October 10, 2019
Last week, I had the opportunity to spend some time in Bacich’s new IDEA Studio where a group of fourth graders were busy applying their science and social studies learning about the Salton Sea – California’s biggest lake. Small groups of students were creating and designing various tools and devices that might be helpful in solving some of the environmental issues that face that part of our state.
During the past few weeks, our fourth grade students have studied the decrease in water levels at the Salton Sea, and the health and environmental issues posed by toxic dust, which the residents of the area breathe daily. The students have heard first hand from representatives of the Cahuilla Indian tribe who live near its shores. The Program Director for the California Department of Water Resources live-video conferenced with the students from the banks of the Salton Sea to share his expertise and concerns for the saline lake. Avian and fishery biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife spoke to the students too. Our students have read and discussed the science and history of this lake located 45 minutes from Palm Springs and have engaged in lively classroom discussions about its future. This is learning at its best!
The Salton Sea project is an excellent example of what we call in education “integrated learning.” It is the process of students making connections among and between concepts and experiences, so that the information and skills can be applied to novel and complex issues or challenges.
Creativity, adaptability, critical reasoning, and collaboration are highly valued skills. When it comes to fostering those skills in the classroom, integrated study is an extremely effective approach, helping students grasp the important role interrelationships can play in the real world.
There’s no doubt that we have future scientists and researchers in our fourth grade who will one day make a difference in our world. Teaching our students how to see and develop a meaningful understanding of the complex associations and influences within a topic or subject will serve them well.