Fifth graders at The Episcopal Academy, a Pre-K-12 school in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, have been studying and learning about medieval cathedrals for decades. They tour a local cathedral, design their own unique structure, and work in teams to examine their history—why cathedrals were built, what was involved in construction, and how they functioned.
The addition of a 1-to-1 MacAir laptop program further expanded both the learning process and individual computer software skills. Students now take online research notes with Webspiration and create original cathedral designs using SketchUp. Microsoft Word lets them develop informational brochures to display and share, while Google-based interactive web pages increase their knowledge of cathedral terms and construction methods.
The school helps to direct the exploration process through a series of interdisciplinary learning activities that include fifth grade religion, art, science, language arts, and mathematics. Students are also given a set of guiding questions, allowing them to work independently, conduct online research, and create exterior drawings to demonstrate their understanding of a chosen structure.
Students enjoy their work and find success using a variety of forums, said Social Studies teacher Whitaker Powell. “They can focus on the report aspect or use their technology skills. Tactile learners can actually build a cardboard cathedral. Not everyone learns the same way, but this project allows students with different learning styles to reach the same conclusion.”