Integrated Science and Social Studies Curriculum Across Bloomfield Hills Schools
In Developmental Kindergarten through 5th grade, field experiences at the Johnson Nature Center and Bowers School Farm are grounded in the Portrait of a Learner. It integrates the work of Michigan State University CREATE for STEM’s Multiple Literacies Project Based Learning science units and Harvard University Project Zero’s Agency by Design, focused on maker-centered learning. The aim is to develop a project- and place-based curriculum that encourages thinkers to explore complexity, to be curious about the workings of the world around them, and to seek creative ways to make the world a better place.
In all grade levels, students take action, whether through creating a bird assistance apparatus, or designing a community garden. Whether the topic is science or social studies, the field experience inspires the learning. Kindergarten students explore “playful ecology” by hatching butterflies; first graders “Get Wild” by investigating animal needs and wants; second graders study plants; third graders learn all about birds; fourth graders study fire ecology with prescribed burns at the Johnson Nature Center, and fifth graders study watersheds.
This unit design has been developed and led by Kimberly Hempton, Director of Elementary Education, Noelle Collis, the K-12 Science Curriculum Teacher Leader, Kristen Vigier, the K-12 Social Studies Curriculum Teacher Leader, and Brooke Larm, the Education Specialist for Bowers Farm and Johnson Nature Center. The emphasis is on collaboration and cohesion among the elementary buildings. All Developmental Kindergarten through 5th grade teachers met for professional learning several times throughout the year to share best practices, engage in immersive experiences designed to spark curiosity, and explore the components of strong science and social studies instruction.
Social and emotional learning is embedded into these units of study, with the goal of sparking joy and exploration among students and their teachers. While these field experiences are often hosted at the Johnson Nature Center or Bowers School Farm, they can take place at other sites. The Visual Arts department is also creating ways to connect with social studies, science, nature, and art inspiring unique and beautiful interdisciplinary collaborations.
Bloomfield Hills Schools teachers are excited to continue exploring the opportunities that field experiences hold for their classrooms while also bringing the Michigan Academic standards in science and social studies to life.