|'Tyler Octavian Augustus Caesar'|
Our second and third grade classes had an unusual visitor this week. It’s not every day that a Roman emperor drops by our little corner of Boulder.
But if you happened to be wandering through our hallways on Monday, or out on our elementary playground on Wednesday, you too could have caught up with a time traveling visitor, ‘Tyler Octavian Augustus Caesar’.
As second and third graders started their integrated curriculum unit on Ancient Rome, second grade teacher Tyler Voorhees donned a toga and laurel wreath, and some pretty spectacular homemade Roman sandals, to bring learning to life. Tyler’s homegrown beard added a certain authentic touch.
In his role as Augustus Caesar, Tyler helped the students think of questions they might have been wondering about Ancient Rome. He challenged them to write down what they knew before beginning the unit of study. After the kids jotted down their thoughts, he conducted a Forum where the children had a chance to share their ideas and ask questions. To participate at the Forum, students were regally asked to “Rise!” so they could speak.
In Tyler’s own words, “It was a hoot.” He returned two days later in full regalia to tell a ‘block story’ of the founding of Rome, the tale of Romulus and Remus. A block story is a fabulous tool that many of our teachers use to bring stories to life, using wooden blocks as props that help different kinds of learners relate to the lesson.
Augustus was arguably the single most important figure in Roman history. He ruled the Roman world alone for almost half a century. In the course of his long and spectacular career, he put an end to the advancing decay of the Republic and established a new basis for Roman government that was to stand for three centuries.
In the course of their integrated unit, the two classes will study Ancient Rome in multiple ways. They will read books, conduct research, create art, and study math and science concepts through the lens of Ancient Rome. They will think and write about what they are learning, while at the same time incorporating music, movement, technology, and drama.
Integration acknowledges and builds on the relationships that exist among all things. An integrated curriculum implies learning experiences that are designed to be mutually reinforcing. This approach develops each child’s ability to transfer their learning to other settings.
Research suggests that an integrated approach to learning is brain compatible. “The brain learns best in real-life, immersion-style, multi-path learning...fragmented, piecemeal presenting can forever kill the joy and love of learning” (Jensen, 1996). The more connections made by the brain, the greater the opportunity for making high level inferences. Integrating the curriculum is also reflective of developmentally appropriate practice. Our curriculum here at Friends’ is integrated so that children’s learning occurs primarily through projects, themes, or topics that reflect the students’ interests andsuggestions.
Ancient Rome in our middle elementary grades is a fabulous example. Combine our philosophy that believes in the power of integrated curriculum, with the passion and charisma of an outstanding teacher who’s prepared to don a plastic laurel wreath and some cardboard footwear, and you’ve got a winning combination.
Thanks, Oh Caesar, for gracing us with your presence.