Day at the Museum

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.5

Objective: Develop a compelling “museum” exhibit

What You Need: Posterboard, craft materials, device for filming (optional)

What to Do: As a final project for any subject, have students design their own exhibit. Consider taking a field trip to a local museum (or take a virtual tour), and have students write down what they find most compelling, such as artifacts, images, videos, and different text formats. Then, have kids work in groups to plan their own exhibit. Provide a checklist of elements for them to consider for inclusion.

• Objects/artifacts: Items from home or models made using clay, papier-mâché, or 3D printing

• Videos: To introduce the exhibit or build on a concept from the exhibit

• Images: Photos, drawings, diagrams

• Text: Clear and concise exhibit labels

• Interactive elements: Brainstorm ways museum visitors can interact with the exhibit

Schedule a day to open the student-run museum and invite other classes. Students should be prepared to explain the exhibits they have curated.


Digital Storytelling

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.5

Objective: Create a video to showcase learning

What You Need: Tablets, smartphones, or cameras; paper

What to Do: Joe Brennan, a technology teacher at Meridian Middle School in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, helps students become experts at digital storytelling. Years ago, while teaching Spanish, he had his students make Spanish-language videos and was amazed by the results: “When the videos played in class, the other kids would lean forward and pay attention.”

Brennan, who has taught K–12 and now teaches grades 4–5, helps students make videos across the curriculum. For language arts, kids make book trailers. For social studies, they create political commercials for historic figures, such as Abraham Lincoln. And for math, one student made an infomercial in which the Greek philosopher Pythagoras explains his famous theorem—and offers to throw in the circumference of a circle for the first 20 callers!

First, have students meet and brainstorm ideas. Once you’ve signed off on an idea, they should write a script, reading it aloud for timing. To keep the writing tight and the final product interesting, Brennan sets time limits on videos. He caps commercials at 60 seconds, book trailers at two minutes, and interviews at three minutes.

Once the script is complete, students create a storyboard, which Brennan calls “a script for what you’re going to show.” To do this, they’ll fold a sheet of paper to create frames and then sketch the shots using stick figures; each shot should correspond to three or fewer sentences in the script. The video might start by showing two people speaking, first focusing on one speaker, then on the other, and so on.

Brennan’s students record their videos in the free app iMovie; they use a paid app called Do Ink for different backdrops. If they have planned carefully and followed their script, there should be very little editing! He recommends setting aside time to watch the results in class. “When kids do videos, everybody should see them,” he says.


Making Models

Standard Met: MS-ETS1-2 Engineering Design

Objective: Create a 3D model or VR experience

What You Need: Computers, Internet access, 3D printer (optional)

What to Do: When David Ternent, a seventh-grade STEM teacher at Kimpton Middle School in Munroe Falls, Ohio, first started teaching kids to use programs for making 3D models and virtual reality experiences, he quickly realized walking through each step wouldn’t work: “Some kids would zoom ahead, and others would be raising their hands at every step.”

Instead, the learning in Ternent’s class is self-directed. For each type of software students use, he finds three or four online tutorials. Kids work through the tutorials on their own, following instructions to create progressively more complex projects; they document their work using the presentation tool Prezi. And students have used what they learned to create final projects for other classes.

• One student used a program called SketchUp to design a 3D model of a medieval castle for history class. “A feature allows you to walk through the model,” says Ternent.

• After learning about polar regions in science class, another student created an Arctic scene at the site “It’s a Web-based 360-degree environment,” says Ternent. “The student gave his teacher the link, and he was able to pull it up and take a look at it.”

• Students used a program called Onshape to model their own rockets for science class. Then, they used a 3D printer to print out their rockets and try them outside!

Ternent’s advice for introducing these programs? Think of yourself as a facilitator: “You can’t be the gatekeeper for the information. You’ve just got to get comfortable with stepping back and letting the kids learn.”


Photo (7th grader in Wellsville, NY): Education Images/UIG via Getty Images