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Abstract

Curricular demands and best practices for middle school require interdisciplinary units. Arts integration can provide motivation and a new pathway to learning. This unit focused on inquiry into the natural history of artifacts and rocks recovered from the exposed subsoil of an area near Cedar Falls, Iowa that had been bulldozed as part of subdivision development. The described unit involved preservice teachers in exploration of all subject areas (language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies) with arts-integrated projects (agate watercolor painting, stone tool graphing, acrylic polymer clay agate keyring making, and stone tool drawings). The content area activities for social studies included identification and lifestyle interpretation of stone tools found intermixed with rocks and sand in the subsoil of the site. Science content activities included identification of rocks (igneous and metamorphic rocks; quartz nodules, geodes, and agates; and iron ore specimens) from the site along with interpretation of basalt cobbles that had been ground flat as glacially transported, and interpretation of maps and diagrams of glaciation, iron ore deposits, and agate deposits. Language arts activities involved word study through morpheme analysis of words such as “anthropology” and “artifact” along with matching a set of descriptive adjectives to objects related to agates. Mathematics content activities focused on graphing. Preservice teachers were highly engaged in the activities, remarking that they learned new content and pedagogy. Some expressed lack of confidence regarding artistic ability because of little experience and the desire to complete everything in the correct manner. At the end of the lessons, preservice teachers expressed that teaching the content through themes allowed for a great number of connections between subject areas, increased real-life connections, and deeper understandings of the topics.