Educators often think cross-curricular integration is large-scale strategies and grand gestures that build bridges between wide-ranging content silos and skills. But integration also occurs on a small scale. The result is a learning experience crafted to fit in a jewel box. I call this valuable process micro-integration.
- choreographing shades and variations within a larger concept body;
- swimming into a rich swath of knowledge and lacing together sympathetic subtopics;
- tickling up new knowledge and deeper appreciation for content and skills perceived or mastered.
Micro-integration may seem a bit airy-fairy. Yet it is not philosophy-lite hoping to catch a ride on the latest swing of the pedagogical pendulum. It’s not mini meditation fodder for teachers seeking more peace, love and understanding in the classroom. Micro-integration has practical classroom applications because it allows teachers to stop playing Frankenstein to the mega-watt light bulb aha! moments they try to invent for each student. Instead, with micro-integration teachers can let the wonderment of small revelations cast a warm, sparkly glow over the learning experience. In lieu of a wand, a teacher stimulates mental magic by careful manipulation of finessed thinking and focused sensibilities.
The fine arts is just one curricular area well-suited for micro-integration. For example, Kelly O’Brien (my sister) blogged at TurningPointePress about how a poem by Silvia Baron Supervielle and dance experience sparked her (Kelly’s) new art pieces called ‘Playing with Fire I & II.’
Kelly’s post illuminates the interplay of words, action, art, & the smoldering imaginations of two artists:Paper, ink, pencil, cut, engrave, crumple – a kindred obsession with shared materials of our different crafts. Silvia Baron Supervielle’s poem, A l’Encre, deploys rich visual metaphor to evoke her process for getting poems down on paper, using words and images that I covet. As it sinks into me, the power of this poem is in the physicality of Supervielle’s process. She seems to interact with her work viscerally, physically. Like a dancer, she allows words to flow through her, musically, and drip out onto the page. There is struggle, but also grace.
In this case, micro-integration links language arts and fine arts. Paper is the binding medium between poem and art piece. Words and dimension add both structure to this bond and a bit of smoky bling.
This particular combination of Kelly’s and Sylvia’s work shows a sublime awareness that comes from intermingling concepts and skills from close-as-cousins content areas. But it’s not limited to artsy-fartsy dreamers. I assure you that micro-integration links to things that matter in your students’ worlds. My comment on Kelly’s blog post shows the web of connections I spun between Playing with Fire and your students interests: