Latin and Physics join forces at Wahconah for an exercise in cross-disciplinary learning
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) has made cross-curricular learning one of its signature recommendations for schools in the six-state region. The purpose of this approach is to encourage students to view what they are learning in one class not in isolation, but in concert with the rest of their academic courses. The ultimate goal of cross-curricular teaching and learning is to stimulate students to use their critical thinking skills so they will think “outside the box.” Sometimes a school’s non-stop daily schedule unintentionally prevents both teachers and students from achieving this goal, and often keeps students “locked” into viewing what they learn in one class as separate from information gained in their other five or six classes.
Recently, two Wahconah staff members, Charles Bradshaw and David Dahari, who teach academic subjects that could not be less alike—physics and Latin—agreed to combine two of their classes for two cross curricular sessions. Nearly fifty students met in the Latin classroom, where they shared thoughts and impressions about academic connectivity across the board, and how that matters when it comes to processing everything they learn in school. Both teachers posed essential questions about the importance students should attach to thinking about what they learn in a broader context not simply limited to test and quizzes in one class or another. Although some juniors were among the students involved, a majority were seniors who will be leaving Wahconah in their rear view mirror very shortly. One of the exercises during the second class included a passage from the Roman writer Lucretius, an atomist, poet and philosopher from the first century before the Common Era. In that selection, he focuses on how irrational the “fear of newness” was then, and the students agreed continues to have a strong presence in our lives some 2,100 years later. The students who will be graduating were asked to share what they might fear about their “new lives” after high school, but what they will also gladly embrace. Mr. Dahari asked students to think about what science really means. Sometimes people equate it with knowledge. But as Mr. Dahari pointed out, what we “know” today may be something very different from what we will “know” five, ten, or fifty years from now. Students offered their thoughts about this, and many were thinking seriously about the process and the purpose of learning as it relates to a holistic overview of the lives they will live after high school.
All in all, both sessions for the combined physics/Latin students yielded positive outcomes. As student Austin Cancilla put it, he felt being in this mixed group was a “healthy” exercise. Connor Washburn said "I thought it was really amazing that we were able to do so much thinking without lifting a pencil." Connor Matthews just said "I thought it was interesting how much two totally different classes have in common."