Project Based Learning lends itself to interdisciplinary collaboration. Although it is not currently possible at my school, my students would benefit from this project being an interdisciplinary project. In Social Studies, students could learn about how civilizations arose, developed, and changed, probably as a result of people seeking to meet their needs.
According to this video, interdisciplinary projects benefit both teachers and students. Students get support in all of their classes to complete their projects. Each teacher assists them with the tools they need to understand their project and complete their tasks. The concepts they are learning are reinforced as they go to each class. Teachers benefit in a couple of ways. First, they are able to learn new concepts themselves as they discuss the aspects in which the project involves each of their content areas. Second, working together to plan a project can lighten the load for each teacher. A third benefit comes from the discussion of the standards students need to master in each subject. As teachers explain the standards for their subject, they are able to see how their standards overlap. When teachers see how their subject is being reinforced, they are better able to support student learning in every area, not just in their own.
There are also challenges to working with other teachers on an interdisciplinary project. For one, it can be difficult to agree on a project theme. Another challenge is the time involved in collaboration.
As I’ve thought about how my school could implement interdisciplinary projects, it seems like it would be a natural fit in 6th grade. Our 6th grade is teamed so that each student only has 2 core teachers. These teachers could work together to create projects that would involve math, science, social studies, and language arts. Unfortunately, in 7th and 8th grade our students are all mixed up. We would need to get 4 language arts teachers, 3 social studies teachers, and 5 math/science teachers to agree to the same project. To get around this difficulty, we could try to identify class periods in which we share a large number of students and create projects for those classes. Otherwise, we would need to drastically change our master schedule in order to implement interdisciplinary projects.