After months of preparation, middle school students from the CT Experiential Learning Center took to the auditorium at Branford’s Blackstone Library, in full regalia! The project, part of a yearlong thematic investigation of exploration and discovery, involved many components: choosing a person to study who has made a significant impact in the world in any field, then conducting research, (learning to create an outline and use note cards) writing a formal research paper, designing and constructing elaborate life-size displays, in order to become this person for the big day – an interactive “living museum” share-day presentation.
Students spoke in first person, detailing their information as follows:
President John F. Kennedy sat behind his desk, displaying a hand-drawn Presidential flag, set within a backdrop that represented the Oval Office. Dr. Maria Montessori, dressed in feathered hat, long dress and black shoes, worked on the floor with young people, demonstrating how the Montessori method engages children. Dr. Albert Einstein worked in his office, sharing prisms, light beams, and even raising money for his favorite charities (in the style of Dr. Einstein). Dr. Robert Ballard presented live feed from his webcam, while displaying a variety of visuals and information about his endeavors as the first to discover the remains of the Titanic, and more. Meanwhile, Samuel Colt, complete with beard, tie and jacket, detailed how his original gun designs made an impact on our country’s history and how he achieved success despite major life setbacks. And, to top it off, Pythagoras was also present, sharing about life in the ancient times, his philosophy, and providing hands-on activity to teach about his Pythagorean theorem.
“It was so gratifying to see that students aged 10 through 13 could be so thoroughly knowledgeable about the subjects they had chosen and then present their research in such a convincing, lively manner”.
“These students really knew their stuff. Excellent presentations.”
“I was extremely impressed by how confident and focused the students were. They had done a lot of research, and they all seemed very interested in the people they had chosen to focus on. By having to dress up and “become” the characters that they had studied, they were able to develop some acting skills and people skills as they explained to us who they were and what they had done in history. They also had great costumes, props and humor! I loved it!”
“I was impressed with the rich language the students used to portray their individual study. There was an infectious excitement that the students were able to display through their artifacts, research papers and added props. This type of authentic assessment presents the student with a wide array of challenges that they will encounter in real-world applications, conducting research, engaging in oral presentation, interpreting information, and collaboration, just to name a few. As a parent of children who have gone though this process many times, I see the positive impact it has on their lives as young and older adults. It has given them a command of their knowledge and how to express it in many ways. Truly impressed with all the projects and the time Melinda and Maria spent helping these students and giving them direction.”
And from an alumnus, now in high school, reflecting on his theme experience:
“Ahhh, theme share day is awesome!! I really appreciate those times of study for the themes. They really helped me with essays and research through high school – so thank you very much!”
At CELC working hard happens, frequently. Peddling up a hill on bike, sticking with a tough math problem, or actualizing one’s own ideas are all part of the daily fare.
For our theme share day to happen, students needed to remain steadfast, and determined. The detailed displays and articulated, well-edited research papers all took time, and it was not easy. What did students come away with? More knowledge about the subject studied, something about their own abilities, and a true sense of accomplishment.
That feeling of success through perseverance, once experienced, can be repeated again, and again. The next time a hill occurs, keep peddling. What a wonderful opportunity for young people to feel possible.