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Teaching Opinion

Alternative Methods—Middle Grades

By Daniella Garran — November 10, 2006 1 min read

7th grade social studies taecher
Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School
Orleans, Massachusetts

The Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School (grades 6-8) was founded on the principles of interdisciplinary, project-based learning. It draws from Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, Fred Newmann’s model of authentic assessment, and Ted Sizer’s focus on student exhibitions and teaching as mentoring. The practical application of these theories means that both learning and teaching at CCLCS are exciting, challenging, and, most important, fun.

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Staff members value the opportunity to incorporate outside knowledge, interests, and experiences into their teaching, and students relish the engaging practices utilized in classes, seminars, and extracurricular activities. The projects assigned at CCLCS offer students the chance to show their strengths—be they artistic, verbal, dramatic, or technological—while demonstrating content mastery.

In accordance with our state’s curriculum frameworks, 7th grade social studies classes focus on ancient civilizations. As the seminal piece of their study of Egypt, students embark on an “Egyptological Excavation.” This independent project requires kids to create two “artifacts,” or objects that actually could have been used in ancient Egypt—for example, canopic jars and amulets. In addition, the kids keep an “archaeologist’s journal,” which outlines the events of their excavation.

Finally, they write a newspaper article explaining why their discoveries help us learn more about ancient Egypt. Once the projects are completed, students curate their display in the “Museum of Egyptology” set up in the classroom. All of the school’s students are invited to visit.

The Egyptological Excavation project gives my 7th graders the opportunity to be creative while demonstrating their understanding of an ancient civilization. It’s a project that’s so popular and successful, we assign it annually.

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A version of this article appeared in the December 01, 2006 edition of Teacher as Alternative Methods—Middle Grades

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