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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

An Introduction to Integrated Studies

Combining academic subjects produces deeper learning and a better understanding of the interrelationships between them. Read a short introductory article or watch an in-depth video.
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An Introduction to Integrated Studies (Transcript)

Teacher: Three-sixty times two-

Narrator: Public education in America hasn't changed much since it began in the mid-19th century with a curriculum adopted from Prussia that featured reading, writing, and arithmetic, taught in separate periods, ruled by the clock.

Sir Ken Robinson: In school subjects tend to be hermetically sealed off from each other. You know so you do science on a Thursday morning, you do math in the afternoons. And this is really a feature of education because outside of education people know naturally that all these things flow in and out of each other, you know, that disciplines affect each other.

Teacher: All these digital photographs actually fill in the missing parts.

David Williamson Shaffer: We don’t live in an industrial economy anymore. We live in a knowledge economy so we have to think about education in a fundamentally different way.

Teacher: Look where the water is falling.

David Williamson Shaffer: We can't be focusing on basic facts and basic skills. We have to think about ways of thinking that are going to matter more than what we do in traditional schools right now.

Teacher: You want to be a photojournalist?

Students: Yes.

Teacher: Oh alright.

Narrator: One successful approach to curriculum design is Integrated Studies which blends various subjects and brings them into meaningful association and often through projects. Integration provides students with a depth and breadth of understanding that goes beyond individual subject matter knowledge.

Teacher: It's called the circumference of the circle, so when you measure around this-

Narrator: At Ferryway School the Iron Works project which is a collaborative effort of a dozen teachers integrates math-

Earl Fitzpatrick: Maybe two millimeters.

Narrator: Art, English, history, and science.

Man: What's this simple machine right here?

Student: Wheel and axle.

Man: Wheel and axle, right.

Earl Fitzpatrick: The project is not just about the water wheel. It's not just about the Saugus Iron Works. It's about all of the subject areas being brought together: the rocks and minerals, the simple machines, the technology concepts.

Student: Right click.

Narrator: Brain research supports the notion that learning increases when information is presented in meaningful connected patterns.

Anxhela: It looks like shiny metal.

If you're like in different classes you sometimes forget because your mind is on one class and then you have to be focused on another class. But when it's all together you could just focus on one thing because it's all the same.

Narrator: Success in integrated studies requires flexibility and scheduling and collaboration among teachers. Studies show that benefits include a sense of teamwork, a faster retrieval of information, and higher attendance and homework completion.

Earl Fitzpatrick: Here we go!

Tom DeVito: You know, often you don't have the chance to show kids that education is real, that there's value to it and they get a chance to put that all together and it's just wonderful seeing their enthusiasm, and the teachers too. It's not easy, but we know what the benefits are so that's why we do it.

Students: Go! Go! Go!

Earl Fitzpatrick: We have a lift!

Students: Yay! Whoo!

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Coordinating Producer:

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Karen Sutherland

Associate Producers:

  • Leigh Iacobucci
  • Miwa Yokoyama

Production Assistant:

  • Neil Tan

Camera Crew:

  • Rob Weller
  • Keith McManus
  • John O'Connor
  • Brian Cardello
  • Rick Greenwell


  • Kris Welch

Original Music:

  • Ed Bogas

Still Photographs Courtesy of

  • Elizabeth West
  • © 2008
  • The George Lucas Educational Foundation
  • All rights reserved.
Integrated Studies Overview

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