Universal Units are a program I’ve come up with to link all the elements of a complete curriculum. In this format, I take one basic concept and explore it in all the disciplines. Solid educational theory insists that we use many modalities for teaching. We also know that students learn best when they do things. My units cover literature, math, science, geography, culture, writing, history, music, dance, drama and food. The learners explore, experiment and experience. These units are adaptable for any grade, environment and student body.
Here is a basic universal unit on Geometric Solids and Shapes.
Literature & Math: Sir Cumference math series by Cindy Neuschwander. These titles explore in verse, puns and historical humor basic geometric concepts. The illustrations are lush and period correct. The best part is a math mystery for students to solve using geometry.
- Sir Cumference and the First Round Table
- Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi
- Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone
- Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland
Science: Geometry and shapes tie in well with physical science concepts. Using Castle,Cathedral, Pyramid,City,Mill,Mosque and any other by David Macaulay, the world renown author, illustrator and master architect, you have a complete unit on all sorts of physical science principles manifested in building. These books are fascinatingly and vastly interesting. They show each structure in completely accurate detail. They also show tools used in the period.
Using scale materials, students will design one of the models and describe the scientific principles involved. Some examples include: flying buttresses (Cathedral) the water wheel and hydraulic power (Mill, Cathedral) cannon and crossbow (Castle) bridges, aqueducts (City) pulleys (Pyramid)
Art and History: Explore basic architectural designs and geometric patterns in some of the historical wonders of the world or basic designs. Create basic shapes and solids by making them from cardboard or paper. Assemble them into a diorama. (Pyramid) Pyramids of Giza, (Cylinder) Tower of Piza, (Sphere) globe, (Cube) Pandora’s box, (cone) ancient form of huts or granaries, or turret on a tower, (rectangular prism) any of the longer buildings in a monastery or castle.
Look for examples in art where geometry is a driving force in the piece. Explore Cubism, Modernism and Geometric Modern.
Writing: Make a shape poem. Using any basic shape, write a poem around that shape. Incorporate the theme of the shape into the poem. For example, with a circle, have students concentrate on ideas or concepts that are round. For older students, print writing and attach to the sides of geometric solids. Write a ‘pyramid’ poem or a ‘sphere’ poem. This is a great medium for exploring feelings in poems. It works well with descriptive poems also, where the different attributes can be put on each side of the figure.
Music: Create an instrument which demonstrates geometry as a factor in the sound created. My favorites include the music produced though a column of air ( a garden hose, a wooden tube, a series of straws). Show that by changing the length, different sounds are produced. Show to that you can effectively change the length by drilling holes at different levels.
Demonstrate the sounds produced by changing the volume of water in a glass. Using a set of wine glasses, place a different amount of water in each. Moisten your finger and gently stroke the rim of each. It will produce a sound of exquisite clarity. Explain the geometric principle of volume.
Movement/Drama: demonstrate with a series of exercises how the body can represent different shapes and figures. Ask students to show how they can make a square, circle, cube, triangle, etc.
Food: This is just for fun! Set out cheese cubes or sandwiches cut into cubes, baby carrots and combos (cylinders), olives, cherry tomatoes (spheres), pizza (triangles), Provide pieces of bread dough or cookie dough for students to shape into pyramids and cones and bake (or make and bake ahead of time).