What is a Unit Study?
“Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.”
Henry Adams, 1907
Just exactly what is a unit study? After all, they are in all of the catalogs, talked about in the magazines, and people in the support groups rave about them. What are they? Why can’t we just all use textbooks for curriculum? Just as with clothing, shoes, or so many other things in life, even for curriculum,
We all know that there is no such thing as “One Size Fits All!”
This generation of young people is much more visually oriented – unlike in generations past where television wasn’t around and life was centered on small town life and waiting for the mail – the stimulation to learn came through reading books and newspapers, local people sharing their experiences, and learning by doing. People would share their experiences about wars, travel, and life in general. Through books and newspapers, people could travel to places that they never thought they see in person, learn about people around the world, and gain a better understanding of our country and the rest of the world – all by using words to help them create pictures in their heads and a better understanding of life.
These days, with video games, DVDs and so much more, kids are typically very visually stimulated. Just think about a trip to your local huge mega-store. How many TV monitors are suspended along the main aisles, blaring away with the latest products, movies, music, etc? If you go through the electronics department, you can usually find crowds of kids around many of the demonstration game display monitors or computers, waiting their turn to try out the latest games. Even a trip to the local grocery store provides entertainment from continuously running commercial monitors and TVs running the latest movie releases.
So, in this day and age of so much visual stimulation and entertainment, how is it that we still rely primarily on textbooks to educate our children and excite them about learning? The textbook approach works well for some people, and not as well for others. Unit studies provide more of a hands-on approach, using all of the senses and keeping the student’s mind looking for answers and understanding.
“Unit study” is the name given to a type of curriculum tool where one topic is taken and looked at, or studied from many different aspects. They are called “cross-curricular” in approach, looking at the given topic across many areas of learning including science, history, geography, literature, and others. A unit study can be called a thorough look at a single topic, as if you could pick up the topic in your hand and spin it like a globe, looking at the various components in all three dimensions.
“We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people.”
Until next time,
©2006 Amanda Bennett