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Interdisciplinary lessons for Poland students highlight connections between subjects

Seventh and eighth grade teachers in the Poland Central School District created interdisciplinary lessons for their students to highlight connections between different subjects and across disciplines.


Poland PreK-12 Principal Greg Cuthbertson said the goal for the middle school this year is to incorporate more project-based and hands-on learning.


The lessons took place in November over the course of two days before Thanksgiving break. The students and teachers did not follow a regular schedule these days so they could focus on the projects.


The seventh grade classes worked on an assignment to discover the meaning and origin of their name. They were led by social studies teacher Joel Allen, English teacher Erica Daniels and math teacher Erin Meeker.


For the social studies aspect of the lesson, students were taught how to determine the reliability of and difference between primary and secondary sources. The students then looked at the historical basis of their last names.


The project was woven together with the subject of English through the children’s novel “Crispin: The Cross of Lead” by Avi. The story follows Crispin, the main character, as he searches for his name.


For the math portion, statistics came into play with how common the name is.


“Joel, Erin and I took an existing project from my English 7 class and incorporated math and social studies.  I look forward to creating a unit from scratch in the future and seeing what we can come up with,” Daniels said.


“I thought students engaged well in the mini-lessons and activities we planned for them. Personally, I liked seeing them interacting as a whole group,” Meeker said.


“I enjoyed working with the other middle school teachers. We wanted students to be able to make connections between the subjects,” Allen said.


“I thought the interdisciplinary project was a success,” said Daniels. “It was exciting to hear students sharing the information they gained with each other.”


On the eighth grade side, science teacher Derek Bowen, technology teacher Joe Brown and Meeker led a lesson where students built water-pressured rockets made out of two-liter bottles.


The students built their own rockets and worked in groups developing a launcher their group would use.


“They worked in groups of four, showing amazing teamwork,” Brown said.


Math and science were incorporated when students calculated the rockets’ distance, trajectory and distance.


“I would say it was a good experience for the students to see connections between concepts learned in science and applied in technology,” Bowen said.


After launching the rockets, students had the chance to make improvements to see if they could do even better.


The group set up a tournament to see whose rocket traveled the highest.


“It was amazing to see the entire eighth grade outside on the soccer field working together and having so much fun,” Mr. Brown said.


The projects allowed teachers to work together in a non-traditional way and showed students everyone is on the same team.


“I also think it was good for the teachers to collaborate with each other,” Mr. Bowen said.


“Many students took advantage of having multiple teachers in the room while seeking feedback and I think for some of them it helped to open their minds as far as a math teacher helping with a paragraph or the social studies teacher helping with percentages,” Meeker said.


Cuthbertson said the interdisciplinary lessons were the first ones done to this extent during his time with the district since 2014. He hopes to incorporate similar interdisciplinary projects in future years.