I saw a lot of silos last week. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was on a 6th grade trip through Pennsylvania Dutch Country, but I wasn’t just noticing the silos on the outside of our bus.
We have plenty of silos inside of our schools, too. In a departmentalized middle school and high school, we think about each subject in isolation, starting from the entry point in 6th or 9th grade until graduation. It is as if each subject area is moving in its own parallel universe without any knowledge of the existence of the other. Locked inside the silo, we have no way of knowing how we can connect with the other subject areas.
How then do we break down these barriers? There are, of course, natural partners, e.g. science and math or social studies and English, but are those the only partnerships? Particularly in a Jewish day school, could we conceive of a project that combined an area of Jewish studies with art and English? Or a project that blended learning in Hebrew, science, and art?
Last year, while serving as head of middle school at the Krieger Schechter Day School in Baltimore, we conceived of one such project. Through an exploration of the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the faculty connected Rabbinics, language arts, and science as students explored the moral implications of the book, as well as the underlying science that made the creation of the HeLa cells possible.
This is just one example. Where has your school broken down barriers between subjects?