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Excellent themes include Food and Culture,  Johnny Appleseed and Hurricane Katrina.

The American Association of School Administrators published a report in which they offered a new definition for schools in the 21st century.  They state that . . .

"schools will be laced with a "project-based curriculum for life, aimed at engaging students in addressing real-world problems, issues important to humanity, and questions that matter. The education they receive must enhance both their knowledge and creativity. At the same time, it should enable students to think, reason, make sound decisions, work as members of a team, and see the relationships among things they're learning in various subjects--across disciplines. AASA

Selecting a quality theme will provide a natural vehicle for this curriculum.  Below you will find a Themes Bank, which is a list of possible themes you can develop for your students.  Some of them have links to resources for developing that theme.  These are offered as possible themes, meant to "jump-start" your brainstorming process for themes.

In this web site you can find sample units as well as guidelines for developing your theme.  See our page on Curriculum Design.

Theme studies are meaningful and worth doing if they support the study of big ideas that are true over space and time, broaden students' understanding of their world and human experience, are interdisciplinary, relate to students' genuine interests and lead to student inquiry.  Themes can be developed from students' common interests, adolescent literature and trade books, textbook topics, current events, local sites and community resources, cultural heritage, teachers' interests or expertise, objects and artifacts and abstract concepts.  Students should be afforded opportunities for real inquiry through their consultation of varied resources to explore their own questions.  An excellent resource, and in my opinion, the best book on designing interdisciplinary, thematic curriculum is The Interdisciplinary Teacher's Handbook - Integrated Teaching Across the Curriculum, by Stephen Tchudi and Stephen Lafer.

Teachers can begin a theme study by looking into any source of themes and can guide students to formulate questions for interdisciplinary study by examining the theme through different lenses.  By accessing a variety of resources that contain information pertinent to those questions, teachers and students may become co-inquirers into the theme, exploring the meanings of their theme study in as many ways as their resources permit.  Through such thematic studies, inquirers develop their knowledge and their abilities to direct the course of their own learning. (from "Topics and Themes in Interdisciplinary Curriculum", by Gillian E. Cook and Marian L. Martinello, Middle School Journal 25, no. 3, (1994): 40-44.)

I recommend the article "Cross-Curricular Thematic Instruction" by Mary Ellen Vogt for excellent suggestions on how to select a theme for your unit.  Any of the following possible themes can be broken down into multiple sub-themes and can be the basis for an interdisciplinary unit.  Many can be an overarching theme for the entire school year, with a different sub-theme selected for each six weeks period.

Theme Ideas

Featured Theme for 2010!

This is our best unit to date!  Food and Culture is a global, collaborative classrooms project.

Using a variety of Web 2.0 tools your students will be developing research skills, 21st century skills, multiple literacies, and content knowledge as they collaborate with students, teachers and experts globally.

See our Food and Culture web site for more information!

Food and Culture - a Global, Collaborative Classrooms Project


Featured Theme for 2009!

Join our newest Global Classrooms Project! 

Be prepared for the Inauguration on January 20, 2009!  Tie this theme into Black History Month in February, and President's Day on February 18th

See the developing global, collaborative project at our Change, Hope and Youth wiki!


Change, Hope and Youth - the Presidential Election 2008!

Featured Theme for 2008!

Completely interdisciplinary, project-based, global, multicultural, for all grade levels.  Student products ranging from environmental research reports, to service learning projects, to student-produced photo essays, scientific and historic documentaries, video game design, auto designs, and student-made films will be submitted to archives such as the American Library of Congress and similar institutions around the world.  Please join us in this project - for as long or as little as you like!

Do not let your students miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in a significant historic event!


The Great Race - a Global, Collaborative Classrooms Project

This unit has everything!

Media Culture

History, Government and Culture


September 11


Media Culture & Society

Presidential Election 2000


Legal Systems


20th Century


Economy and/or Budgeting

Media Production

Forms of Government - around the world and/or through time.




Heroism (also see Superheroes)


The Renaissance



Science Fiction and Science

War and Peace - in general, in literature, American Revolution, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, Gulf War, War on Terrorism, etc.

CSI - Crime Scene Investigation


 How William Shatner Changed the World


 Science and Technology  Society and Culture


Social Action


Civil Rights


Home (and Homelessness)





Human Body

Urban Development












Human Rights


The Holocaust


Women’s Rights Movements


Holidayssee links for Halloween and Harry Potter

The Internet




Natural Disasters – Floods, Earthquakes, Major Storms, Droughts and Famines, Volcanoes

See Hurricane Katrina and its Aftermath

 Food Science and Culture

Tiptoe Through the Tulips - a Spring Gardening Theme


Global Warming Cooking Show
  Sports and Culture




Sports Heroes Through Time


Women in Sports

 Real Businesses Your Class can Start and Run 

Sports and Politics

 Click on the above link for ideas based on actual examples of student-run businesses in schools today.

Sports and Spectacle 



Sample Unit Titles/ Ideas:  
Village Market - Learning to Count Money (K-3)    
Our Zoo - An Investigation of Animals 
Kingdom Animalia 
Biomes of Planet Earth - a Study of Ecosystems 
The Whole Planet - Thinking and Acting Green
The Ocean - Sustaining the ocean environment
Food Safety
Agriculture - Organic Farming
Myths, Legends and Folklore 
Stars and the People Who Watch Them 
Explorers and Their Journeys - Past, Present and Future  
Mardi Gras - a Celebration 
Mission to Mars 
Rainforests - a Study of Rainforests from Outer Space 
Election 2000 - an Analysis of the Evolution of the Presidential Elections 
Tour the USA 
World Tour 20024
Ecoliteracy - a New Literacy for the 21st Century 
Financial Literacy - earning, saving and investing for financial well-being. (based on Rich Kid Smart Kid)
Slavery - Its History and Its Legacy in the United States 
Civil Rights Movements in America - Multiple Perspectives 
Heroes & Heroines 
Sports - Crossing Borders Through Time - from the first Olympics to the Tour de France

Inventors and Their Inventions 

Our Solar System



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