Someone made an intriguing comment to me last week about curriculum integration. And while I'm sure the comment wasn't intended to elicit as much thinking as I have done about it, I've been grateful for the prompt.
Here was the basic statement: curriculum integration (e.g. science + literacy) can only be effective if the teacher has depth of knowledge/expertise in both areas.
As I think about this, I fear she may be right. I also think that there may never truly be such an animal as integrated curriculum (but that may be due to how I'm defining it in my own mind). When I think about all of the reading and writing skills and strategies I've used with students over the years, I have to say that I taught them as discrete skills first. Science may have provided a context for constructing a graphic organizer or application of 6-trait writing, but the focus really was on the skill itself. The tool itself could be applied in any content area. My goal was to have kids use the tool as a vehicle to understanding the science content. Does this make my lessons "integrated"? Or was I just wearing different hats at different times? I can't say that I knew my Teaching of Reading even half as well as my Teaching of Science. Perhaps this did inhibit integration---I didn't have the ability to see more connections.
Here's another thing I was thinking about. If an elementary teacher uses a non-fiction text following a hands-on science experience...does this count as integration?
What I think many elementary teachers want is to "double-dip." In other words, if I use a non-fiction text on a science topic---can I count that time for both reading and science? Because let's face it: there are only so many instructional minutes in the day and expectations for what should happen in that time are unreal. I don't have time for both reading and science, so if one lesson can count for both, I'm golden. This is not some comment about elementary teachers slacking off or cheating kids of learning---this is the reality of the burden placed upon them to perform curricular miracles in only a few hours a day.
But back to the original thought. Does true curricular integration exist to the point where it is nearly impossible to see where one facet ends and the other begins? Or will it always be separate but maybe equal bits of knowledge with a tenuous connection?