Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community
Take a moment to think about the following question: What school subjects did you use in your job today?
Go ahead, really think!
Chances are, you can't quite pinpoint just one. Maybe you used your English skills to read emails, write a memo, or develop a presentation. Maybe the content of that presentation involved math, or psychology, or science. But you likely have a hard time separating the problems you solve on a daily basis into subject areas.
The real world is not a tidy collection of compartmentalized subjects, each in its own neat little box. Solving real-world problems often requires a blend of knowledge and skills from various disciplines.
Consider, for instance, the many ways climate change is impacting our lives. Effective climate change solutions will require collaboration between the disciplines of politics, economics, engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, ethics, and technology.
This is why interdisciplinary learning is such an exciting idea in education. By integrating different subjects into a single learning experience, we can better prepare students to solve the world’s biggest problems, which don’t fall neatly into school subjects.
At Prisma, we use an interdisciplinary approach in all of our middle school and high school curriculum. We believe that interdisciplinary education helps kids develop a more holistic understanding of the world, while also nurturing essential skills like critical thinking, creativity, and adaptability - all key ingredients for success in today's complex and ever-changing landscape.
In post, we’ll give you an inside look on why we think the future of school is multidisciplinary, including the proven benefits of interdisciplinary studies for learners. We’ll also break down how we design our engaging interdisciplinary themes.
Interdisciplinary learning is an educational approach that integrates knowledge and skills from different disciplines to create a more holistic, connected learning experience.
In an interdisciplinary learning environment, instead of having Science class, then History class, then Math class, each comprised of activities unrelated to each other, learning is organized into interdisciplinary units, that combine learning from multiple disciplines into one.
Let’s use as an example one of our interdisciplinary themes at Prisma, “Cities of the Future.” In this theme, middle school learners explored the real-world challenge of sustainable urban development. Tackling this issue demands a collaborative approach involving various fields such as urban planning, architecture, ecology, economics, and technology. In our theme, by designing everything from model cities, eco-friendly buildings, and public art, kids learned concepts traditionally taught in science, social studies, and English, but applied it to the real-world problems of city planning.
Interdisciplinary learning has been championed by various organizations in education. Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education focuses on interdisciplinary research, particularly in the arts and humanities, while High Tech High, a network of California-based charter schools, emphasizes a project-based pedagogy that encourages interdisciplinary teaching.
The London Interdisciplinary School, called “the most radical new university to open in decades,” has done away with traditional college majors in favor of learning through interdisciplinary units around real-world problems, like climate change, social media’s impact on health, or food waste.
The MIT Media Lab, a lab on the frontier of cutting-edge research on AI, city planning, and education, goes even further, embracing what they call anti-disciplinary learning. “As we engage in tackling harder and harder problems that require many fields and perspectives, the separation of disciplines appears to be causing more and more damage,” says Joi Ito, former director of the Media Lab.
Why is an interdisciplinary approach better for learners than the traditional way of learning? Here are just a few reasons:
At Prisma, our curriculum team has developed a unique interdisciplinary approach well-suited for our virtual environment. Here’s how we suggest approaching interdisciplinary learning design:
We’ve made interdisciplinary learning central to our curriculum at Prisma because we believe strongly in the power of making school more like the real-world.
Leena Williams, Lead Coach and Curriculum Designer in our high school, explains the power of interdisciplinary teaching in her own words:
“21st century problems aren’t solved in neat subject-area boxes; they will be solved by doing the messy and creative work of bringing together disparate knowledge and experiences, combining them with strong values and ethical thinking, and having the courage to go out on a limb. Our curriculum puts learners in those positions and lets them experiment and think outside the box in low-stakes ways, now while they are young, so that they can build those foundations to draw upon as they reach higher education and the workforce. In short, we present things as complex and open-ended because they are — we don't tidy them up for kids because we trust that kids can handle it.”
If you also believe strongly in the ability of learners to tackle tough, real-world challenges, we hope you’ll advocate for interdisciplinary learning in your own environment!
Want to learn more about how Prisma can empower your child to thrive?Talk with usTalk with us
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