Heads Up: Learning Comes Alive Through Integration
Have you ever taken the time to sit back and watch children play? To truly observe them, paying close attention to what they do and how they interact with each other and the world around them?
The truth is children learn through play and their play includes using what they know in combination with what they learn through experimentation, exploration and design to create new understandings. In essence, the act of play is integrated learning.
That said, it is only logical for schools and educators to use that same approach to teaching. As a school that celebrates and preserves childhood, we have been using an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning for the past six plus decades. Through traditions, performances, Chapels, field trips and classroom projects, St. Thomas’s Day School organically creates experiences that help students make connections across the curriculum while developing their attitudes, skills, and knowledge. Our whole class, small group, and cross-grade experiences provide opportunities for critical and creative thinking, and for students to experience learning that is relevant and meaningful.
Students at STTS are involved in a variety of integrated activities throughout each year and in each grade. They participate in a well-developed performing arts program, which allows them to express themselves through drama, singing, dancing, music and art. Plays and other performances reinforce leadership and public speaking skills and provide students with opportunities to explore concepts in new and interesting ways. Field trips and educational excursions support the learning that takes place in the classroom, providing hands-on experiences and exposure to resources that would otherwise not be available.
The Makerspace is the hub of integrated learning at St. Thomas’s Day School. In fact, it represents a place for children to develop a wide range of 21st-century skills, which include the “Four Cs”: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Students create real-world applications from concepts studied in the classroom. They use the space to collaboratively work on comprehensive projects that demonstrate a deep conceptual understanding of the curriculum. Technology is viewed as a tool for learning that is woven throughout all projects in the Makerspace. The technology curriculum is carefully developed and presented in age-appropriate ways throughout the grades. Students are eager to incorporate their newly learned technology skills into their projects. For example, in Kindergarten our students worked on a life-sized geoboard which was then recreated on the ipad. Our Grade 4 students are in the process of creating stop motion animation videos to demonstrate their knowledge of the Boston Tea Party. They are also currently using their knowledge of circuits to create light-up Valentine’s Day cards. Our Grade 6 students are creating Civil War-themed video games based on the information they learned in class.
I’m sure you’ll agree that our classrooms are filled with purpose and passion. Our goal to provide dynamic, innovative experiences for our students remains at the forefront of everything we do and every decision we make. Students will live in a world where the demands of their personal, public and professional lives will be very different from today, and it is our job to design programs and experiences that equip our 21st Century learners to excel as young leaders in this global society.