Humanities - Form an alliance

17th February 2012 at 00:00
Join forces to enrich learning through cross-curricular work

My smile is fixed on my face, but my heart sinks. I've just been approached by a young science teacher eager to "do something cross-curricular" with the history department.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for experimenting with different ways to teach. But "cross-curricular project" used to make me think of well-meaning schemes utterly lacking in rigour. Could cross-curricular projects work if you started with what you would like your pupils to know? I would love pupils studying the Renaissance, for example, to have more exposure to the music of the period - could the music department help?

Or perhaps the art department could advise my Year 11s, studying the Spanish Civil War, on the story behind Picasso's Guernica. Renaissance art emphasised the true human form and experimented with perspective. Could the art teacher also give guidance on which paintings would best complement historical study of this period of change?

We look at some of the great discoveries and inventions of the Industrial Revolution in Year 8, but we history teachers are not experts on the "how". The science department could advise us on ways of adapting a lesson to reveal the science behind the invention. How, for example, does a steam engine work?

With the 2012 Olympics around the corner, it could also be a good time to join forces with your PE colleagues. History could look at some of the ancient events of the Greek Olympics and PE could experiment with some of them, comparing them with today's events.

With a little thought, cross-curricular teaching need not give you that sinking feeling. It could even be beneficial - as long as the history is rigorous and not bolted on to tick a box.

Steve Mastin is head of history at Sawston Village College in Cambridgeshire

What else?

For key Tudor facts, try BevEvans22's double-sided topic mat.

Turn pupils into time travellers with an interactive Industrial Revolution resource from NGfLCymru.

Reminisce about Renaissance wonders with Gemma Lindsay's Taboo cards or discover the period's great artists in Birdy78's visual presentation.

In the forums

How would you embed cross-curricular activities into the history classroom?

For all links and resources visit

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