A collection of units you can use with your middle school team.
A meaningful theme for integrated units should pass the test of these questions:
The following are links to PDFs of units developed by Lesley University graduate students in the Middle School program.
Revolutions: Individual Impacts on Revolutionary ChangeStudents explore the individual's influence on large-scale revolution, looking at what constitutes a theoretical, scientific, or social revolution. InterdependenceTeam members gain an understanding of how interdependence plays a role in nature, daily life, each subject area, and our school and classroom.Making ConnectionsThe connections between music and the major disciplines is explored, because of music's relevance to adolescents. Students will see that there is math in music, and conversely, there is music in math.ResponsibilityStudents will be planning their eighth grade trip. The students will focus on decision-making and time management skills, and will use research to create a plan and presentation for a class trip.Building Bridges How do you build bridges to peace? Even though building bridge structures is a skill that students will be learning, the metaphorical aspect of bridges will also be explored: bridging cultures, societies, and gaps between physical land masses.Balance UnitWhat can you do to make your voice heard? How can you make changes in the school? Why is imbalance important? Culminating activity: a school-wide election to change a rule in the student handbook and Civics Day. Exploring Your Surroundings The unit focuses on the ways that humans have explored their own environment (the earth) and the environment beyond (outer space).Why Take Risk?This unit allows students the chance to understand why people take risks and the consequences they may face. Through science, English, math and social studies, students are introduced to risks people have taken throughout the world's history and how without risk there would be no growth or change.Change Causes FrictionThis unit is centered on the theme of change. My Decisions and ActionsThis theme is "How do my decisions and actions impact my ability to thrive and succeed while supporting and being supported by my community?" The Game of LifeThis unit will consist of two weeks of specific study in all subject areas, five months of continued work, and will culminate in an intensive final project spanning the disciplines.How Much Do We Really Need? Students study the fundamental requirements that humans need to live, with the objectives that they will begin to see the interconnectedness of every being on the planet. Change: Watcha Gonna Do About it?Middle school students are going through many changes, which can be confusing and overwhelming. While some changes are controllable, others are not. Adolescents need to think about the differences between controllable and uncontrollable changes and what they can do about the things that are within their control. Creating A Caring and Responsive CommunityWho are you responsible for? At some point in everyone's life, they are affected by a serious illness or tragedy. This unit is designed to help students increase their awareness and sensitivity to such situations and discover how it is the responsibility of the community to make these situations better. The Power of DiversityIn a society that encompasses cultures from all over the world, and as the global community grows, it is imperative that the upcoming generation learns to embrace diversity in order to be able to work together with all types of people. Full of LifeThis unit aims to show students that all members of society have the potential to be worthy contributors to the community. Our theme will focus mainly on the elderly population, examining trends in demographics, studying relevant characters and themes in literature, uncovering the familial and societal dynamics of other cultures, and garnering an understanding and appreciation for all by learning about and working with elders from our community.Growing Up, Putting Down Roots, and Branching OutStudents discover more about their roots, about themselves and their community, and about what it means to be an adolescent. In particular, we want them to examine what part they currently play or what part they could play in their community. The Balance of LifeThe defining question is "How can we live healthy lives?" As students' social lives are starting to become a distraction from their own personal well-being, it is important for them to develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Equity or EqualityWhile seemingly comparable, equity leads to the fair treatment of every individual based on his or her circumstances whereas equality calls for the same rights to be afforded to everyone regardless of these circumstances. Which has greater potential to create the kind of community our students envision?Relationships of Power Part 1 and Part 2Students examine inequalities of power throughout history, the world, and their lives, enabling them to make connections and empower them to make positive change. Students will be exposed to the topics of slavery, the civil rights movement, bullying, and inequalities of power within society and communities.Renewal in the CommunityTo renew something requires the recognition that we live with a future, but also with a history both in generations and in cycles of the natural world. We plan for renewal, prepare for it, work for it, wait for it, and, when needed, intervene to keep alive and fresh what is fading—which may or may not create a new form.Chance, Circumstance and TransformationThe theme considered in this unit is the Civil War and how "Chance, Circumstance, and Transformation" affected not only how and why the Civil War was won, but the everyday lives of every single American, even to the present day.The Effects of Change in Political PowerThis theme gives 7th grade students more of an understanding of their world and how change impacts their lives, the economy, and the environment. After this unit, students will understand the importance of voting and having a voice in elections.Elections: Informing Ourselves and Reading Between the LinesThe goal for this unit is to guide students in critical thought regarding the information they seek out and are presented with, particularly through the lens of a presidential election. Human Impact on the Environment Part 1 and Part 2This unit examines the impact humans have on our environment, and guides students to explore this relationship, as they are the ones who must ultimately live with the consequences of society's decisions as well as imagine new ways of sustainably existing in our environment. Mother EarthThis unit is about our relationship with the Earth, which provides us with sustenance and the means for survival. We want our students to understand the food they eat, where it comes from, how it is produced, and what the real costs of food are. My Community: A Windows and Mirrors PerspectiveStudents will make connections between the knowledge they obtain through the unit and their own personal experiences and prior knowledge. Students will be asked to study themselves and those living closely around them and to think about people even farther removed from them. Be a Part of Your World NowThe goal of this unit is to connect the classroom to the world beyond. Students will understand that powerful action is always preceded with deep thought. They will first recognize a problem in the outside world. They will then use the classroom as a space in which they can grapple with the implications of the problem and to carefully plan out an active response to the problem.The Immigration Experience: How Do We Decide Who Belongs? This is a three-week unit investigating the essential question: How do we decide who belongs? This question aims for provocation more than answer, and pushes students to understand themselves as both "I" and "we" and to apply these meanings to a debate that has shaped the American experience. Searching for SolutionsThis four-week unit will guide students in solving problems, from logical proofs to scientific questions to political decisions to solving mysteries. It is designed to address and connect students' real life problems to problems they learn in their subject areas. EmpowermentEmpowerment is a six-week unit that provides eighth-graders with the tools to be empowered and recognize from where that empowerment derives. They will gain knowledge through renovating and reinvigorating an abandoned, run-down public park. By the end of this unit, students will be able to understand that they can be powerful by banding together and cooperating with those around them and by consulting and pooling available resources.Myself, My Community, My WorldThis unit will be focused on how we can make connections between ourselves, our community, and our world. Students will learn and recognize how writers, artists, and explorers of the past have enriched their lives through their experiences with nature. By looking inward, students will develop the tools to connect their personal lives to their communities and the greater world around them. Through ideas presented in adventure classes, students will have an opportunity to practice conservation by cleaning trails and building new ones. This unit will culminate in a hiking trip at the end of October.True FriendshipThe world of middle school students centers around the theme of belonging. In order to belong, students believe that everyone needs to be the same. Variations in culture, economics, physicality, behavior, and other obvious characteristics can often set students apart from one another and establish invisible, yet strong, barriers that create senseless divisions.Perspectives-PerceptionsThe goal of this unit is to allow students to design definitions and meaning of the vocabulary and introduced concepts independently. Their learning experiences will provide them with the opportunities to achieve the thematic objectives through their own discovery. Students will be able to apply a higher level of understanding to their personal lives and school social structure by recognizing the relevance of these concepts. Connecting with the Ancient PastThis unit, which relates the importance of ancient civilization's knowledge on our world today, is focused on making connections. More specifically, it is centered on helping students answer "why is this important?" Students will examine and recognize the significance of ancient civilizations, their discoveries and inventions, and how many of the objects and thoughts that surround them today have origins in ancient civilizations.Reflections of the EnvironmentThis unit asks seventh grade students to explore the relationship between people and their environment. By exploring this idea in all disciplines we hope that our students will gain a better understanding of how society has evolved in response to the environment around it. Individuals and Their Impact on Community This is a ten week unit that will provide eighth grade students with the tools they need to enter into the communities that make up their lives (such as school, sports teams, religious groups, community) as responsible, aware, and motivated citizens. By the end of this unit, students will understand how they can stimulate social change and consciousness by taking the initiative to become well-informed individuals.Journey: Exploring Our CommunityThis unit engages students in an inquiry study of the people and cultural groups that comprise our community. The overarching theme of this unit is the mental and physical journey of peoples. This unit is an exploration both of the individual journey and of who we are as a community and how we came to live, work and evolve here in Massachusetts. IdentityAdolescence is a traumatic time. Adolescent bodies are changing as quickly as are their views of themselves and world around them. One of the key tasks of adolescence is the development of identity. From the very beginning of adolescence, students are working to decide who they are, what they believe, and how to represent those beliefs safely within their communities.Competition and Cooperation Competition is inherent in the life of an early adolescent. A middle school student is constantly competing with peers, teachers, parents, siblings, and is often encouraged to compete in sports. This is in addition to the internal competition an adolescent experiences as he/she transitions from seeking guidance from adults to seeking increased independence and turning to peers. During the middle years, students struggle internally with the elementary student they once were and the high school student they want to become.Water, Who Needs It?As part of a yearlong exploration into the meaning of interdependence, this unit explores some of the ways in which water affects our lives and how we in turn affect our natural environment. The theme of passing on to others the importance of water conservation is the lens through which students can consider interdependence. Water conservation is a topic-rich theme through which students can access substantive content area knowledge while also deepening their sense of connection to their world. Students will study water from many different perspectives: how it is used, how it is wasted, how it is polluted, how it is part of a cycle, how it is a powerful symbol of our interdependence and vulnerability, and how it provides us with an opportunity to be responsible stewards of the natural world.The Importance of Participating Responsibly Within a CommunityAs middle school teachers, an integral part of our job is to help our students explore the kind of people they want to become. In order to do this in an informed way, students must examine their own communities and the way people interact within them. In the hopes of steering our students toward becoming proactive participants of their community, this integrated unit will focus on the study of our nation and how the nation has evolved with and without tolerance and acceptance of others. In each of their academic classes, as well as some of their unified arts classes, students will study how and why America is what it is today, who some of our most influential people in this process have been, and finally, how the students themselves may make a difference.Self-DiscoveryOur integrated unit is intended for eighth grade students in a public school setting. The overarching question we want students to be able to answer at the end of the unit is: how can adolescents be the person they want to be and be a part of the community and society around them? Eighth graders on the cusp of high school typically seek answers to questions about who they are and who they want to become. Accordingly, the theme of our unit is that adolescents can discover their self-identity through interaction and reaction to community and societal influences. How adolescents respond to these externalities will affect and shape their self-identity. The content and integrated activities within this unit are intended to guide students toward self-discovery within the larger context of their humanity.Change: Resistance vs. InspirationThere are two essential questions: "What happens when something resists change?" and "What inspires change?" Change is central in the lives of adolescents so this topic will likely be of interest to them. We also hope that the unit inspires them to want to make positive changes for themselves and their community, and will culminate the unit with a community service project.Power Over vs. Power WithOur essential question is "How does having power over vs. power within affect our lives, the lives of others, our community and our world? Also, how does having power promote change? This theme is versatile in that it not only allows students to make connections between their own personal experiences, a variety of core subjects and unified arts, but also allows for learning across the curriculum. This seventh-grade unit will last five weeks, consisting of an engaging activity, group projects, and a culminating activity. Throughout this unit many ideas of power will be explored, such as power in beauty, in cliques, in the environment, and in dominance and war. Students will use their analytical and critical thinking skills to make decisions and choices. Students will practice their oral and presentation skill. Also, students will study many different points of view on power and take responsibility for using power in their own lives.BridgesThis unit explores a number of themes from an interdisciplinary perspective that touch on the idea of bridges. The unit is particularly effective in a situation where a school or school community is dealing with some negative issues surrounding diversity. The lesson sequence which follows features a school where groups stick to their own ethnic group in most social situations. In particular, the teachers at this school noticed that cafeteria sitting is almost exclusively by ethnic group. Other schools teaching this unit can modify the initial lesson to meet their individual needs."Bridges" is a three-week 7th Grade unit with daily lessons in Science, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Language Arts, plus additional lessons in Art and in Physical Education. The majority of the lessons are kept in separate disciplines, but many of the assigned projects involve two or more disciplines. In fact, one of the guiding ideas behind the unit is to demonstrate to students the bridges between disciplines. Four of the fifteen days comprising the unit include two or more subject teachers presenting the material together. JourneysThere is an old Chinese proverb that states, "The journey is the reward." With this in mind, students will explore and examine how journeys help to create a deeper understanding of the world and the individual within it. Students will begin to grasp that the journey is just as important as the meeting the end goal, and the actual journey may surpass the expectations of achieving the goal.Empowerment: As Individuals and in GroupsOur essential or driving question is, "How can adolescents feel powerful, not powerless?" This theme is appropriate for 8th grade students because it will give them a broader understanding of their world and the variety of roles they take on in their daily lives. In addition, this theme lends itself to exploration and learning across disciplines, allowing students to make connections between their own life experience, the various core subjects, and unified arts. We will explore empowerment using voting as a vehicle to help students develop skills in identifying options in making choices, decision-making, and taking responsibility for choices and actions made as individuals and as a groupSurvivor Our unit is for a 7th grade middle school team made up of 100 students. The unit is loosely based on the television show "Survivor." It will be implemented in the fall and continue throughout the year. The culminating activity will be in the spring so students will have good weather for the event, the "Survivor Challenge." The students will learn real life skills that they will use to plan their Survivor Field Day Challenge. The students will learn team building skills, evolution and adaptation of the species, will learn the time frame of human development, estimating, budgeting and planning skills, will read about survival stories, both fiction and nonfiction, will work on their own physical fitness to improve their own health.Are We What We Eat? Food and ChoicesProper diets are critical to adolescent health. It is usually at this age where both poor food choices are made and irregular eating habits developed. It is imperative, that we as teachers, guide adolescents on how to survive this abundant food environment. There are so many choices and so much to eat, we need be sure adolescents understand that they could actually be in danger of ruining their health by over consuming. At the same time, we need to be sure not to send the wrong message and create a society of adolescent dieters.This unit will demonstrate how to enjoy all our favorite foods, by eating them in moderate amounts and by choosing the right balance of foods to achieve the right combination of nutrients.Culture Clash: What happens when worlds collide?Human civilizations spread and evolve through encounters and conflicts with each other and with the natural environment in order to do more than merely survive. They strive to define and preserve their place in the universe over space and time. Why do human societies have such diverse fates? The overarching aim of this unit is to help students understand the dynamics of the clash of civilizations and cultures so that they will be better able to evaluate and mitigate the negative effects that occur when groups come into contact and celebrate the positive effects. Our hope is to help the students, who will be leaders of the future, recognize the vital importance of diplomacy and positive interactions between culturesThink you can make a difference? Garbage!Humans have left their footprints, and rubbish, across history. Every animal leaves waste – the don't-want or don't-need left over from the useful. But the rise of the consumer society has vastly increased the amount of don't-want that comes along with the useful. Why? Is it a problem and, if so, how can we qualify and quantify it? Do students have a role in this? Can they control their contribution and that of their immediate environment (the school)? How?Survival: Kestral Island This is a full team unit that engages students in learning different strategies for survival in our world. Students will begin this inquiry-based project with a whole team, day-long assembly, during which they will play video games based on a survival theme and watch the classic survivor film, "Swiss Family Robinson."Community – Thrive or Just Survive? Part 1 and Part 2This unit will be linked to an important question: Do we as humans merely survive or can we thrive within a community? This question, when unraveled, leads us to discover the keys for survival. The focus of our integrated unit for the students is based on the needs of each individual and his or her connection with community. Our children are an integral part of the community and our intention is to focus on how communities work together. We realize that the bonds that are necessary for personal health and growth of each student are representative of the needs of a larger community outside of school. The ways in which members of a community interact determine the health of that community.Creating vs. ConsumingThis unit develops body awareness, healthy attitudes, environmental appreciation, and survival skills that guide adolescents through managing the pressures of today's modern world. The engaging activities include hiking New Hampshire's Pack Monadnock and viewing/discussing the adolescent version of "Super-Size Me," which is a documentary that seeks to raise a shocking awareness of prevalent unhealthy "consuming" attitudes of our society.How Does War Affect a Nation and Its People?This unit begins with the essential question, "How does war affect a nation and its people?" As we explore the answers to that question, students consider the origins of war, the participants of war, and the conditions of war. Students will widen their understanding of war and search for ways to act in response to it.Choices and Consequences with Food: What's the Real Cost?This unit centers on the theme of choices and consequences with the central topic of food. Students will explore the essential question, "What do you like to eat?" as well as the unit's driving question, "Why do we eat?" The unit begins with a visit to a local farm and culminates with a student-planned and student-run Community Dinner.America no longer thinks about where their food really comes from. And with childhood obesity rates what they are, it's time students learn how to become more mindful of what they're putting into their systems. This unit will begin to explore some of the hidden costs in food production, with a very expansive use of the word cost. The overall goal of this ITSLU is to offer our students the opportunity to demonstrate independence, self-motivation, and responsibility for self and for others.
Beverley Cush Evans
Associate Professor, Director of Special Education Division
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