Launching toward engagement: integrated units at Miller’s Run

WHOOSH! Imagine rows of students using medieval replicas of catapults and trebuchets to hurl objects across an open field. An energetic celebration of the outcomes of researching, designing, and modeling applications of statistics and probability. This is the experience of fifth, sixth, seventh, and eight graders at Miller’s Run School in Kingdom East School District. This integrated STEM and Humanities project was the final in a series of integrated learning opportunities throughout the year that engaged students in research, designing, and engineering. Teachers threaded a focus on claims and evidence throughout. 


With a goal of engaging students in authentic learning experiences, the middle school team at Miller’s Run School designed this final project.  Students researched catapults & trebuchets. In addition, they engaged in the design process of building them, with a math and science focus on statistics & probability, and via technology integration with Scratch and Stop Motion tools. 


Gerry Whitaker, middle level humanities teacher, shared, “The engagement was high, I’d say almost 93% of students were invested in the project.” Furthermore, “…kids learned a lot with several students remarking that their teachers were teaching almost the same thing, and because of that they learned more.”

This project highlighted the importance of cross-curricular projects. Student engagement and drawing connections between skills and concepts was key. And, it brought clarity to students about the what and why of their learning. 

In addition, to work towards grade level skills and content knowledge, students researched how catapults and trebuchets might inform solutions to solve the energy needs and demands of today’s society. 

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STEM connections

This project allowed for students to authentically engage. They built confidence in and applied grade level math standards as well. It also allowed for differentiation and acceleration with science content. Alan McGrath, middle level math & science teacher, had great success with the Virtual Trebuchet Simulator students used to calculate payload and test design configurations. Want to launch a similar project in your school? Check out this Wakelet collection of resources

Building on success

The middle school team of educators at Miller’s Run School plans to continue this work. They’ve committed to engagement in authentic learning through integrated projects. How will you propel into the next school year to engage your learners in authentic cross-content learning experiences? Learn more about integrated project planning here!



Katie Handy

Katie Handy is a K-8 literacy instructional coach for Kingdom East School District. Prior to her instructional coaching role, she taught a multitude of content areas in grades 1-6 at Burke Town School. Additionally, she has experience as an educator in early childhood education. She also teaches part time in the Education Department at NVU-Lyndon. She grew up in a small town in Connecticut and ventured to Vermont fourteen years ago in pursuit of furthering education and educating the youth of Vermont. She has a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont and a Masters in Education: Curriculum and Instruction from Lyndon State College. Katie is passionate about curriculum design, technology integration, and integrated learning experiences.

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