by Jenna Sekerak | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist
The climate of education is changing. Facing demands from rigorous state standards and high-stakes testing, teachers nationwide are racing to cover more subjects and skills than ever to help students succeed in school and in life. Today’s students are expected to master good old-fashioned reading, writing and arithmetic while also developing 21st-century skills in critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving.
How can teachers hope to cover all these standards, subjects and skills, you ask? Through cross-curricular instruction!Read More →
According to a long-standing definition from Heidi Jacobs, cross-curricular instruction is “a conscious effort to apply knowledge, principles and/or values to more than one academic discipline simultaneously. The disciplines may be related through a central theme, issue, problem, process, topic or experience.”
The demand for cross-curricular instruction signals the end of subject compartmentalization (for example, spending 15 minutes on history and then 30 minutes on math) and calls for lessons that let students think critically across multiple disciplines. After all, to meet 21st-century demands, we must plan 21st-century lessons!
But don’t worry—it’s not as hard as it sounds! Here are four ways you can easily use cross-curricular instruction in your classroom—and get students building important 21st-century skills!
1: Start with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)!
Get started with cross-curricular instruction by encouraging students to use skills in four different subjects—science, technology, engineering and math—to solve problems and develop critical thinking with Lakeshore’s Real-World STEM Challenge Kits. In addition to covering multiple disciplines, the kits take the tedious planning and preparation out of whole-class cross-curricular instruction. Teachers don’t even need to decide where to start or figure out what materials to gather—each kit comes packed with everything students need to complete the challenges. Plus, detailed lesson plans make it easy to focus students’ learning and explain the STEM concepts behind each challenge.
As an added bonus, each kit includes careers cards that help kids connect what they learned during the challenges to the real world. The cards might even inspire kids to consider studying STEM disciplines as they move through school and life! This is important because the U.S. Department of Commerce expects STEM occupations to grow at a higher rate than other positions in the future.
2: Graduate to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math).
Integrate even more focus areas—including art, STEM, literacy, creative expression and social-emotional development—into your cross-curricular instruction with a comprehensive STEAM kit from Lakeshore. Our Fairy Tales STEAM Kit combines classic stories with hands-on STEM and literacy activities that students are sure to love! Students read the stories, animate the puppets, answer questions and complete each STEM challenge—building language, creativity and even engineering skills as they go.
3: Try project-based learning.
Project-based learning is another great way to get students using skills from multiple subject areas. I love this type of learning because it provides hands-on, relevant learning that doesn’t feel like just another assignment—and it benefits students at all levels. According to research from the Buck Institute for Education, project-based learning helps students boost important critical-thinking skills, including synthesizing and evaluating information.
Lakeshore’s ready-to-use Whole-Class Project-Based Learning Kits allow the entire class to dive right into meaningful, real-world projects. Teachers simply introduce a topic to the class by posing a question about a real-world problem. Then students conduct research and apply what they learn to create a project, such as a digital slide presentation or a newsletter. And a one-of-a-kind project isn’t all students have to show for their work! As they complete projects, students develop skills in researching, reading informational text, writing using evidence and working with peers!
4: Combine STEM and project-based learning.
Once you’ve implemented a few separate STEM and project-based learning lessons, why not try combining the two? It’s easy with our Global Challenges Project-Based STEM Kits! The kits help students develop skills in many content areas—college and career readiness, digital literacy, technology, science and engineering practices. That may seem like a lot to absorb, but a project-based approach could actually make information easier to understand and remember—studies have shown that project-based learning boosts students’ performance on content knowledge assessments.
Each kit includes an attention-grabbing card that introduces a modern-day problem. Students have to use STEM and research skills to create a meaningful project designed to solve the problem. As students work through each kit, they’ll build and test a model home that runs on solar power, create a working solar still to desalinate water and build a working oil containment boom.
We hope these ideas take some of the stress out of implementing cross-curricular instruction this year—and we know your students will love these engaging new ways to learn!
- “Cross-Curricular Connections in Instruction: Four Ways to Integrate Lessons,” by Melissa Kelly, last modified March 31, 2017, https://www.thoughtco.com/cross-curricular-connections-7791
- U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, “STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future,” by David Langdon, George McKittrick, David Beede, Beethika Khan, and Mark Doms, Issue Brief #03-11, Economics and Statistics Administration (Washington, D.C., 2011), http://www.esa.doc.gov/sites/default/files/stemfinalyjuly14_1.pdf
- “Summary of Research on Project-Based Learning,” University of Indianapolis: Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (2009). Accessed July 2017, https://www.bie.org/object/document/summary_of_research_on_pbl