Curriculum Matters: March 29, 2015

Upper Level
The Great Pyramid, sports cars, Archimedes, Hypatia, fracking, solar energy, a zoo full of animals –  even olives and the history of cupcakes…  These are but a few of the topics presented during Thursday evening’s Upper Level Research Fair.
The event itself was beautiful: students were proud and parents and teachers were delighted. Upper Level students have been working on their research since the beginning of January and the building was abuzz with the excitement of all who gathered  to honor this very big academic accomplishment.
Upon returning from Winter Break, students were asked to choose a topic for in-depth study. Every step thereafter, from choosing appropriate resources to creating guiding questions to note taking and then writing a three to five page paper, began with a lesson to teach each skill.  Students then practiced each skill under the guidance of a teacher and an elder student. These elder students were called on to share the wisdom gained from their past experience and guide the younger students with thoughtfulness and support.
For months now, days in Upper Level have begun with exciting and random facts about falcons, black holes, and McDonald’s fast food as students zealously shared their latest information!
Every year we devote an extended period of time to this project because it provides so many opportunities for growth. Students develop research and writing skills, learn to collaborate with adults, and grapple with taking in feedback that they then use to edit their work. Students also test their organizational and time management skills, as they work to meet the due dates that structure this long term assignment.
Over time and laborious drafting and redrafting, papers arecompleted. Then, these beautifully crafted papers grow into eye-catching visual display boards.  And finally, researchers turn their efforts towards developing their public speaking and presentation skills in preparation for the big night.
This is always one of the best parts of the Upper Level year.  Even before wrapping up this year’s project, students are suggesting topics of interest for next year. It is easy to see why teachers and students embrace this big work and why the rest of the community appreciates their efforts.