Interdisciplinary Curriculum in K-12 Schools: Current Practices in the Field

Interdisciplinary Curriculum in K-12 Schools: Current Practices in the Field

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4065-6.ch005
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Abstract

Creating a multidisciplinary curriculum may be challenging for some teachers due to a variety in grade levels, subjects taught, time allowed or devoted per subject or course, and class size combined with the emphasis on high stakes testing and content knowledge in other subjects. However, since all teachers have the potential to create integrated STREAMSS (science, technology, reading-writing/language arts, engineering, the arts, mathematics, and social studies) lessons, teachers may find the assistance they need by collaborating with teacher colleagues, connecting with parents and community members, and exploring available resources. A simplified “how to” list on creating a multidisciplinary lesson and examples of how STREAMSS concepts could be intertwined within and among topics is provided in this chapter.
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Introduction

Teaching and learning through an interdisciplinary curriculum involves complex approaches and diverse strategies. Students practice the skills and techniques necessary for making effective connections between disciplines (Drake, 1998). The STREAMSS approach to curriculum design encourages students to comprehend intricate relationships and creatively problem-solve. Educators should recognize the possibilities of interdisciplinary instruction to effectively plan lessons and units of study that meet students’ needs and strengths. The challenges of interdisciplinary learning are actually opportunities to find unique solutions that encourage creativity and inventiveness (Drake & Burns, 2004).

Objectives

  • Describe United States school programs and general characteristics of elementary, middle, and high school interdisciplinary instruction

  • Analyze current interdisciplinary practices in the K-12 field

  • Identify and discuss best practices and effective strategies for the K-12 STREAMSS curriculum

  • Recognize that pedagogical practices in the K-12 STREAMSS model can be adapted to meet all students’ needs

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K-12 Interdisciplinary Curriculum Programs

The STREAMSS approach to curriculum relies on the notion that learning can be meaningful when concepts are interconnected (Wood, 2005). For instance, the arts and social studies are often integrated since the two subjects are viewed as naturally interdisciplinary due to the manner in which the subjects’ content (e.g., people, places, and events), skills (e.g., creative expression and perspective) and techniques (e.g., critical thinking and higher order questioning) have similar curriculum and instruction underpinnings. Therefore, in this text, the authors have chosen to showcase the interdisciplinary teaching and learning approach through examples of infusing STREAMSS subjects to encourage educators to pursue interrelated ideas and new pedagogical strategies for their own classrooms.

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