Light and film: exploring cross-curricular possibilities12/04/2015
A group of teachers at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls are interested in breaking down the barriers between their subjects, writes biology teacher MEL MOORE.
This year, we’ve embarked on a journey to improve the delivery of our junior curriculum.
The desire to do so started at the inaugural #edchatNZ conference. A group of colleagues accompanied me to the conference and were inspired to help lead some change.
Acknowledging the possible resistance to this change, especially following a three-year implementation of BYOD, a gentle approach was decided upon. We selected a theme of study for each term that would allow any level of ‘buy-in’ junior curriculum leaders and teachers felt comfortable with, but still gave scope and opportunity for those wanting to push the boundaries of traditional silo teaching.
And so, pushing the boundaries is what an English teacher colleague, Katie Williams, and I have decided to do. We both teach the same year 9 class and were excited at the prospect of breaking down the barriers between our subjects. We dabbled in some cross-curricular activities in term 1. Students wrote poems on the planets they had been researching in science, continuing to work on the poems when they had science with me. They constructed responses to articles they read in science class on the planned Mars One mission. Students reflected, quite intuitively, that they enjoyed the process of seeing how skills learned in one subject could be applied to another.
Some of the students’ thoughts:
“It’s really good that we can relate to the same topic in different subjects. We can get a better understanding of what we are doing. Plus it’s nice to be able to be creative in science and a bit more factual in English.”
“I enjoyed being creative after learning a lot about the planets and applying my knowledge to create a sort-of realistic poem.”
Next term, we are going to try to align our subjects further. With Katie, in English the students are beginning to study the film Remember the Titans, and in science we are learning about energy, light and sound. When we sat down last week to look at our programmes and how we might cross over, I was amazed by how much science there was in what Katie was teaching in English. Lighting effects, camera angles, pitch and tone of sound – all to create mood and effect.
We are hoping to be completely integrated for the first five weeks of next term. In the first week of term 2 in English, students will focus on the teaching of film techniques involving light, while in science we will recreate those effects with light ray boxes, mirrors and lenses and mobile phone cameras (I see Play-Doh figurines in my future).
In week two, we will move on to sound: how voices change to convey a message, and the way in which music is used for effect. In science, we will focus on how these sounds are created by changing wavelength, amplitude and frequency.
In weeks three and four of the term, students will choose key scenes from the film, and, working in groups, analyse the film techniques used, and apply their science understanding by explaining how these techniques are created and visualised. Their presentations of their scene analysis will form their assessment for both English and science.
What I have enjoyed the most about this process, and what has been the most surprising aspect, is how easy it has been. There is science in nearly everything. I know contextual teaching in science is not new, but in the daily grind of teaching externally-assessed NCEA Achievement Standards, which reward the learning of content, the creativity that the junior curriculum allows us has been lost.
It feels like Year 9 and 10 Science have become preparatory courses for Level 1. My hope for the future is that we can reverse that trend. I hope that cross-curricular learning in the junior school will demonstrate the possibilities for such topic-based learning in the senior school, with Achievement Standards from different learning areas combining to create contextual courses.
Collaboration is the key.
- Mel Moore is TIC Biology at Waikato Diocesan School, and writes a blog about her work: Learning on Purpose.