Standard 1.6. The interdisciplinary problem-based curriculum includes a focus on real world applications.

Fulton Science Academy Private School uses Georgia Standards of Excellence as our standards base, however we extend what we teach to cover all national standards, as well. Our collaborative unit planning tool Atlas Rubicon includes both sets of standards for our teachers, so that they can better  plan and prepare their units. Gifted standards are also included in Atlas Rubicon to enrich our student’s learning. We regularly use the CER Model, Engineering Design Model, and Project-based Learning strategies as part of our efforts to plan and implement interdisciplinary units with real world applications. 

Through our collaborative STEM Unit professional learning time on Wednesdays and collaborative lesson planning with Atlas Rubicon on Thursdays, we plan interdisciplinary activities with real-world applications for our students. Our World Language teachers and Connections teachers are able to contribute to the STEM Units and provide STEM instruction within their classroom setting, as well.

Creating and implementing interdisciplinary units is an essential component of an integrated STEAM curriculum. This is accomplished at the secondary level by weekly collaboration among high school faculty members. Due to the large degree of content diversity taught across all disciplines, selecting interdisciplinary topics applicable to all curricula involves the use of cross-cutting concepts and shared language.  Over the course of the school year, students examine topics such as Patterns, Structure and Function, Systems and Models, Cause and Effect, and Stability and Change. All high school faculty share their plans to introduce and model these ideas through Atlas, a curriculum-mapping software; this process allows teachers to communicate and share ideas and creates a collaborative workspace where shared language and thought is created and adopted. These cross-cutting concepts are individualized within each curricula and reinforced through shared language, so that students begin to identify and understand cross-curricular connections. Through the utilization of these concepts, we assist students in developing critical-thinking skills and create 21st century learners who not only understand individual topics, but can identify connections between disciplines and apply those connections on a wide scale. 

Further, our teachers use every opportunity to introduce real-world applications that reinforce curriculum concepts to their students. Some examples of this include the activities of Solar Eclipse Day, Pi Day, and the SpaceX shuttle launch. Also, as part of our assessment plan, we plan application of knowledge activities and projects that include real-world connections regularly. 

As an example of a STEM Unit, our third grade classes did a STEM Unit on the topic of Early Americans which included the following activities:

  • Science: Students were given a scenario where they needed to create a canoe using all natural materials that could float in water for at least two minutes.
  • Social Studies: Students studied the types of houses Early Americans lived in and then created a representation of one of the houses using all natural materials.
  • Art/Reading: Students read legends created and told by the Early Americans about dream catchers and then created their own dream catcher.
  • Art/Reading: Students read legends created and told by the Early Americans about shields and the meaning of the design used on them, and then created their own shields.
  • Writing/Social Studies: After reading about ancient legends, students wrote their own legends to explain their dream catcher and shield creations.
To illustrate a mathematics activity that included interdisciplinary problem-based curriculum and had a real-world applications, students were challenged with three different tasks with a city design project to show their proficiency level on angles formed by transversals with a cross-curricular project, which involves math, language arts, art and social studies. Within the past three weeks Math 7 students learned about angle pairs, complementary, supplementary, adjacent, vertical, and angles formed by parallel lines cut by transversals; alternate interior, alternate exterior, corresponding, same side interior (consecutive interior), and linear pair. Their first task was designing their own city using parallel & perpendicular lines, transversals and special angles and the product created were 2D posters. The second task was writing an expository essay describing a day in the life of resident in your city. In this task they must visit at least five places and describe the route they took to get from place to place.  The last task was group work to analyze and synthesize the messy problem.
Also, our Pre-K curriculum is designed to be fully interdisciplinary. It exposes students to the standards by focusing on different units that connect with each other through every content area.

FSAPS clubs and academic teams offer another avenue for our students to work on interdisciplinary real-world applications and connections. Some examples of these opportunities include, but are not limited to, First Lego League (robotics), Science Olympiad, Kitchen Science, Hands-on Science, Coding, and Lego Club. Through these clubs, our students create  and engage in both activities and projects that require many proficiency in many academic disciplines, as well as, real-world connections, such as FLL Robicts working on a recycling project or helping to keep outdated computers from being thrown into land fields.

Our students also enjoy our frequent STEM field trips that offer another way for our students to cover interdisciplinary studies through enjoyable social events that often have a real-world connection and/or application.  Field trips take many forms at our school, including in-house field trips, local and out of state field trips, virtual field trips, and even international field trips. Some examples of STEM field trips include:

  • 1st and 2nd grade field trip to the Fernbank Museum: reviewed many science standards (December 15)
  • 2nd grade field trip to Etowah Indian Mounds: review of many math and engineering concepts from a historical view
  • 3rd grade in-house field trip with Diamond Del/Mining Adventure: reviewed many geology standards (December 18th)
  • 4th grade field trip to the Western Booth Museum (STEAM unit) (February 2nd)
  • 4th grade field trip to the Atlanta Zoo: reviewed many science standards (November 7)
  • Museum of Aviation
  • Bodies Exhibit
  • Chestatee Wild Life Preserve
  • GA Tech Invention Studio
  • Stone Mountain
  • Delta Flight Museum

We strive to introduce our students to many career fields that they may not have previously known about or contemplated possibly choosing for their career goal.  This past December, we organized a STEAM career day for high school students and we will be hosting another one for elementary students this April. Additionally, we host STEAM speakers throughout the year to create interest and awareness on STEM topics and/or career fields. Another aspect we look for in our guest STEAM speakers are those with a possible history of changing career paths after completing a college degree or possibly even after they have worked in their field for some time.  It is important for our students to know that as they grow, mature, and gain life experiences that their focus and interests may change and they have the option of pursuing a different career path at any time. Some of our more recent  speakers included:

  • Terry Porter, City of Alpharetta, Environscapes with 4th grade: Jan. 9th
  • Terry Porter, City of Alpharetta, Environscapes with 3rd grade, February 2018
  • Rock Kits from City of Alpharetta Environmental Program, 3rd grade (November 2017)
  • Young Engineering Presentations on December 12th for 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders
  • Frequent STEAM Speakers

Our students further engage in interdisciplinary problem-based learning through our STEAM Enrichment Program. As part of this program our students create semester long projects that must have a real-world application or connection. During STEAM Enrichment time, student groups of four work independently on long-term STEAM projects that focus on real-life issues.These projects are then shared with our community at the end of each semester at the STEAM Project Expo.

As a final example of an interdisciplinary curriculum activity that includes real-world applications and connections you need to look no further than FSA STEAM Day.  This is by far the most popular school day of the year and one that our whole community looks forward to with great anticipation.  The whole school and even a good many community members turn out for this carnival of innovation, wonder, and discovery.  On this day, we host many outside organizations and speakers to join us in sharing real-world STEAM concepts, activities, projects, and experiments for a full day.  Our MSO, Mustang Support Organization, various volunteers, faculty, and staff all work together to provide students with a day designed to create excitement and inspire our students to question and explore. This is the day that demonstrates in a very visible way what we are really trying to achieve throughout the time that a student is enrolled with us and that is to instill a love of learning and excitement within our students… on this day you can see it in their very countenances.