories of global awareness:
    • Interdependence
    • Sustainability
    • Diversity
    • Partnership
    • Change
    • Cycles
    • Energy flows?

 

  • Do all cultures value water the same?
  • How involved should I be in convincing people to conserve water resources?
  • When have other cultures been responsible and irresponsible when it comes to water use?
  • What information needs to be considered to make ethical decisions about use and non-use of water?
Develop and maintain personal wellness practices.
  • How does my use of water relate to different parts of my body and my body as a whole in a global relationship:
    • Interdependence
    • Sustainability
    • Diversity
    • Partnership
    • Change
    • Cycles
    • Energy flows?
  • How do I help my self and others use water in healthy ways?
  • How has the belief in the use of water for personal wellness changed over time? and what are the possibilities they could change significantly in the future?
  • Why does my body need water to be healthy?

 

To continue with our planning, activities would need to be created and assessment guides for scoring student progress in each of the different areas. It is highly probable after students are involved in the selection of the topic and creation of questions, which are inserted in an appropriate cell in the planning matrix above along with some teacher suggestions (if needed), they would be ready and eager to set off to find and explore resources to find information to answer their questions and probably suggest activities to do and ways to share their findings and implement actions related to their findings.

Students can also be involved in making suggestions on how their work and artifacts can be assessed. Generic scoring guides can be made for each of the areas to guide students in this process.

Blank planning matrix for a theme and questions related to contextual areas and school goals

Theme and Focus questions
?
Contextual Areas Global Relationship Time Symbolic
School Goals
  • Interdependence
  • Sustainability
  • Diversity
  • Partnership
  • Change
  • Cycles
  • Energy flows
  • Individual and group relationships
  • Individual views and responsible decisions and actions
  • Collective community actions and decisions
  • Past, present, and future orientation
  • Consider changes through time for understanding, critical thinking, and decision making
  • Information and knowledge is arranged by humans resulting in the same information meaning different things to different people
  • Critical thinking with systematic approach using observations, ... for understanding and decision making based on quality.
Develop literacy to find and use information effectively.        
Exhibit creativity.        
Think critically to understand the world and establishing meaning in their lives by defining ethical goals and demonstrating skill in using them in their decision making and actions.        
Communicate effectively.        
Display interpersonal skills, self-understanding, and ethical conduct.        
Demonstrate global responsibility and cross-cultural understanding.        
Develop and maintain personal wellness practices.        

 

 

 

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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