Imagine the potential of pairing two subject areas together. The possibilities are endless. Perhaps the easiest place to start would be with another teacher in your department. An Introduction to Criminal Justice course paired with a Psychology course could produce a Project Based Learning unit focused on an Innocence Project. The Criminal Justice course could focus on individuals who claim they have been wrongfully convicted and create an action plan to design awareness of their plight. The Criminal Justice course would review court transcripts and research reasons why individuals have been wrongfully convicted by shortcomings in the adversary system. The Psychology course could look at the psychological reasons behind false witness identifications and the psychological implications of being imprisoned. If you really want to bump it up a notch add a chemistry element with a forensic analysis. Now you really have an integrated project developing! But why stop there? Contact the journalism teacher and have these students write editorials on the stories of the prisoners. They could even collaborate with the professionals at the Innocence Institute at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA.
This is something that I have tried in my own classroom with great success. Action plans have ranged from letters to local legislators and the governor to actually filing petitions to grant clemency. My students looked at prisoners who were convicted in our own county, which gave them the opportunity to interview police officers and attorneys who were involved in the cases. We also had the chance to interact with an individual who lives nearby who was wrongfully convicted, sentenced to death, and exonerated a decade later!
Integrated curriculum projects also provide a great opportunity to pair core content courses with electives in the arts. Recently my AP U.S. Government course worked with a sculpture class on our public policy unit. My students researched public policy issues, posted them to our wiki, and discussed via the wiki about possible ideas for a wire armature creation by the sculpture students. The sculpture students created their wire armatures, my AP students wrote the accompanying explanations about the surrounding public policy, and the sculptures are ready to be transported next week for display at the State Capitol!
As you wind down this school year, take a moment to breathe and look forward to the summer, but also look to your colleagues on ways in which you can create your own integrated curriculum project this fall. As you are developing these projects, please feel free to stop by BIE’s PBL Discussion Forum. Integrate your ideas and any questions you may have with the discussions that have already started!
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