The Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum has a snazzy new multimedia exhibit – the joint handiwork of Mancos middle and high school students.
As part of the project-based learning push of the Mancos School District Re-6, the sixth grade science and social studies classes teamed up with high-schoolers to craft an educational table for the museum, with infographics and audio recordings on different geographic regions around the world.
“We are incredibly proud of them,” sixth grade social studies and language arts teacher Ivy Dalley told parents and guests at the official unveiling of the exhibit Feb. 4. At the unveiling, students also presented their work to visitors – another intended component of project-based learning.
“It’s a whole lot deeper than just the content of the social studies and science that they did,” said Brady Archer, the sixth grade science teacher. “There were a lot of really cool skills that they learned by going through this project.”
Mancos’ project-based learning initiatives have been underway in recent years but accelerated this year after the district hired Ed Whritner as PBL coordinator and hosted a PBL training over the summer.
Teachers have been encouraged to incorporate projects into their curriculum, as a way to meet state standards while giving students hands-on experience, homing in on skills such as communication, collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking and more.
The new exhibit at Canyons of the Ancients came about as a result of this push. At the PBL training over the summer, the sixth grade teachers got together with high school teachers Joshua Dalley and Jed Hanson and decided a museum exhibit would work well as a collaborative project. Joshua Dalley teaches math and science, and Hanson teaches science and agriculture classes, including welding.
The students visited different museums and archaeological sites in the area, such as Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde.
“We started this whole project by bringing kids to different museums in the area, and looking at what makes a good exhibit,” Ivy Dalley said. “And what do you really enjoy when you are at a museum?”
Students were split into teams and then applied for a specific job: engineer, spokesperson, graphic designer and manager. Each team was responsible for creating a display for a particular geographic region, with information about its ecosystem, culture and history.
Once they came up with their display’s layout, it was passed on to the high school students, who designed and welded the final table and added in its electrical components – in addition to the infographic plaques, the table features a map with lights in the various global regions and audio components accessed by pressing a button.
The night of the exhibit, sixth grade students stepped into professional mode, stationing themselves at posts around the museum lobby to tell visitors about their work and experience.
“I learned to take other people’s ideas instead of saying, ‘Oh, mine’s better, so I’m going to do mine,’” said Zoey Gilstrap, who was responsible for her group’s infographics. “And be more kind about it.”
Her teammate Lillian Kinsella was the spokesperson. Kinsella said that she was responsible for finding regional folktales for their group, which could be difficult because many of the ones she found were in Spanish. But through Google Translate usage and thorough research, she ultimately succeeded with her task.
The exhibit will be up and open to the public through Feb. 24 at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum.