Sophomore year is a weird spot in high school, you’re not new to the atmosphere, but you’re also not quite experienced enough with the system of the school, especially at a school like Del Lago. You’re opening up more, mingling a lot more with people, perhaps giving eyes to a special person in class. But what tenth grade brings along academic wise, is the IDP.
You should know what an IDP is, assuming that everyone reading this is a student or a staff at Del Lago. Some dread it, while others bounce around with glee, finally being able to show off their skills. But nonetheless, we all must abide and take on this beast, known as the Interdisciplinary project.
To get a better insight of the first IDP in sophomore year, I came to see a good man by the name of Matt Schiavon, who is a humanities educator for the sophomores here at DLA. A rather dapper man. I sat down to interview him, a little more nervous than I expected.
I asked him to explain the IDP, and Schiavon delivered. “Okay, sometimes we call it the IDT project, which stands for Interdisciplinary Team project.” He would continue to say that the IDP is catered towards giving the students a unique experience. He also said, “And it’s interdisciplinary, meaning that it crosses over multiple subjects.” It’s quite literally a definition for the interdisciplinary project.
He goes on to talk about the project in more depth as well, mentioning that they were doing the Museum Project. The museum project was essentially a project where the students attend to the Children’s Discovery Museum, and used the science exhibits there to formulate their project. “They give us parameters and what our scholars do here in tenth grade is they take those exhibits and they learn about a science concept that a third grader would be learning, maybe second or fourth. They learn the science behind those concepts and then they come up with a creative way to make a hands on science exhibit that would teach those science concepts to third graders,” he went on to add. So what the IDP is made for, is to give students, or “scholars” real life-like experience, when it comes to teaming up to achieve a certain goal, or displaying it, showing the fruits of hard work.
It is such a well articulated project, which begs the question, how was this project formed? How was it made possible? I was itching to unlock the secrets of how this IDP was created. It felt like finding out the backstory to a favorite fictional character. “How did you and the other tenth grade teachers create this project?” I asked.
“That’s a good question! Every year, all of tenth grade, both villages, six teachers total—unfortunately the math teachers aren’t involved, but we will have a planning meeting at the beginning of the year to plan and talk about changes and different things we might want to do. Or maybe create a whole new project. Those are very important meetings to us, because we get to brainstorm and come up with different ideas to come up with a new project. This one in particular has been going on for five years, I believe. As far with coming up with it, a lot of it comes to networking with community members. So Mrs. Memarzadeh was the one that established the relationship with the Children's Discovery Museum in Escondido. She was able to build that connection to have them partner with us basically, for this project.”
Such an excellent project could not have been made possible without Memarzadeh. This kind of relates to the theme Del Lago has for its major projects. Having connections and professionally speaking out with people in the workforce, that is the theme they try to pull out on us, which is why there are so many presentations. They prepare you for professional work in a professional setting. So in a sense, while making these projects, these teachers yield to that same theme. Like with Memarzadeh going out into the community to connect. But it can be hard to do such a thing. I always quiver when going up to present anything really, and I can imagine other students thinking the same. Even a whisper of the word “IDP” sends shivers down their spines. Which is why I followed up with Schiavon once more. How can scholars participating in this project succeed?
“It’s a huge amount of teamwork, being able to bounce back from failure and things that didn’t work out the first time. Especially the physical building process, a lot of unexpected things may happen,” Schiavon answered.
The answer he gave obviously tied to the IDP, but it can also apply to actual work as well. The IDP mirrors work at company jobs or any job really. Working together with a team to achieve a goal is what many jobs have as a description, which is why teamwork is absolutely necessary. Flexibility is a must too! What if a team member suddenly did not show up? Then your team has to pick up the slack for that missing team member. This, again, could apply to jobs and the Museum Project. Stuff happens.
When I look back at my time in sophomore year, I realized that those who succeeded had implemented these skills really came up with great stuff. Which is what prompted me ask Schiavon,
“Which projects throughout the years of this IDP were the most impressive you have witnessed?”
Schiavon, still sitting in his chair, looked up towards the ceiling, rummaging through answers. “There are so many different good ones, but I think— oh that’s a hard one! There’s so many! There were some that dealt with liquefaction that I really liked, where there was air blown through the sand and it created a simulation of what liquefaction is when you have an earthquake.” There were the ones that impressed him, and the ones that impressed the kids, the main audience. “Ones that the kids really liked were the roleplay activities or exhibits where they get to put themselves in a certain role as different animals. With environmental adaptation and things like that.”
Kids like games, stuff where they are involved and can use their imagination. The team that created these projects thought about their audience and planned accordingly. It’s crucial to think about who you are showing your work to, who you are presenting to, and who you are educating. Showing work to a professional is different from having a colleague look it over. Knowing your audience is important in any sense.
I also talked to him about common complaints, because I know everyone loves to complain. Although this project was well thought, it of course had its flaws, since no project is flawless. Nothing is flawless.
“A lot of them always wished they had more time. Because when you’re building an exhibit that is never going to be perfect, especially with limited resources and time, there’s always a feeling of anxiety around rushing or trying to finish quickly. They always want more time, especially last year when we had a power outage because of the fires, I don’t know if you remember that.”
Yes I do remember that. It makes sense though that everyone would want more time.
As we wrapped things up, I was satisfied with the perspective of a teacher on the IDP. Since Schiavon gave such good info in a large serving, my belly of knowledge was full, but I now had a thirst for the perspective of a scholar. Unfortunately I was not able to interview a sophomore since they had barely begun this project—at the time this was written, and couldn’t possibly have anything to talk about. So I turned to a junior who had already experienced the IDP.
I scheduled to interview with an eleventh grade scholar named Anuruck Souriyavongsa. His first year at Del Lago was his sophomore year, so he was exposed to the IDP only three months after he transferred here. We both sat down at a table outside. The wind blew around us, knocking our hair side to side. Birds cawed and trees fluttered mercilessly by the air.
“What was your team’s IDP project all about?” I asked.
Anuruck opened his mouth to speak, his voice nervously quaking. “The topic that we were given was basically the life cycle, and we’re teaching kids about the basics of it. Such as death, reproduction, growth, and— you know, being born.” He then proceeded to talk about the process his team did to progress through the Museum project. They discussed and spoke about the basic functions of the Life Cycle.
I found it interesting, and kind of funny at the same time how they established a staging ground for their project. “‘Oh! What happens after death?’ Well… you just die. Then we expanded on that point, saying, ‘Oh! When you die, your remains re fertilize the ground,’” he would say.
The life cycle was one of many concepts that the scholars would be teaching to the third graders. What seemed to be interesting was that no matter how simple a concept was, like the life cycle or even textures, you still had to explain it to the young students. Same goes with the complex ones. This goes to show that no matter what topic you’re stuck with, you’re expected to meet the same requirements as everyone else. You’re expected to meet that same quota, and the teachers grade every project the same. That’s life. Doesn’t matter if you got the short end of the stick or the easiest assignment in the world, you still have to satisfy the requirements asked of you.
And such requirements must be met using your team. What skills can be contributed to the completion of a task? A team must be collaborative and implement skills of each member to function, which is why I loved what Anuruck said after asking him about the skills his team used to succeed.
He said, “The skills that were important obviously had to be communication. Because in the IDP, you might have to do it out of school time, so we kinda made a group chat to discuss about it. Then we met at lunch and did all the kind of stuff. Another effective tool we used were the IPads the school gave us. We used iMessage and FaceTime to communicate. It was very useful to the point where we actually got done earlier than expected and because of that we were able to improve upon what we have done greatly.”
His team used the tools given to them, and even finished early to be able to improve upon it. This is very important. Your “boss” or the teachers in this context, does not expect of you to turn in a project with the bare minimum. Hence why one of our pillars is “Be the Best.” Del Lago wants us to go above and beyond, because that’s what makes a good employee, that’s what preps you for your future career. Employers want to use their workers at their full potential, so that business can thrive. Which is why they search for people who care in the field. It would suck if a person with a crummy “I don’t care about my job” attitude serves you food at a restaurant. They would lose business.
Anuruck went on to talk about how communication was vital to the success of his team. His team seemed to have it off pretty well, which made me believe they didn’t have any complaints. But nonetheless, I still asked him.
“Do you have any complaints on the project?”
“One complaint that I have is that because the school worries for our safety, we weren’t able to cut our own tree and make our own tree model.”
I was shocked. I expected him to talk about not having enough time, just like Schiavon had said, considering that last year two work days were lost for this IDP due to the fire. His complaint seemed to be just not having the opportunity to cut out a wooden tree model for the life cycle.
Just to be sure, I asked him if time was a problem for his group, but he smiled at me, much more calm than at the start of the interview.
“It’s depending on what topic you have. With Life cycle, you already knew about it since elementary or middle school, so obviously you’re going to do it quick.But some things I know for sure that people struggled with the most was climate change, since they kinda have to explain the concept to third graders, and build a model, which takes a lot of time to brainstorm what to do. The second topic has to be about electrons. I think one of them was about neutrons and the law of motion.”
Looping back to the workforce, and how this project prepares you for that, this example of easy and hard topics can apply. Sometimes in a job, you get the easier task to do. Well, you still have to satisfy the employer.
But it would make sense what Anuruck had said. If you have a fairly easy concept or task, you’d grasp what it’s about more easily, burning through less time and getting to work sooner. Rather with stuff like climate, you have to fully grasp it and dumb it down enough for kids to understand.
After the interview, I felt refreshed. This interdisciplinary project is more layered than it seems. It’s not something that’s useless experience for everyone, it actually gives you insight on how the world works, and how it would most likely be like in future careers. Working in groups, learning through trial and error, dealing with unexpected problems, all of these pop up in actual work settings.
Not just this project, Del Lago as a whole prepares you for such work environments. With all these IDPs and presentations, they help build those work skills that are critical in success.
All of these big projects given to us by the educators also provide us with all the materials we need, and a deadline. They don’t hold us by the hand and tell us what to do. They just plop us into groups, and let us solve it ourselves. In that sense, the IDP, and even more, Del Lago as a whole prepare us for the workforce, for our future.
The IDPs true motive is preparing us to succeed in our careers, to succeed in life.