GEODES: more than meets the eye

HMW incorporate vertical integration into our schedule to promote student engagement and enhance teaching practice?

I hoped to experiment with the vertical integration concept in December by having my grade 10 English class join forces with the grade 12 World Issues class on a mini-unit around the concept of agency. While we ended up downscaling from a mini-unit to a single lesson, we were able to have a meaningful discussion in which most of the students from both classes participated. I don’t feel as though this was a large enough experiment to have provided much new insight to inform my action plan, but it is fair to say anecdotally that the grade 10’s rose to the challenge of having meaningful discussion with senior students, and that both groups were able to broaden their views of agency, as it related to their respective classes, based on input from their peers.

While I was a bit disappointed that the mini-unit plan couldn’t work this semester, I also know that I really don’t need to be. What’s the hurry? There is lots of time to work on this plan. In fact, there is a way to gain some insight into my action plan coming down the pipe that I am *SUPER EXCITED* about!

For the second semester, we are working towards the development of an integrated program for our grade nines. Now, their courses are still all individually blocked in our semester two schedule, but we are planning to double or triple or quadruple up regularly, and will be framing all of our courses with the same Big Questions. We’re calling our integrated course group GEODES (for GEography, OutDoor ed, English, and Science—credit to @gvogt‘s wife Tia for the acronym!) Did I mention that I am *STOKED* for this?

As is characteristic of geodes, there’s more to this than meets the eye. There’s a twinkling, gemmy, beautiful surprise inside.

That surprise is this: beyond incorporating cross-subject integration GEODES will also provide an opportunity to think creatively and adaptably about scheduling, and welcome in other class groups, thus offering more regular—and possibly longer-term—chances for mixed-grade learning. This is not just a fun project that is pedagogically sound; it is also a chance to experience on a smaller scale some of the scheduling and curriculum pieces that will be key to addressing my HMW. 


7 Replies to “GEODES: more than meets the eye”

  1. @jsheppard,

    GEODES sounds awesome, and a huge step in the necessary direction towards interdisciplinary learning. Vertical integration makes so much sense developmentally, but makes huge sense in a boarding environment where international students at various learning levels can achieve academic mentorship instead of colonial stigma.

    Sometimes setting a firm constraint is the only way for schools to move forward. Years can go by while administration attempts to brainstorm with teachers and achieve buy-in with stakeholders. In the meantime, students often suffer. If you change the structure you change the way everyone responds to the structure. Learning doesn’t diminish. In fact, it just might flourish!

    1. Ab.So.Lutely. And—unlike colonial stigma—academic mentorship is a two-way street. I am certainly seeing this HMW as a structural challenge, not a pedagogical one. The pedagogy is sound.

      In terms of GEODES, I’m lucky to work with colleagues and admin who are open to these sorts of ideas, and who are willing to venture into the different or uncomfortable and adapt accordingly. As independent school employees generally, and Cohort members specifically, we have a beautiful opportunity to work towards reframing what school can be. Perhaps this is an extreme view, but I’d actually fo so far as to replace “opportunity” with “responsibility.”

      I doubt many of us are here because we believe in the system, but rather because we believe in human potential. The onus is on us (boom: see what I did there?) to act accordingly.

  2. GEODES! I love it! I couldn’t agree more that an integrated curriculum is far more of a structural challenge than a pedagogical one … I am working on some integrated curriculum between Design and English at the moment and the potential is ripe! We have work to do on our approach to collaborative planning (where does it fall in our schedules so that everyone’s time is protected?) and student timetabling too … but small steps to start a long journey right? I look forward to hearing more!

    1. @acampbellrogers I’d definitely love to hear more about how your Design/English integration is coming along! In terms of both my action plan and the GEODES project, finding time to plan collaboratively is something that I definitely see as a challenge (we’ve been able to do some pre-emptive, theoretical GEODES planning, but have not yet had to keep on top of it in real time.) We’ve also got some people in the grade 9 integrated program who will be teaching other grade levels, which I am hoping will provide some smaller-scale vertical integration opportunities, but which is definitely a challenge of its own. Have you found a strategy for collaborative planning that seems particularly effective, or are you still in the experimenting stage?

  3. You have brought joy to my heart and I’m tearing up @jsheppard. I love that you’re so “stoked” and blogging and inviting high-level discussion and the incredible perspective and wisdom of @edaigle @acampbellrogers. The four of you GEODES are trailblazing; foreshadowing the future (as we at Rosseau Lake enter a new strategic plan) and providing a tangible sense of what’s possible. It is, perhaps, more than anything your excitement for possibility and getting “uncomfortable” (however driven by frustration with tradition) that will drive this program. I can’t wait to not only witness your collaboration in innovation, but also its affect on our entire teaching culture. Yes!

  4. Also @jsheppard, I meant to include a slight language shift that is important. We are moving from an offering of courses (that describes the traditional timetable) towards the creation of programs. In Grade 9, we are offering a program, and your initiative is to create one; integrated curriculum is a natural consequence of that initiative. Peace!

    1. Yes, Jeeves (@gvogt)! Love the language—and practice—shift from courses to programs. D DAYS, ESL, OE, and GEODES (will my Action Plan need an all-caps name too?) are leading the charge right now, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if (/won’t it be wonderful when) these things are not outliers, but simply what we do at RLC?

      Can I write “stoked” again, just because? In all-caps?


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