Units and Lessons

The lessons and units below offer a sample of curricular applications that address NBL learning aims.  These materials can be used in a wide variety of contexts, from academic course supplements to full elective courses.

Future Visions

This unit emphasizes creative, aspirational visioning for a Utopian World as a process for creative invention and problem solving.  Students learn to access intuition and are introduced to the practice of philosophy and dream analysis. The unit also is a highly organic, constructivist process to generate topics for original study that are central to students’ essential interests; interests they may not even be consciously aware of, revealed though their exploration of intuition.  The plan ends with a teacher journal of the unit’s application with grades 4 and 5. 
FV Unit Plan

Exploring Free Will

Through a guided inquiry and various thought experiments students challenge their assumptions regarding the extent to which their beliefs and choices in life are entirely their own decisions or are subjective “programming” of their culture and environment.  The concept of consciousness is discovered when dissecting the “difference” between humans and computers.  The sequence ends with a script for teachers to lead students through a mindfulness meditation (Vipassana) as a practice to grow more conscious and aware of the source of their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and impulses.
Exploring Free Will
White Bear Suppression Inventory Survey
Thought Survey Results– Frequency graph template

A Brief History of the World

Based on the work of contemporary consciousness philosopher Ken Wilbur (Marriage of Sense and Soul), students examine the evolution of Modernity and post modern world views to discover that our current era is one of giving birth to “holistic” thinking, perception and awareness which is transforming all sectors of society.  This knowledge provides a systems-basis for the study of innovation and problem solving in emerging 21st Century fields of sustainability, biomimicry, and all facets of engineering.
Brief History of the World (Modernity)
Brief history graphic

Physics and Inventions

The creation of Rube Goldberg Machines and the exploration of physics principles and simple machines is the basis for this unit.  Key features include engineering problem solving cycle, high engagement with collaboration, creative problem solving, conceptual understanding of a wide variety of core physics concepts, and direct experience with principles of interdependence in non living systems–machines.   And possibly the most valuable, the experience establishes a firm core belief in students that they carry into future physics study:  PHYSICS IS FUN!
Physics and Inventions

A Journey Into Systems Thinking

The lessons and sequences below can form a long unit as a sequence or can stand alone in other contexts.  An interactive game, Silent Squares helps students identify core principles of successful systems.  These principles are used to contrast/compare an ecosystem and an industrial system, leading to the clear logic that gives rise to the engineering design principles of Biomimicry.
1. Silent Squares—Systems model and cooperative skill builder
Silent Squares play pieces templates
2. Examining an Ecosystem–Strongest Tree
Strongest Tree Story
3.  Examining an Industrial System–Agriculture (teacher plan}
4.  Graphics for compare/contrast

Where has all the oil gone?

Critical thinking is the feature of this activity where students use math to shed light on an often misunderstood topic of oil consumption, what we can expect in coming decades and what the implications are for how we need to prepare, technologically, economically, and politically.
End of Oil teacher notes
End of Oil student sheet