In October of 1998, a group of teachers, administrators and consultants met in Monterrey, Mexico to launch an ambitious project in schools around Mexico, Central America, Colombia and the Caribbean. Over the next three years, we learned, planned and experienced the challenges and opportunities of using interdisciplinary and thematic approaches. This guidebook is a result of our efforts and insights and expresses their hope that other schools will make the investment and reap the rewards of coherent approaches to interdisciplinary and thematic learning. Throughout the guidebook, we share insights drawn from kindergarten to twelfth grade in various schools and countries and offer practical advice on the challenges encountered. Furthermore, we have included reference materials that offer educators concrete resources to provide additional support.
The foundations described in the first section were in place in nearly all the schools that implemented this approach. They constitute the research base on which the Interdisciplinary and Thematic Approaches depend. We find The Basic School, Dimensions of Learning and Coherent Curriculum are instructional approaches, which support current brain theory, and thus support an interdisciplinary thematic approach.
Implementing ITA presents challenges to any educational system. The process involves creating teams of educators who want to work together to build interdisciplinary thematic units. The approach requires conceptual support as well as structural commitment. Section Two describes models and strategies that successfully built organizational support.
The process of curriculum design is essential for successful student learning. It is during the design and implementation of an active curriculum that the interdisciplinary and thematic approach becomes most visible to the school community. Section three provides a planning sequence that enhances integration while preserving rigor and supporting curricular alignment.
ITA is not a theoretical formula. Numerous schools and educators have implemented and shared experiences in building teaching units within this framework. The elements that make up this section include quotes, samples and examples. They will serve to introduce you to these field experiences and open up questions and answers dealt with in various phases of implementation.