Breaking down divisional walls to expand learning.
Green by Design Challenge
Over the summer, six 6th grade teachers were seeking opportunities to develop interdisciplinary learning that would combine subjects like science, social studies, math, environmental studies, and anthropology. Their collaboration resulted in an interdisciplinary unit entitled the Green by Design Challenge.
Over the course of 6 weeks, students worked in small groups to research, design, develop, and build scale model sustainable green houses for a family. Utilizing design thinking, a theory that uses five steps to drive good design process, students practiced critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills to create their house.
In addition to construction of the model, students also researched the culture, environment, and country of the family and land native to the area of the world where their model house would reside. They took intangibles such as traditions and local customs into consideration. Empathy and relating to others was also a key goal of the project. As one student put it, "Empathy is putting yourself in someone else's shoes...and trying to get to know them."
Unlike traditional teacher-driven classes, the challenge was designed to be more open-ended, leaving space for teachers and students to work together and discover new things together. The group work encouraged each student to contribute and demonstrated that working to each individual's strengths could result in work better than one could achieve alone.
Sixth grade teacher Lauren Lamb shared, "The main goal I wanted students to get out of the project was relating and connecting to people outside of themselves. We've spent a lot of time talking about different global issues, and it's easy to think of 'them versus us.' One of the main goals of this project was having them close that gap. It's challenging the students to think beyond those divisional walls [and discover] that math doesn't just happen in a math class—it can solve a problem like bringing clean water to a village."
The challenge was the culmination of a year of study in green technology through science, building and engineering through math class, and global issues through social studies. The project gave students and teachers a place to pull all these academic learnings and apply them to a practical project. According to one student, "It is the thing I enjoy most."