PULSE is an interdisciplinary curriculum (1)
that uses environmental health (2) as a context for units.
The design is constructivist in nature, using a learning cycle
approach (3) and was designed using current curriculum design
methods (Understanding by Design) (4). National standards in
the four disciplines (science, social studies, language arts
and math) play a central role in the design (5).
1. PULSE is an INTERDISCIPLINARY curriculum
rather than an integrated curriculum. (An integrated curriculum
might be contained within one classroom.) The aim is to create
a curriculum that can be used in a variety of school settings
(it must be able to taught within traditional disciplines as
well as a more fluid setting) that allows and encourages students
to synthesize lessons and develop conceptual understanding
that they can apply to the world around them.
Part of the purpose of the
PULSE project is to assess the impact of an interdisciplinary
approach on student attitudes especially as regards science.
PULSE uses ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH as a CONTEXT. Environmental
health and biomedical issues are historical and ongoing
and we believe capture the student’s attention, they
are issues that students can be passionate about.
of the purpose of this project is to assess what the impact
of using environmental health as a context is for increasing
PULSE is CONSTRUCTIVIST in nature. The lesson set up
of PULSE is based upon a constructivist approach to learning
and uses the learning cycle described below. Students
to the classroom with a personal understanding about
the world around them. Lessons should engage students
questions about the topic including what they may already
know. Lessons allow students to explore these questions
and ideas. Students should have opportunity to articulate
and explain their understanding based upon their earlier
explorations. Finally, students should be given opportunity
to apply their understanding in another setting. An ongoing
feature of this learning cycle is self and teacher assessment
Each learning cycle (engage lesson, explore lesson, explain
lesson and apply lesson) addresses
a big idea for a discipline.
Each big idea is central to a student’s understanding
of a larger concept. Understanding the big ideas helps
a student develop comprehension that allows them to address
question behind a unit. For example, “ Migration
and migrants are a central feature in American History.
how are some migrant populations marginalized? How might
this marginalization impact a population’s environmental
health and impact American society on a larger scale?”
establish what the driving question is we use ‘backwards
design’: What do we want students to be able to do
at the end? What do the standards say? How will the students
their understanding? What concepts and skills do students
have to have? What exercises will teach to those concepts?
National Standards have to play a central role in our
design; they provide a framework and credibility to our
Picture – High School
universal theme that encompasses all 4 grades.
Environmental Health & Biomedical
specific theme per grade (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th)
that is primarily reflected in the curricula of the
science and social studies classes. Typically, language
arts act as the bridge between science and social
studies. Due to the nature of mathematics curricula,
mathematics provides optional supportive lessons
that can be taught in another discipline.
10th Grade: Grubs, Germs and Genes
- During this year the predominant theme is Revolution
quarter themes per grade that support the year-long
theme. Each quarter represents 9 weeks of study.
Each quarter ends with a major project component.
of New Revolutions (4th quarter theme)
quarter, within each discipline, several big ideas
are covered. Each big idea is addressed with a series
of lessons that constitute a learning cycle. A learning
cycle is the opportunity to become engaged in, explore,
explain and apply the understanding behind the big
do wars occur? (Social Studies Big Idea)
lessons that support the ‘Big Ideas’ in
Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, and Mathematics.
are you eating? (Science lesson)
Drawing upon multiple resources Rachel Hughes, Sara Chavarria,
Kirstin Bittel, and Catharine Honaman have, as a team, developed
the specific approach used in the PULSE curriculum design.
has led the team in developing the particular approach
specifically incorporating a learning cycle into the ‘Understanding
by Design’ approach to design (see the big idea charts).
Sara articulated the various tiers within the PULSE curriculum
into the graphical format (see above). Together Rachel, Kirstin,
and Sara worked on the use of the lens (link) to represent
a unit’s themes at multiple levels. As a team, all
members revised initial design models so that they might
work for all
thanks is due to M. Jean Young for providing focus and
direction in the use of learning cycles
and to Marti
Lindsey, PI for overseeing curriculum development.
is a project of the Community Outreach and Education
Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences
Center and is funded by: