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Why the Museum Project?

Blog entry by Middle School Social Studies Teacher Erin Deppe

But first, what is the museum project? My Middle School students, grades six through eight, choose a topic that falls under the Social Studies umbrella: history, geography, culture, government, economics, psychology, and sociology. Students learn and enhance existing research skills as they become experts on their topic. The next step is to design and plan the museum exhibit, which must include multiple artifacts and at least one object the student has made. I urge my students to be creative and use a variety of materials. At the culminating event, we invite parents, family, and friends to attend the museum presentations where the students show off what they have learned. The museums are set up so visitors may view many exhibits, as they would a typical museum. Following the presentation, the students and I debrief by answering the following questions: what was great about your presentation, what was not so great, and what would you do differently?

Why the museum project? The museum project is part of a student-centered curriculum designed to foster creativity, strengthen research skills, sharpen public speaking skills, and offer opportunities to make mistakes and grow.  I love this project because it allows students to have complete creative license over their education; they are in the driver’s seat. Throughout the research and design process, I give support and help when needed, but the main goal is to allow the students to take ownership of their work. Students will inevitably encounter roadblocks during the design process such as design flaws, issues with materials, and time management. Students, collaborating with their classmates and me, learn valuable problem-solving skills to navigate through these roadblocks. After completing the project, students often share ideas for next year’s museum project.  

The students at EDS recently participated in the fourth annual museum project presentation this week, and as usual, they did not disappoint. As their teacher, the best part of this project is standing back and watching them present. To put it simply, the students shine. One student chose “Yo-yos through time” as his topic this year, and he was surprised at how much there was to learn about yo-yos! He also learned a couple of cool yo-yo tricks that he used to entertain his museum visitors. Last year, a student chose to study Arabic calligraphy. Not only did he learn how to write the characters, but he wrote the names of his museum visitors on special paper and gave it to them to keep, making his exhibit interactive and unforgettable. Another student chose to learn about how humane societies work. She volunteered to foster a dog for a weekend and brought him to her presentation; it was pretty great to have a cute pup at museum night. The topics covered in museum presentations are as diverse as the students I teach, and every year they continue to amaze me. Through the museum project, students are free to explore the world and take charge of their learning while having fun, and in the process they become more resilient, globally minded, and balanced. Only at EDS.