Exploring Interdisciplinary Learning in the Fourth Grade

A combined look from the disciplines of science, art, and social studies.

Through the support of a Venture Grant, Lower School teachers collaborated to create an interdisciplinary unit focused on the importance of water in China.

Students worked in teams to build models and test solutions to the constant flooding faced by Li Bing, a third-century BCE Chinese administrator in the ancient Chinese province of Sichuan.

The historic landscape was recreated using dirt, wood chips, and rocks of various sizes, and students experimented to learn how man-made dams can divert the flow of water (and save valuable crops and rice paddies!).

They also made paint from scratch using an age-old formula of pigments from flowers and plants, gum arabic from trees, natural alcohol, and vinegar, and then observed, as they poured it over different structures, how the amount of water in the paint influences the flow of it. This illustrated how, in nature, flowing water deviates throughout the landscape.

This co-curricular unit encourages students to become systems thinkers and global citizens, two important goals outlined in the Long-Range Priorities.

"In studying the significance of water in ancient China through a social studies, science, and art lens, students gain a holistic understanding of how one element can have an influence upon and affect the development of an entire system or civilization," says art teacher and team member Sabreena Jeru-Ahmed.

The video below captures some of the magic of this unit that happened in the classroom.

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