Middle School Individuals & Societies Teacher Maheeka Withanage invited families to a 7th-grade Museum exhibition on January 18th to "join us in celebrating the students' achievements and to take a look at history through their eyes". Students were tasked with creating an 'artifact' dating any time in history before 1990 that connected to the central idea that artifacts can reveal intricate details about the cultural values and the quality of life of people, and their place within social hierarchies.
To provide context for this cumulative exhibition, 7th-graders visited the Open Air Museum in Glentleiten. Inspired by this, each student developed a research question and created their artifact at home and in the Makers' Lab where they had all manner of material available such as 3D printers, clay, electronics, fabrics, wood, etc. Their artifacts embodied the essence of their inquiries.
For many of the 7th-graders, it was apparent that analyzing how artifacts connected to one's hierarchy in a certain place and time really 'hit home'. Keira's research focus revealed that an artifact could be heavily connected to one's gender identity. She chose to model a late 1900s rendition of a butter churn, that could hold 10 to 15 gallons of cream. Butter could be made after 15 to 25 minutes of labor-intensive churning. "Women were the only people who churned butter because men were just too good for physical labor" explains Keira.
Some students focused more heavily on how artifacts can reveal details of a culture's values. Aglaia, for example, created a clay gargoyle which she affectionately named Bob. A truly terrifying re-creation, Agliai discovered that there are two types of gargoyles: "The ones on church walls have two functions: To direct water away from the church walls to keep them safe, clean, and non-moldy. The second function that both types of gargoyles share is to scare away evil spirits from the house or church and protect its inhabitants".
Mariya's research question allowed her to explore her own cultural value as a Ukrainian. Her investigation was on how "the Ukrainian coin reveals details about the cultural value of independence for Ukrainians starting from the 10th Century and onwards". She explains that the symbol on Ukraine's current and ancient coinage is the coat of arms of Ukraine and the symbol dates back thousands of years. It demonstrates the long history of Ukraine and further legitimizes the fight for independence.
Other students focused their research more heavily on how artifacts can reveal details about one's quality of life. Kaia chose to research the windmill because "I am Dutch. I like to see these windmills and because the Dutch developed these windmills into making a good grinding mill to help the population get better". They were in use between 1020 AD to the 19th Century and greatly improved food security in the region; therefore improving the quality of life for Dutch society. The artifact was mainly crafted from wood popsicle sticks and hot glue. On top of the impressive structure itself, Kaia created a working mechanism for the mill with Lego pieces to demonstrate exactly how wind turns the mill blades and grinds the wheat into flour.
As promised in the exhibition invitation, the Museum explored history through the eyes of 7th-grade learners who are uncovering complicated histories, difficult truths, and the common struggles between individuals and their societies. Mrs. Withanage explains that "we believe that the artifacts and the stories they tell are significant in understanding our collective past and the diverse tapestries of cultures that enrich our lives. The exhibition is a culmination of their hard work, critical thinking, and imagination".