15. Interdisciplinary Lessons

“Interdisciplinary Lessons” Lesson Plans and Websites for Interdisciplinary lessons with Civics

Community Action Petition


Please download this petition  to customize for your class’s “applied civics” projects. Kids love the petition sheets! Petition targets can range from lunch food issues to world hunger issues. Try them – you will love them!! Of course, a myriad of extension activities are doable, including pre-reading and post-writing activities in multiple Common Core domains.


There is enormous potential to integrate civics/politics/ethics into the study of mathematics as a tool to leverage student interest, engagement, and achievement. The following areas are ripe for interdisciplinary work:

  • Elections: The election season provides excellent opportunities to engage in statistical work, predictive modeling, historical vote returns, and, of course, the shenanigans involved with polling and numbers tampering.
  • Taxes: Students love learning about taxes both in terms of how the marginal income tax structure is scaled and what values that scale reflects, but also how state level taxes affect them and their families on a daily basis (esp. the disproportionate effect our high sales tax has on low income citizens – e.g. students!)
  • Scholarship calculations and eligibility matrices.
  • Free and reduced lunch eligibility calculations.
  • Government subsidies and how they work.
  • EDWEEK: Math: The Most Powerful Civics Lesson You’ve Never Had.



Many, many science teachers already infuse civics/politics/ethics into their units. The overarching question of “How do YOU define the Common Good” works well with many science issues and topic, especially local and international conservation issues.

Further, many science teachers are role models when it comes to infusing service-learning into the academic work.


Foreign Languages

Integrating civics/politics/ethics into 1st or even 2nd year foreign language studies is usually framed by teachers within the 5 domains of  OSPI’s standards: Communications, cultures, connections, communities, comparisons. Opportunities for cultural sensitivity and discussions about tolerance already happen in many classrooms and could be deepened.

When teachers engage in comparative cultural analysis they could easily branch into comparative political analysis – I suspect many teachers often do. Comparing the political economy of the US to France, China, Spain/Mexico, etc. is a huge opportunity for academic growth for many students. Pointing out the differences in areas like college funding and teen wages provide excellent buy-in for kids of course.

For all students, when the teachers objective is cultural comparisons, passages from the great civic/political/ethical texts of the object nation could be studied. Upper level students could read in the mother language, 1st and 2nd year in English translations and/or annotated versions.


Special Education

Special education students presence on campus is almost universally seen as a major boon to the civil and civic atmosphere. In this two way street everyone wins. As far as specific civic lessons for special ed. students I think they would be identical to the work other students do, just at a pace that was appropriate for them.

Special education students and teachers can and often do play outsized roles in building a “civic culture of learning” in our schools. Their simple presence brings a humanizing element to all spaces on campus that can be profound.


The Fine Arts: Music, Drama, Painting and Drawing, Pottery, Photography

The arts have always played a major role in the “civic culture of learning” dating back thousands of years. Creative work can be framed as advocacy or dissent art or, of course, as a retreat from any engagement with the body politic.

Ways to infuse civics/politics/ethics into the fine arts:

  • Consider using some precious class time to frame the course from the beginning in a civic way perhaps, talking about the role of art and artists throughout history and currently
  • Consider using a certain amount of time during the semester to simply have a more academic day and discuss important work in the field that they would be interested in – either current events or historic
  • Consider talking about the role of art in the Humanist tradition and in our society today how lucky they are to be doing making art
  • Discuss the NEH’s ongoing funding controversies –write letters, emails, tweets, petitions etc. to legislators
  • Discuss the environmental issues and connections associated with natural materials for art, etc.


Language Arts

There are far too many to list! But here are a few:


Social Studies

Journalism – “Newspaper class” – Media Literacy

Physical Education

See athletics below. And …


The Common Core – General Websites:


Sports teams are like little armies of civic soldiers wanted to be called to battle! There are a million ways to infuse civics into athletics.

  • Ways to infuse civics into sports teams:
  • Clean up crews! Around fields, gym, etc.
  • Assisting local programs whenever possible
  • “Tutoring” players on your team and on other teams
  • Family night games, alumni games

Student government

Find the best and model after them.

  • Ways to infuse civics into student government:

Extra-curricular Activities

How should/could student governments be more civics engaged?

How can participation be expanded more widely, especially to at-risk kids and kids of color?

  • Ways to infuse civics into extra-curriculars:


Smith, M.K. (2002) ‘Jerome S. Bruner and the process of education’, the encyclopedia of informal education with added italics and reconstructed sentence.

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