Interdisciplinary/cross-curricular teaching involves 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 (Jacobs, 1989).
What are Cross Curricular Lessons?
Cross curricular lessons integrate knowledge, improve learning, and increase student engagement. Instead of narrowly focusing on one subject at a time (i.e.: adding single-digit numbers for a Kindergartner), the student interacts with multiple subjects around one central objective (i.e.: learning to make a fruit salad using single-digit calculations – 6 grapes + 4 grapes equal ?, etc…).
Where can I find some to use this week?
KinderArt is a great site for free Cross Curriculum Art lessons, grades K-12. Objectives from the disciplines of Math, Literature, Geography, Music, P.E., Science, Social Studies, Transportation, and Architecture are introduced through fun art activities. KinderArt also has great multicultural lessons.
The National Education Association has put together this awesome free collection of lesson plans, printables, and videos with various disciplines such as Math, Art, Architecture, and History learned through lessons from Mayan culture. The lessons are targeted toward grades 5-12.
Games Children Play introduces children’s games from around the world, through which your students will improve knowledge in math, history, and language arts, while having a great time and being introduced to a new culture. I can’t wait to play Senet, a board game from ancient Kemet (Egypt).
How do create Cross Curricular Lessons?
First, decide what the objective that you would like to centrally teach. For example, in the video below, I wanted my son to understand that poems were not composed of just words, but of images. When he writes his poetry, he can be cognizant of including images as well. Sometimes poets can get so caught up in their language that we forget to string images together. I am sure that you can think of a poem that you read in high school that seemed to be a heap of vocabulary with a signature, instead of an accessible piece of art.
In order to reach our objective, I shared an excerpt from my poem, The 16th Strike. Since the images in the poem are connected to specific historical events, we had to stop multiple times for clarification. This was great because the lesson became creative writing, art, and history – all-in-one.
Enjoy the video and please, let us know how you create cross curricular lesson plans.
The goal of the many sacrifices that we make to educate our children are for one reason and one reason only: to shape them into successful, critically thinking, and independent adults with good characters.
Which traits are representative of these ideal adults that we are molding?
Dr. Amos Wilson, author of many books on African American child psychology, such as The Developmental Psychology of the Black Child and Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children, offers a list of attributes to cultivate in Black children based on traditional African values.
- respect for adults
- universal sense of justice
- respect for order
- social interest
- good manners
- sensitivity to persons and environment
- self-esteem/family and community pride
- commitment to promises made or contracts
- love of learning
- ethnic/cultural identity
- general care for humans of all races
- reverence for life
How do we nurture these traits within our children?
The first and best way to teach our children any good habit is to model it. Outside of that, whichever spiritual system that we practice will serve as much of the moral foundation for our children. Even if you do not consider yourself religious, be sure to discuss morals on a regular basis.
We can also look to the moral guidelines from traditional Africa and teach our children not just to memorize them, but to practice them in daily life.
The Nguzo Saba
The Nguzo Saba is a character-guiding system based on East African tenets. It was adapted in the 20th century by Maulana Karenga, an African American scholar into seven simple principles.
(The Seven Principles)
| Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
| Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
| Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
| Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
| Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
| Kuumba (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
How can we practice the Nguzo Saba?
We can think of creative ways to incorporate the Seven Principles into our daily lives.
For instance, unity can be demonstrated by working as a team to cook a healthy dinner or clean the house. Unity can also be practiced by working together to accomplish a larger goal, such as cleaning up a block in our neighborhood.
My son and I sometimes go downtown to help feed the homeless. We meet up with a wonderful group here in Houston that serves dinner to over 100 people 4 times a week. When we go there and interact with homeless of all races and genders that we might normally pass by on the street, it has a profound impact on both me and my son.
This week, let us all practice the first principle, Unity, in creative ways. Please leave feedback in the comments about how Unity was applied in your home this week.
Over the coming blogs on this topic, I will suggest methods for implementing the other 6 principles as well as introduce other traditional African moral systems.
(Artwork by BrothaJ2 from deviantart.com)