Independent schools, and especially boarding schools, have a mission to prepare their student for college and beyond. An example of this is the growth of multi-disciplinary programs, case study formats, and team projects that have become increasingly common in college, graduate school, and the business world. As the world becomes complex in terms of technology, regulation, and globalism, children and adults must be able to broaden their perspectives and integrate a wide range of information.
At Hillside, all of the Ninth Grade classes have undertaken a complex cross-disciplinary final project focusing on controversial topics in nutrition. Their science teachers, English teachers, and the librarian have collaborated to lay the foundation for their work. Their science teachers (Mr. Andersen and Mr. Moulton) have taught the students the necessary vocabulary and content knowledge for them to understand the issues at stake. Their English teachers (Mr. MacDonald, Ms. Dalane, Mr. Wagoner, and Mr. Paul) have worked with the students to help them organize and write a solid paper. The librarian (also Ms. Dalane) has focused on teaching students how to evaluate sources, especially how to identify when sources are biased, and how to create a Works Cited page using Noodletools.
Students have chosen topics such as the benefits and drawbacks of organic foods, factory farming, health supplements, and energy drinks. These topics are difficult to research because there are many competing claims. The goal is for students to develop a broad understanding of both sides of their chosen topic and then form an opinion they can defend well. Boys have had class time and homework assignments leading up to the final due date for the paper. Their grade will count as both their English and science final exam, so there is reason to work hard!
Hillside's interdisciplinary projects help students to improve their critical thinking by looking at a problem from multiple perspectives. We feel this prepares them for the real world -- after all, problems we face on a day-to-day basis are not neatly divided into disciplines like English, history, science, and math. The real world is messier than that! Boys are also practicing their time management skills -- they must keep track of all of the different aspects of this project to stay on track and meet the deadlines.