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Integrated, Interdisciplinary Curriculum for a Health Career Path

by Kathy Liu

Serramonte High School


A victim of declining enrollment, Serramonte High School closed for the first time in 1981. The staff disbanded and went to other schools. Condominium developers leased the football fields and others leased the classrooms. People played bingo in the gym. A decade later Serramonte reopened as a restructured school, admitting its first group of students in the fall of 1993. The reconceived Serramonte was different in a number of ways:

  • Students were divided into four houses and shared all classes with their "housemates".
  • Four teachers staffed each house in the academic areas of English, social studies, math and science.
  • Teachers were committed to developing and using a project based integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum.
  • The staff was challenged to create a new school culture utilizing an unfamiliar way of teaching.
  • Scheduling was flexible. Each house decided independently how instructional time was to be divided and how students would rotate between classes. (The school day started and ended at the same time for all.)

Staff and students developed and implemented a restructured vision of school. Unfortunately, a district financial crisis forced the closing of the school after just two years. However, during this period, much was learned, and the spirit of Serramonte lives on as many of the teachers continue to use similar projects within the context of traditional school settings.

How does an interdisciplinary project develop?

Whether teachers began with required content, an essential question or theme, or an idea for a student exhibition, we found all three components were important parts of a successful integrated, interdisciplinary project. Even when constrained by resources and time, a willingness to view content through different lenses created projects that exemplified quality learning in all disciplines.

Project Process Overview

Action Planning Pyramid

Students tend to start by constructing their product without developing sufficient understanding of the required content. It takes both experience and teacher guidance before students understand that developing good questions and doing adequate content research are essential to designing a quality product. As students begin to understand the process they also develop the competence to generate the product themselves (including rigorous scoring rubrics).The action planning pyramid illustrates the steps to generating a quality product.

The pyramid reminds students that the product is a relatively small piece of the required work. The goal is to move up the pyramid, each level providing a foundation for the next one until the student reaches the top. Students intuitively see that if the pyramid is turned upside down, it will likely fall over.


For Teachers: Introduction   Overview   Teaching Resources   Conclusions  
For Students: Project Planning Guide   Subject Matter Rubrics   Project Contract   Student Guide   Product Ideas   Presentation Rubric  

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