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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A River Runs Through It: Art, Geology and Life on the Upper Mississippi


This article presents a pilot interdisciplinary project for middle-school students including visual literacy, studio art, English-language literacy, geology and the study of indigenous groups.[i] The location of the pilot was in the upper Midwest, along the Mississippi river bluffs of St. Paul, Minnesota. English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) students from a Title I school joined a six week summer program, where they examined the banks and bluffs of the Mississippi river, effigy mound sites, and made visits to the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. This curriculum investigates ‘place’ and effects of time, with the intent to increase students’ knowledge of local history, and their placement within the socio-cultural context of a river-city. Students took digital photographs, created mixed-media art, conducted computer research and wrote about their experiences. Teachers agreed that this combination of learning strategies was a rich interdisciplinary experience for students. This article describes the various components and resources for such interdisciplinary curriculum, with emphasis on skill-building, knowledge acquisition and exploring connections.

[i] This project was funded by a grant from the National Art Education Foundation (NAEF).

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