Explode the Silos

From Silos to Collaboration: The idea is to have a useful method of supporting collaboration across all the teachers....

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Step by Step guide for an PBL/STEAM activity:

A step by step iCity can be found at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/icity/id963412823?mt=11

but,please keep in mind that doing a PBL/STEAM is the suggestion to enter Transdisciplinary world, to get used to the planning involved, later should be all topics threaded into one big PBL project.


We recommended on 8/16/15 using a STEAM activity for the initial prototype 


Let’s look (through pictures) at  PBL/STEAM activity for Kinder that has been prototyped: 


Theme: Step by Step / Where We Live - PBL/STEAM

Big project: building a city. (iCity)

STEAM concept with  Project Based Learning allowing the teachers to cover benchmarks in all these areas in a single project


We won't be writing the actual benchmarks covered here, but you can have an idea of what was covered below:

SCIENCE: Climate & weather (day and night), biotic at night, solar system (sun, moon, stars)

TECHNOLOGY: light (electricity – battery), city sounds ( buddying up with an older grade)

ENGINEERING: City lay out, bridge study using design thinking

ART – painting, color, transforming, tearing gluing, naming conventions (language)

MATH: 2D & 3D shapes, patterns, organizational thinking, measurement (ruler, iterated units) , spatial reasoning.



Arts & Math

Now let’s prototype here the Feedback forum


"I enjoyed working with all the subjects in one place"

"fun to work with the Math teacher at the same time" 


"I can really see how I will integrate my literacy benchmarks, here, maybe signage"

"We can add posters on buildings and using Aurasma embed videos on them."

"Can we have another grade make a First People's maquete with their benchmarks? and then we could somehow connect the learning?, like before and after?"


"my class had no place to store all boxes"

"I found a bit overwhelming when I had the other teachers in the class with me"


"We discussed how we could add other subjects to future prototypes - Language, Music, History, Geography..."

The subjects added, and the way we add them, will depend on the age group being taught."

"We plan to have an Open House and have parents participate in a demo project"

I hope we were able to give you an idea of how this would look. 

end of current update________________________________


UPDATE VERSION: This is a mash up of two ideas: ”Back to Transdisciplinary and Feedback Forum”



Explode the Silos


From Silos to Collaboration: The idea is to have a useful method of supporting collaboration across all the teachers who work with a particular grade or division, so that they can coordinate their presentation of the curriculum.

Potential For Impact: 

By coordinating the presentation of the curriculum, with the same concept showing up in several contexts, the students can have more opportunities to apply what they have learned, and to see that what they are learning can be relevant in multiple ways.

Value Prop/Pitch: 

A more collaboratively built curriculum that is connected horizontally, with common threads across the subjects.

How’d I get this idea off the ground?

You need a common room with two huge white boards or magnetic walls. This idea MUST BE VISUAL to work.

This idea is actually quite simple, and has two parts:

Part 1

When back from the holidays, instead of seeing our subjects as being distinct and each going about our own planning, teachers sit together, grade by grade (including the specialists, who would need to rotate through the grades). The class teacher describes the humanities concepts and benchmarks in her curriculum (eg. All About Me) and the Art/Science/Music/PE/Tech/ specialist teachers describe their own concepts and benchmarks. Then, together they talk about how they could combine concepts into larger projects – most likely the class teacher would take the lead on creating broad projects and the specialists would look at how they would work with those, but the specialists could propose projects also. All this is written up on a large whiteboard that the teachers can refer back to.

Once back in their classrooms, the teacher and specialists work with the children on their respective subjects and, where relevant, apply their concepts to the larger projects that the students are working on at the time. So, even though the subjects are still taught separately, the kids' broader projects are the common threads through the separate subjects. The kids learn and apply the concepts across the different subjects, seeing the concepts in action in different contexts - because learning is not supposed to be just content but also concept and application (life!).

It is important to say that if you have for example, 5 kindergartens, they don’t necessarily have to do all the same projects: they can have different ones, or they could have variations on a theme, or they could have different projects that come together at the end. While all this is discussed before the students have arrived, teachers do need to be ready to adapt and change the plan according to the students’ needs – and teachers need to remember to talk with their colleagues about the changes.

Part 2

So now we have developed the concept, we have applied it, and we have finished our Big Project. It is time for Feedback! This brings us to our second large whiteboard, on which are the following categories: positives, possibilities, concerns, iterations.  On top of the board, the teachers write the project title and overview. Then, first they each share what worked, the positives of the project. Next, they share what might have come from the project, any extensions/changes introduced that had not been expected at the beginning. Finally, they share what did not work, and any concerns that arose, and talk about what to do differently next time to address these. The final category, iterations, is where the colleagues share what they think might improve the project.

How you can get started:

Have a chat with your team, remind them that they are a team and they are all have the same goal! The students come front and center: ultimately, the goal is to make learning fun and engaging for the students – and that’s a lot easier if the team is engaged and having fun too!

It’s easier to get this approach going if it’s done incrementally, starting with maybe just one project, and expanding from there - prototype!

For the initial prototype, we recommend using a PBL/STEAM activity.

STEAM activities naturally cross silo boundaries and we believe it can be much more effective to show someone a STEAM project than to explain it. The hands-on format is impactful both because the participants can see how their students would experience the project, and also because they can more easily visualize how they could execute something similar themselves. After the project demonstration is completed, the teachers can “unpack it” together, and we have found the mood is usually very positive – this tends to be a pretty effective team-building exercise! Make sure you have a common area with white boards for the brainstorming, and wrap up the day with a team party.

Materials to get this idea off the ground:

We can come to the school and go through the process with the teachers, and we can build a sample unit if we have the benchmarks of one of the grades (e.g Kinder/ 3rd grade), to get them to visualize how to do it. We’ll need a brainstorming space, with whiteboards, and space for the team PBL/STEAM session.

end of latest update

-----Coach Moss asked me what would this look like, I think could be something like this:

Let's use Kindergarten as our example, so I imagine like this: A copy of the complete Kinder curriculum is given to the teachers and specialists. Then we have a wall to write on! The header will say for e.g Where We Live then there will be columns under the header Science / Technology/ Music / Arts/ Science / PE/ MLD and each teacher would write which benchmarks they could cover and the class teacher would brainstorm with them which could be the class project where the kids would apply the knowledge they learnt. . To have this in the way I describe above we would need to have admin and other colleagues completely ready to let go. I am tweaking a sample template.

(We did something like this with my Where We Live (we didn't meet all together, I read the whole curriculum and reached out to my colleagues that were open to it) so we have applied STEAM and on site STEAM (we were not able to have connections with Music and PE at that time) I mentioned during Discovery.

What I described above would be a larger whole school version of it! and I believe that would be the way to go. Imagine even more after Kinder finishes and the students move up to first grade and the first grade big projects should/could be an extension of the previous project.


What if, when we arrived back from the holidays, instead of seeing our subjects as being distinct and each going about our own planning, we saw them as transdisciplinary? We could sit together, grade by grade, with each grade including the specialists (who would need to rotate through the grades). And what if the class teacher described the humanities concepts and benchmarks in the curriculum (eg. All ABout Me) and then the Art/Science/Music/PE/Tech specialist teachers looked at their own concepts and benchmarks, and together they talked about how they could combine concepts into larger projects? Then, they could work on their subjects in their own sessions with the children, applying their concepts to the larger project, so that even though the subjects could still be taught separately, the kids' broader projects would be the common threads through the separate subjects. The kids would be learning and applying the concepts across the different subjects, seeing the concepts in action in different contexts - because learning is not supposed to be content but concept/life!

I believe that one of the only ways to foster a culture of innovation is if we teachers understand that we MUST work together, that nobody owns the concept - apart from the kids! This will allow the kids to have more ownership of their learning, the ability to see where they are going and an understanding of how they are going to get there.

Am I making sense? (When I am on a roll I sometimes find it difficult to put my thoughts on paper)



Join the conversation:

Photo of Jimm

Love the Silos title and the concept. The silos issue applies across many aspects of education & I'm really pleased you've raised it.
 We've been experimenting with "matrix management" to diffuse silos. This us an approach that is widely used in the software industry, but does not seem to have been applied a lot in education. It may be useful to apply it here.
I'm quite seasoned in it. If it's something you want to know more about, just let me know. I'm in NYC. jimm.meloy@gmail.com

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