[Editor’s Note: This story is Part 3 of our month-long series on “What it means to teach Gen Z.” Click here to read Part 1 on Gen Z and parents, and click here to read Part 2 on Gen Z and librarians. Check back every Monday in April to read the next installment!]

The generation in school now is the first generation raised entirely in the Age of Technology. They are digital natives, many of them using computers, smartphones, and other digital tools nearly from birth. As technology continues to grow and expand, so too will the ways we use it. This growth and expansion will impact the types of jobs that will be available in the next 10–20 years. So how do we as educators prepare Gen Z for jobs that may not even exist yet?

Go Cross-Curricular

Cross-curricular lessons are one way educators can prepare students for an uncertain future. With the national emphasis on STEM, cross-curricular learning teaches students about history, science, technology, engineering, and math (as well as art and literature), all while inspiring students to explore these subjects and make connections on their own.

By making these connections and using multiple disciplines in their learning, students are learning creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills, all of which will be relevant no matter which career path they choose.

Allow for Student Choice

Student choice is an important part of my teaching. I believe students have more buy-in to the lesson when they have choices about what they learn and how they provide evidence of their learning. Textbooks are “boring” according to many students; I would rather give them a choice of articles that are fairly short, but concise.

To appeal to Gen Z, it helps if materials are also visually appealing, with engaging photos, maps, or illustrations.

(Next page: Gen Z curriculum in action)

Going Online Helps

As a social studies teacher, I’m teaching kids about the history and pioneers of science, technology, engineering, and math, so it made sense to embrace that in my classroom. Using online curriculum from Kids Discover and other resources allows me to make the connection between social studies and STEM at any time, and with great ease. When students select a social studies topic online, they immediately see many articles connected to that topic and related science content.

Recently I had my students reading about ancient Rome. As they were reading online, they found information relating to the Romans’ building techniques. We then had an engaging discussion on their aqueducts and how and why they worked. My favorite moments are when students make connections between social studies and science on their own.

Another example where my students were able to connect STEM and social studies was when we learned about ancient Egypt. One of my students noticed that the early Egyptian society started around the Nile River and made the connection to Mesopotamian society starting around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. We were then able to link the importance of rivers to the development of early civilizations. We then researched and discussed the science behind what how rivers benefit a new civilization.

When it comes to cross-curricular learning, I’m not only teaching my students about historical people and events, I’m showing them how to take what happened in the past and apply their critical thinking skill to analyze why and how these things happened. Learning about the past enables my students to think critically about their present, and their future.

I can show them that learning about Rome, for example, can help us learn about building and engineering today. I can show them that learning about Mesopotamia gives us great insights into how societies form and what people’s lives were like.

Getting students excited about their own learning gives them the drive and power to answer their own questions, to investigate solutions to problems, and to adapt and thrive in our ever-changing world.

About the Author:

Darren Faust is a mentor teacher at Summit Charter Collegiate Academy in Porterville, CA.