Small Learning Community creates World War I exhibit

Joyce Shea

By Julia Cheunkarndee

This year, the Small Learning Community (SLC) is put-ting together a World War I museum that will be showcased on March 15 in the staff lounge. This is the first year that the project has been run, and it was designed with the framework of SLC in mind.

SLC is a school-wide program that provides a close-knit group for freshmen. The program is made up of around 25 freshmen who are selected by lottery and move through-out their core classes with the same group of students, all while exploring certain themes and ideas through projects and exploratory activities. “We were noticing that a lot of ninth graders would come from small schools, and when they got here, they would kind of drown in the work and in the people and get lost,” SLC English teacher Kristen Owen said. “[SLC] was a way of trying to help the kids… make them more visible and connected to the school and to their peers.”

Since students in SLC rotate through their English, social studies and biology classes together, the World War I museum was created to incorporate aspects of all three subjects into one giant project. “We’ve always tried to teach historical concepts at the same time. In English class, I teach a novel that involves the historical content,

because we have the ability to do that,” Owen said. “But this time, [the project] incorporates biology. It seems to be really working well.”

The project is designed as a “pop-up museum” to be set up, presented and then taken down in one day. Students have been working in teams to create different exhibits that focus on certain aspects of the war. In order to incorporate biology into the museum, some booths are centered on top- ics such as chemicals used during the war and the human immune system.

SLC social studies teacher Brian Miguel hopes that the museum will allow students to become more familiar with their teachers and peers. “Hopefully the kids can grab at and feel some recognition within the greater school com- munity,” he said. Since part of the program’s mission has been to connect freshmen to the school community, this sense of belonging that the project provides is crucial.

Not only does the project link SLC students to the community, it also teaches them teamwork skills and how to navigate larger responsibilities. “ They know that there is a deadline, that there will be parents coming through and that teachers, students, admin and community members are coming to see their work,” Owen said. “Hopefully, it will give them a sense of pride, as well as a sense of ‘this is what the real world is like.’”

Research on the project is currently ongoing, with deadlines fast approaching. The students usually work in half-period chunks during social studies and English, as biology has so much content to cover that putting in work time for the project is difficult. As this is the first year that the museum has been run, it has been a learning opportunity for both students and teachers.

Since the project will be publicly presented, students pick up valuable skills in communication, especially in speaking with clarity to adults and strangers. SLC biology teacher Tim Aston feels that the responsibilities of working on a large project as a group will also teach the students how to work as a team. “For many, this will be their first group project that has more consequences,” he said. “They can’t just put it off like they would in middle school, or hope that someone else is going to save them or have a parent do it for them.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Every project hits rough patches from time to time, and Owen is aware that some students may end up taking on more than they can handle. “We have some students who have really great big ideas, but they might be a little too big,” she said. “I’m worried that it’s not going to come together, and that it’s going to be March 12, or even March 14, and they’re going to realize they’re not going to be able to pull it off.” Despite the approaching deadlines, Miguel feels that students are having fun. He believes that the skills that the students learn are sure to serve them well into the future.