This year has brought many unprecedented changes to everyone’s lives and to our schools. At ESA, we thought deeply about how we can best support our students as they navigate challenging circumstances and new modes of learning. This is why we have decided to shift our school model to interdisciplinary courses for this school year. Our teaching teams have worked hard to design interdisciplinary courses that are personally meaningful and culturally relevant, and demand critical thinking.
Having interdisciplinary curricula also has important benefits for students and teachers. It allows us to minimize the number of classes an in-person student has and the number of teachers and students they are in contact with at school; for remote students, they have 1 core class to manage and increased time with the same teacher and class. This also allows for teachers to have far fewer students on their roster than they would in a given school year (25 v. 100). We believe that relationship building and maintaining contact with students during remote learning is essential to success.
Here is a description of the interdisciplinary classes we are offering in the fall semester.
9/10th Grade: Making a Democracy
Excellent public education is essential for a functioning democracy. 9/10th grade students will use literature, social studies, science, and math to answer the question, How is a democracy constantly becoming? Meaning, how is democracy constantly evolving and responding to our changing identity. How has our democracy failed to respond to our evolving identity? What do we need to create a more perfect democracy in this country? How have other nations approached this question of governance? We will spend time exploring individual / group identities and how these inform the values of a society, learning the history of and collecting data about students’ neighborhoods, and practicing multiple ways to engage in democracy. In the second half of the semester, we will focus on the role of environmental justice in a democracy. We will take advantage of full or partial remote instruction to invite experts to speak to students online and have students do some of their learning (safely) outside in their own neighborhoods, bridging the divide between academics and reality.
11/12 STEM: Health Justice
This is a 8 week-long interdisciplinary course involving both math and science content. All 11th and 12th graders will eventually take this course, will receive credit for both math and science classes, and can use this class to panel either math or science when it is time to panel.
We are excited to explore the overarching theme of “Health Justice.” We will examine this topic through the lens of sleep, nutrition, and the environment (aka, “sleep, eat, and breathe.”) We will learn and share knowledge from experts in these fields, and we will also use these topics as stepping stones to pursue action projects, fulfilling the “justice” element of our class.
This is a class planned by both math and science teachers, and students can expect to explore math and science content every day. The culminating project for the course will involve panel-like elements that students have seen before (conducting experiments/surveys, collecting data, designing procedures, making connections, etc.). We hope to not only learn new information, but also feel empowered to take action within these realms of experience.
11/12 Humanities: Investigating Equal Protection
In this interdisciplinary course, we focus on the section of the 14th amendment to the Constitution that guarantees equal protection: ““No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Through the use of primary source documents, short stories, poetry, music, and documentary videos, students explore the essential questions below:
- To what extent and in what ways has the US achieved the promise of “equal protection”?
- What are some examples of success/progress with regard to “equal protection”?
- How has the US sometimes failed to achieve “equal protection”? What obstacles impede progress?