Interdisciplinary Teaching in the Middle School
submitted by: Gentry Hirohata & Lorelei Saito, Punahou School
We want to share with you our middle school team interdisciplinary project, Keiki Kala. This is our fourth year teaching this unit, and although it’s gone through a few changes, we want to get some feedback and ideas on integrating more relevant content in the core classes, and maybe to hear from others who have experience content integration. Although our facilities here at Punahou’s Case Middle School fosters and encourages the middle school concept of “teaming”, integrating all four core content areas in one academic unit is more difficult than it looks.
This project is based on the game Civilization. The Keiki Kala unit is a economy-based project that uses content and skills from math, science, English, and social studies. Each class becomes a “nation” that develops its own economies and governments. These nations then buy/sell goods and services to other students and teachers. The leaders of each nation (sometimes the teacher) collects taxes and fees from the individual students each week. Individual students also have to calculate their home utilities usage, educational expenses, as well as other costs incurred on a weekly basis. This year, we are trying to add a new wrinkle into this activity by allowing the nation’s leaders to make decisions on how to use the collected taxes. They will be allowed to invest it into education, military, and territorial expansion.
Our hope is to start this team project before our Spring break in March and conclude a couple weeks before the end of the school year beginning June. As we progress through the project, we will post journal updates and invite feedback and comments. We encourage you to take a look at our video from iTunes U to familiarize yourself with the Keiki Kala project. As we integrate changes this school year, we will reflect on what works, but equally important, what did not work. This is a living project that is continually growing and changing. We do not know where it will take us, but it has allowed us to create an energizing and motivational learning experience for our students.
It has taken us some time to develop the most manageable way to incorporate this long-term project into our everyday curriculum. To successfully develop an interdisciplinary project it takes the right combination of people and support to ensure that the learning experience is beneficial, efficient, and engaging for the students. In previous years, we have had teachers who did not want to participate in this project, but we have found that as long as you have a strong core of teachers who share similar philosophies on teaching and learning, it can still be a successful experience.