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The Renaissance Fair: Implementing a Gradewide, Middle School Interdisciplinary Unit
Donald Alan Gordon
University of Oregon Department of Educational Leadership Faculty Advisor: Dr. Paul Goldman
Master of Science in Educational Leadership
The Renaissance Fair Unit 2 Capstone Project Fall 2004
I would like to thank my family, colleagues and students, both in Coquitlam and at the University of British Columbia, for their support throughout this project. I would like to thank the many instructors I have had the privilege of learning from at the University of Oregon. I owe a special debt to those Como Lake Middle School teachers and administrators who believed in The Renaissance Fair and poured themselves into the creation, planning and execution of this unit. In true middle school fashion, this was absolutely a teamdriven project and was only successful because everyone bought in fully. I have frequently been given the credit for this, but each of the original teachers deserves equal praise for what was created. As well, the administrators at the time deserve credit for fostering an environment that promoted this idea, and those who followed for allowing it to flourish. While all deemed this first attempt a success, what makes this unit worth researching in more detail is the ongoing success it has had, and the evolutionary changes that have been made along the way. This is amazing considering sixteen different teachers and nine student teachers have taught this unit. Through a
The Renaissance Fair Unit 3 commitment to integrated curriculum, educators and administrators at Como Lake Middle School have helped to make this unit a cornerstone of the curriculum and a valued part of the school culture.
Abstract This project presents a description of the design and implementation of The Renaissance Fair, a gradewide middle school interdisciplinary unit. This unit is highly regarded in the school and district for the level of teacher involvement, student participation and motivation and as a culminating community event. Research was generated through interviews with current and former teachers of Como Lake Middle School who participated in the unit. This information was used to construct an accurate account of the development, implementation, teaching, and assessment of the unit, its strengths and weaknesses, contributions to school culture, and effects on student behaviour and motivation, all in light of research on the use of interdisciplinary instruction. This analysis is provided to aid teachers’ involvement in the unit and creation of similar units.
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Table of Contents Abstract Overview of The Renaissance Fair Research Question School Context Catalysts for Creation Integrated/Interdisciplinary Curriculum Planning for an Interdisciplinary Approach Individual Teacher Projects Impact on Students, 3 5 7 8 9 11 15 24 29
The Renaissance Fair Unit 5 Assessment Role of Administration The Fair: A Culminating Event Teachers’ Reflections on the Unit Further Investigation Summary References Appendices 35 39 40 43 46 49 51 53
The Renaissance Fair: Implementing a Gradewide, Middle School Interdisciplinary Unit Overview of The Renaissance Fair For two weeks of every year, in late May or early June, the grade eight teachers of Como Lake Middle School suspend the core curriculum and use an interdisciplinary approach to teach the Renaissance period. This has become a cornerstone of the grade eight curriculum and the highlight of the students’
The Renaissance Fair Unit 6 academic career in the school. It has also become an integral part of the Como Lake culture, as the community participates so enthusiastically. Each teacher plans and teaches a unique project that integrates at least three subject areas as a means to teach students how philosophy, in this case Humanism, can influence all aspects of a culture. The projects are front end loaded with instruction, gradually tapering off as students choose an aspect to focus on and create a handson representation of their learning. Project work is assessed using criteria referenced assessment or performance rubrics, created in consultation with the students. These assessments allow for the wide scope of student choice in project presentations. Student choice is integral to the success of the unit. Students may choose any three people from within grade eight to work cooperatively with. These groups then select the two projects they will work on out of the six to eight that are offered. The process for selection is based on the students’ completion of a personal resume and a group cover letter outlining the groups’ strengths and commitment to learning. As well, parents must approve the choice of team members and projects. On application day groups of students will be waiting at the school as early as 6:30 am to ensure their position. By 7:30, an hour before school starts, more than one hundred students are lined up in the gym to apply. During these two weeks in late May and early June, behaviour problems amongst the grade eights all but vanish. Students arrive early and stay late,
The Renaissance Fair Unit 7 working to complete their projects. Lunch time conversations become business meetings, as duties are assigned, deadlines set, and decisions about supplies and problem solving approaches are made while they eat. Critical thinking is the order of the day. Students are motivated by their own interest and the tight timeline. On the day of the Fair, shortly after lunch, the gym begins to fill with students from the nearby high school who have been involved in past Fairs. As they wander through the exhibits in the gym, they point and discuss the merits of the work and they stop and ask the presenters questions about what they have done. They make comparisons to their own past work and comment on the quality of work in general. It is remarkable to see this level academic discourse between thirteen and seventeen year olds. They are joined by the grade six and seven classes who chatter about which projects they will do in grade eight. In the evening, the gym is over whelmed by the sheer number of students, parents and siblings. For some this is the first time their parents have come to the school this year. Students present their projects and explain what they have done to adults walking by. They tell the adults to go see their other project elsewhere in the gym. They often also tell them to make sure they see another student’s work that is really cool. There is a cacophony of conversation, music, dramatic presentations, videos, laughter and celebration. Students pose for pictures with their parents and teachers in front of the final products. It is the
The Renaissance Fair Unit 8 culminating night of Como Lake Middle School’s annual Renaissance Fair. Research Question Over the course of six years The Renaissance Fair at Como Lake Middle School has become a key event in the school year for grade eights and a cornerstone of the school’s culture. While the school’s grade eight Renaissance Fair enjoys a very positive reputation as a successful example of integrating subjects using an interdisciplinary approach, it has never been subjected to careful study in terms of addressing the desired outcomes of this approach in middle school. As well, the strengths and weaknesses, the effects on student motivation, participation and demonstration of learning have never been explicitly stated or examined with regards to the unit. This project seeks to accurately document the development of the unit from its origins to its current format. The information is drawn from interviews with six current and former teachers, two former administrators and one former student teacher (Appendix A). Participants’ statements are woven into the narrative account of the unit and connected to literature on the topic of implementing interdisciplinary curriculum. Implications for further investigation are discussed.
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School Context During the school years of 199798 and 199899 School District #43, (Coquitlam) went through a massive reorganization and transition phase to create a middle school system. Como Lake Junior High passed through two transition years as a grade 7 to 9 middle school before becoming a grade 6 to 8 school. Pursuing this transition, the Principal adopted the exemplary middle school model first advocated in 1981 by George and Alexander (2003). At the outset the school was staffed primarily by high school trained teachers and was gradually absorbing elementary trained teachers along with new middle school trained personnel. Consequently, the Principal and Vice principal worked hard to promote all aspects of middle school philosophy. Examples included organizing teachers of common grades into interdisciplinary teams, establishing common preparation times from those teams to meet, creating a basic set of exploratory courses, establishing Advisory groupings, and adopting a flexible block schedule for instruction. These structural changes were implemented unilaterally but refined through teacher input. Other changes were
The Renaissance Fair Unit 10 suggested or ordered but the timing or method was left to teachers’ discretion. Since integrated curriculum is a cornerstone of the exemplary middle school model, one of these implementations included insisting that teams either create or implement one integrated unit during the school year. In the 199899 school year the grade 8 teachers were divided into two teams, the Seawolves and the Killer Whales. Both teams were composed of teachers with a variety of experiences and backgrounds, five of whom were new to the school and their teams. The Sea wolves were led by a female elementary teacher with 12 years of experience who came to Como Lake Middle that September. Other members of that team included: a male middle school trained teacher in his first year of teaching, a male elementary trained teacher in his second year of teaching but his first full time position and a female middle school student teacher working under the team leader. The Killer Whale team was led by this author, an elementary trained teacher who was in his second full year of classroom teaching and first year as a team leader at Como Lake. Other team members were: Mark and a female teacher, both middle school trained teachers in their first year of teaching, a female high school trained teacher with 6 years of experience who was sharing her job with Mike, an elementary teacher in his first teaching position. In all, two of the nine were veteran teachers, four of them were very new but trained in middle school methods, none had experience with interdisciplinary curriculum.
The Renaissance Fair Unit 11 Catalysts for Integration In the fall of 1998 these teachers learned that the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, British Columbia was mounting a significant exhibit around the drawings, inventions and notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. The Renaissance period is a significant component of the grade 8 Social Studies curriculum, which made this event attractive for these teachers. This display was one of two catalysts for integration, the other being the Principal’s mandate to create or implement an integrated unit, which led to the development of this interdisciplinary unit.
In January 1999 the grade 8 teachers met for their regular monthly breakfast meeting. A discussion concerning a field trip to Victoria began and teachers were asked for their input in terms of desire to go, management, logistical issues and choosing a date. Mark, recalling the details of this meeting and the decisions the group arrived at said: “The idea came up several years ago when several of the grade eight teachers were discussing a potential field trip to Victoria, B.C. to take in the da Vinci Exhibit at our provincial museum. Logistics and reports from people who had gone to the exhibit in the summer helped us decide not to go and to do our own da Vinci Exhibit at our school. In conversation with the Humanities teachers, we quickly decided that while the scope of da Vinci’s work was expansive there was so much more range and potential if we focused on the whole Renaissance, as an integrated unit.”
The second catalyst for creating this interdisciplinary unit was the mandate from the Principal written into the Team Leaders’ job description
The Renaissance Fair Unit 12 stating that each team was to develop or implement one integrated unit during the year. However, Gatewood (1998) argues that integrated curriculum, “… should not be accomplished by teachers who are required by administrators to develop interdisciplinary or thematic units. Most of the results of these top down mandates are artificial and lack accountability”(p. 40). Although this suggests that one of the surest ways to prevent the development of what might be called authentic integrated or interdisciplinary curriculum, is for the Administration in the school to force teachers to do so, this was not the case at Como Lake. However, given the new school configuration, and with so many new teachers to the school, that without a push from above, this might not have happened. In fact, despite the mandate to do so, in the first three years as a middle school, this grade eight unit was the only attempt at interdisciplinary curriculum that was made that drew in more than just core subject areas. While the mandate to use an integrated approach was present, it was never forced on teachers and although a successful example had been created, teachers of other grades made no attempts to follow suit. Integrated / Interdisciplinary Curriculum The Value of This Teaching and Learning Approach Integrated/interdisciplinary curriculum has long been valued in the middle school movement. Many of the structural aspects of middle schools are in place to foster the integration of disciplines including: flexible block
The Renaissance Fair Unit 13 scheduling, teams of teachers of mixed discipline backgrounds, and common preparation time to name a few. Both the Carnegie report, Turning Points, on education in the US, and the Sullivan Royal Commission’s report on schooling in British Columbia, are cited by Kain (1996) as strongly advocating the value of this approach as a remedy to the lack of reallife applicability and relevance of the curriculum. Kain quotes the findings of the Sullivan report: " 'The current curriculum shows little evidence of conscious articulation between what students study and reallife situations. This situation is due, at least in part, to the fact that each subject is treated as a separate entity in the curriculum development process.' The commission recommended an interdisciplinary approach for intermediate students and the development of interdisciplinary curriculum documents; it encouraged the development of interdisciplinary teacher teams’ " (p. 166). As well, Ellis and Stuen (1998) find support for this approach in recent effective schools research noting that, “…(Cotton 1995) identified the following among a long list of classroom and school attributes: • Teachers provide instruction that integrated traditional school subjects, as appropriate. • Teachers integrate workplace readiness skills into contentarea instruction. • Administrators and teachers integrate the curriculum, as appropriate” (pp. 2021). These reports, along with current brain research, lend further support to the learning theories of the progressive and constructivist educators of the past sixty years that advocate for the value of an integrated/interdisciplinary approach. Research on Interdisciplinarity At its heart, interdisciplinary teaching and learning has its roots in the
The Renaissance Fair Unit 14 progressive and constructivist learning theory models, which is also why it is so closely aligned with middle school philosophy, which has a similar lineage. Ellis and Stuen (1998) acknowledge these historical ties and go on to say that, "It is a learner centered approach that places greater emphasis on creativity, activities, "naturalistic" learning, realworld outcomes, and above all, shared experience" (p. 15). Making the link to middle schools they point out that, "In fact, much of the middle school philosophy emerged from the progressive movement, and one of the middle school tenets is to coalesce subjects into integrated studies using block scheduling” (p. 20). More recently, interdisciplinarity finds support in constructivism and the work of Vygotsky, who believed that, "... learners construct their own knowledge...this construction takes place not just through interaction with physical objects but through social interactions." He said that, "It is the social interaction related to the handson manipulation of objects that allows learners to construct knowledge.” (Ellis and Stuen, 1998). The benefits of the constructivist approach are described by Tchudi and Lafer (1996): " We see that students learn most successfully when they are engaged in constructing meanings for themselves or solutions to problems. Constructivism is holistic in its approach, meaning that it declines to break learning down into component elements, but recognizes that the elements are learned when they serve the function of solving a problem or creating a complete meaning. Above all, constructivism is linked inextricably to authenticity in learning suggesting that for people to learn successfully, they must generally be engaged in tasks that they find useful, intrinsically interesting, or otherwise realistic" (p. 90).
The Renaissance Fair Unit 15 Gatewood (1998) helps to link constructivism and middle schools saying that, "The development of constructivist models of instruction in middle school classrooms should be our number one priority, and this can occur within a discipline based multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approach” (p.41). Interdisciplinarity finds even more recent support in current brain research. Tomlinson (1998) explains how knowledge is learned more rapidly and remembered longer: "The human brain is a patternseeking organ. It understands and organizes efficiently when it grasps categories, hows and whys, and makes comparisons. Concepts and principles are patternmakers. Used appropriately, they help the brain create networks of organization that promote thinking, information storage and retrieval and understanding" (p. 6). He links this research to the beneficial implications for classroom instruction: "Not only is conceptbased integration more brainfriendly and more immediately relevant to the lives of young adolescents than is a topicbased approach, it has an added power in its ability to guide differentiation of modification of instruction based on student readiness differences. Struggling students are far more likely to amass power as learners by focusing on and genuinely understanding essential concepts and principles of a subject than by trying to accumulate whatever bits and chunks of data they can accumulate in a time span that is always too limited” (p. 8)
These learning theories and recent brain research impact the planning process for interdisciplinary curriculum. There is agreement that the current curriculum needs to be infused with connections to real life so that students grow to appreciate that one body of knowledge does not stand alone. As students use various disciplines to solve reallife problems, they will value and recognize the
The Renaissance Fair Unit 16 power of knowledge that brings the disciplines together, or integrates them, as needed and not in isolation. Middle school has been identified as a fertile location for this to occur because of the structural attributes and more importantly because of the developmental attributes of the age group. The difficulty is deciding what to call it and what it looks like. Definitions: Is it integrated or interdisciplinary curriculum? While there is a great deal of support and advocacy for an integrated/interdisciplinary approach throughout the education system, there is the problem of defining what these terms mean and what they look like. Grossman, Wineburg, and Beers (2000) argue that there are no clear definitions of terms, that there is no "shortage of schemes that have sought to differentiate among curricular integration, fusion, integrative, crossdisciplinary, or interdisciplinary, approaches but rather the inability of any one of these schemes to impose conceptual order among multiple audiences" (p. 10). Two authors’ definitions set side by side in Table 1 show the terms similarities and differences. Table 1. Comparative Definitions for Integrated and Interdisciplinary Curriculum Heidi Jacobs’ definition of Interdisciplinary curriculum Jacobs (1989), p. 8
"A knowledge view and curriculum approach that consciously applies methodology and language from more than one
Mary Ann Huntley’s definition and distinction of Interdisciplinary and Integrated curriculum Huntley (1998), p. 2
"An interdisciplinary curriculum is one in which the focus of instruction is on one discipline, and one or more other disciplines are used to support or facilitate content in the first domain (for instance, by
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discipline to examine a central theme, issue, problem, topic, or experience.” “In contrast to a disciplinefield based view of knowledge, interdisciplinary does not stress delineations but linkages.” establishing relevance or context). In this case, connections between the disciplines are made only implicitly by the teacher(s). A powerful analogy for interdisciplinary models is the notion of foreground/background.."
"An integrated curriculum is one in which a teacher, or teachers, explicitly assimilates concepts from more than one discipline during instruction. It is typified by approximately equal attention to two (or more) “It is a holistic approach with a disciplines." tradition in Western thought that comes from Plato's ideal of unity as "..integration, which implies an explicit assimilation of concepts from more than one the highest good in all things. discipline by the teacher(s)." Interdisciplinarity nurtures a different perspective with focus on themes and problems of life experience."
The terms could be interchangeable the way the authors use them. The distinction is unclear. It is no wonder that Grossman et al. (2000) state that, “The lack of agreement over the terms of the debate simply reflects the disorderly state of the art” (p. 10). Lake (2000) acknowledges that, “Another term that is often used synonymously with integrated curriculum is interdisciplinary curriculum” (p. 2). She goes on to explain that: “Interdisciplinary curriculum is defined in the Dictionary of Education as ‘a curriculum organization which cuts across subjectmatter lines to focus upon comprehensive life problems or broad based areas of study that brings together the various segments of the curriculum into meaningful association’ (Good 1973). The similarity between this definition and those of integrated curriculum is clear…. This view is supported by Everett, who defines interdisciplinary curriculum as one that ‘combines several school subjects into one active project since that is how children encounter subject in the real worldcombined in one activity.’ “ (p. 2). The term interdisciplinary, drawing on Jacobs and Everett’s definitions, will be
The Renaissance Fair Unit 18 used here, since project teachers tried consciously to bring in other disciplines. Planning for an Interdisciplinary Approach Planning Models for Interdisciplinary Curriculum Most interdisciplinary planning models follow a constructivist view of learning (Tchudi and Lafer, 1996). Jacobs’ (1989) developmental model for planning has four steps that “…produce a functional alternative to the patchwork of interdisciplinary curriculums that frequently emerges from older concepts” (p. 54). Jacobs’ (1989) describes the four steps as: 1. selecting an organizing center: theme, subject area, event, issue, problem 2. brainstorming associations 3. establishing guiding questions to serve as a scope and sequence: organizes the brainstorm, questions are crossdisciplinary like chapter headings; avoids "running the risk of simply delving haphazardly into an interesting theme" 4. writing activities for implementation: the means for exploring these questions what students will do; use a model of cognition to guide activity design to cultivate higherlevel thought (p. 54). Table 2 shows the similarities of several other planning models. Note the numbering of the different steps, as some steps have been placed out of order to Table 2.
Comparison of Interdisciplinary Planning Models
Betts’ "Balanced Instructional Design model" Tchudi and Lafer (1996) 1. 'cue event' provide a common point of reference for all linked to central theme Forrestal‘s “Australian Planning model” Tchudi and Lafer (1996) 2. exploration where the students, through whole class, small group, and individual activities, raise questions and find answers to problems, issues, and topics suggested by the 'input' Wallas’ “Discovery Process” model Ellis and Stuen (1998) 1. preparation blend attitude and information; open to discovery and desire to know
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materials 1. input where the teacher takes primary responsibility for locating core information, including textbook chapters, speakers, field trips, films, etc. 3. 'constructive acts' 3. reshaping start working out a stage in which solutions to problems and students work toward applications of abstract synthesis and application ideas.' of their learning, figuring out how to do something with the information they have gathered 4. 'expressive acts' 4. presentation translate understanding where new knowledge into explanations that and ideas are presented serve to assess learning of to the class essential concepts beyond the ability to apply them constructively. 2. 'impressive acts' an input stage for students 6. finally 'celebration' might be an exposition, fair, public performance, publication or ..to provide the public attention it (student work) richly deserves." 5. then 'reflective acts' chiefly involve self assessment, where students think about what they have learned and mastered
2.incubation ponder/consider problem; deliberate, thoughtful; akin to metacognition i.e. thinking about activities, processes being done 3. illumination light bulb / discovery / insight stage;
Present / Celebrate
4. verification happens at end (summative) and along the way(formative); carry out and test plan; reflecting on what happened; did it work/how well it worked;
Reflect / Assess
5. reflection a time for student and teachers to evaluate the work that has been done
make comparisons easier. These are all similar to one another and to Jacobs’ model, having many aspects in common, including, their roots in constructivism. The common aspects of: prepare, create, input, present, celebrate and reflect are important to the success of an interdisciplinary approach, and are hallmarks of a constructivist approach. The grade eight team incorporated all of these steps in planning for the Renaissance Fair, thereby insuring a measure of success.
The Renaissance Fair Unit 20 Renaissance Fair Unit Planning Origins Following the initial meeting, the grade eight teachers were enthused about the idea of a da Vinci exhibit, talking about bringing in art, history, drama, politics, architecture, inventing, and P.E., connecting these through the idea of da Vinci as the “Renaissance Man”. Others suggested that this could easily go beyond da Vinci to include other famous people from the period or incorporated the influences of Humanism on the culture. Mark, the only teacher from the original planning team interviewed, described the early planning stages: “Other teachers teaching Science and Math were interested as well. We began meeting as Grade 8 teachers early in the school year to share ideas and to look at the logistics of planning and implementing the project. This planning and vision began to pick up speed and soon our little da Vinci project had turned into a major grade wide integrated unit that would culminate in a school and community wide fair.” The suggestion of each teacher creating a project of their own design that connected different disciplines was latched onto. It was suggested that the teachers of the exploration courses should be involved in some way since Home Arts, Computers, Music, P.E. and Technology Education could make many natural links to this curriculum. At this point several teachers recognized the possibility of creating the integrated unit that was mandated by the Principal, an idea that previously had not been mentioned. The atmosphere became charged with enthusiasm as teachers started brainstorming possible project scenarios. There was already a strong commitment since some teachers quickly laid claim to project ideas according to
The Renaissance Fair Unit 21 their interests. The idea of a final display remained in the foreground during this time and obviously fired peoples’ imaginations because most of the project suggestions were focused on what students could do or show for a display of their learning. There became an obvious handson orientation to the products so there would be something to see at the exhibit, but teachers agreed that they all wanted a written component to accompany the displays. By the end of this meeting all grade 8 teachers agreed to be involved with a Renaissance unit that would culminate in a display for the greater community in the gym. Teachers agreed to sketch outlines of projects they were interested in doing with an emphasis on integrating a minimum of three subject areas from core or explorations (Appendix B). Teams agreed to continue to discuss logistics during part of their weekly team meetings to clarify details. The team leaders offered to invite Exploration teachers to participate and agreed to take the initial outline of this integrated unit to the Principal and ask for permission to have the grade 8 teachers use the upcoming professional development day to plan the logistics and organize the final display. The sense of teamwork during this and subsequent planning meetings was very strong. There was buyin right from the very start and the enthusiasm was contagious. Grossman et al. (2000) capture this spirit when they say, “By reaching beyond their own specializations to work with others, teachers have the chance to remain intellectually alive, always close to the excitement of new learning…. the creation of interdisciplinary curriculum promises to provide teachers with opportunities to come together over what
The Renaissance Fair Unit 22 matters most: what actually gets taught and learned in classrooms" (p.2). Based on his participation in these meetings, Mark recalls that: “We all worked together very well. Teachers began to see the potential and then everyone started to fly with ideas and see the wonderful opportunity for the students. As mentioned before much of the concept planning happened early in the school year, and then each teacher spent time working on the preparation of his or her own unit. We would touch base and support each other along the way.” The planning process described arose out of an atmosphere of team work and a collegial environment that had been fostered on both teams in the months prior to the Fair planning. The planning did not have its roots in any research and yet when various planning models are examined it is apparent that the team was on track with a successful methodology. Planning Details, Addressing Issues At the end of February the grade 8 teachers gathered for the day to formalize the unit, plan out details, and assign roles. There were diverse issues to deal with including: the amount of time the unit would take, the loss of curriculum time, its affect on teacher work load, parents perceptions, grouping students, how to incorporate the Exploration teachers, and the Fair display. Issues around assessment and evaluation were raised including: how to break down integrated marks to be subject specific, creating a common standard by which to measure the students’ achievement, developing a way of evaluating individual and group work, and passing on marks to homeroom teachers. Teachers were also concerned about what should be taught in CAPP, or Career
The Renaissance Fair Unit 23 and Personal Planning. The team agreed to let students have the opportunity to choose two projects they were interested in, based on the two eighty minute blocks of core time in the daily schedule. As a result, only two weeks or ten instructional days would be needed out of the academic calendar. By limiting each teacher to one project taught to two groups of students, the workload seemed much more manageable. Teachers were really excited about what they were going to teach and all the possible ways to incorporate other subjects. Eight projects topics were chosen based on teachers’ interests: 1. The Art of War about war and politics, taught by a Humanities and Drama teacher 2. If You Build It They Will Come about architecture, taught by a Humanities and Art teacher 3. The Fab Four about art, taught by a Science, Math and French teacher, 4. Lead a Naval Expedition about naval exploration/navigation, taught by a Science, Math and Art teacher, 5. What Do You Mean I Can’t Eat With My Fingers? about daily life, teamtaught by a Math, Science, Home Arts and P.E. teacher, 6. Barde In the Yarde about Shakespeare’s drama, taught by a Humanities and P.E. teacher, 7. Inventing the Present Out of the Past about inventions and da Vinci, taught by a Humanities, and Drama student teacher, and 8. The First Leonardo about math, taught by a Science, Math and French teacher. Teachers decided to write an intriguing title and description for the catalogue students would receive and would not attach their names to projects, to discourage choice based on teacher and promote choice based on interest (Appendix C).
The Renaissance Fair Unit 24 If students were going to have enough time to create quality representations of their learning, they would need a substantial amount of time to work together as a group. Projects would need to be front end loaded with the background information necessary for students to decide on their personal representation. Over the ten days the teacher directed portion would be gradually reduced to mini lessons than one on one work and supervision. Social Studies teachers agreed that prior to the start of the unit they would provide an overview of the politics, history, religion, art and philosophy of the Renaissance to alleviate some of the project teachers’ workload, help students choose areas of interest and promote the Fair for two weeks prior to project selection. With students choosing two projects to work on, this meant that eight new classes would have to be created. In that case students could also choose whom they wanted to work with from anyone in grade eight. It was decided that students could choose to work by themselves or with a group of no more than three others to help maintain accountability for learning. The motivation of working with whom they wanted, on the project they wanted, seemed like a very positive aspect. The implication however was that there would need to be an equitable way of letting students choose partners and projects. As well, time and effort would have to go into building new classes, keeping class size, and social dynamics in mind. There was also a serious concern about students making poor choices of partners since they could choose anyone from grade.
The Renaissance Fair Unit 25 An exciting suggestion was put forward to assist in the choice process that made the unit even more integrative, drawing in the CAPP curriculum outcomes around careers. Students would complete a formal resume, including references and write a cover letter applying for their choices, justifying why their friends should form a group based on skills, abilities, interests and work ethic. As in a career search, these documents would have to be turned in at a specified time to receive consideration. At the same time, parents would have to help students pick group members and give their approval in writing. Even with parent approval of their child’s partners, parent perceptions about the unit and projects remained a concern. Teachers worried that parents would disapprove of the regular curriculum stopping for the ten days and fail to appreciate that real learning was continuing. Jacobs (1989) cautions that, "The interdisciplinary unit or course should be presented to all members of the school community. Few parents will have experienced integrated curriculum, and they will feel less suspicious if they are well informed” (p. 10). Ellis and Stuen (1998) point out the benefits of integrating the community into the process: "The school that can bring students, teacher, families, and community members together around the abiding ideas of a thoughtful curriculum anchored in purposeful knowledge, skills, and values is one that will prosper not only academically but will find support in other areas when it needs it" (p. 38). Teachers agreed to submit a list of the provincial learning outcomes that would be addressed by their particular projects as a way to show parents what
The Renaissance Fair Unit 26 was being taught. A letter would be sent home (Appendix D) with the project documents (Appendix E) informing parents of the intention and duration of the unit. The Principal was completely behind this effort and agreed to deal with any parent concerns personally. Explorations at Como Lake Middle School include: Music; Home Arts, which includes sewing and foods; Technology Education, focused on woodshop; and Information Technology. Due to timetable problems it was obvious that there would be no way to have Exploration teachers directly create and teach their own projects since they were teaching the grade seven and nine classes while the grade eights were in core time, doing the unit. Instead, they were keen to offer their services and facilities to help students, and fellow teachers, outside of class with projects that required their expertise. The music teacher offered to put together a small group of student musicians who might want to perform Renaissance music during the Fair. Jeremy, the Information Technology teacher recalled how he, “… assisted a teacher by providing them with guidance in the use of photo editing software. I also helped integrate technology by providing assistance to students who wished to create multimedia presentations for the Fair.” This was an extraordinary example of the total team atmosphere that permeated the school. The idea for a culminating display of students’ work in front of peers and parents seemed like a factor that would motivate students. At the same time it
The Renaissance Fair Unit 27 created a real deadline that students would have to meet. Teachers suggested that for students to pass the unit they would have to have the presentation portion complete for the Fair. Everyone acknowledged however, that given this was the first time through this, we had no idea of how long it would really take so we needed to build in a cushion in case it looked like the majority of students needed more time. It was decided to start on a Friday so teachers could introduce project topics, meet their new students, set expectations and indicate a supply list students could collect on the weekend prior to getting underway. The concluding date was planned for a Wednesday, thirteen days later. This would allow for moving the Fair to Thursday if necessary. Friday was booked as a celebratory field trip to the local waterslides as part of the grade eight leaving events in the school, and as a day to wind down from the Fair and to settle back in for the final two weeks of school. Fixing the Fair date allowed for the generation of a timeline for teachers for the remaining months of preparation (Appendix F). With most of the details planned out and agreed to, teachers could change their focus to their own project development. It is estimated that each teacher had spent about twelve hours in planning for the Renaissance unit to this point, not including time for personal curriculum development of their project. Individual Teacher Projects
The Renaissance Fair Unit 28 Personal Planning Experiences Following the initial large group meetings, and with a timeline in hand, planning of individual units and the Humanities introduction began in earnest. Teachers enjoyed the individual project planning because it was about a topic of interest they chose. However the collaborative atmosphere remained and grew stronger. Mark had the following recollections about this next phase: “The planning process was unique and rewarding. As Humanities teachers we planned the introduction to the Renaissance that all students would receive in their Humanities classes prior to the actual integrated unit starting. We thought it was prudent to give the students some background knowledge and insights into the glorious time or rebirth and Humanism, before they had to choose which of the eight different units they would take on for 2 weeks. Each teacher then prepared a unit that focused on one aspect or individual(s) of the Renaissance. The units had to clearly relate to the Renaissance, they had to have elements that included learning outcomes from across several curricula, they had to culminate in something that could be part of a massive display, or fair. The idea of doing this grade wide forced all eight of the teachers involved to work collaboratively to ensure the fair was going to be a success. We met for monthly morning breakfast meetings to update each other on individual progress, and make sure we did not have too much overlap in each of the projects. The eight projects that were created in the first year were unique, and covered a wide scope. We all learned more working together than if we as Humanities teachers had taught it alone. Ideas for how to assess the unit would come to the table and be discussed as a whole before they were included in our fair concept. In the early stages we tried to work out as many of the fine points as possible to accommodate everyone’s ideas and to make it truly creative and bold.” Mike too felt that: “There was a great deal of collaboration between all of the teachers in grade 8 as well as the exploration teachers. There were numerous meetings to discuss what it would look like, what processes needed to be developed. Teachers would share ideas, develop consensus around various aspects of how the student preparation would occur, and how assessment would take
The Renaissance Fair Unit 29 place.” As part of implementing the planning and preparation, teachers were modeling what students would soon be doing in their project groups. Ellis and Stuen (1998), discussing the collaborative processes needed, noted that: “A kind of synergy flows from such deliberations, at least when things go well. Teachers will have to model cooperative efforts in order to move the planning stages forward. They will have to practice the same kinds of give and take that one hopes students themselves will experience when the curriculum is realized in classroom life.” (p. 13). They argue for teachers combining expertise to work together with each others’ curriculum explaining that, “…teachers must experience integration if they want to integrate the subject they teach. An important rule of thumb to keep in mind about integration is ‘first people, then subjects’ “ (p. 37). In their planning and discussions, teachers had to come to terms with their changing role in the teaching and learning process in this unit, something that may not be possible for every teacher. They acknowledged a need to provide an initial foundation of knowledge about the topic so that students could then go independently exploring within the topic. Darren, a teacher on staff for the last two years of the Fair, described this change, saying, “The process was very front heavy. Once the unit had started it was more of facilitating learning and instructing about time management and work ethic.” He added that, “It made me think of other areas of teaching that I don’t teach. It well rounded (sic) me as a teacher to teach subjects that I don’t normally teach.” Mike echoed these thoughts, “I had the opportunity to teach in an environment that was very much
The Renaissance Fair Unit 30 student driven. My job became that of classroom manager, and resource person for students to bounce ideas off of.” Ellis and Stuen (1998) articulate this change in roles: "The teacher's role shifts from teller and director to organizer and guide….Their role...is to ensure that the trip is wellorganized, that preparation, support, and followthrough are in place...Good leadership is a balancing act that provides structure without being overbearing, that points the way while recognizing that more than one path may get someone from here to there" (p. 38).
Some teachers did find the planning for their projects difficult as they moved into unfamiliar subject areas. Nicole, who joined the grade 8 team in the Fair’s third year acknowledged this saying, “The first year was difficult as I was new to the school and the grade 8 curriculum. My training is not in Art, therefore the planning process was difficult when trying to determine appropriate lengths of time for the various activities/projects.” Dave felt the same way, coming in at the same time, but commented on how the collaborative atmosphere helped: “It was very taxing and at the same time very rewarding. I think if you look at the first year I was overwhelmed creating my own unit. Although it was the third year, it (the Fair) was a welloiled machine. I liked that there were units provided (from departed teachers) if we wanted or create our own. We didn’t have to find our own niche – we could or make it our own.” Armaghan’s experience as a student teacher with planning was mixed. She commented that, “Teachers did not seem to work together when it came to the individual units. Teachers were responsible for their own teaching area. But,
The Renaissance Fair Unit 31 other teachers were helpful and shared necessary resources. I was choosing to teach an area of the Renaissance that I was interested in, therefore making the planning process more enjoyable and rewarding.” Creating Interdisciplinary Projects In her framework, Jacobs uses two key questions to test for whether to integrate or not: “Does it make intellectual sense to integrate certain parts of the curriculum?… and does it make practical sense, all things considered”(p. 25)? In other words, are important issues within the curriculum addressed and are the practical, political and personal resources available. For Como Lake the answer was yes and teachers were proud of the projects that were created. Complete descriptions can be seen in the catalogue (Appendix C) but in their interviews teachers pointed how they integrated other subjects. Describing her unit Armaghan said: “My project dealt with daily life during the Renaissance. I have incorporated a lot of my own ideas on how daily life could best be taught to Grade 8 students, using integrated lessons. The students use writing skills, cooking skills, artistic skills, and acting skills, as some strategies for understanding and learning this Renaissance unit. For class activities we cooked, acted, wrote, and drew. We spent one entire lesson in the Home Ec. room when we talked about Renaissance foods and mannerisms. Daily life focused on the arts, acting, and technology of the time period. I would say it was one of the more integrated units that was taught for the Fair.” Nicole described how she: “…created (with the assistance of my colleagues) an integrated Art unit. Using ideas from books, the internet, and other colleagues, I created and designed a unit on Renaissance art & artists. I chose to do a Renaissance project in the area of art because it was a personal interest of mine. I have
The Renaissance Fair Unit 32 also traveled to Europe and experienced the art of many Renaissance artists. My project involved looking at the various Renaissance artists and their contributions to that period. We looked at specific techniques of the time and the symbolism in the paintings. Students created original paintings using techniques from the Renaissance, they created sculptures, and painted like “Michelangelo”. Mark had this to say about his unit: “My original project was focusing on the works of Shakespeare. The idea behind the project integrated several aspects of the Humanities outcomes with the liberal arts. Students were required to write on Shakespeare and his work, as well as perform something at the fair. I felt that Shakespeare truly epitomized the nature of the Renaissance time. I also thought it would bring a different aspect to the fair in the form of live presentations. Students had to prepare a scene or adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s works, and perform it on the day of the fair. They had to plan and implement their own sets, costumes, scripts, cast etc. The live performances ran throughout the fair. Each student troupe performed their show twice over the course of the afternoon and evening. My project had elements of language arts, social studies, art, drama, personal planning, and in some cases math and science.” Darren describing his work said: “I took over from a teacher that had taught architecture. I took the unit and made it work for my teaching style. It used math to draw the plans using scale,; Tech Ed. to build the model; art to draw and design plans and the display board; Science to understand forces in architecture; Social studies and language arts in the research and writing the report; and CAPP in the group work, planning and journal writing.” Teachers put a great deal of effort into making these units interdisciplinary and intellectually challenging. As Ellis and Stuen (1998) note, “At its best, interdisciplinary teaching and learning is projectoriented. The best projects, like the best journeys of discovery, take teamwork” (p. 37). Cautions and Evolutions
The Renaissance Fair Unit 33 Interdisciplinary planners need to be aware of two potential pitfalls that can lead to mediocre curriculum. Jacobs’ (1989) warns teachers against watering down coverage or the “Potpourri Problem” where “units become a sampling of knowledge from each discipline” and lack a scope and sequence that encourages depth of learning (p. 2). Secondly, Jackson and Davis (2000) are concerned that: “Topicbased units can fall prey to the "cool" factor, meaning that they may be fun to do and lead up to showy culminating tasks, but they may not connect to standards and vital concepts in any meaningful way…. These topicbased studies also tend to focus on facts and information instead of ideas and principles, promote coverage rather than understanding, demonstrated little relevance to students' lives, and have little potential for transfer to new contexts (Tomlinson, 1998, p.6)" (pp. 5152). After the first year of the unit some teachers were wondering how much students learned about the Renaissance from their project. Was the learning about period weapons, buildings, or as was intended, how a philosophy can impact a culture? While the focus the first year had been on the impact Humanism had made on all aspects of life during the Renaissance, and students were to have incorporated this into their individual project essays, this did not happen well. Teachers determined that more explicit teaching about the philosophy had to be done in the Humanities introduction in order for students to be able to discuss this abstract concept. This was felt to be a vital component to the success of the Fair, to prevent it from simply becoming a project showcase because after all it was the organizing theme that Ellis and Stuen (1998) advocate for:
The Renaissance Fair Unit 34 “It is typically the case that interdisciplinary efforts are centered around an organizing theme. Any theme chosen by teachers and students must have sustaining value, and it must be rich in its potential to include the various academic disciplines as meaningful contributors. Thus the choice of themes must be based on some strategic vision of what students need to learn and the ways in which they might learn...upon the potential for a course of study to be complex in its possibilities for student choices, individual initiative, teacher and student collaboration, projects, and substantive meaning” (p. 13). The value of a strong theme is evident in what Jacobs says: “...an integrative theme engages students in a thoughtful confrontation with the subject matters. Students have to ponder what the theme reveals about the deep distinctive characters of such different subject matters as history and math. Moreover, attention to the integrative theme fosters a level of abstraction in students' thinking that they are otherwise not likely to reach” (p. 75). This was the level of thinking teachers were hoping for and by being more explicit in the teaching of Humanism, students were able to grasp it and explain its relevance both in their essays and at the Fair in the subsequent years. Dave points out that it is still weak at times , “…but we must maintain it.” This theme provides the interdisciplinary glue for the unit. Impact on Students Teachers were unanimous about the positive impact the unit had on students. The choice of projects and team members was given most of the credit for the positive attitudes, motivation, behaviour and attendance that was observed. The overall design of the unit also facilitated a truly inclusive approach to differentiated learning. Student Choice
The Renaissance Fair Unit 35 Implementing the selection process for grouping and choosing projects went smoothly. This was a more significant motivator than teachers anticipated. Students and parents found the resume writing relevant as students had to draw on their life events and academic career for details. For the most part students chose friends for their groups but they were able to identify one another’s strengths in the cover letter to demonstrate why they would be a successful team. Almost every application was handed in the morning before class of the due date, which astounded teachers. Students had worked on the peers to be on time. This was so unexpected that teachers quickly scrambled to come up with a time stamping system to honour the efforts of those who worked hard to be first. Once all the applications were collected, two teachers took on the task of building eight new classes. They tried to balance classes in the usual manner, considering social, emotional, and academic issues, and because each project was taught twice this was easy to do. Almost every group was able to have their first and second or third choice of projects if they had been timely with delivering their applications. If a group could not have their first choice they were at least given the second and then third or fourth. Very few were disappointed on the day of the announcements. Many were surprised when they discovered who was teaching the project since anonymity had been preserved. For their part, teachers enjoyed having two new classes, often with students they had never taught. Nicole commented that:
The Renaissance Fair Unit 36 “I found the new classes to be ‘refreshing’. I enjoyed the new mix of students from the various classes. It was an opportunity to work with other students. It also rejuvenated me to have a new class as we were nearing the end of the school year.” Armaghan echoed this, saying: “It would sometimes feel like the first day of class in September, if you did not know the students in your new Renaissance classes. It was a great experience because teachers got to work with different students and the same for the students.” The idea of creating new classes at this time of year had really concerned some teachers, however it was a very positive experience. Attitude, Behaviour and Motivation At this time of the year grade eight attendance improved dramatically, late arrivals stopped and behavioural referrals to the office were almost nil, a fact the Administration noted was the opposite at other middle schools this late in the year. During the project, student choice played a large role in keeping students positive, motivated, and well behaved because they were always either working on what they wanted to or with whom they wanted. This resulted in very few classroom management problems. It also created a productive learning environment because friends seemed more likely to keep one another on task and were not afraid to challenge their friends to do their share. Ellis and Stuen (1998) said, of integrating students, “At its best, interdisciplinary teaching and learning is projectoriented. The best projects, like the best journeys of discovery, take teamwork….Interdisciplinary curriculum
The Renaissance Fair Unit 37 must call on all the disciplines in order to be successful, but even more than that, it must call upon all students to share with each other their gifts, talents, energy, good will and hard work” (p. 37). This seemed to be true over the two weeks, as seen in Dave’s comments that: “They are definitely motivated and excited about the project. The fact they request and we accommodate their choices impacts it. It is a good influence on student behaviour. Later in the year motivation always wanes so this picks it up. Working with others outside of the class really helps. On their level that is the main thing, it’s not an intrinsic passion for the Renaissance that helps.” Mike noticed this as well, commenting that: “From my recollection I believe that the majority of students were very motivated to participate. The majority of projects were hands on and made allowances for student creativity to come out. Behaviour was good throughout the fair.” Darren noted the role that the Fairs ‘reputation has played as well: “The fair was established quite a few years back. The current and past grade 8 students have had the opportunity to see and hear about the past fairs. Each year the students have been excited to work with their friends and do such neat projects. They are aware that it is a lot of work and they have a focused attitude coming in to class.”
Student Learning In their daily reflections, students had to comment on what they had learned each day. It was interesting that these entries, over the course of the project were almost evenly divided between factual data from the project and personal comments about working in a group, with friends or about carrying out a plan. On the final selfevaluation students complete for the Fair, the majority of
The Renaissance Fair Unit 38 comments on learning are about teamwork. As well, most students remark that this is the hardest they have worked at school but it is the best work they have ever done. The Fair has a strong impact on what students learn about the lifelong skills of cooperation, collaboration, communication, hard work, effort and pride of accomplishment. Most comments about the skills and knowledge students learned are heard in the gym, during the Fair. They are excited to explain how they learned to build, create, make or design something they have never done. Even more impressive, is that almost every student is able to explain the influence of Humanism on their projects and are eager and proud to do so. Tomlinson (1998) captures the essence of this diverse learning when he says: “Middle level learners seem poised at the perfect moment in development to look at how ideas function, how the world is put together, and how experiences and ideas in a whole range of areas can help them on their pilgrimage to become more selfsufficient and thinking young adults” (p.6) The richest experience involving both aspects of lifelong learning, and learning skills and knowledge, came when a student from the first year of the Fair returned during her grade ten year to pick up her sister on their last day in the province before moving away. When asked about her future plans, she replied that she was going to study to be an architect because of her experience in ‘If You Build It They Will Come’ during the Renaissance Fair. As Ellis and Stuen remark, “For both teachers and students, the goal becomes an enabling goal: to set oneself free to become a selfsustaining learner whose desire to learn
The Renaissance Fair Unit 39 carries on beyond the school experience into lifelong learning” (p. 39). Differentiated Learning The handson project focus of each teacher’s unit easily allowed for differentiated learning. Students were given wide latitude as to what or how they might demonstrate their learning. Mike explains that, “Over the years more projects have been developed that will accommodate various learning styles. Teachers also gave students the opportunity to create and complete their projects in a way that made sense to them.” An interesting advantage of this approach is how inclusive it was for low level English as second language students (ESL), and students with moderate to significant learning disabilities. Two factors aided this success: the support of the student services teachers and the doubling up of projects. Nicole recalls that, “Support services were heavily involved in adapting and modifying projects for students. Students who required extra support were only signed up for one project versus two.” Mark expanded on this, saying; “We included support staff and reduced the workload or project load for students with specific learning needs. The projects evolved over the years as well and new projects were added. The integrated approach allowed much flexibility in how the curriculum was delivered, and students could choose to work in an area of strength.” For those who were capable of a certain degree of achievement they could be part of a group in a project of their choice for the first eighty minute block and
The Renaissance Fair Unit 40 then they could return by themselves or with the student services teacher for the second block to gain more time. For the more challenged students, the student services teacher collaborated with the project teacher to devise an appropriate project. An example of this was in the architecture unit. A three dimensional jigsaw puzzle of a Renaissance building was purchased and divided into small sections for the two severely challenged students to build for the fair. Curiously, it attracted such attention that other students asked to assist the two boys when they had nothing else to do. Both boys were enormously proud of their building that they could display on the day of the Fair. The design of the whole unit, the framework of the projects and the willingness of the student services staff to assist with this, aside from their students’ regular programs, was an inclusive, rewarding experience. Evolutions Over the years teachers have made changes to the unit to suit the needs of the particular group of students they will teach. By this point in the year teachers have a good sense of the groups’ dynamics, work ethic and attitude. An example of this evolution occurred last year. For the prior eight months, teachers had to battle with students over issues of work completion and poor quality. Nothing seemed to make a difference and as the time to begin plans for the Renaissance drew near there were serious discussions about not doing it for fear the students could not get
The Renaissance Fair Unit 41 their work ready for a specific date. Ultimately, teachers decided to go ahead with some significant changes because they realized that this was in fact an ideal situation to help these students come to terms with issues. In this evolution students were only allowed to work in pairs instead of fours. This created greater individually accountability. Each teacher created a very structured project timeline with checkpoints along the way that had to be met. Finally, teachers had more of a direct say in the representations of learning students thought they might produce in order for them to accurately grasp the scope of what they might be planning. In the end the Fair was as successful as ever with the benchmark being met as these students, their parents and their teachers acknowledged that this was their best work to date. Assessment This aspect of the unit was the most challenging area to make decisions for due to several diverse issues. With an emphasis on cooperative learning, there was a desire for a measure of individual and group accountability. With the creation of new projects, the gradewide focus, and the role of student choice in demonstrating learning, there was a desire to assess work equitably. With a constructivist approach driving this unit, there was a desire to have students use selfreflection and self evaluation. Simmonds and ElHindi (1998) explain this need for such a variety of assessments: “In assessing student learning from an integrative perspective, students are required to go beyond separate subjects to demonstrate a wide range of
The Renaissance Fair Unit 42 performance skills. Teachers will have to develop multiple criteria to assess student performance of real life tasks. This contrasts to assessments that are framed from single perspectives” (p. 34). Complicating this further were problems with how to break up marks within each project for subjectspecific use by homeroom teacher. As well, there was the logistical issue of how to return marks to homeroom teachers for use in formal reporting. Consequently, issues of assessment occupied a large part of the early planning discussions. Teachers wanted to have equality of expectations for student work across projects. At the same time they wanted some autonomy due to the large role student choice had in demonstrating learning. It was agreed that teachers would use a criteria referenced assessment and set it in conjunction with their students, describing performance at an ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ level to allow for freedom in student project design (Appendix G). A minimum level of acceptable performance at a ‘C’ level was established to raise expectations for students. Failing, as in not completing, was not an option for this project. Students were encouraged to do their very best. This was promoted by positive class discussions that generated long lists of ways of representing what would be learned in the project. At the Fair, this resulted in presentations, dramas, simulations, models, demonstrations, construction of artifacts, clothing, musical performances, recipes and ultimately, Renaissance food. Teachers were unanimous in wanting to have both group and individual
The Renaissance Fair Unit 43 assessments for their projects. As well, and to assist with this two prong assessment, teachers wanted to incorporate a form of selfreflection and self evaluation into the process. Selfreflection was conducted at the end of each day. Students would return to homeroom and as part of the CAPP curriculum they would complete a one page reflection to help reflect on the days work in terms of what was accomplished, what led to accomplishments, how well the group worked together, what was learned, and what had to be planned for the next day (Appendix H). By completing this in homeroom there was less influence of group members, creating more honesty. At the end of the unit there was a self assessment of the accomplishment of the individual and the group, including a visual and written description of the division of labour (Appendix I) that teachers compared to their own anecdotal assessments of how groups worked together. This desire to assess the learning process and not jus the product is supported by Simmonds and ElHindi (1998) who explain that: “Authentic assessment allows one to focus on the processes by which students arrive at their understanding (Fischer &King 1995). Therefore, students not only assist in setting the direction of their learning but also in determining how that learning will be assessed. They take on more responsibility for defining not only what they are learning but also how well they are learning. Students collaborate with teachers in identifying the criteria by which their work is to be judged, and then students are helped to identify their strengths and weaknesses. This experience prepares the student for lifelong learning practices” (p. 35). To facilitate sharing evaluations, teachers agreed on a date by which point they would have completed their marking to pass these on to homeroom
The Renaissance Fair Unit 44 teachers. It was suggested that teachers would assign a percentage of the mark achieved to each discipline represented by the project. For example the architecture project might be 20% math, 30 % art, and 50% social studies and English. It was apparent though that this could not accurately represent what had been done by all group members or for all products in a given project. Instead the entire mark was assigned to the Humanities grade for the term because in every case at least half the work came out of English and Social Studies. Issues and Evolutions A large problem teachers faced after the first year was criteria setting with students because, with their lack of knowledge of what might be produced this first time through, teachers had difficulty guiding the criteria setting process. As a solution to this all teachers have since moved to a performance rubric that is set in conjunction with students. This has been found to be more descriptive and articulates the range of acceptable work for students. Armaghan’s multiple assessment approach characterizes what most teachers have moved to over the years. She explains that: “Every student had to produce an essay that reflected their learning and the concept of humanism. This was a grade wide assessment, where all teachers used the same criteria and rubric to mark the essays. The visual projects for my unit were marked using rubrics and criteria, which had been discussed with the students before they began their projects. I also assessed the students’ performance during the Fair. I would usually mark the visual presentations after the Fair, except with my unit some students chose to present cooking, which meant I had to assess that during the Fair. I was
The Renaissance Fair Unit 45 usually pretty full by the end of that night!” Most teachers found that it took a couple of years to perfect their assessment and adopt a variety of methods that worked best for their projects. Darren moved to daily assessment using a performance standard. Dave used a scrapbook students created along the lines of da Vinci’s notebook as a learning journal. Other teachers weighted project tasks differently. Armaghan identified time as another ever present problem, “… the time constraint with marking all these projects because all Humanities teachers usually needed to have these marks within a weeks time or so.” Dave notes that the time factor is compounded by unfinished work, which teachers have to follow up with their homeroom students, even though they did not teach them. The only solution is for teachers to stay on top of work during the Fair weeks. Role of Administration Immediately prior to starting the Fair unit formally, and then all along the way, there was tremendous support for this effort from the administrative team in the school. Bucher (2000), in describing what is necessary for integration of information literacy skills to happen says, "First, the principal and administrative staff must believe in and support (through funding, scheduling, and opportunities for professional collaboration and staff development) the importance of information literacy and convey that importance to all of the educators, students, and parents in the school community” (p. 3). Kain (1996)
The Renaissance Fair Unit 46 offers this advice to Principals wanting to promote this type of curriculum: “For the curriculum coordinator or Principal interested in helping teachers deliberate successfully, the lesson is clear: don't merely mandate integration or tell teachers to plunge in on their own. A negative experience here is probably far worse than no experience at all. Support in terms of both time and personnel is needed from the beginning to guarantee a positive experience” (p.185). This type of support is what Mark recalls, saying that: “Admin gave us the room to fly with it. They loved the idea of integrated instruction, and said go for it. They allowed us to be creative with our schedule and suspend the normal timetable for grade 8s for two weeks. This was no easy task, as it affected several exploration teachers as well. They supported the idea, which made it that much easier to sell to the rest of the staff.”
Mike felt their role was even more vital saying: “Without the administration the fair would not have happened. There was a great deal of coordination needed between all of the grade 8 teachers, resource teachers and exploration teachers. A new schedule was implanted and students were mixed up into new classrooms based on their areas of interest.” While Dave and Nicole both felt that the administrative support was positive but passive, they did note that the Principal paid for the teachers’ costume rentals. Finally, Armaghan described in some detail the support she saw from the administrators: “The admin was available for help at all times. They saw this unit and the Fair as an important part of Como Lake culture and the message was made clear schoolwide. It was interesting because when I first did the Renaissance unit as a student teacher, Como Lake had a new principal. He automatically saw the importance of this unit for the school and community. The same principal has been at Como for the past 3.5 years
The Renaissance Fair Unit 47 now, and the Renaissance Fair is still as important as it was when I was a student teacher. The administration offers their full support at all times, both before the fair and during the fair. Most support from admin would involve advocating for community involvement and supervising the Fair.”
Over the life of the Fair to date there have been two Principals and four VicePrincipals. For their part, administrators have had great praise for this unit and see it as a vital part of the school culture. They have made sure that new teachers hired for grade 8 positions are aware of the expected commitment to join the Fair process. They have referred to the unit as “the cornerstone of Como Lake Middle’s grade 8 program”, and as “a highlight of the year, not only for the grade 8 students and their parents, but for the entire school community”. The Fair: a Culminating Event The Weeks Before The gym was chosen for the Fair site and would be set up in a museum like arrangement with projects evenly distributed so no one topic would be clustered together. This would create novelty as visitors moved through the Fair and deemphasize comparison of products. This location provided access to other small rooms like office space, storage room, the stage and even outdoors to help setup projects that needed a different space for effective display. One teacher volunteered to book extra tables from the district resource center, Mark offered to inform the local papers and feeder schools, another, who had a project with an art focus, offered to create posters and banners for
The Renaissance Fair Unit 48 decorations. Jeremy offered to recruit several grade nine students to use digital video to document the whole unit and create a final movie of the event, and Dave offered to photograph the results (Appendix J). In interviews, this division of labour leading up to the Fair was sited by every teacher as characteristic of the type of teamwork this unit fostered amongst teachers. Dave said that, “Cooperation was exceptional, and teamwork and division of labour was great, allowing you not to feel overwhelmed.” Armaghan echoed those thoughts saying that: “All grade 8 teachers worked together collaboratively, especially at the time of the Fair, or the Fair will not be successful. Each teacher assumed responsibility for a task that had to be accomplished for the Fair: setting up the gym, decorating, and doing community notices.” Presentation Day: the Fair On the day of the Fair teachers set up tables throughout the gym. Students were brought down, two classes at time, and directed as to where to set up the products to aid even distribution. Students were discouraged from putting their two projects side by side. By separating them, the groups would be split between their two offerings, hopefully discouraging the misbehaviour that might result from a large group of friends in one place. The stage was setup for the drama project presentations; the gym office had several computers set up running Powerpoint presentations and iMovies; one supply room was set up as a working Renaissance surgical diorama and the other was used to reenact a trial from the Inquisition. Dividers were brought in to try to stifle some noise and the
The Renaissance Fair Unit 49 gym sound system piped in music from the period. Enhancing the period feel, teachers dressed in rented Renaissance costumes and most students from the acting and daily life projects wore the costumes they had made as their learning demonstrations. A celebratory sense was in the air. For the remainder of the afternoon students hosted the rest of the school population as they came through the exhibit. An interesting observation was how the grade 8 students made sure to get the attention of other teachers that had taught them so they could show off their projects. The younger students enjoyed the wide variety of exhibits, as did the other teachers. There was a general sense of awe at what great work had been done. Following the end of the school day, students were sent home with the expectation that they would return at 6:00 pm for two hours while their parents and other members of the community came through the Fair. The evening turnout was fantastic. Several students had parents come for this event who had not come to the school for any other occasion, including parentteacher interviews. The pride was evident on the faces of both parents and students. Many parents expressed their pleasure with the unit to several teachers. The evening was a very enjoyable success. Evolution The only major change that has been made to the day of the Fair is that students are now only in the gym for about an hour and a half in the afternoon
The Renaissance Fair Unit 50 and for the same in the evening. Cutting out an extra half hour at both times has helped maintain enthusiasm and interest. Teachers’ Reflections on the Unit Reasons for Success Interviews with teachers who have been involved created an extensive list of factors that contribute to the success of the unit including a short timeline, the collaborative atmosphere, schoolwide support, choice and autonomy. The short timeline was a key ingredient because it motivated everyone, maintained excitement, raised the level of concern, and did not allow work to drag on. Knowing there was a definite end relieved the stress of some teachers who worried about finishing the curriculum in their discipline. The collaborative spirit created a strong team dynamic. With everyone willing to help, and teachers being resources for each other there was a high full of commitment. Teachers fed off one another’s enthusiasm and success. The result was that the collaboration that teachers were teaching groups about in their projects was being modeled for students during the whole unit as well. Schoolwide support was identified as an important element contributing to success. All staff in the school, including administration, supported the unit even though it created scheduling problems, disruptions, and noise for their classes. Exploration teachers made themselves and their resources available before, during, and after school. The teacher librarian went out of her way to set
The Renaissance Fair Unit 51 up resource carts for projects and search for appropriate web sites. Even the custodians were helpful in saving recyclable materials for students to use and being lenient with teachers about clean up. A total school commitment let students know this was an important project. Choice was a very significant factor for teachers and students. Teachers created projects that truly interested them and this enthusiasm was passed on. Students had their choice of team mates and projects which led to focused engagement, reducing behaviour problems and improving the learning climate. Commenting on choice, Armaghan said: “The fact that teachers chose what units they wanted to teach, made their lessons more accommodating and exciting. Students were also choosing their favorite topics to learn, which increased their motivation in class. The involvement of parents and the community at the Fair, made the event stand out even more and certify its importance to the students.” Teacher autonomy was another contributor to the success of the Fair. This was a teacherled initiative and they had the freedom to create the unit as they saw fit. Powell et. al. (1996), writing about the teachers at an entirely integrative curriculum school, comments on the importance of autonomy saying, “Teacher autonomy was a very clear and salient factor influencing the sustainability of the BBMS curriculum…..Being autonomous pedagogues in an environment that was on the leading edge of curriculum reform, however, also required the teachers to be risk takers. Moreover, being autonomous provided several key rewards for the teachers, which fostered their commitment to the integrative curriculum of the school” (p. 39). In the end teachers had the autonomy to make this unit as successful as it is. Summarizing the reasons for success Mark said: “The opportunity to mix up the kids and do things differently had impact on
The Renaissance Fair Unit 52 both students and teachers. Student who had seen the fair in previous years saw the challenge before them and wanted to rise to it. The grandiose nature of the fair really hits home for the students in the gym, as teachers, students, parents and other community members wander around asking questions of the different projects. The expectation to do something great is what ultimately made it a success for the students, a culminating end to their middle school career.” Drawbacks In the interviews teachers did not identify many drawbacks. Several commented on the hard work involved and Nicole noted that, “Although exhausted, it was always a great feeling of success and accomplishment at the end of the Fair.” Dave noted that the high staff turn over at the school has made it challenging to constantly bring new people onboard. Fortunately they know the expectations when they are hired and have access to units that were taught in the past making the workload lighter. Because the collaborative atmosphere persists, they also feel full supported along the way. Jeremy was disappointed with the “Lack of time to integrate exploration resources into the units.” As well, “No specific times were set aside to use the exploration labs (home arts, tech ed, music & computers).” However, most commented on the problem of logistics, the sheer scope of the unit and number of people involved. As Mark noted: “Logistics were always difficult. Suspending the schedule at the end of the year was difficult. Asking the school to be flexible with the needs of the fair was often difficult. The precedent was set in the inaugural year and the event has become an annual event. It requires a great deal of work on the part of the grade 8 teachers, but the merits are irrefutable.” Commitment In spite of these drawbacks every teacher interviewed said they were
The Renaissance Fair Unit 53 thoroughly committed to the idea of interdisciplinary curriculum and the Fair itself. Most stated that it has been the highlight of their teaching career. When asked if he would participate in this again, Mike replied: “I would love to participate in another unit like the Renaissance Fair. It is an opportunity to work in a team setting with other teachers, as well as an opportunity to work with different students than those in your classroom. I found this type of learning environment to very conducive to students learning with excitement. It was my first year teaching so it was a great opportunity to see what could be accomplished with some vision, hard work and cooperation.” In her reply, Armaghan said: “I would definitely participate in this again and have twice. If I leave Como, I will definitely take this experience and try to incorporate it elsewhere and maybe even with different units and subjects. This unit is a true example of how learning can be fun for students. It is a great experience for all involved.” Mark’s response to the question about how it affected him captures the sentiment of the group: “Preparation for the fair definitely made me focus on my practice. I was a new teacher and this idea was exciting. It truly made me look, at an early stage in my career, at the significance of integrated curriculum, breaking from the norm, team teaching, school community relations and commitment to excellence in education.” Nicole, Dave, Darren and Jeremy were equally enthusiastic about their involvement. This was a significant event in the careers of these teachers.
Further Considerations While teachers are committed and enthusiastic about the Renaissance Fair unit and consequently, to interdisciplinary teaching in general, they cannot at
The Renaissance Fair Unit 54 this point state whether this approach has been the most beneficial way to learn about the Renaissance period. Students have knowledge about their project focus and that involves three different disciplines in most cases but could they have acquired that in the normal course of their Humanities class, which after all is an integration of Social Studies and English? There is definitely a strong argument for the beneficial learning about team work, planning, organizing presentations, and self knowledge that is unique to this environment. These questions are raised because sooner or later a parent will provide a direct challenge to this approach. It can be expected because as Ellis and Stuen (1998) point out, “At this stage, the number of empirical studies remains so small that any kind of meaningful metaanalysis that might point to some generalized findings (regarding the benefits) is precluded” (p. 19). Grossman and Wineburg (2000) make the point more strongly saying,: “Despite the popularity of interdisciplinary curricula across the nation, there is no body of evidence that attests to greater learning in highquality interdisciplinary versus highquality disciplinary classrooms” (p. 9). They also point out that the literature "…is almost entirely comprised of idealized descriptions of programs and how to put them in place, and almost entirely devoid of descriptions of what actually happen when theory meets practice” (p. 9). On the other hand Shoemaker’s (1993) review of the literature on the effect of integrative approaches did indicate favourable results. She found:
The Renaissance Fair Unit 55 1. 15 studies on the effect on student attitudes 13 found positive differences in self esteem, self confidence, self reliance, enthusiasm, excitement, increased interest and motivation, risk taking, internalizing important values 2. 12 studies on the effect on student behaviour improved attendance, more positive, sophisticated, collaborative behaviours, self initiation, participation, at task behaviours, improved study habits, communication, ability to negotiate 3. effect on student achievement "majority of studies in this section focused on comparison of integrative approaches and traditional subject discipline approaches. 26 studies examining effects on achievement and / or cog. abilities 6 no sig. diff 1 found scores dropped for exp & control 1 reading achieve better for traditional direct instruction 11 favoured integrative approaches: 5 increased higher order thinking, 1 found greater transfer of learning and creativity, 2 showed no difference, 2 showed no difference between 2 integrative approaches (pp. 3437). Note that half of the studies, twentyseven, focused on the affective domains of attitudes and behaviour and found positive impacts. Of the twenty six focused on academic achievement, there was only one that identified a negative impact on learning, while the majority found that there was some or no difference from traditional approaches. Taken as a whole, the cognitive and affective results would indicate this approach is worth implementing. With discrepancies like these in the findings among researchers, it would be useful to complete a formal analysis of student learning in the Renaissance Fair. Currently the selfevaluation data that is collected at the end of the unit measures the affective change in students. With the evolution of the essay component on Humanism, combined with interviews with students during the
The Renaissance Fair Unit 56 Fair about their projects links to Humanism, it would be possible to gather cognitive data to gauge overall learning. The challenge would be to find comparative data where a traditional approach has been used. With many nearby middle schools in the district that may be possible. However, the emphasis that each teacher chooses, be it factbased, thematic or project oriented, make comparison of data difficult. A second area for investigation is the experience of other middle schools with this unit. Since it was presented at the district professional development day and the provincial middle school conference, both in 2000, four schools have attempted a similar unit in grade eight. To date only one school has continued with it. It would be interesting to investigate: the reasons for adoption and cessation, the experiences of participating teachers and school communities, and student impressions and learning at these sites. The impact on student teachers would be a third area for investigation. Since its inception, nine middle school student teachers have designed and taught their own project in this unit. This has occurred at the full immersion point of their practicum experience. At this point they have had only a passing explanation of integrated curriculum in their university courses. Here they have the handson opportunity to design and implement an interdisciplinary unit, work on a collaborative team and start from scratch with a new class. It would be interesting to investigate how this experience has impacted their teaching,
The Renaissance Fair Unit 57 perceptions of how students learn and whether it has lasting impact on their approach to middle school. Summary This paper has presented a thorough account of the development, design and implementation of a gradewide interdisciplinary unit. The overall success of this unit is evident in its becoming a cornerstone of the grade eight curriculum and an anticipated annual event in the culture of the school. It has sustained itself, largely unchanged, in spite of sixteen different teachers, and nine student teachers being involved, along with changes in administration that have seen two Principals and four Viceprincipals oversee the school. Approximately 1300 students have taken part in this unit and every student has completed a successful project for the Fair. The impact on teachers has been significant. As stated in their interviews, teachers identify their participation in this unit as the highlight of their teaching career. With so many new teachers involved, it has continued to impact their impressions of how teams should function, and how students can learn in an interdisciplinary environment. More of these teachers have tried to include integration in their regular classroom than others on staff. The impact on students has been equally important. This is seen in the increased motivation, and improved attitudes, behaviour and attendance at the end of the year. Students identify the unit as the highlight of their middle school
The Renaissance Fair Unit 58 lives. Many say that their work in the this unit is the most difficult and best that they have ever done. They demonstrate their enthusiasm for the unit by returning to see the Fair year after year. In light of the research on interdisciplinary and integrated curriculum, the unit is an exemplar of the approach; this in spite of the fact that the teachers involved had little or no experience with this. Lake (1994) summarizes the key features that are required for these units: “a combination of subjects, an emphasis on projects, sources that go beyond textbooks, relationships among concepts, thematic units as organizing principles, flexible schedules, flexible student groupings” (p. 2). The Renaissance Fair has incorporated these elements from the start and has evolved each year in response to the shifting needs of the students, teachers and school to remain a successful example of interdisciplinary curriculum.
The Renaissance Fair Unit 59
References Bucher, K. T. (2000). The importance of information literacy skills in middle school curriculum. Clearing House, 73, 217220. Retrieved on November 1, 2004, from Profession Development Collection database. Ellis, A. K., & Stuen, C. J. (1998). The interdisciplinary curriculum. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education Inc. Erb, T. O. (1994). Teaching diverse students: focus on the learning cycle. Schools In The Middle, 4 , 1620.
Gatewood, T. (1998). How valid is integrated curriculum in today’s middle school. Middle School Journal, 29, 3841 George, P. S., & Alexander, W. M. (2003). The exemplary middle school (3rd ed.). Toronto: Neslon/Thomson Learning. Huntley, M. (1998). Design and implementation of a framework for defining integrated mathematics and science education. School Science and
The Renaissance Fair Unit 60 Mathematics, 98, 320327. Retrieved on November 1, 2004, from Academic Search Primer database . Jackson, A. W., & Davis, G.A. (2000). Turning points 2000: educating adolescents in the 21st century. New York: Teachers College Press. Jacobs, H. H. (Ed). (1989). Interdisciplinary curriculum: design and Implementation. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Kain, D. L. (1996). Recipes or dialogue? A middle school team conceptualizes “curricular integration”. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 11, 163187.
Lake, K. (1994). School improvement research series VIII: Integrated curriculum. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Retrieved May 8, 2003, from http://www.nwrel.org/scpd/sirs/8/c016.html. Powell, R., Skoog, G., Troutman, P., & Jones, Cr. (1996). Sustaining a Nonlinear Integrative Learning Context: Middle Level Teachers’ Perspective. Research in Middle Level Education Quarterly, 20, 23–63. Shoemaker, B. J. (1993). An evaluation study of the implementation of an integrated curriculum model in selected elementary schools in Eugene, Oregon. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University Oregon, Eugene. Simmons, S.L. and ElHindi, A.E. (1998). Six transformations for thinking about
The Renaissance Fair Unit 61 Integrative Curriculum. Middle School Journal, 30, 3236. Tchudi, S. & Lafer, S. (1996). The interdisciplinary teacher’s handbook: integrated Hcw and Where teaching across the curriculum. Portsmouth, NH: Boyntonh/Cook Publishers. Tomlinson, C. (1998). For integration and differentiation choose concepts over topics. Middle School Journal, 30, 38. Windburg, S. & Grossman, P. (Eds). (2000). Interdisciplinary Curriculum: challenges to implementation. New York: Teachers College Press.
Appendix A Chart for interview participants involvement and career history.
Name of Teacher interviewee
Years of Fair Participation
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
Training and Experience at time of initial involvement
Elementary trained, 3rd year of teaching
Career Path Since last involvement
7 yrs. at middle school, 6 yrs as team leader, 3 yrs. Faculty
The Renaissance Fair Unit 62
Advisor at UBC
Middle school trained, 1st year of 6 yrs. in middle school, 2 in grade teaching 8 , 4 yrs. counsellor, currently 1 yr. elementary Viceprincipal
Support since 1999
Elementary trained 1st year of teaching
7 yrs. at middle school as computer technology teacher
Elementary trained, 1st year of teaching (job sharing)
7 yrs at middle school, 6 as grade 6/7 teacher, 3 yrs. as teamleader
2001, 2002, 2003,2004
Middle school trained, 3rd year of teaching
6 yrs in middle school, 4 yrs. in grade 8, 3 yrs as team leader
2001, 2002, 2003
Middle school trained, 2nd year of teaching
1 yr elementary, 4 yrs in grade 8, currently 1 yr. international middle school
Middle school student teahcer
3 yrs supply teaching, 2 of which in long term temporary positions in grade 8
High school trained, 4th year of teaching
6 yrs at middle school grade 6/7, 2 years in grade 8, currently middle school counselor.
Appendix B Handwritten notes from initial planning meeting assigning ideas to teachers, followed by typewritten preliminary project descriptions.
The Renaissance Fair Unit 63
Leonardo da Vinci
The Renaissance Fair Unit 64 Botany - art with drawing and painting realistically, - math with Fibronacci numbers - Science - create a collection, investigate photosynthesis and leaf arrangement Physiology - art - Science - heart studies Inventions - study three key inventions of the period - design something to meet a need now - build it and find out to patent it. - you are Leonardo’s agent and it is your job to design a marketing and advertising campaign to sell his inventions. - compare and contrast the modern to the past inventions da Vinci made.
Exploration - design an exploration trip somewhere far from Italy - use maps , tides, currents to plan - decide on type of ship from period, food, equipment Renaissance Trading Cards • create a set of trading cards featuring the most important people of the Renaissance. • create a game using cards that reflects values and ideas of the Renais. use people, art, places, objects and ideas for your card set Video Biography choose one significant character in Hum, Scimat, and Fine arts, research and report on their contributions to the Renaissance Architectural Commission - you have been commissioned by a ruler to design a new cathedral, palace, fortress using all of the latest technology to reflect the times. You must plan, draft and build a scale model. You must submit a written proposal and write the real estate ad to sell it.
Appendix C Catalogue descriptions of projects from the first Fair, including Provincial
The Renaissance Fair Unit 65 Learning Outcomes for 3 of these.
The Art of Warfare
Warfare was frequent among the city-states that flourished in Renaissance Italy. From petty battles to full-scale debacles, both on land and at sea, war became an arena for invention, and a real art form during the Renaissance. This was the time period that saw the developing use of gun powder in Europe, the creation of the cannon, the arquebus (ancestor of the rifle), primitive pistols, and a weapon that was the forerunner of the machine gun. The Renaissance introduced the condottiere who were powerful leaders of wandering military units for hire to “protect” towns and city-states. It was also the time of powerful political families such as the Medici, the Sforzas, and the Pazzi, and the political intrigues that were simmering amongst them. Project Overview In this project you will research some of the famous political intrigues of the Renaissance as well as recreate famous battle scenes and some of the amazing military inventions that added a new dimension to the art of war. The Art of Warfare Learning Outcomes - Students will be able to: Science
• Describe how scientific principles are applied in technology. • Use models to demonstrate how systems operate.
• Identify periods of significant cultural achievement, including the Renaissance. • Cooperatively plan and implement a course of action that addresses the problem, issue or inquiry initially identified. • Construct, interpret, and use graphs, tables, grids, scales, and various types of maps. • Describe the impact of technological innovation and science on political, social and economic structures.
• Connect new ideas and info to previous beliefs, values, experiences. • Use accurate and precise terminology. • Interpret and report on information from a variety of sources. • Use established criteria to evaluate group processes and own contributions.
• Apply management skills to complete a project. • Synthesize information from a variety of electronic sources for presentations.
The Renaissance Fair Unit 66
The “Fab Four”
When you see the names Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and, Donatello, many of you are probably thinking, “KOWABUNGA DUDES!” and those four turtles right? Well, the turtles actually got their names from the four greatest artists of the Renaissance era. Their talents played an important role in the “rebirth”of interest in literature, trade routes, inventions and new ideas about art and architecture. This project will focus on the artistic contributions of these four men; and will allow you to exhibit your own unique talents. Project Overview You will begin the project by investigating who these artists were and how they contributed to their society and how their impressions have carried on to the present day. Leonardo’s famous painting of Mona Lisa features a woman with a mysterious smile. You are going to create a 90’s version of the Mona Lisa , but it will be a self-portrait on the computer using “GOO”. You will sculpt like Donatello as you chip and carve out a small marble-like masterpiece. Finally, you will have the chance to “be like Mike”... Michelangelo that is. Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo are well known painters and your group will choose between painting the battle scene murals like those painted in Florence, Italy, or painting peaceful murals like those on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The “Fab Four” - Learning Outcomes - Students will be able to: Social Studies
• Identify periods of significant cultural achievement, including the Renaissance. • Cooperatively plan and implement a course of action that addresses the problem, issue or inquiry initially identified. • Describe the impact of technological innovation and science on political, social and economic structures.
• Connect new ideas and information to previous beliefs, values, experiences. • Use accurate and precise terminology. • Interpret and report on information from a variety of sources. • Use established criteria to evaluate group processes and own contributions.
• Apply management skills to complete a project. • Use a variety of information technology tools to access information. • Apply information technology tools in research.
• compare a variety of images of a given subject in different media, styles, techniques. • use a variety of design strategies and sources of imagery • identify similarities and differences in the roles of artists and the visual arts in a variety of contexts. • use materials, technologies, and processes to make personally meaningful images. • demonstrate awareness of meanings and purposes of images: - that support or challenge personal and societal beliefs, values, traditions, or practices. that incorporate stylistic elements from various artists, movements, and
The Renaissance Fair Unit 67
Lead a Naval Expedition
Do you have the courage and fortitude to challenge the endless ocean, the edge of the world and the monsters of the unknown? Then you could be the captain of a great and famous expedition. The Renaissance was a time of great exploration throughout the world as countries and states sought fortune, riches and especially the route to the spices of the east. New countries, continents, and civilizations were discovered as men challenged the elements, technology and themselves. Project Overview Devise a journey that will take you and your crew to various parts of the known and unknown world. Based on your research you will have to decide where to go and for what purpose. You must choose a crew, supplies, weapons, and cargo for the voyage which could last several years! As captain you will have to choose the best ship design and sail technology, convince someone to sponsor and pay for your journey and decide how to pay your crew. You must decide on a route and season of travel and how you will prepare for and deal with hardships along the way. You must learn to navigate and make maps to keep track of where you are and where you have been. Lead a Naval Expedition - Learning Outcomes - Students will be able to: Math
• Demonstrate and interpret scale diagrams. • Demonstrate an appreciation of the role of math in 2D design. • Discover patterns in measurement and generalize procedures to solve measurement problems.
• Describe how scientific principles are applied in technology. • Use information and conclusions as a basis for further comparisons, investigations, or analysis.
• Identify periods of significant cultural achievement, including the Renaissance. • Cooperatively plan and implement a course of action that addresses the problem, issue or inquiry initially identified. • Construct, interpret, and use graphs, tables, grids, scales, and various types of maps. • Describe the impact of technological innovation and science on political, social and economic structures.
• Connect new ideas and info to previous beliefs, values, experiences. • Use accurate and precise terminology. • Interpret and report on information from a variety of sources. • Use established criteria to evaluate group processes and own contributions.
The Renaissance Fair Unit 68
• Apply management skills to complete a project. • Synthesize information from a variety of electronic sources for presentations.
Inventing The Present Out Of The Past
Have you ever wondered about the origins of inventions like cars, tanks, helicopters, and even SCUBA equipment? Have you ever considered the importance such inventions have had in modern society? If you are interested in technology, inventions, model making and Leonardo da Vinci, himself, then this is the project for you! Project Overview You will have the opportunity to explore the connections between da Vinci’s sketches, inventions and modern technology. Upon completing the research portion of this project, you will write a report identifying the importance of a specific invention used today. You will also identify the modern invention’s characteristics which were originally conceptualized by da Vinci during the Renaissance. Based on da Vinci’s sketches, you will construct a model of the invention.
What Do You Mean I Can’t Eat With My Fingers?
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in another time period? Come and explore the daily lives of those who lived during the Renaissance. It was a time when food was considered a sign of wealth and the napkin and fork were just invented. Imagine the table manners! If you think not being allowed to wear spaghetti strapped t-shirts to school is bad, you’ll be interested in the laws they had against dressing lavishly during the Renaissance. It was also a time when women were largely under the control of their fathers or husbands and were often married by the age of 14. Consider being sick and the doctor wanting to cut open your veins to “let the bad blood” out in order to “heal” you. Studying the everyday life of the Renaissance will provide you with a new appreciation for the freedoms and choices that we have today. Project Overview You will research one or more areas of everyday life in the Renaissance and complete a project showing what life was really like. Projects can range from sewing a Renaissance costume, baking some typical Renaissance food to creating a printing press and newspaper.
If You Build It They Will Come
Imagine being chosen to design a new palace or cathedral for a wealthy family
The Renaissance Fair Unit 69 with money being no object. The Renaissance was a time of spectacular achievements in art and architecture as wealthy people offered to pay for the best artistic work they could find. There was competition to paint, create, sculpt, design and build, leaving a legacy for centuries. These artists drew heavily on the ancient Greek and Roman ideas of beauty. Project Overview You will be commissioned to design a new palace or cathedral for their country. After researching basic architectural terms in connection with Greek and Roman architecture, you will examine a variety of monumental and residential structures from Mediaeval and Renaissance periods. You will compare, contrast, and identify the architecture of these structures. You will examine how meaning, use, symbolism and resources determine the architecture and design of buildings. Then you will plan, design, draw and model the structure that you are commissioned to build. You must consider, volume, shape, space, area, geometry, balance, forms, scale, light, forces and engineering. Finally you will present your design and model to the royal family for their approval.
Barde In The Yarde
“If all the world’s a stage...” then why aren’t you on it? You will embark on an exploration of William Shakespeare and his contribution to the arts, literature, and general humanity, during the Renaissance. You will examine his plays and poetry and through them, discover the richness, exuberance, and often tragic stories that were played out during the “Tale” end of the Renaissance period. You will be expected to make connections, through research of historical figures, places and events, to the general mood of the Renaissance that Shakespeare described in his plays and sonnets. Project Overview You will choose and develop your own version of a Shakespearean play, or develop a compilation of scenes from Shakespear’s more popular plays. Your production will be cast, practiced and performed. You will also be responsible for combining your knowledge from your exploration classes to create sets, costumes and musical backdrops for your performance. The performance will take place during the Renaissance Fair at Como Lake, in the courtyard behind the school. “To play or not to play, that is the question.”
Was da Vinci The First Famous Leonardo?
How did da Vinci make his famous paintings look so realistic? Was he just a great artist or did he base his work on principles of geometry? Find out if Leonardo da Vinci used ancient methods of math from the Greeks as well as from the "other" famous Leonardo, Leonardo Fibonacci. Plus, what did Leonardo Fibonacci learn about nature's
The Renaissance Fair Unit 70 favourite numbers and how shapes and patterns help plants and animals survive? Project Overview You will examine and analyze Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings for golden rectangles. You will develop a test or survey to see if a "golden rectangle" or "golden spiral" is really more pleasing to the eye. How does this apply to the interior design industry? You will then illustrate the results of your survey. In a real world situation (on a nature walk) you will try to find as many different examples of the Fibonacci number sequence. Finally you will display the examples with some relevant information on what Fibonacci numbers are and the connections to Renaissance art and design. Appendix D Parent letter sent home with Fair selection package.
May 4, 1999
Dear Parents/Guardians of Grade 8 Students:
This year the grade 8 teachers from both the Killer Whale and Sea Wolf Teams have designed an integrated project to teach the Renaissance. Individual core teachers have designed projects encompassing a variety of themes in the Renaissance. Each project will attempt to integrate learning outcomes from as many grade 8 courses as possible. Integration promotes applications and development of knowledge and skills between various subject areas in a holistic manner. This will allow students to pursue areas of interest and discover natural connections between subject areas. It will also enable them to have an opportunity to work with a different teacher. We believe that giving the students their choice of projects will motivate them to become enthusiastic, responsible, self-directed learners. The project work will encompass most of the core class time starting on May 21st to June 9th. This will culminate with a Renaissance Exhibit on June 9th from 1-5 pm when community schools and parents are invited to attend. Students will work individually or in a group and will be assessed according to criteria set in consultation with the teacher overseeing the project. Daily assessment will also occur through the student’s individual learning log. Homeroom teachers will monitor these learning logs as well as the students’ daily progress.
The Renaissance Fair Unit 71 If you have any feedback, please call your child’s homeroom teacher at school.
Killer Whales: D. Gordon, Sea Wolves: Appendix E Unit description handed out to students to take home.
Project Renaissance: Student Instructions
This is your guide to an exciting opportunity that will begin in three weeks. In Project Renaissance you will have the opportunity to explore the Renaissance period through two different projects in a completely new way.
Individually or in Groups
What is unique about this is that you will work individually or in a group of up to four students of your choice from any grade eight class. You must choose wisely and in consultation with your parents. Consider who you work well with and the skills and abilities you each bring to the task.
From May 22 to June 4 the regular timetable will change to allow all grade eight students to participate in these projects at the same time. Regular core classes will stop. In blocks C and D you will work on one of the projects. In blocks E, F and part of G you will work on the other project. On Tuesday, June 1 you will switch times for the two projects between mornings and afternoons.
• Take the catalogue of projects home and read through each carefully. Show this to your parents and discuss your options and group members with them. Do not loose the catalogue, you will not get another one and it must be returned.
The Renaissance Fair Unit 72
• Choose your top three projects - you will do two of these. • Complete your academic resume. • Write a group project proposal letter briefly explaining which projects your group prefers and why you want to do them. Hand this in with all resumes attached. If you are working alone, write a brief letter explaining the same things.
NOTE: Projects are assigned on a first come, first served basis. All group letters and resumes are do Friday, May 7 by 3:00 pm. After this point you and your group will be assigned a project.
Fri. May 7 Thurs. May 20 Individual resumes and group cover letters due Introduction to the Renaissance (in Humanities) Students are assigned projects Group meetings with project coordinators (PM only) Integrated unit begins (Blocks C,D,E,F)
Fri. May 21 Tues. May 25 to Mon. June 7 Wed. June 9
Renaissance Exhibit (1:00 - 7:30 pm) Inviting local elementary classes and parents
Each project has a basic C grade level criteria that has been set by the project coordinator. During your first project day you will decide, in consultation with the teacher, the criteria for an A, B, or C+ grade. As well, you will be assessed on your daily progress and work habits by your homeroom teacher. You will meet for the last 30 minutes of the day in homeroom and complete a personal learning log, documenting what you have accomplished, and learned about the project, the Renaissance, and working with group members.
The Renaissance Fair Unit 73 On Wednesday, June 9 every group will present some aspect of their projects in the form of a Renaissance Exhibit. This exhibit will be visited by students from Como Lake, our elementary schools and your parents. It will be a lively, interactive, hands on, exciting event.
Appendix F Teacher guidelines and timeline for project implementation
Grade 8 Renaissance Project
Individual core teachers have designed projects encompassing a variety of themes in the Renaissance. Each project will attempt to integrate learning outcomes from as many grade 8 courses as possible. Projects will be presented with a description, baseline criteria and expected learning outcomes.
Project assessment is determined by individual coordinators establishing a baseline criteria at a C level. Students, under the direction of their project coordinator establish A, B and C+ level criteria. Time line for Grade 8 Renaissance Unit Thursday April 29 Teachers submit project descriptions for catalogue Monday May 3 Introduce integrated unit Discuss group choice Resume writing Group cover letter(including top 3 project choices) Project choices presented through a catalogue Teachers begin organizing groups in classes
Thursday May 6
The Renaissance Fair Unit 74 Friday May 7 Thursday May 20 Individual resumes and group cover letters due Introduction to the Renaissance (in Humanities) Students are assigned projects Group meetings with project coordinators (PM only) Integrated unit begins (Blocks C,D,E,F1)
Friday May 21 Tuesday May 25 to Monday June 7 Wednesday June 9
Renaissance Exhibit (1:00 - 5:00 pm) Inviting local elementary classes and parents
This unit will occupy all grade 8 core periods from May 25 - June 9. Explorations will remain the same but teachers will be encouraged to incorporate Renaissance themes. The final 30 minutes of each day will be used in homeroom for daily assessment of individual project progress through reflective journals. Como Lake Middle School 1999 Appendix G Sample criteria referenced assessment for architecture project in 1999. Note lack of reference to Humanism in written portion. Names:________________________________________________________________
IF You Build It They Will Come
Project Criteria For Groups 1) architectural diagrams
•plan, section, elevation • drawings showing proper scale, thickness of walls • evidence of craftsmanship
two or three
two or less
satisfactory detail care craftsmanship
excellent care intricate craftsmanship
good care some care quality crafts- craftsmanship manship
The Renaissance Fair Unit 75
all present almost all present mostly present not present and accurate and accurate and accurate
• drawings done neatly using geometry tools on 11 x 17” paper
2) model of a Renaissance building
• outer structural elements present
advanced detail intermediate detail basic detail detail present & accurate present & fairly present & are to pictures accurate accurate to pictures to pictures close
• scale with proper size & proportion of pieces to • inside architecture detail
very close reasonably close
obvious and easy evident or to view ie roof suggested or walls open accurate colour and texture accurate colour
• outside is finished
finished in some way
3) written description
• detailed explanation building 3-4 paragraphs 2-4 paragraphs 1-2 paragraphs 1 using vocabulary & definition paragraph of architecture. • neatly produced, with • display no errors few errors some errors mounted some errors not mounted
eye catching straight, secure
• title or name of building, architect, place and date(s) of construction
4) work as group members
• cooperation • work distribution & contributions
extremely very equal
mostly equal somewhat equal
The Renaissance Fair Unit 76 • manages workspace and materials well, demonstrating care and concern
Appendix H Student daily journal selfreflection sheet
Renaissance Daily Journal
Name: Date: 1. The tasks I have worked on today include:
The Renaissance Fair Unit 77
2. I feel I accomplished / didn’t accomplish a lot today because:
3. Some of the ideas I learned about the Renaissance, project work and group work today include:
4. Some project goals I need to set for tomorrow include:
Appendix I Name: __________________ Group Members: __________________________
Renaissance Unit Self-Assessment: What Have I Learned?
1. The part I liked best about this unit was...
The Renaissance Fair Unit 78 because... 2. The part I liked least about this unit was..
because... 3. I was surprised to learn that...
4. While I was working on this unit, I think I did a good job on...
because... 5. I think I could have made more effort on...
6. Six things I learned while I was studying this unit are:
Overall, I would grade my project and effort for this unit as (circle one): Project One: __________________
A Outstanding Work (meets all A grade criteria) B Very Good Work ( meets some A grade criteria) C+ to C Good Work (meets the base-line criteria) C- Does not meet the base-line C grade criteria
Project Two: _________________
A Outstanding Work (meets all A grade criteria) B Very Good Work ( meets some A grade criteria) C+ to C Good Work (meets the base-line criteria) C- Does not meet the base-line C grade criteria
Participation Pie Student Self Assessment
Divide the pie below to illustrate how much each member of your presentation group participated in the task of completing the group portion of these assignments. Write down each of your names in the appropriate section and give a percentage of
The Renaissance Fair Unit 79 contribution. Below, give the reasons why you have divided the pie up as you did and suggest ways by which the cooperative nature of this activity might be improved. Project One: __________________ Project Two: _________________
Ideas for Improvement:
Give your own review of how the Fair went on Thursday. What did you like/not like? How did you feel about showing off your work and seeing others? What was the best part? What changes would you suggest?
Appendix J Quicktime™ movie of the second Renaissance Fair created by grade nine
The Renaissance Fair Unit 80 students for their technology course final project.
The Renaissance Fair Unit 81
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