For the past few weeks fifth graders learned about Mesopotamian systems of trade and travel. Most ancient cultures were dependent on water, which became the most efficient method of travel. For Sumerians, they began using their natural resources to construct Mashuf boats.
“Sometimes how we teach is just as important as what we teach,” says Mr. Royston, the Upper School art teacher. “We want them to have fun, create and be inventive. It makes what they are learning in history class come alive.”
There are many types of cross-curricular projects built into the Powhatan experience. Methods of teaching like this require copious amounts of teacher collaboration, but also rich student interaction. Deep Learning requires enthusiastic students in order to thrive, so cross-curricular projects engage the students at a more meaningful level. This interdisciplinary approach is best reflected by teamwork and strong student outcomes. The end result is mastery of the material, instead of just merely completing the assignment.
“But this project also has a tie-in to the real world,” continues Mr. Royston. “We talk about form and function and why boats have been built like this for centuries. Sure, they can build a boat in any design they choose – but they learn that it might sink.”
Projects like this provide students an opportunity to learn by doing, not lecturing or reading or talking-but by constructing.
Cross-curricular teaching builds on a central theme and connects to multiple content areas. It provides a more robust way of approaching the learning process and integrates parts of the curriculum to give student’s a deeper understanding of the material.
In this particular example, art and social studies combine to make a fun, engaging project that furthers the understanding of their subject matter. In art class, the children made small model reed boats, called Mashuf boats, with materials found on Powhatan’s wooded campus. It took three weeks to build the boats while they were simultaneously learning about the time period in history Class. Once the lessons and the boats were finished, the project culminated with a boat race to determine which of the boats was most sea-worthy. This marks the eighth year of the annual race, affectionately dubbed Royston’s Regatta.