An Interdisciplinary Approach

Posted by Braden Bouwman
Created: 02 February 2017

February 2, 2017

By Braden Bouwman

The traditional school system as we know it today tends to support the separation of subjects. They leave Math to the Math teacher, English to the English teacher, and so on. They teach the students strictly what they need to know, and often nothing more for some reason. Back in elementary school, I had the same teacher for every subject, whereas now I have different teachers for all my classes. One might think the elementary school teacher would have an easy time combining subjects, but this did not seem to be the case. While we were studying one subject in her class the teacher would make references to another, but rarely did we actually have a project or lesson that took place in a variety of subjects. This is where I think MarinSEL differs from the traditional school system. There are multiple teachers, so it proves to be more of a challenge, but that’s how people thrive in this program. And just as the students collaborate, the teachers do the same thing. They work together to provide a curriculum with one central idea and project, which has aspects that touch in every subject.

Recently, we have been studying watersheds as a central topic between classes. Every person in the class has chosen a body of water, and we were all told to research that particular body. Personally, I chose a watershed that was close by the school and my house, Las Gallinas Creek. However, since most of the water bodies were local, we had somewhat of a difficulty finding information. I could find almost no information about my source besides a few websites. So, we used critical thinking and emailed local organizations for more information, or looked into documents released by our local government. In Geography we were to make a pamphlet that reflected information about how the body of water affected its surroundings geographically. This meant we were to research the social, political, economic, environmental, and historical impacts this body of water had on its surrounding area. In Health, we researched the impacts the body of water had on ourselves. We learned what toxins were in our local watersheds and the arguments for and against them, and then wrote reflections on what we had learned. For English, we wrote a piece of literature that had something to do with our body of water. And, like English class usually does, it allowed us to invoke our creative side. Several people made poetry, while others wrote letters home about their imaginary stay there. Other people wrote made up adventures and other stories that took place there. I fell into this third category, where I wrote a mystery that took place in the body of water. I included the character’s reaction to how poorly parts of the water were treated, which I hope will encourage readers to take action for these issues. Lastly, in Science, I am looking forward to testing the water quality and making an interactive map of our watershed to report our discoveries. I think this will be a really fun activity and will teach us what it is like to acquire first-hand experience.

Other than the water project, the MarinSEL program has made an important effort to encompass all subjects. Seminar is a critical class to the program that really wraps all of the classes into one. In every single MarinSEL class we have had a presentation in some form or another, and Seminar is the class that teaches us how to present. That class is our time to work on our LEAD projects, so there are several aspects of those LEAD projects that breach the line between subjects. For example, we needed to research subtopics for our LEAD projects and write papers on them in order to create a successful paper. These papers are shared with our group members so we collectively create background for our topics and help us really understand what we need to accomplish. But, in order to do that we needed to learn how to write a robust thesis statement. Mrs. Frack taught us the basics of thesis statements, but then in English Ms. Leonhart taught us how to write one that was really effective, and worked on ways that we can implement it. We will use this knowledge to improve our theses in Seminar, and, through cause and effect, create a better paper.

Overall, having projects that involve many classes is a very valuable lesson that will definitely prepare us for the real world. As of right now, the traditional school system separates all subjects, which teaches us to only focus on one subject at once and creates a rather linear mindset. In the future, I hope the school system will evolve to combine subjects, as that would better prepare students for jobs in the real world. MarinSEL is great start to this, and I hope many other schools will follow their efforts. The thing I like the most about MarinSEL is that it teaches us what being an adult will actually be like, and what we need to learn in order to fulfill our obligations, and I think many would agree with my opinion.