Grade 7: Reflecting on Sacred Spaces

Seventh graders fresh from their trip to Washington, DC, spent the week working on Sacred Spaces projects, an opportunity to express how they were impacted by the museums, memorials, and other sites they experienced last week.
MESH teachers cleared their lesson plans to allow two days of focused effort in the classroom and the Gates Invention Lab. Teachers say it was important for students to have creative freedom in how to complete the project. 
“Having this time set aside to reflect on their experiences is really important,” shares Emma Perkinson, history teacher. “They’re participating in ideation, and learning not to just run with their first idea but to adapt it to feedback from teachers and the reactions of their classmates.” David Hill, math teacher, adds, “We designed the project as an open-ended assignment so students could identify and have choices in expressing what resonated most with them.”
The Vietnam War Memorial was where Marco Rust (7) had his “ah-ha” moment: “I learned that 216 soldiers were given the Medal of Honor, and thousands more died during the war.” He created a replica of the DC memorial from wood, glue, and cardboard to honor his sacred space.
Ava Cebrian (7) was impacted by the Gettysburg National Military Park’s Civil War cyclorama. She designed a miniature version after being impressed with “how real” the artwork felt in person.
Throughout the process of creating their Sacred Spaces projects, teachers were impressed with the care and attention students paid to showing respect for the topics they selected. “The energy they put into their projects amazed me,” shares Steve Collins, science teacher. “When kids ask if they can stay in at recess to keep working, I know they’re putting their best effort out.”
A rap, a monologue, 3D replicas, scrapbooks, and many other representations will be among the pieces showcased at an expo with sixth graders next week. There is also a writing component to the project. Preparation for DC, guided learning on the trip and the Sacred Spaces project have all been modified this year based on the Grade 7 team’s professional development with High Tech High last fall. For example, by sharing their work with sixth graders, students are engaging with an authentic audience and inspiring younger students to get excited for the learning ahead in seventh grade.
“Seventh graders had to work through some discomfort as they reflected on these difficult moments in our history, but in the end they were able to capitalize on their individual strengths to produce truly meaningful pieces of work,” says Kelly Gaudet, English teacher.
The rubric for the assignment included points for:
  • Effort: Student presented a complete project that showed attention to detail.
  • Staying on task: Student maximized class time to produce a thorough project.
  • Identifying sacredness: Project clearly demonstrated significance of topic.
  • Explaining emotional connection: Student clearly showed his/her connection through the project and written piece.
  • Research: Facts were accurately stated, discussed in the historical context, and connected to the project.
  • Creativity/Originality: Project stood apart for its creativity and/or originality.

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Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.