2. Integrated studies use
the world as a classroom
If Mt. Edgecumbe, Alaska, is an unlikely place to start
a revolution, the lush, green, heavily-afforested national parks and soaring mountains of
New Zealand seem even further removed from the traditional schoolroom. But link them with
the latest computer technology, a dedicated team of university innovators and some
flexible teachers from Freyberg High School in the small city of Palmerston North, and
again the result is surprising.
Every innovation has its visionary driving-force.
Freyberg's was Dr. Pat Nolan, senior lecturer in education at Massey University on the
outskirts of Palmerston North. Massey was originally an "agricultural college"
and it is closely linked with several nearby farm research institutes. So its hands-on
tradition is a long one. Pat Nolan marries his love of education with a passion for
exploring the New Zealand outdoors: its towering volcanic snowfields, clean sparkling
rivers and forests rich with native trees and birds. He's also a computer buff, who now
heads Massey's Educational Research and Development Center, a pioneer in providing
data-based services to other educational institutions.
Nolan has put all his passions together in the
Freyberg "integrated studies program". But it's no mere dream. Nolan sees it as
the kind of alternative educational program that "might go the next step in providing
for all high school students the kind of results previously enjoyed by only the top 30 to
He says "the old method" of high school
studies is separated from the real world. "We've all been through the school system.
What we've experienced is a compartmentalized or segmented curriculum, where subjects are
locked up in their little boxes, with tight little boundaries around them. So we learn
mathematics, physics and English separately. Seldom do we see the connection between
subjects. Yet it's by linking subjects together and seeing the interconnections that we
come to understand the real world better. And that is basically what integration is all
about: developing ways of teaching - and experiencing - knowledge in a way that
establishes the interconnections in the minds of the students, and has them actually using
that knowledge to create new solutions."
Similar arguments, of course, have been expressed for
many years. In New Zealand alone five separate educational inquiries, from 1943 to 1987,
have stressed the benefits of integrated studies.13 But many high
Contents Page Preface