Digging into Cross-Curricular Content

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Posted in: Aha! Blog > Eureka Math Blog > Eureka Math Implementation Success Cross-Curricular > Digging into Cross-Curricular Content

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I am the coordinator of curriculum and professional development for a medium-sized urban district in west-central Ohio. We’re in our fourth year of Eureka Math® implementation, and last year we started using Wit & Wisdom® as our English language arts curriculum. We found creative ways to integrate these rigorous and hopeful Great Minds curricula and to celebrate the joy in education. One very exciting cross-curricular experience was our archaeological dig.

Our Grade 6 students were studying the stories Written in Bone and Blood on the River from Module 3 of Wit & Wisdom. Both stories explore, from two very different perspectives, the settlement and near extinction of Virginia’s Jamestown colony in the early 1600s. At the same time, students were learning geometry concepts in Eureka Math, such as area, surface area, and mapping polygons on the coordinate plane. Inspired by the link we discovered between those learning experiences, we engaged students in an archaeological dig. By using baking pans, sand, and small replicas of bones, fossils, and treasures, we created mini dig sites like those discussed in Written in Bone. Students mapped a grid, similar to the orderly box-grid method that archaeologists use to comb through dig sites, and recorded the locations of their finds. It was a wonderful example of cross-curricular learning, for students and for teachers. Here’s a glimpse into our implementation of the two curricula that allowed our students to experience this amazing project.

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We built engagement.

First, we created teacher buy-in. Teachers needed to know why the district selected Eureka Math and Wit & Wisdom for our students. Simply put, we made that choice because we believe our students deserve the best instruction. They need more from us in the form of rich, rigorous curricula. The staff in our district schools discussed The Knowledge Gap by Natalie Wexler, the highly respected book that explores problems with the American education system. We also unpacked the rich content in The Opportunity Myth by The New Teacher Project, which discusses how our education system lets students down and how we as educators can work to change that. It soon became clear to our teachers that the design and intentionality behind Eureka Math and Wit & Wisdom offered our students the best opportunity to bridge any educational gaps and push the learning forward.

We broke down silos.

We believe that students should not learn content in silos. As we prepare students to be active in the world and to pursue their passions, we must make sure they can use math and English seamlessly, often in tandem. We want our students to see how the different topics and skills they learn in school come together in useful ways. So, we broke down the walls between the two subject areas and made the schoolwork relevant and exciting for both students and teachers.

We planned and prepared an integrated activity.

We focused on helping students make the connections between their English work and the geometry they were learning in math. Because our instructional coaches are in our schools every day helping our teachers, we enlisted their aid with the planning. The coaches facilitated teacher collaboration and worked to calibrate the fine details of the potential learning in both curricula.

As a result, our math teachers and English teachers worked together to identify the complementary concepts from both subject areas. The team got creative and came up with the idea of the archaeological dig. To plan a successful activity, our team consulted and worked with our local museum of art, Smithsonian archeologists, anthropologists, and Native Americans. This collaboration ensured that our students experienced authentic, applicable, and exploratory learning.

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So how did it go?

It was great! Our students, teachers, and coaches were excited, and it was as if the stress and isolation of COVID-19 melted away during our dig. Bringing the curricula together and providing a creative space made the math and English real for our students. We saw our students doing and talking about math and demonstrating a deep understanding of math concepts. It’s thrilling to watch students build their math brains. The activity opened a world of experiences and opportunities for our students, and suddenly they could envision themselves in careers where they might use high-level math and language skills.

The experience of bringing the Eureka Math and Wit & Wisdom curricula together and seeing our students make connections has kindled new enthusiasm in many of our teachers. After all, one of the reasons we chose this calling is to experience aha moments like these.

It filled us with joy to see students make connections between two different disciplines and have substantive conversations about their learning with teachers and coaches. So, we thought about how we could capitalize on the success of the archaeological dig and bring more cross-curricular opportunities to our students. My district focused on using Eureka Math and Wit & Wisdom for career and college readiness and exploration. We now have a system in which our community, our business outreach director, and our curriculum team collaborate to bring integrated curricular activities to life so that all our students have access to a wealth of cross-curricular opportunities and rich experiences.

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Photographs courtesy of Patricia Alexander

Topics: Eureka Math Implementation Success Cross-Curricular