Curriculum & Assesment

The Communities for Learning curriculum units were created by Fellows to capture and contextualize all the elements of standards-based, learner-centered education.To order copies any of these units, please contact us for ordering information.

All Around the Town
by Kathy Davis
Preview pages: 6, 7, 14, 15, 27 

Kindergarten students are mathematicians, artists, model makers and researchers in this interdisciplinary unit focused on community. As students learn about the people, places and transportation in their community, they explore questions such as What is a home?, What makes a community? and Are all communities the same? Samples of student models, paintings and maps show that young children can create authentic products and engage in authentic processes. The pre/post assessment, done with the teacher, demonstrates just how much growth is possible in a unit like this one.

by Barbara Colton
Preview pages: 5, 12, 16, 21, 37 

In Americans, fifth graders learn about other cultures in the Western hemisphere. This unit guides them in completing a long term research project which culminates in the writing of a book for a particular audience. Not only must students write an original story, with a story line, a setting and complex characters, but they must embed what they have learned from their research into the story. Americans provides the structure and specific criteria that allow students to successfully author books while working toward standards in social studies, language arts and the visual arts.

An Eye on Structure
by Alexandra Papadopoulos

Students explore physical, biological, mathematical and literary structures in the context of creating several museum exhibits, designing buildings and writing in various forms and genres.

A Quiet Garden
by Elizabeth Bedell
Preview pages: 4, 5, 26, 30, 48 

A Quiet Garden is a unit that clearly fosters scientific thinking and builds critical thinking skills. As students consider the essential question, "Is anything more constant than change?" they learn about weathering and apply their knowledge as scientists would. Students work toward important science and English language arts standards as they investigate weathering for a real purpose, this being the design of a pond in the school courtyard.

Changing Consumption Patterns
An Integrated Curriculum For High Schools (Grade 9-12)
by The Sustainability Education Center and Communities for Learning

This unit helps students gain an understanding of sustainability, and provides them with a thorough exploration of consumption as an international issue and as a facet of their own lives. The unit can be used as a stand-alone activity, or can enhance a Model UN CSD simulation (with consumption as the Agenda 21 issue to be explored).

by Joanne Picone-Zocchia

Preview pages: 3, 7, 16, 17, 20, 29, 32 

In Childhood, middle school students study what it is like to be a child in various regions of the world, as they grapple with the essential question, "What does it mean to be a child?" The unit provides the guidance, structure and tools to allow students to successfully conduct group research, plan and execute presentations for their peers and community, and create various artistic and technology-based projects to demonstrate their understanding of the concept of childhood.

Connecting the Present and Future With the Past
by Rick Hinrichs

Preview pages: 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 38, 40, 41 

Rick Hinrichs has designed a unit that naturally integrates social studies content and English language arts skills. The learning experiences in this unit not only tap the multiple intelligences, but they engage students in meaningful individual and cooperative group projects. As sixth graders study ancient civilizations, work together to make connections between our civilization and past civilizations to answer the essential question, "Can a civilization last forever?"

by Pat Lynch

Preview pages: 7, 12, 14, 19, 24, 38 

Can second graders engage in rigorous research? Expertise shows how they can be taught to use various resources, take notes and use technology to gather and report information. In this unit, students become experts in paleontology, design museum plans for exhibits in dinosaur halls, and give oral presentations. Their work is assessed and refined with criteria in rubrics that both the students and the teacher use.

Global Hunger
by The Sustainability Education Center, Communities for Learning, and Just Food.

The unit, From Global Hunger to Sustainable Food Systems, enables students to discover the root causes of hunger, connects them with the real food systems that exist in the world today, and provides them with opportunities to develop informed opinions and to create a more healthy and plentiful world.

The unit, designed for middle school and also useful for both younger and older students, provides a rich and diverse set of activities: listening exercises, oral history, calculating a "food footprint" (the amount of space and resources used to feed the student's family), modeling food systems, a reading/discussion that engages students with the connection between justice and sustainable food systems, among others. Through analyzing cartoons, ads, photos, poems, fiction and non-fiction sources, students also answer two "document-based questions:" What are the causes of hunger? How are our decisions about food shaped? Crucial understandings about the use, relevance and reliability of various kinds of documents are developed along the way.

Group Shares
by Linda Hughs

Preview pages: 2, 3, 20, 21, 31, 32 

In this English language arts prototype, students draft, revise and edit both written and oral presentations that focus on literary merit. The process used in this unit highlights the value of clear criteria, constructive criticism and feedback in process. Group Shares proves that students can thoughtfully reflect upon their own performance and provide their peers with valid and helpful feedback.

Human Rights
by Iris Gandler

Preview pages: 3, 4, 5, 18, 23, 39 

Can fourth graders think critically to form an opinion and support it? They can and do in Human Rights. This unit integrates social studies and English language arts standards naturally and meaningfully. Students work in cooperative groups to explore the meaning and value of our human rights. By the end of the unit, they have investigated the rights of a specific interest group in our country and have written persuasive letters to real audiences.

Laws of Science
by Lisa J. Boerum

Preview pages: 2, 3, 41, 48, 61, 63 

Are laws always considered truths? Are truths always considered laws? These questions guide middle school students in an exploration of an unknown substance. In Laws of Science students use the scientific method to design experiments, test their own hypotheses and hold a scientific convention where they debate, as scientists would, the laws of the substance they investigated. As Hayley, a student says of her experience in the unit, "We are scientists because we talked and disagreed, we had different answers, we made comments, we asked questions, we were doing an experiment and we were writing notes."

My Personal Connection
by Angela Di Michele Lalor

Preview pages: 8, 9, 14, 23, 25 

What better way to make sense of the history of this country than to study it through your own family history? In My Personal Connection, middle school students learn about immigration as they create genealogy charts, photo albums and autobiographies based on research into their family's history and the history of the United States. Students work toward important social studies and English language arts standards as they strive to answer the essential question, "What is our personal connection to History?"

Renaissance-Like Paintings
by Kathleen J. Perry

Preview pages: 5, 21, 70, 84, 92 

This is no ordinary art unit! In Renaissance-Like Paintings students understand and use elements and principles of design as they research a renaissance painter and create a painting of their own. They are asked to reflect upon their work in journal entries and self-assess their work using checklists and rubrics. At the same time, students explore what it means to be a renaissance person and grapple with the essential question, "Can a renaissance be possible amidst specialization?" This unit fosters creative, reflective and critical thinking processes that will serve students well beyond their school years.

Shrapnel: When is War Justified?
by Rick Hinrichs

Preview pages: 5, 6, 22, 76,77, 112, 113 

The essential question framing this six-week unit is "When is War Justified?" Middle school students are guided through an array of learning opportunities, individual and collaborative, that help them appreciate the complexities of war and the reality that there are often underlying reasons with multiple causes for war. With this unit, students understand that explanations should be investigated, not taken at face value and that conflicting points of view need to be carefully analyzed. Five recent wars are studied: World War I, World War II, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the War on Terrorism. The learning opportunities include: Document-based questions, comparative studies of contemporary songs, a U-shaped debate, round table discussion, Socratic seminars and a concluding Symposium.

Technology in Our Lives
by Lisa M. McEvoy

Preview pages: 3,4, 12, 28, 29 

Solving meaningful problems through technology design - this is the task at hand for second graders who participate in this unit titled, Technology in Our Lives. While working with the traditional science content of simple machines, students tackle important science, technology and language arts standards as they use the scientific method to design, build, test and market classroom inventions. This unit demonstrates how to guide students through technology design as it is done by real scientists.

What do you stand for?
by Nancy L. Krakowka

What do you stand for? is both the title and essential question in this integrated unit originally inspired by students' curiosity and need to understand bullying. The unit is designed to help students do in-depth research into a topic that they are passionate about. Students generate hypotheses and questions, design and administer surveys, conduct field research, analyze and interpret data and work collaboratively to process and share their learning with the school community in authentic ways. Though it was implemented in a third grade classroom, this unit is rigorous enough to be adapted for upper grades.

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