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INDIAN LAND – When Indian Land High School Principal Kathy Faris went looking for a program to help take her school to the next level academically, she settled on a collective theme.
Faris wanted an overarching theme that would tie together the school’s diverse curriculum across all disciplines and grade levels, and give students a deeper understanding of what they were learning.
There was a whole world of ideas out there – and, ultimately, it was literally the world that the school settled on.
The theme is Around the World in 180 Days. And since adopting the theme at the beginning of the school year, students have been about half-way around the world.
“We based it on the book title, ‘Around the World in 90 Days,’ Faris said. “But because it was a school-year long project, and there’s 180 days in the school year, we decided to call it Around the World in 180 Days. This is our maiden voyage, if you will.”
So how does it work? Easy.
Every three or so weeks, teachers focus their lessons on a region of the world and students look at the subject through the lens of that region, whether it’s reading, writing, arithmetic or anything else the school teaches.
Throughout the year, students will have to complete reports and projects based on what they’ve learned.
So far, the school has had lessons centered around Africa, Eastern Europe, Western Europe and South America. Next semester, students will study Australia, the Far East, the Middle East and North America.
There’s been some creative adaptations, such as a band class’ study of African drumming, the automotive science class’ study of where materials for cars come from, or the physical education class’ stroll across Eastern Europe.
“We had pedometers, which count your steps,” P.E. teacher Tal Horton said. “I had students figure out how far across a country was, and during that period, had them see if the could ‘walk across’ the entire country.
“We added them all together, didn’t make just one kid do it, of course,” he said. “But, yes, we crossed some of them – Yugoslavia, Slovenia, I think it was. The kids loved it.”
Assistant Principal Monica Eaddy, who had a hand in the creation of the program, said the Around the World idea is expansive enough that teachers don’t have to struggle to force a lesson plan to fit their class. It’s intimate enough that students can relate to the lesson at hand, she said.
As an example, Eaddy said the school’s resource teachers used African masks with a reading of the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem “We Wear the Mask” to learn a lesson on an abstract subject.
“The students looked at and made masks, reviewed the poem and then went into a discussion of the different masks that students wear,” Eaddy said. “So, it’s taking something far removed and making it tangible to their experience.”
While it’s fairly obvious how the theme can be used in such classes as literature, social studies and the arts, classes, such as math and science, also offer a wealth of opportunities – especially considering that many of the world’s mathematical and scientific discoveries occurred outside the United States.
In different ways, Around the World relates to the mathematical works of pioneering physicists, the rigid mathematics of Greek architecture, the span of mathematical history illustrated in a hallway-long timeline.
Geometry teacher Doug Young used the study of Africa to teach students how the Egyptians used hieroglyphics for numbers and the mathematical constant pi to determine the volume of pyramids.
“When they’re working on these projects, they see the reality of the subject,” Young said. “It also gives those students who are more into using words or visuals a chance to participate.”
Several students said they enjoy the Around the World project, that it brings their lessons to life and ties their diverse classes together with the world they live in.
Ninth-graders Jacob Lamb and Kay Meadows are two of them.
Lamb said learning about different cultures and their sports traditions helped him realize how resilient the human spirit is.
“I think it’s interesting that, even through the tough times, people look on the bright side,” Lamb said. “Even in war, they find a way to have fun. It’s inspiring.”
“I think it’s important to learn about the world,” Meadows said, “because this is our world and we need to know what’s going on around us. We need to know so we can become better leaders.”
Eaddy said with a culturally diverse student body and a more connected world, the school would be doing a disservice to its students if it did not provide them with exposure to different world cultures.
She said in the future, the school would like to extend the program to include international causes that students can become involved.
It all boils down to growth by exposure, Eaddy said.
“We basically grow by exposure,” Eaddy said. “This is an opportunity for students to grow beyond the traditional classroom walls.”
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at email@example.com or at (803) 283-1151