What we're working on: Human-Centered Interdisciplinary Subject

Chris McNutt
Nick Covington
May 18, 2022
Our goal is to answer the question: how can we prepare learners for a world that needs them to enact change?

In March 2022, Human Restoration Project was awarded a grant from Holistic Think Tank, a Polish non-profit foundation, to create a curriculum based on their interdisciplinary subject (IDS) curriculum. We're creating a framework of lessons, experiential learning, and pedagogical understanding that centers purpose-finding, cooperation, and the common good. Our goal is to create an entirely free resource that investigates solutions to local and world problems, leading directly to an improvement in one's community.

This subject is interdisciplinary, meaning that it connects across multiple subject areas. We are designing the package as something that could be administered as a separate class during the day. That being said, we believe it can easily be administered in an advisory, homeroom, or other common meeting time that offers extension activities for all common subject areas: science, mathematics, social studies, English, art, and physical education.

Pictured: Starting activities surrounding analyzing "fast fashion" – where do our clothes come from? What impact does this have on people and the environment? This lesson looks at the environmental impact, working conditions of those involved, and chemical byproducts of quickly produced clothes.

Further, the curriculum is international. Although we certainly offer a United States-perspective, we wanted the curriculum to feature stories, perspectives, and events from global sources. And the curriculum is aimed at 6th-8th grade, but could easily be adapted to older or younger students. A facilitator guide, included with each lesson, offers advice on adapting lessons to one's context.

Our goal is to answer the question: how can we prepare learners for a world that needs them to enact change? Developing change-makers means that they 1) have a sense of wonder and curiosity, 2) recognize the problems facing the world today, and 3) have a sense of hope toward changing the world. In an optimal scenario, this curriculum would be used in-tandem with other subjects to coordinate all subjects in the school toward common goals (led by students!)

Pictured: Options for students to take a lesson and extend it toward experiential learning, further media discovery, or within traditional classroom subject areas. In this example, a hands-on activity looks at understanding "code switching" and complicates the concept of "professionalism." An extension activity in English examples Conversation Analysis through the lens of an Autistic individual.


Our IDS framework has three sections:

Pictured: An introduction activity in the Google Docs version of "Discovering Knowledge Gaps", which focuses on pop culture: what makes something popular? what about things that aren't popular?
Pictured: The first section of our extension activities on "Discovering Knowledge Gaps", which includes potentially preparing a research study that documents an older generation's knowledge on a specific topic. An extension activity in mathematics examines: why do we learn math? What's the point of conceptual mathematics? What debates exist about math?
Pictured: An early draft of our IDS working model, consisting of Action (individual self-, peer-, and class-driven lessons); Impact (working through the design process on a specific interest); Pedagogy (concepts which will inform the process, such as UDL and self-determination theory).

The Focus

The IDS is guided by our interpretation of the standards laid out by Holistic Think Tank, as well as embedding of the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  1. How to confront themselves with challenges - Students will learn how to break down information to solve the many problems that face the world today, including personal, reflective concepts all the way to critical world issues.
  2. How to function in relation to the world and nature, as well as with one’s own body - Seeing oneself as a member of a local and global community is vitally important, and students will see how they relate to those around them, including promoting and sustaining a healthy world.
  3. The ideas of science and scholarship (learning) - In addition to understanding facts, we recognize that students need to know scientific inquiry, scholarship, and critical analysis, furthering their understanding of unreliable data and information. Our goal is to create an intrinsic excitement for inquiry.
  4. How to function in society - Understanding how to cooperative, compromise, and at times - stand up for oneself, are all important elements of living in a shared community. Further, we must be able to respect differences, recognize bias and privilege, and the power of interpersonal relationships. We are presenting a solution-oriented goals to deal with conflict and promote the common good.
  5. Aesthetic and cultural awareness - Whether using auditory, visual, or other communication methods, we must be able to clearly communicate in a compelling fashion. In order to be an effective communicator, we recognize the appreciation of various aesthetic forms, as well as awareness of cultural values and preferences.
  6. How to function in variable contexts and environments - A 21st century skills education needs to go beyond the narrow-focused career training that has become common in schools. Students must learn the transferable skills of collaborative problem solving and gain experience in applying these skills across multiple contexts. This includes thinking about problems on local, national, and global scales, as well as across various cultural contexts and respecting differences. We must be adaptable.
  7. How to function in relation to the state - In addition to understanding how governments work, students must understand their role and responsibilities as a citizen, examine how policy decisions get made, and determine how they can best effect change. Students must learn the principles behind democratic action and understand the structural roots of social inequality.
  8. Entrepreneurship - Whether students go on to work in a private business or a public service role, students should recognize the core competencies to launch entrepreneurial ventures. This includes long-term planning, taking initiatives, and understanding financial cost/benefit analyses. Additionally, students should develop techniques to adopt tenacity and resilience to pursue their goals.
  9. Interpersonal communication - Modern problems require collaboration – students need interpersonal communication. This includes verbalizing their thoughts with clear, appropriate vocabulary, but it also requires that students become culturally sensitive, understanding how messages are perceived differently in different cultural contexts.
  10. Self-development - Finally, students must develop a practice of self reflection and improvement. They must become lifelong learners who constantly strike to improve themselves and have the tools to do so.


We are thrilled to share this resource later this year, distributed entirely for free through Holistic Think Tank. Be on the lookout for updates as we grow and expand our project. We look forward to continue being able to supplement and improve your teaching expertise, as well as offer guidance in progressive pedagogy.

In addition, we encourage you to follow our progress on the Sharing Power With Students Handbook, which will release for free this year. This resource will document pedagogical and action-driven items to build thriving classroom communities where adults and students trust and learn from one another.

In the meantime, be sure to...

Pictured: The cover of our Sharing Power With Students Handbook, featuring an astronaut being split in two facing an abstract space scene, one side black and white, the other filled with color.

Stationery Mockup PSD created by CosmoStudio -


An image of a white man with a brown goatee and glasses.
Chris McNutt
Chris McNutt is the co-founder and executive director of Human Restoration Project, a nonprofit organization focused on student engagement, well-being, and motivation. His work centers on realizing systems-based change, examining how progressive pedagogical shifts (e.g. PBL, ungrading) reimagine school to best suit the needs of students and teachers alike. He was a public high school digital media & design educator who focused on experiential learning, portfolio-driven assessment, and community involvement.
An image of a white man with a brown goatee and glasses.
Nick Covington
Nick taught social studies for 10 years in Iowa and has worked as a labor organizer. He is currently the Creative Director at the Human Restoration Project.
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