Caring across the curriculum

Sometimes I get tired of seeing the school day broken into subject-matter based courses. We don’t teach subjects we teach students, and students of all ages engage in a real life that matters across individual fields of study.

Watch the video* Miniature Earth:

How many different ‘subjects’ can we teach with this video? How real is the Math? How relevant is the Social Studies? Can we tie in History? Current Events? Economics? Environmental Issues? Healthy Living?

How far can we extend the learning? These are 1990 statistics from the state of the Village Report. What are the stats now? Can you predict what they will be 10 years from now? “Write a paragraph from the perspective of…”

But caring isn’t just about identifying a problem, it is about doing something about that problem.

Watch the video* World on Fire by Sarah McLachlan:

More real life relevance across the curriculum and proof that one person can make a difference!

So what can a class do? is a great example of what can be done. Mico-Loans to poeple from many parts of the world that would have a hard time getting regular loans.

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

The people you see on Kiva’s site are real individuals – not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs’ profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need. (About Kiva )

If you want to know how meaningful this can be to a class of students, check out what Jen Whiffin has done with her Grade 4/5 class. She starts her post: Math Made Compelling: The Kiva Renaissance with this quote:

“Building a thought-filled curriculum serves the larger agenda of building a more thought-filled world–an interdependent learning community where people continually search for ways to care for one another, learn together, and grow towards greater intelligence.  We must deepen student thinking to hasten the arrival of a world community…” (Arthur L. Costa, “The Thought-Filled Curriculum”, Educational Leadership, 2008)

If you enjoy that post, check out her other related posts Math Made Compelling and Math Made Compelling: Phase One of the Kiva Project . Also check out her class’ Kiva profile.

Grade 4’s and 5’s learning about GDP per capita? Why not? But take this real-life meaning away and the math just isn’t… compelling.

A curriculum of caring and making a difference, across many fields of study. Learning that matters and connects our students to the world they live in.

*Update: For those of you ‘Behind the filter’ like my teachers here in China, since you cannot see the embeded and linked YouTube videos. Here they both are: Miniature Earth and World on Fire. You can watch them online or download them thanks to!

11 comments on “Caring across the curriculum

  1. What a thought-provoking post! I agree that taking away real-life meaning from any subject would make it dull and meaningless. Above and beyond the real-life meaning is providing students with a view of what the world around them really experiences. Also, these lessons give students an opportunity to think about how they can better that world. Too many times I think that curricula lack these lessons, but part of a student's development is to discover their role in society and the world they live in.

  2. I really agree with this Dave. I have talked with Jenn about her Kiva project (didn't know she had blogged about it so thanks for the link) and am thinking of having it set up in my class at some point in the near future once I can gather some things together. When I talked with her she said that it would probably work better with Grade 6/7's as many of the math concepts are embedded in the curriculum. I am just getting to grips with everything that has been thrown my way this year but hopefully now that I have things somewhat sorted out I will be able to start putting something together.

  3. And while we're blurring the lines between subjects to further bring the best potential out of our education systems, should not the primary focus of Western (or, industrialized?) education not be confronting the myriad problems tomorrow's generation will face?

    No longer are humanitarian issues 'ornamental' side dishes, or local back-patting opportunities: they are The Issue. Teaching kids how to be employees at Fortune 500 companies seems somehow beside the point, given the world our graduates are poised to inherit.

    Thanks for a great post with lots of great links to real-time projects! Will definitely be sharing with TALONS (you know, our interdisciplinary program trying to change the world…)


  4. Shelly,
    I agree with what you, “Too many times I think that curricula lack these lessons,” and yet I think that when they are taught, students exceed our expectations, and it's time for teachers to make the curriculum fit these bigger, selfless ideas rather than waiting for curricula to change.

    It really is amazing how long it takes to settle into things at the start of the year. As things settle I will be looking forward to seeing what you will do with your class! You have a great resource in being able to chat with Jenn… take advantage of that!

    I think I've told you before that I actually wanted your job… working with those fantastic kids. I think you are doing amazing work and I look forward to seeing some of the great stuff your kids do online as well. Be sure to share that as well. Kids like those in TALONS will indeed change the world for the better!

  5. “Let deeds, not words, be your adorning,” is one of my mantras. You've hit the nail on the head. It is so easy to become overwhelmed by the decay of the world, to surrender to it because we can't stop it. We forget that we can nurture the growth of tiny seedlings. Our energy is put to much better use when we are supporting the latter instead of fighting the former.
    “The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly conduct.” -Baha'u'llah

  6. Thank you for this wonderful post. We are currently working on the five year tech plan at our school and I truly feel, after reading/watching the videos here, that we have a responsibility to include global responsibility as one of our goals that should be embedded into the curriculum.

    Thank you! I always get thought provoking ideas from your writings.

  7. Amalia,
    Two great quotes… they both remind me of the Zoroastrian quote that I end all my emails with: “Think Good Thoughts, Say Good Words, Do Good Deeds.” -A simple reminder to nurture all that is positive in this world.

    Wonderful to hear! I didn't dream up this post, I lived it, then I wrote about it. Being at an International school, I decided to start a staff meeting with these videos and share my views. I had to add the update with the dropio video files to accommodate my teachers since they can't get YouTube. I completely agree that global responsibility should be embedded into the curriculum. I'd love to hear about how you embed this into your 5 year tech plan!

  8. Hi Dave,
    great post…as always and so thought provoking. I recently changed age groups and inherited an archaic curriculum… goal this year is to update my curriculum so it becomes creative, meaningful and relevant to the 21st century learner. Your post has certainly inspired the direction I would like to move in. I also have attended some conferences on promoting global sustainability in schools, which I beleive should also be a pertinent factor in education.
    I enjoy reading your posts and the way being in China affects your digitallity…..and how you are responding to this. I hope you and your family continue to enjoy your China experience.
    Ciao Silvana

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