Students use a hands-on approach to create solutions to scenario-based problems that require the utilization of knowledge and skills learned in their other classes. The Connections course is designed to increase inter-personal skills, build critical thinking skills, and allow students to showcase their creative minds.
Inspired by the extraordinary innovations of Apollo 13 astronauts to maintain life support systems in a crisis, Connections presents students with highly creative challenges. Together they must work to develop solutions for using the elements from their studies.
Students learn to use simple tools to build prototypes and construct projects that require introductory skills in design. Laboratory activities engage students in the design process while integrating mathematics, science, and other core subjects.
Connections helps students establish intellectual links across subject disciplines and gain deeper understanding of the topics they'’'re learning.
The following are examples of Connections scenarios from each grade level.
In Humanities class, students learn about other communities and pinpoint the similarities between ancient peoples and modern cultures. For instance, students study Ancient Egypt, covering topics such as the development of agriculture and early societal structure, mythology, mummification and beliefs in the afterlife, pyramids, temples, and art and hieroglyphics.
"You are living in ancient Egypt. You must acquire the goods on the list given to you by trading with merchants from other Egyptian cities. Use the materials given to you to create items you can trade with the other cities." Students are broken up into groups, each representing a different Ancient Egyptian city. Students are then given a list of goods to acquire and a set of materials that they can use to create tradable goods. Ancient Egyptians used a barter system instead of money — students will do the same, exchanging their goods with students from other cities, and learning about economics in the process.
Engineering is an exciting and creative field, and the "Engineering Design Process" (EDP) has the potential to help students strengthen their understanding of concepts from their other courses. In their Engineering & Technology class, engineering is taught using a hands-on, trial-and-error methodology. Instead of being instructed on the best way to build a structure, students instead plan and build what they think is best and then test it. They can then brainstorm, rebuild, and retest the structures to improve their creations. The BASIS Curriculum Connections course provides a perfect opportunity for students to use what they have learned about the EDP in conjunction with topics from art, science, and other courses to demonstrate their knowledge in a fun way. The unit below brings together students’ engineering and Humanities courses.
Students begin by watching "The Three Little Pigs." Students are split into groups given the assignment of creating a structure for the pigs to live in that can resist the "huffs and puffs" of the "big bad wolf." Students construct their houses, which are then tested with a fan. The structures start far from the fan and are gradually moved closer and closer. Students then measure the closest distance to the fan before the house fails. Students brainstorm and rebuild based on their own new ideas and other students’ designs and then test their new structures. Students will keep a journal detailing the distances until failure for each structure and information related to how they were able to improve their buildings. They then present their findings to each other practicing vocabulary from their Engineering and Humanities classes.
When learning about design, students focus on spatial awareness and its application in everything from the layout of the school newspaper to new car design. Students learn to be spatially aware when they bring backpacks to fit in their cubbies, line up in class, and work on their homework. The design theme allows students to understand the limitations and possibilities within a given space.
"You have discovered artifacts from an ancient time period. The problem is that these artifacts are in caves across an area of hot sand. Your feet cannot touch the ground. Using the materials available, you must create a device that will protect your feet from touching the ground. Once you reach the cave, you must hypothesize what is in the cave before you start your excavation. Be sure to explain your reasoning behind your hypothesis.
This theme includes the concepts of understanding and acceptance of people with different abilities, beliefs, or values and how to work together to accomplish a specific goal. As a result, students gain necessary skills needed to work successfully in pairs or groups. They learn how to compromise, become a self advocate, and practice critically important social skills.
"Your friend has lost their homework and you are the only one who knows where it is. How will you help your friend find their homework? You may not tell your friend the exact location of their homework, but you may give them directions to follow."
Working in pairs, one student is blindfolded while the other gives directions to find to find their homework. Students learn to work together and give explicit directions. This lesson is given at the beginning of the year, before heavier content, to build a sense of community and teach them how to work as a team. It also teaches them the importance of giving explicit directions. Just as they need clear directions for an assignment, their partner will need clear directions in order to find their lost lesson.