In this weeks assignments we need to reflect on the challenges and benefits of making an interdisciplinary project and how we might make this a reality in our school by watching a video produced by BIE.org. The first challenge that comes to mind is time. Project-Based Learning, when done right, may take months to complete. This time requirement means that your hole year needs to be planned out and if something arises that throughs off your time table you need to adapt. The second challenge is curriculum. Anytime you add anther curricular area into the equation, their are certain standards and benchmarks these classes need to meet. So the project relies on teachers to make sure they are hitting those points. Along with each teacher making sure they teach what is required, teachers also have to find standards that integrate with the other subjects in the project. Again, timing on when certain standards are taught needs to be throughly thought out and planned so that all the pieces fall into place for the project.
While the challenges may seem daunting, the benefits do outweigh them. A benefit is that you have a fresh set of eyes on your content and goals for the year. Since you are talking with other teachers about the year, you can bouncy ideas off each other and work the struggles you may have insuring you are getting through your goals. This is why it is vital to start with the end product you want the students to create. By identifying the end project, it will be easier for the group of teachers or teacher to identify what is vital for this project to work and where everything will be taught. Having these aids to help keep you afloat is vital in Project-Based Learning. The final benefit and most relevant is that through your own collaboration your team will be requiring your students to gain real-world knowledge that goes beyond a textbook or what the students already know. Giving them a skill set that they could use 40 years down the road is more important than them passing a test.
The second part of the reflection is how do we get interdisciplinary Project-Based Learning started at our school. Well, for me, this might be easier than some. Since I work for a small middle school (175 kids 5-8) there is only one teacher per subject in two grade levels. For example, only one fifth and sixth grade social studies teacher, one seventh and eighth grade English teacher, and so on. It is easier for us to collaborate with each other and at the end of the school year, two years ago we had something similar to the project planned in the BIE video. However, since we made these plans at the end of the year and never talked about it until, well never, it fell through the cracks. We were going to have aspects in the project from social studies, English, math, science, and health. It was going to be a great project. Hopefully we can get the ball rolling again. While the massive project fell through, the fifth and sixth grade English teacher and I have done many interdisciplinary projects the last four years. So why we have a foundation laid down, we are hoping to get others on board and make a school wide PBL for the end of the year.