21st Century Curriculum
Rethinking a Theme: "States & Stories"
We believe that students are citizens of today who make a positive contribution to our world, both present and future. Our fourth grade team recently redesigned curriculum that is now anchored in that belief. The curriculum is based on a standard United States social studies and geography unit that fourth grade students across the country typically study. The College School’s theme class, though, is now based in 21st century curriculum thinking. Called “States & Stories,” this curricular unit, or "theme" as it is called at The College School, is a rich example of how 21st century curriculum thinking can inform curriculum and influence students in a powerful way.
In the redesigned theme, students explore the responsibilities of citizenship while simultaneously learning about the regions of the United States. They work in groups to compare research, make connections, and analyze the strengths and challenges of the United States. Students determine their hopes for the United States and how they will contribute to a sustainable future. All these lessons engender deep thinking about history, community, and a sustainable future.
Rethinking The Theme
In collaboration with Cadwell Collaborative, teachers re-imagined and re-designed the theme through the following lenses:
- Partnership for 21st Century Schools and the four C’s: (1) Creativity and Innovation, (2) Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, (3) Communication, and (4) Collaboration
- Education for sustainability
- Daniel Pink’s work in his book, Whole New Mind: Right Brained Thinking is Critical for 21st Century
- Ron Berger’s work in his book, Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students
Guiding the development of the class are a series of essential, or guiding, questions:
- How is the United States made up of human and natural systems?
- How do multiple perspectives deepen knowledge of the United States?
- What does the United States need from us and what do we need from the United States? What is A Commons and how does it impact us individually and collectively? (For a great definition of “A Commons,” watch the student reflection video above)
- How can we inspire others to better care for our human and natural systems?
All of the academic skills from the previous theme are still learned, and students learn many other academic skills. Below are some of the academic objectives:
- Locate and name all fifty states
- Write paragraphs, with topic sentence and supporting details
- Read a selection of historical stories from different perspectives that collecitively spin story of the United States
- Demonstrate basic map reading skills using legend and compass
- Identify major geographical features of the United States
- Identify Commons areas during trips and during research
As the theme was redesigned, these shifts were inspired and required:
- States to regions
- Individual students to teams
- Geographical features to Commons
- Past and present to past, present and future
- Learn skills in isolation to learning in service of big ideas
- Report for the teacher to exemplary, authentic work
- Campout and field study moved to the learning history Daniel Boone home site