BASIS.ed's unique All-Connections Class is a weekly 85-minute opportunity for students in grades 1–4 to demonstrate ingenuity, teamwork, and mental agility in a unique environment that develops creativity and critical thinking skills.
Inspired by the extraordinary innovations of Apollo 13 astronauts to maintain life support systems in crisis, All-Connections presents students with highly creative challenges; they must work together and use elements from all of their studies to develop solutions.
Students learn to use simple tools to build prototypes and construct projects that require introductory skills in design. Laboratory activities engage students in the design process while integrating mathematics, science, and other core subjects.
All-Connections helps students establish intellectual connections across the subject disciplines and gain deeper understanding of the topics they're learning. Following are examples of All-Connections scenarios from each grade.
In Humanities class, students learn about other communities and pinpoint the similarities between ancient peoples and modern cultures. One ancient culture students study is Ancient Egypt, covering topics that include the development of agriculture and early societal structure, mythology, mummification and beliefs in the after-life, pyramids and temples, and art and hieroglyphics.
Scenario: The Ancient Marketplace
"You are living in ancient Egypt. You must acquire the goods on the list given to you by trading with merchants from other Egyptian cities. Use the materials given to you to create items you can trade with the other cities."
Students are broken up into groups, each representing a different Ancient Egyptian city. Students are then given a list of goods to acquire and a set of materials that they can use to create tradable goods. Ancient Egyptians used a barter system instead of money, so students will do the same, exchanging their goods with students from other cities. In the end, values will be given to each item based on the amount of time, work, and materials used to produce it, and students analyze how close they came to acquiring all of the items on their lists. Students also discuss reasons they may have come up short, introducing them to basic economics.
Connections: Mathematics (estimation and addition), Humanities, Art
Engineering is an exciting and creative field, though it can be taught in very dry ways. In All-Connections, engineering is taught using hands-on, trial-and-error methodology. Instead of being instructed on the best way to build a structure, students instead plan and build what they think is best and then test it. They can then brainstorm, rebuild, and retest the structures to improve their creations.
Scenario: The Three Little Pigs Rebuild
Students begin by watching a Mandarin-language version of "The Three Little Pigs" to recognize words they have learned in Mandarin class like "three," "pigs," and "house," and thereby recognize the story. Students are split into groups and tasked with creating a structure for the pigs to live in that can resist the "huffs and puffs" of the "big bad wolf." Students construct their houses, which are then tested with a fan. The structures start far from the fan and are gradually moved closer and closer. Students then measure the closest distance to the fan before the house fails. Students brainstorm and rebuild based on their own new ideas and other students' designs and then test their new structures. Students will keep a journal detailing the distances until failure for each structure and information related to how they were able to improve their buildings.
Connections: Mandarin, Art, Humanities, Mathematics (measurement), Engineering
When learning about design, students focus on spatial awareness and its applications in everything from the layout of the school newspaper to new car design. Students learn to be spatially aware when they bring backpacks to fit in their cubbies, line up in class, and work on their homework. The design theme allows students to understand the limitations and possibilities within a given space.
Scenario: Relic Removal
"You have discovered artifacts from an ancient time period. The problem is that these artifacts are in caves across an area of hot sand. Your feet cannot touch the ground. Using the materials available, you must create a device that will protect your feet from touching the ground. Once you reach the cave, you must hypothesize what is in the cave before you start your excavation. Be sure to explain your reasoning behind your hypothesis."
Connections: Engineering related to design, Science related to heat transfer and making predictions
Theme: Settlement of the Americas
Students learn about life in 17th and 18th century America in Humanities class, including early European settlements and Native American culture. One recurring theme is the settlers' difficulty in protecting themselves against the elements. Students are given the chance to see for themselves how hard it can be to create durable structures.
Scenario: Housing in the Monsoon
"It is only a matter of time before the monsoon will bring heavy rain to your land. You must create a 3-D structure inspired by the colonialist or Native American style (as assigned to you). The rain will inevitably arrive, causing your land to erode. If your structure is not strong enough, it may be destroyed."
Students are given a limited set of materials to build their structures, which are then left outside for several weeks. Students subsequently examine, each week, how the different types of homes have fared in the elements.
Connections: Humanities, Art, Engineering, Science related to erosion and weather patterns, Mathematics related to measurement of water, runoff, and eroded sediment
In Humanities, students learn about the exploration of the New World, including the early voyages of the Vikings. Students learn about the versatility of the Viking ships, which allowed them to travel in rough seas and in shallow rivers. Students also learn that the Old Norse word "Viking" means "voyage overseas," allowing students to recognize how important exploration was to Viking peoples.
Scenario: New World Explorers
"You are a member of a Viking Clan. You need to construct a ship out of a variety of items provided to you that will transport your family and your belongings. How will you build your ship? Who and what will you be able to transport in your ship? We will be testing the ships you create after they are completed to see which ship can hold the most cargo."
Cargo will be represented by rocks and after floating the ship in a tub of water, rocks will be added until the ship can no longer float. The rocks will be weighed to determine the amount of cargo that can be safely transported. Ships will also be evaluated for ability to withstand rough seas and shallow rivers.
All-Connections: Students have the opportunity to use a scale and practice mathematics. They also have the opportunity to practice engineering and planning skills. Of course, Humanities topics are tied into the scenario as well.
This theme includes not just understanding and accepting people with different abilities, beliefs, or values, but learning to work together with them to accomplish a specific goal. In this way, students gain skills related to working in pairs or groups including compromise and learning to become a self-advocate. Students are able to learn and practice critically important social skills.
Scenario: Lost Lesson
"Your friend has lost their homework and you are the only one who knows where it is. How will you help your friend find their homework? You may not tell your friend the exact location of their homework, but you may give them directions to follow."
Students will work in pairs. One student will be blindfolded and the other student will have to give the first student directions to find their homework. Students learn to work together and to give explicit directions.
Connections: This lesson is given at the beginning of the year, before heavier content, in order to build community and teach children how to work as a team. It will also allow them to realize the importance of giving explicit directions. Just as they need clear directions for an assignment, their partner will need clear directions in order to find their lost lesson.
It is important that students learn how to properly communicate with peers and adults. When working in cooperative groups, students must express themselves without being disrespectful to others while still advocating for their desired outcomes. Each type of communication requires practice. In the communications theme, students will learn how to express their ideas orally, musically, and in writing.
Scenario: Tons of Topics
"The Head of School wants your grade to design a publication that connects all the topics you have learned this year. What is a publication? How will you connect all the topics you have learned this year? How much will it cost? How will you distribute this publication? What if students are absent? How will you get the information to them?"
All-Connections: Math in cost analysis, all others topics in forming All-Connections between topics.