Brielle Elementary School is a K-8 school located in southern Monmouth County. Its Integrated Curriculum program, or “IC” was created in response to various scheduling needs and the desire to implement 21st century goals. The course structures a learning environment that requires students to access and apply information and skills across multiple domains, to make connections among various disciplines, and to think like experts while working in a problem-solving environment.
Students in K-7 work with a team of teachers who have created theme-based lessons centering on 5 clusters: Structures, Solutions, Viewpoints, Ideas, Investigations. Students in the primary and middle grades meet, on average three class periods per week. The majority of the work required is done in class time and ranges from independent problem solving to small group brainstorming sessions to whole class presentations. Lessons offer multiple connections to other disciplines and various skill sets. Primary and middle grade students, for example, build structures that respond to given criteria from simple materials; fifth graders build on these experiences with more complicated building projects with LEGO NXT robots. Middle grade students learn about how local government is organized and then build a town, including all of the services that are needed by the residents. Sixth graders apply measurement, planning, and speaking skills when they participate in a civil engineering simulation. Middle school high students create the “Simple Machine Project” by combining the six simple machines into one machine that completes a series of chain reactions to perform a chosen task. Seventh and eighth graders hone study skills by selecting and using various graphic organizers to facilitate problem solving challenges. Embedded in each lesson is reflection: students are asked to match achievements to the course objectives of solving problems, connecting subjects, and thinking like experts.
Eighth graders have the option of taking the “IC” courses as electives: IC HOPE, IC Design, and IC Service. IC Design prepares students to compete in the Technology Student Association events. IC Service students create and run Career Day for the eighth graders; students are responsible for everything from name tags to refreshments to speaker contacts. In addition, the students work with local officials to plan and coordinate an on-site local service project to thank the community for its support. Past events have included gardening and mulching in several public areas.
The problem-solving approach prepares eighth graders to run a student-created company, IC HOPE (Helping Our People Eat), which addresses the critical problem of hunger in our region. The IC HOPE company was created in 2011. Charged with the task of creating a company that addressed a need in the community and dedicated its efforts to charitable purposes, the eighth grade class of 2012 initiated the IC HOPE company, crafted its mission statement, and designed its logo. Students meet the demands of the curriculum and develop their leadership skills by creating various events and fundraisers . In fact, the students take responsibility for all of the tasks needed to create and run activities such as souper suppers, babysitting services, t-shirt sales, bingo nights, bake sales, art shows, cupcake wars, art shows and sales, change collections, car washes, and can drives. The students partner with other organizations, most notably Rutgers Against Hunger (RAH), in order to raise awareness of the problem of hunger and to take action to solve that program. They donate all of the proceeds to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
The IC HOPE team received national recognition and a Youth Service Challenge Award for its efforts. Thereafter, the eighth grade class of 2013 determined to exceed the contributions of the preceding class. They joined the Students Change Hunger campaign sponsored by the New Jersey Federation of Food Banks and then continued its efforts beyond the contest, realizing that people are hungry all year long. The 2013 team received the Philip N. Connelly Spirit of Giving Award, the 2012 Governor’s Cup, a Lead-to-Feed Award by YUM! Brands and USA TODAY, and a Youth Service Challenge Award.
The eighth grade class of 2014 is the third class to embrace the mission of IC HOPE. The team members, as had the students of the class of 2013, determined to exceed the contributions of the preceding classes. Although many of the students stated that their original goal was exactly that –“ to beat last year’s class” -, their observations reflect something more:
Caroline Davidson: Some days were hectic; others were stuck in the doldrums. Nothing came easily, or at the drop of a hat –everything we did had to be carefully planned, premeditated, and executed. Every task required a different mindset. Fundraiser ideas came into existence faster than microwave-popped popcorn. In the end, we raised money for a great cause and had fun doing it.
Carlie Butz: I joined IC HOPE because last year’s 8th graders seemed to have so much fun planning events, running them, and advertising them. I never thought that it would be a lot of work; I was wrong. A lot of work and stress go into running IC HOPE. If everything doesn’t work like clockwork, a whole event could fall apart, but thankfully, it never really did. I am really proud of our group.
Brianne Milza: One the day we visited the FoodBank and helped to sort the donations. Every time I thought of a hungry family, child or adult, it made me wish that food could never go bad and I could do more to help.
Harley Pilling: Every day in third period I would go down to IC HOPE and every single person would be doing something, whether it was making a poster; figuring out a problem; going from class to class collecting soup, pasta, or change; filming a commercial; working on a committee. If you are in IC HOPE, you are working every single second, and it definitely pays off. (HP)
Caroline Lemb IC HOPE has taught me how to work better as a member of a team to accomplish a goal. It also taught me cooperation and compromise, especially when my group did not agree on an idea such as what our commercial would be about. We talked it out and communicated each of our ideas which made it easier to agree on one idea to use. IC HOPE taught me that when I really commit to something, great things happen.
To date, these three eighth grade teams have donated close to three tons of food and over $10,000 to the FoodBank. The Class of 2013 won a total of $6,000 for the FoodBank. Unexpectedly, the team was awarded a prize of $5,000 for the school. Believing that recognition has the potential to raise awareness of the need and the responsibility to help others, the students decided to establish a scholarship fund at BES to recognize and inspire future leaders. Working with FoodBank executives, the Brielle IC HOPE team established a recognition award. The “Student Leadership Award” will be awarded yearly to the school that, in the view of the FoodBank leaders, has demonstrated excellence in student leadership in support of the Holiday Hunger Challenge.
The goal, of course, is for the students to leave our K-8 school equipped not only to handle the academic demands of high school, but also to apply their leadership skills to contribute to their communities. Armed with the experiences of the Integrated Curriculum class, we look forward to their next achievements and fully expect to be proud though not surprised at what they accomplish next.