The above graphic lays out a 3rd or 4th grade PYP unit of instruction for the theme “Where we are in place and time.” Click on the image for a larger view.
Regarding this unit, consider these questions:
1. How well does the central idea reflect the concepts identified?
The central idea states that “exploration leads to discoveries, opportunities and new understandings.” Let’s consider the full breadth of exploration – scientific, artistic, self, spirituality, cultural, geographical and so forth. If we agree on this broad application of the term “exploration,” (and I think we should), then it appears that the key concepts – which seem to be biased toward considering mainly geographic exploration – limit the central idea. Or, to flip it and look at in the other way, the central idea as expressed above is too broadly written to focus on the key concepts.
2. How well does the central idea reflect an aspect of the transdisciplinary theme identified?
An aspect? Hmm… An aspect. I don’t really understand the question. Why would this unit be limited to “an aspect” of the transdisciplinary unit identified? Isn’t this just a rehash of the same way social studies/history have been taught since my grandfather was a kid? in the 13th and 14th centuries, Spain needed gold. They were in competition with other European powers and any land outside Europe was deemed up for grabs. They expanded their colonial empire. Expanding their reach and wealth allowed them to accumulate more power. (Causation, perspective, colonialism, power.)
And, uh, well, the results of this approach to history education are well-known. Most students, beginning in about grade three and going all the way through college, don’t much like history. Whether a person is eight years old or 88, most of us just don’t experience a connection with this type of learning.
It seems to me that the Transdisciplinary Theme: Where we are in place and time is the perfect unit to connect students with ideas and personalities that really excite and interest them.
3. How well does the unit provide opportunity to explore multiple subject-related concepts and knowledge through multiple perspectives?
Poorly. As the unit is written, it lends itself to an overly narrow interpretation of the term “exploration.” Key concepts should be expanded to more explicitly include disciplines beyond social studies.
4. Which subjects do you think are most relevant to exploring the central idea?
This is an ideal unit to allow students to begin exploring their deepest passions. Virtually no subject should be off limits. Think about the exploration – the pioneering work – Picasso, Monet or Gauguin engaged in and the subsequent discoveries and new understandings their work led to. Or consider the manner in which the work of paleontologists such as the Leakeys or Johanson contributed to reshaping our understanding of the origins of humankind. One of my own passions lies with sport angling. In the post WWII period, pioneers such as A. J. McClane, Joe Brooks and Lee Wulff made discoveries that revolutionized the sport and created new opportunities for millions of anglers all over the world.
I was surprised, in a PYP environment, to see the term “exploration” so clearly biased toward geographical conquests.