For several years, we teachers at NCS have been kicking off each school year with a multi-day, problem-based integrated unit. Almost no one will spend their career sitting in an office reading books then writing essays, but all of us spend our days solving problems with nimble, creative thinking. (We hope.) Problem-based education is on the rise in the best schools because it more naturally connects students to the kinds of thinking and skills they will need for life, not just for the artificial environment we call "school."
So for the past several years we've opened the school year with one of these units. We started in 2007 with Darfur, then studied the Health Care Crisis in 2008, problems that rise with the elderly in 2009, and the worldwide water shortage in 2010. This year we had to move our unit into October as a replacement for our normal big-city field trips. We chose to focus this year's unit on the problems caused by poverty.
The recession has eaten away at most families' budgets, leaving gaping holes in our sense of security. We Americans are used to relying on money to solve our problems, and my students are no exception.
So let's see how this goes. Five days of intense, problem-based, collaborative learning and service ministry with cross-grade groups (6th-12th). Stay tuned!