Thursday, February 17, 2011

Merits of the Museum Project

Fourth graders at my school presented their Family History/Immigration Exhibits today during our Museum Open House.  Each classroom was a wing of the Museum.  Children proudly displayed stories, images, captions, artifacts, food and clothing depicting their personal history (and in a few cases, simply a culture they were interested in).

Last year, a colleague presented a similar Museum.  Our class was invited.  I was struck by the level of pride and knowledge his students displayed; that's when I decided I'd try the same project the following year.

Fourth grade teachers planned the project together sharing ideas, strategies and time lines.  Then we outlined the expectations for students and got to work.  Some of the work was completed at home, and other work was completed in school.

Throughout the unit students learned about immigration and the cultural history of the United States through stories, non-fiction text, films, interviews with family members, class discussions, and project creation.  Much of the project preparation was done in workshop mode with students busy researching, image searching and writing using online tools.  Once project pieces were complete, exhibits were created throughout the classroom.  Then this morning family members visited the students' exhibits.  Later in the day, students visited the other Museum wings (classrooms) and reflected on their work.  As the teacher, I'll read their reflections and write a few positive, personal notes for each child acknowledging noteworthy aspects of their exhibits.

The project is a keeper for the following reasons:
  • It teaches social studies, reading, writing, and math standards (we surveyed our community and graphed results related to the topic)
  • It gives students an opportunity to learn about their culture and the cultures of their classmates.
  • The project is authentic and meaningful.
  • The project is created for an audience.
  • The project includes the 21st C skills of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.
  • The project builds community and respect for one another.
  • The project is motivating and enjoyable.
  • The project has a significant tech component including Google docs writing, Kid Pix creations, Internet research, Inspiration family trees, social network blog and photo album related to topic, and emails w/relatives to gain information.
  • The project can be easily differentiated for students.
  • The project is culturally relevant.
Providing students with an opportunity to learn, at an early age, about their culture and history as well as the cultures and history of their classmates and other Americans helps to build a respectful school community -- one where students are open minded to the differences and similarities that each person brings to school each day.  By embedding essential skills within this unit, students were also able to develop their skill and standards' knowledge and proficiency.