Fifth-graders presented their new museums to an online audience of parents, teachers, and staff on Thursday. The virtual museums focused on the study of civilizations from Africa, and Native American and European populations before the colonization of what is now the Americas.
“We thought by giving the kids a big picture view of those different civilizations, it's going to humanize them in a way that will make them feel differently when they study the early settlement of the Americas,” Fifth-Grade Teacher Mary Duden said. “So before we ever begin learning anything about United States history, we wanted to explore and learn about Africa, and Native American and European populations, and the richness of their histories.”
Leading up to the museum unveiling, students deeply researched a topic relating to one of the three pre-colonial civilizations. They then wrote about their topic, made artifacts representing their research, and created videos describing their work.
“My favorite part has been seeing how kids fly away with research and all of a sudden they're just learning on their own,” Duden said. “It makes you realize their capacity to dig into a subject in which they're really interested. Another favorite part is seeing all of the little weird and unique facts they're learning about their topics and their capacity to research, which I don't think we've seen in fifth grade since before this project.”
Yesterday, the fifth-graders guided virtual visitors through their museum exhibits. Each student presented written work, a handmade artifact, and a video detailing their learning process.
“We curated the original information that we gave to students to get them hooked on a topic,” Duden said. “Then, it was a lot easier for them to personally connect with the topics that we were reading about as a class.”
Examples of student creations included arrowhead spears inspired by the Haudenosaunee people, models of domed huts called wetus used by northeastern Native American tribes like the Wampanoag, and even replicas of the famed Rosetta Stone found in Egypt.
“Our students’ engagement level is so high for this normally weird time before the holidays; it’s amazing!” Duden said. “They are all in, and it's exceeded our expectations when it comes to what fifth-graders are doing and thinking about in school.”