ITU - Home

An Integrated Thematic Unit (ITU) not only connects different disciplines of learning, but the student activities require the use of different content areas to solve a problem or create a project. 

An integrated thematic approach to learning avoids having subject areas taught in isolation.

Integrated Thematic Unit Example


- Define “home” and its attributes, contrast with “homelessness”

- Research myths & facts about homelessness & use them in a persuasive writing piece to share information

- Find examples of how people who are homeless or living in poverty are depicted in literature

Social Studies

- Study historical events that led to hunger or homelessness such as the Irish famine

- Interview a city council member about the government’s role in providing services for people in need

- Conduct a demographic & economic study of people who are hungry or homeless in your community



- Look at & compare the statistics for poverty & hunger in different countries

- Discuss issues of poverty & government programs in a country where this language is spoken

- Study the different kinds of structures used for homes in different countries & learn the associate vocabulary

VAPA: Visual & Performing Arts

- Adapt literature that features a person who is homeless into a performance piece with opportunities for discussion with the audience

- Compose simple songs that teach basic concepts like number or colors, record & distribute them to a family shelter

- Research what art supplies are needed at a local shelter & prepare art kits


ITU Theme: Hunger & Homelessness

Enduring Understanding

1. Nutrition is critical for healthy human development

2. Supporting low-income people benefits all of society

Essential Questions

1. How does hunger affect children?

2. What supports would make a difference for low-income families & individuals?

Service Student Activities -Evidence of Learning

1. Great American Bake Sale

2. Resume Writing


- Read food labels to find out serving quantities & nutritional values

- Create a statistical chart to compare national & local statistics can be used in a food drive campaign

- Chart how many cans or pounds of food are needed & received by the local food bank in order to serve their target population

Physical Education

- Discuss the effects of malnutrition on physical health & well-being

- Create a child-friendly exercise video for a family shelter

- Visit a food bank & “get physical” while sorting cans & stocking shelves



is great resource for interdisciplinary design and examples of units.


designed by CSUSM Secondary (Single Subject) Credential Candidates in the past few years.

Each ITU combines at least 2 content areas and includes learning activities that solve a problem, answer essential questions, and teach students about social justice.

2017 Best ITUs
Cohort 1 Best ITUs

Best Curriculum Integration ITU

Chemistry of the Holidays by Jonathan Conklin & Maribel Perez 

Most Student Engaging ITU

Engaging Cooperative Learning Simulation - Group processing could be stronger.

Space Race by Greg Hinchlift & David Willmen

Most User Friendly ITU Website

Vietnam by Sam Meade and Brandon Purvis 

Most Effective ITU for Teaching Social Justice

Anti-Bias Education by Katie Cusey & Nancy King

Cohort 2 Best ITUs

Best Curriculum Integration

History of Olympics by Joey Alarcon, Chris Norby & John McCarty

Most Student Engaging ITU

Lanterns of Love by Maggie Johnson

Most User Friendly ITU Website

Humanity of Earthquakes by Paulina Hernandez, Margaret Sullivan, Emille Vancellette, Megan Schmidtbauer & Elizabeth Mauerman

Most Effective ITU for Teaching Social Justice

Immigration by Katherine Ohrbom and Sergio Cruz's


- Develop a brochure for a local food shelter

- Type resumés for people who are looking for work & have no computer access

- On the internet, find slogans & quotes to use in marketing campaign for food drive


 2016 ITUs

American Civil Rights

Kendal Craig and Katie Johnson

Body Image

Sarah Sharp and Sophia Monaco  

Civic Engagement

Trevor Rawlings, Jessica Sotelo, & Antonieta Vargas

Clean Energy

Morgan Conroy, Mercer Barrows, Ryan Murphy, & Chris Ratican

Endangered Species

Martha Plantz & Megan Gonzales

From the Unseen to the Seen

Tonya Scott, James Truong

Human Impacts on the Environment

Danielle Nourani, Emily Steward, Delaney Roney

Hunger and Famine

Hunger Games - May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

Staci Henry, Daydree Snow


Hannah O’Shea and Robert Kendrick


Katy Parker and Margaret Armijo

Minecraft Project

Cristina Perez, Ulysses Quintero, and Kelly Wehrley


Tresa Conboy & Bryan Andersen


Stephen, Jacob, Rico

The Roaring 20’s

Caitlin Eichlin & Sarah Hunter

The Zone

Mary Chase, Simon Vieaux, and Rick Bundy

Water Quality

Sarah Connolly and Sally Groenke

What Stuff Costs

Mike Mulvey and Brian Gillette

Viva la Revolution!

Taylor Schuman, Doug Siers, George Porter

2015 ITUs 

 Chaldean Refugees in Our Community

 Chicano Studies

 Be The Change

 Body Image

 Community Garden



 Why Diversity Matters


 Financial Physical Health

 Freedom of Speech

 Human Right Violation

 Human Trafficking

 Let's Make a Law


 Shifting Poverty


 Water Issues



- Learn about the food pyramid & nutritional needs of children & adults

- Study the effect of hunger on student achievement in school & on adults trying to enter the workforce

- Compare the nutritional value of different foods & the associated costs


2014 ITUs 

Responding to Crisis

The 1920's 

The 1930's

Teaching Tolerance


Zoot Suits


Outdoor Education


Changing Earth



Air Pollution

Water Quality

Manhattan Project

Underage Drinking
2014 ITU Single Subject Symbaloo Websites

2013 ITUs


Demographic Shifts

Discover Your Future


Human Condition

Latin Dances


Paloma Project


War and Society

Zombie Apocolypse 

2013 Single Subject ITU Symbaloo Websites

2012 ITUs

Resources for Designing Integrated Thematic Units
- Kaye, Cathryn Berger. (2004 or 2011). A Complete Guide to Service Learning. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.
- Roberts, P. & Kellough, R. (2004).
A Complete Guide to Integrated Thematic Units.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Website designed by Anne René Elsbree, Ph.D., School of Education at California State University San Marcos

ITU Advantages-Disadvantages

posted Jan 15, 2015, 8:10 PM by Anne René Elsbree   [ updated Sep 8, 2015, 4:01 PM ]

• Applicable

• Avoid isolation

• Life-like

• Retain information

• Engaging

• Blends school/community

• Connections

• Use school learning in life

• Other resources beyond text

• Integrate neglected disciplines

• Multiple perspectives

• Common Core Focused

• Accountability

Design Time

• Group work

• Transportation

• Curriculum

• District/State support

• Test Prep. Pressure

• Improvement grants

Curriculum Designs

posted Jan 20, 2014, 5:25 PM by Anne René Elsbree   [ updated Jan 15, 2015, 7:44 PM ]

What differences do you see between the 3 different curriculum designs below?

1. Separate Subject Curriculum Design
 Fractions Geographic Landforms California Regions Grammar-Puntuation Music
 Decimals Simple Machines Gold Rush Essay Writing Visual Arts
 Geometry Inventions American Indian Tribes Non-Fiction Performing Arts

2. Interdisciplinary Curriculum Design
 Drawing Scale - Map Drawing CA Geographic Landforms California Regions CA Region Report Writing Sculpting
 Algebra for calculating value of gold Rocks and Minerals Gold Rush Journal Writing Music from the Gold Rush Era
 Geometry Early Tools CA American Indian Tribes Non-Fiction Books about Gold Rush Dances- Performances form different cultures

3. Integrated Thematic Unit
Essential Question: Do you want to live in CA when you graduate? Why or Why Not?
 Who lives in CA? What makes CA a great place to live? What do people in CA do? What would make CA better? What art is representative of CA?
 CA demographics: historical & now Climate Recreations & hobbies More access to water, ocean, irrigations, etc. How do the different groups express their art?
 CA demographics by region Geography Government Effective leaders Practice are modalities
 Political & social leaders Industry Jobs & profession More jobs How are the arts funded? Job opportunities?

1-2 of 2