Interdisciplinary Project Kicks Off the Year at UCA

December 20, 2018 | Shelley Bacon

“When students write about something deeply personal and meaningful, they write well,” says Michelle Melendy, counselor and English teacher at Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) in Spangle, Wash. She witnessed this during the 2017–18 school year when she gave her English students an assignment to write a devotional. The submissions were some of the students’ best work.

This gave Melendy an idea: Why not have the students compile their devotional thoughts and publish a book? “Writing becomes so much more meaningful when you know you are going to have an audience rather than having your assignment sit on a teacher’s desk somewhere," explains Melendy.

Publishing a book matches the project-based learning model toward which UCA is transitioning. During presession, teachers brainstormed together to turn the idea of writing a devotional book into a multidisciplinary project.

One of the benefits of project-based learning is how it can integrate a number of discrete disciplines into a meaningful whole. The project began in Bible classes with pastors exploring with students the spiritual elements of a good devotional thought. This idea then transitioned into the English classrooms where teachers worked with the students on grammar and paragraph structure.

The next step was for algebra I students to use formulas to calculate prices and profit margins for the book. Simultaneously, the computer applications class worked on formatting the content for publication. Students participated in an art contest to create the book cover. 

Working on a real-life project has helped students see the value of the skills they are learning in class. For example, when students read a catchy introduction to a story, they looked at the elements necessary to grab the audience’s attention and added those to the beginnings of their devotional thoughts. Several students plan to publish their own books, a task that had previously seemed too daunting. Algebra I students can now refute the myth that they will never use math skills in real life. In addition to the classroom learning, students can add the title of “published author” to their resumes.

“The fire of your heart is the light of your path,” says Max Lucado in Let the Journey Begin. It is the prayer of UCA’s staff that the students’ hearts will be on fire for Jesus and this passion will not only light their path, but also be felt through their writing for the devotional book.

To order your copy of the devotional book, email Upper Columbia Academy.