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Memorable Middle School Collaboration

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Memorable Middle School Collaboration
By Claire Holman, Middle School Language Arts Teacher, and Adam Giaffoglione, Middle School American Studies Teacher
Bullis field trip to DC monument

Samuel R. ’27 (left) and AJ M. ’27 join Ms. Holman at D.C.’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

One of the benefits of working in such a collaborative, close-knit community is that my colleagues and I are able to create cross-curricular learning opportunities that challenge students to use what they have learned in one class to deepen their understanding in another. This spring, students in my American Studies class combined skills and content knowledge learned in our class, their language arts class, and the BITlab to create a memorable final project.

In American Studies, we spend the year thinking critically about questions such as, “Do Columbus and other early European explorers deserve to be celebrated?” and “Was the American Revolution truly a success?” For each of these questions, students analyze primary and secondary sources and then use the evidence within those sources to support their answers. As a culminating project, students use the skills they have learned and topics they have discussed throughout the year to answer one final question: Who or what deserves a memorial or monument in Washington, D.C.? In class, we refer to it as the “M&M Project” (monuments and memorials).

During the initial research phase of the project, students create a proposal presentation explaining why their subject deserves to be honored. Students may choose an individual, group, or event to recognize. In their proposal, they present evidence-based arguments for and against the subject they chose and explain where the project would be located in D.C. and why. Finally, students explain the themes of their monument or memorial and what they hope people would feel or experience when they visit.

After presenting their proposals students take a field trip to Washington, D.C., and visit the Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson memorials, as well as the National Cathedral in order to gain a better understanding of the intention of memorials and the impact of architecture and design. While visiting the memorials along the Tidal Basin, students respond to various questions that require them to consider the legacy of the subjects and how their accomplishments are represented within the memorial. Students are also able to make connections to author Jason Reynolds (whom they study in their Language Arts class) and the poem he recited at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in 2011, “For Every One.”

3D-printed model

Grace L. ’27 holds her 3D-printed monument to women in the space program.

When we return to the classroom, students work with Matt Zigler from the Bullis BITlab to convert the themes and ideas from their proposal into 3D designs. Students are challenged to consider structural choices they would make when building their projects and how those choices reflect the messages their monuments and memorials convey.

Finally, students present their finished projects to their classmates, explaining how their design choices reflect the themes of their project. Students give a detailed description of what the dedication ceremony for the project would look like, including when the ceremony would happen, who would be invited to attend or participate, and what events would take place. The goal of the project is for students to consider the impact that historic people, groups, and events have on the nation and how to best honor those people and moments.

→ Continue reading connections to author Jason Reynolds: Author Study | 8th Grade Language Arts.

This article is featured in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Bullis Magazine.

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