Sally Smith founded The Lab School, in Washington DC, to help teach children with learning disabilities. She started a system of “clubs” for students, that were essentially what we might call Cross-Curricular Project Based Learning, a way for students to put to use all the skills they were learning in academic classes, towards a bigger fun project. For example, one class might be The Renaissance Club, and for that year, kids would meet once a day and do projects, ranging from using math skills to make their own guild hats, researching a famous artist or inventor they loved, and sharing the cool stuff about them with the others, designing renaissance themed parties and learning to cook dishes, etc. The club allowed kids to put the skills they were learning in other classes to use, while also demonstrating why this “stuff” in history or social studies was important. It allowed kids, who might have problems remembering or who weren’t great readers, to have additional “cognitive hooks” that enhanced their mastery of skills while also helping them with social skills and an alternate way of demonstrating their knowledge.
We all know that application of knowledge is an important part of mastery, and Sally Smith showed that cross-curricular application of knowledge helps students who struggle in school to begin to make the vital connections necessary for them to learn and succeed. Knowing how important this can be for all students, not just those who struggle, how can we start to integrate this kind of learning across curriculum in all schools?