The basis of this project could be classified under several topic headings: project-based learning, curriculum development, cooperative learning, curriculum integration, use of rubrics in assessment and goal setting, and others. While all of these elements appear in the class described, it is the integration that rises to the top.
Curriculum integration often promotes higher level thinking skills, incorporates cooperative learning, and facilitates comprehension and concept retention. James Beane, author of Curriculum Integration: Designing the Core of Democratic Education says that young people are often taught that important knowledge is abstract rather than integrated in their lives. He states that curriculum integration is tied to the ideas of democratic education and because of this connection, student participation in planning their own experiences must eventually be part of the curriculum design. According to Beane, there are four major aspects of curriculum integration:
This lesson focuses on team teaching as well as distance education in an integrated curriculum. The example used in this class lesson was a team teaching course held through the University of Houston College of Education during the summer 2001 semester. The course involved students and faculty members from the Science Education and Instructional Technology programs. The group traveled to Nosara, Costa Rica to experience, first hand, the differences in how the environment is treated and preserved and to learn about the culture of Costa Rica. Since integrated experiences include all of the ideas one experiences in their world, the students constructed new experiences, values and beliefs from participating in travel outside of the standard classroom and socialized within the new surroundings.
Part of social integration that took place provided the students with a common, shared educational experience among the diverse group of participants and those they interacted with in Costa Rica. The group learned about the environment, but they also learned about traveling abroad, flexibility, and cultural differences. For much of the trip, social integration and knowledge integration were closely tied. Students were expected to organize among themselves in order to later create some sort of learning tool as their final project. The tool was initially expected to be used by middle school children in the U.S. and was later broadened to include an audience in Costa Rica.
The experience required the usual amount of acceptance among members in order to accomplish teamwork, a topic addressed in most success books on education, communication and team building.
Note: It is important in any curriculum, but especially in situations that require little supervision and high output (like this one) that the , curriculum be organized around problems and issues that are of personal and social significance in the real world. The information must be pertinent or it is likely to be forgotten. In this situation, the final project provided the students a chance to build something that they could use in their classrooms, that others could use in the real world, and something that they could look upon as a fun as well as educational experience.