Museum Format Inspires Lazar Middle School World History Students to Become Curators and Artists

This exhibit of a Spiro Mound, made by Lazar Middle School seventh graders, highlighted artifacts and treasures that Caddoan Indians kept inside mounds. The project was made as part of the Civilizations of the Americas Museum project in World History. Credits: Sue Marinello
This clay model was one exhibit in the Civilizations of the Americas Museum at Lazar Middle School. The model, built by seventh grade World History students, explored the worshipping rituals of the Aztec civilization. Credits: Sue Marinello
Power Point presentations and interactive signage allowed students to participate and learn about a variety of topics concerning early civilizations of the Americas. This colorful presentation was part of the Civilizations of the Americas Museum project at Lazar Middle School. Credits: Sue Marinello
World History teacher, Caitlin Cardinale, created an active and differentiated learning project for her seventh grade students. The first-year teacher at Lazar Middle School was inspired to design the Civilizations of the Americas Museum project because she wanted to fully engage the students in their own learning process.  Credits: Sue Marinello

MONTVILLE, NJ – World History teacher, Caitlin Cardinale, wanted her students to become experts, directors and project managers. She also wanted them to have fun and be inspired to explore deeply and retain knowledge. So, the first-year teacher turned her Lazar Middle School classroom into the Civilizations of the Americas Museum for a day.

Cardinale’s seventh-graders embraced the idea of being artists, educators, and curators. Working in teams and as individuals, Cardinale’s students fashioned art and artifacts, produced interactive and educational kiosks and prepared signage and lectures to establish a museum specializing in the early civilizations of the Americas.

Models of pyramids, temples, Spiro mounds, tools, hunting items and calendars, supported by signage and Power Point presentations, allowed visitors to the museum to explore the rituals, entertainment, agriculture, daily life, time management, warfare and community of the Incas, Iroquois, Aztecs, Mayans and others.

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“I am really proud of them,” Cardinale said. “I was surprised when I saw how elaborate the projects were. The students really studied the cultures and created great displays.”

Each period, students served two functions in the museum. First, half of the class were curators and directors, and half were patrons. Curators and directors presented information and explained exhibits. Patrons listened, interacted and asked questions. Then, students switched roles. Other classes, teachers and guests also visited the Civilizations of the Americas Museum throughout the day.

Students were surprised by some of what they learned, and fascinated by other aspects. In researching and building the models, students were able to draw on individual strengths to create informative and educational team projects.

Cardinale’s museum project encouraged active and differentiated learning for her students. Her innovative initiative is an example of Montville Township Public Schools’ commitment to encourage passionate learners by creating an on-going atmosphere of student engagement.

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