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Monday, May 15, 2017

Creating a Classroom Museum

Every year, one of my AICE classes tests at the end of April. This is sometimes a bit of an issue because students don't get out until the first week of June. Keeping students motivated for a week or two after testing is difficult, but keeping them motivated for over a month is nearly impossible. To combat that, I like to give my students a couple of longer or larger products on topics that they're really interested in. For our first big project in my marine science class this year, I created a "museum" activity that my students really loved.


I assigned partners and animals randomly- my classes are a pretty funny mix this year and that really helped stop the best friends from pairing up or the fighting over animals. Students got a sheet that listed the requirements of their museum exhibit:
1. A trifold exhibit board with information and pictures about their animals
2. A model showing a special anatomical characteristic of their animal
3. A hands-on activity relating to their animal
4. A notes sheet that other students could fill in based off of their board
5. A set of 2 scrapbook-style pages about their animal (we have a close association with a Montessori preschool in our town, so this scrapbook will be donated to them!)


Students were given a week to complete their exhibits- we are on a 4x4 block, so this was a total of 7.5 hours to work. I provided the exhibit boards, paper for the scrapbook pages, material to make self-drying salt clay for the models, and access to the multitudes of craft supplies I keep in my room. I personally think this project worked so well for a few reasons. First of all, our testing schedule is insane- between state tests, AICE tests, pre-AICE tests, and AP tests, we have at least 2 tests scheduled every day. Putting students in pairs and giving them a lot of time and components really let them be flexible around their test dates- one partner could work on the board or the model while the other was testing. The large variety in what they were doing helped appeal to all students, whether they were more research-minded or more creative.


I designated 2 days as "museum days". My classes that participated in this were my first and last blocks, which made this easy. The day before our first museum day, my last block class set their exhibits up at the end of the day, and the next morning my first block class set their exhibits up. I made copies of the student note pages in advance and put each set of notes in folders that I set up inside a file box. Students selected a note page, found the exhibit, filled out the notes/completed the activity, then wrote some quick notes evaluating the project on the back of their paper. When they were finished, they got another note sheet and repeated the process. Some of them chose to work individually, while others moved around in partners or groups of 3. After the museum days were over, students completed a short evaluation on their work and their partner's work and listed their top exhibits.


Some of the exhibits and activities that students came up with were really creative, and I've tried to include some of those pictures in this post. Some of my favorite activities included a velcro vocabulary matching activity on the blue whale group board and a lift-the-flap maze that had students encounter different dangers to baby sea turtles while they tried to make it safely to the ocean. The otter group created a larger-than-life model of an otter paw out of clay and fake fur. The stingrays, skates, and manta rays group included models of the tails of each type of animal. 


This activity was a great way to give my students an overview of a lot of small topics while also giving them the chance to dive more deeply into a specific topic (in this case, a specific marine animal). I'm eager to find more ways to use this structure!

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