Sample Interdisciplinary Learning Projects
Fifth Grade | e-Mission: Operation Montserrat
This interdisciplinary project involves science, mathematics and social studies and is based on a real, historical event.
The scenario: The volcano on the normally tranquil island of Montserrat has come to life. As flaming pebbles and lava begin their devastation, emergency response teams learn a hurricane is approaching.
Using real-time hurricane and seismic data, four teams of student specialists assist Mission Control in saving the residents of the island from certain destruction. Students prepare for and then participate in a simulation of this disaster. A two-hour, live feed from Wheeling Jesuit University highlights this simulation.
Through this project, students learn about hurricanes, volcanoes, the geography of the region, and disaster readiness and planning. To avert disaster and save the lives of 8000 island residents, students use their science knowledge, and math and language arts skills.
The four student teams are as follows:
- Hurricane Team – downloads data on the hurricane location and intensity; tracks path and speed and predicts the impact on the island; forwards predictions to the other teams.
- Volcano Team – downloads and analyzes seismic data from a satellite; makes predictions of volcano activity and forwards to other teams.
- Evacuation Team – researches the island of Montserrat; determines what evacuation procedures to relay to the island via the Communications team and Mission Control.
- Communications Team – transmits all verbal and written communications between Mission Control and the other teams.
Third Grade | Monarch Butterfly Unit
This interdisciplinary project engages students in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. Third grade students share their own field observations with classmates across North America. They track the fall and spring migration of monarch butterflies via Journey North, a Web site that tracks numerous migrations. Online migration maps, pictures, lesson plans, activities and information via Journey North help students make local observations and fit them into a global context. Widely considered a best-practices model for education, Journey North is considered the nation's premiere "citizen science" project for children.
This project involves the disciplines of science, social studies, language arts, Spanish, art, and computer and includes these activities:
- Raising monarchs from the larva stage, while learning about metamorphosis, migration patterns, and the effects of weather and climate on monarch migration.
- Tagging and releasing the monarchs
- Participating in a symbolic migration of paper monarchs that are created in art and Spanish classes. These paper monarchs then migrate south in the fall and spend the winter in Mexico, as the real ones do.
- Writing notes in Spanish to send the paper monarchs and thank their Mexican friends for caring for their butterflies through the winter. The paper monarchs return to the students in the spring with a note from a Mexican student.
- Excitement abounds as they receive a paper monarch that has spent the winter in Mexico. They love to read the message they receive from a Spanish speaking student.
First Grade | Polar Regions
This interdisciplinary unit for first graders involves the comparison study of Antarctica and the Arctic. We use the disciplines of language arts, social studies, math, art, science, music, physical education and computers.
In social studies, children are engaged in these ways:
- Learning about the topography of Antarctica and the Arctic and the variety of scientific investigations taking place in both regions
- Comparing and contrasting the Antarctic and Arctic areas
- Creating maps of the regions
- Discovering the harsh climate of the polar regions
- Learning about the limitations the seasons pose on habitation in the polar regions
In language arts, students are engaged in these ways:
- Reading stories about these areas
- Listening to fiction and non-fiction stories related to polar regions
- Learning vocabulary specific to polar regions
- Researching and writing their own report on the polar animal/explorer of their choice
- Generating written responses to stories and novels (predicting, sequencing, illustration interpretations, etc.)
- Distinguishing polar explorers and their contributions
An art activity involves the creation of soda-bottle polar bears and penguins.
In music and physical education classes, students learn the Penguin Polka dance.
Polar centers are used to enhance certain math, social studies and language arts skills.