9th Grade Interdisciplinary Project

From There to Here: Understanding Goals

1. Why and how do people emigrate?
2. How does immigration impact a community?
3. How can we make a person’s story universal and told through the
4. How can we use text and images in the boundaries of a silhouette to
express a narrative around immigration?

The 9th Grade team combined Freshmen Seminar classes to focus on immigration. There were three phases to the project: research, writing, and visual art. History teacher Shannon Erby provided instruction of how to research the social, economic and political factors of countries with the highest immigration to the US. Through the research, students were able to analyze what pushed people out of their countries. They completed an entire research packet with MLA footnotes envisioning what life may have been like for people in that country, and then created a persona of an immigrant moving from there, to here. The second phase of the project was led by English teacher RCR, who worked with the students on reflection: their fictitious character reflected on what life in the US is like, how it compares to life in the home country, and wrote a letter describing this new life. In the last phase of the
project students developed their craft as they worked with Berkeley High graduate and UC Berkeley alum Plinio Hernandez, our guest artist. Plinio taught students the art of silhouettes, transfering images and working with a limited color palette . With Plinio’s guidance, students were able to express the Understanding Goals. At the end of January the students presented their work and participated in the critique process.

Although the majority of the project was collaboration between visual art and the humanities classes, in biology students learned about native and non-native species and urban planning.

Installation of Here to There at AHA exhibit at KALA Art Institute

10th Grade Interdisciplinary ProjectHIV/AIDS

Conference Project Understanding Goals:

1) The life cycle and biological effects of HIV;

2) How HIV/AIDS affects different countries and regions of the world in different ways; and

3) The power of rhetorical and propaganda techniques in raising awareness of a cause.

As a 10th Grade team of teachers, we worked on this project with students in their Anatomy, World History, and World Literature classes. Additionally, Eric Sanchez moved between all three classes, teaching students to use Adobe Photoshop to create digital artwork. The project culminated in a conference wherein students presented the work they’d created and argued for what they felt to be the most appropriate distribution of resources and energy, focusing on the pros and cons of crisis management, prevention and harm reduction, and research towards a cure. We feel strongly that using an interdisciplinary approach to a topic like HIV/AIDS helps students to understand the epidemic’s influence on all aspects of our world, from cellular biology to cultural attitudes, government policy, and mass media. Just as students begin to see connections in the way HIV/AIDS affects vastly different communities and peoples, so too do they begin to draw links between seemingly disparate subject areas: together, we grow in our understanding of our common humanity.


11th Grade Interdisciplinary Project

Power of Power: Understanding Goals:

1. What is radiation and how does it work on an energetic level?
2. How is energetic power intertwined with political power?
3. What place does nuclear chemistry have in our society and our

AHA Juniors studied the chemical and political effects of radiation for our interdisciplinary project, combining curriculum from the disciplines of Visual Art, English, History and Chemistry. We wanted students to analyze the why behind the traditional use of nuclear power and how to develop better energetic power for a nuclear free world. Students researched a specific place and use of nuclear power to create a book on topics such as the Chernobyl meltdown, the nuclear test site of Bikini Atoll, the bombing of Hiroshima, and radiation therapy for cancer, among others. We asked them to consider and answer one of the understanding goals.

To begin the process, in the first week students learned about the Manhattan Project, the development of the United States’ first nuclear bomb. This gave them a framework for how science and political power came together for the development of nuclear technology. In the second week students chose partners, selected and researched their topics in groups, and began work on their research brief. In art classes, students learned various techniques in bookmaking to incorporate pop-ups, embroidery and other required elements. In chemistry, students learned the atomic dynamics behind the energy harnessed in these weapons and power plants - from radioactive isotopes to background exposure and the quest for a cleaner, safer power.

In creating their books, students had to include such elements as a map, a scientific illustration that explained an important concept for their topic, and a narrative arc that told a story of the event. This was the first year of this project and the result was a month of high engagement, exciting new skills and learning about these critical topics. We look forward to repeating and refining the project in the years to come.

12th Grade Interdisciplinary Project

The "Truths" We Make of Our "truths" : Understanding Goal:

1.   The difference between the sociopolitical narratives presented to us and the sociopolitical reality in which we live.

Berkeley High School's Arts & Humanities Academy Senior Interdisciplinary Project aimed to use investigative journalism strategies to explore the multiple narratives surrounding a variety of socio-political issues, with particular attention to how these narratives are developed, articulated, and perpetuated.

Working in groups of four, students were responsible for selecting their topics. This did not have to be an issue with a clear pro and con, but students were encouraged to consider topics that seemed to generate completely distinct interpretations based on audience or intention.

The topics selected were:
- Internet Privacy
- Airport Security
- Violent Video Games
- Animal Testing
- Gun Control
- Genetically Modified Foods
- Humane Slaughter
- Obesity in America
- Healthcare 
- Decriminalization of Prostitution

After settling on a topic the students began to research, investigating at the various narratives that they discovered that were used to explain, refute, support, or question the topic.

The final product would consist of the following:
1. A series of Investigative Reports - anywhere from two to four - that explored a particular narrative.
2. Original graphic representations of data
3. Found data and artifacts from various media sources
4. A pastiche of a familiar movie poster built around the central ideas of the topic and/or narrative(s)
5. An annotated works cited

The goal was to have all of the projects submitted digitally and for that we chose to use Storify with the hope that it would facilitate the incorporation of social media consequently helping to get a clearer - and perhaps more interesting - picture of the current conventional wisdom surrounding their topics. We feel that the  project was a success - students gained deep skills of research, synthesis thinking, and critical analysis, and all groups pushed themselves to better understand the varying viewpoints that contribute to the larger understanding of complex social issues in our society.