Night at the Egyptian Museum
The sixth grade Social Studies class is titled “Becoming Historians.” Each quarter, students approach the study of history through the lens of a different career and with attention to different skills. This hands-on approach to learning helps students apply content in context and develop into storytellers.
The February evening opening of the Sixth Grade “Ancient Egyptian Museum” was truly a testament to the historians students have become and bodes well for the scholars they are developing into.
Students in Mrs. Sam DiVito’s sixth grade social studies class acted as curators and docents. The interdisciplinary project between Social Studies, English, and Theology culminated in an evening celebration in the Murphy Art Gallery and Gathering Room in Saint Augustine Hall. Students welcomed parents, siblings, faculty, and friends to their museum and guided them through a number of exhibits.
Mrs. DiVito spent the summer of 2016 in London with Austin’s delegation to the Independent School Cultural Alliance, a program for select independent Middle Schools from across the globe that convenes at the Charterhouse School for programming in British culture and history. While abroad, Mrs. DiVito had the opportunity to visit the British Museum and spend time with her students examining artifacts from the Egyptian civilization, including the famed Rosetta Stone.
Back on campus, Mrs. DiVito worked with students and colleagues to design a learning experience where students could explore Egypt in a hands-on way. Students built their own model pyramids out of recycled cardboard and modeled some of them after the existing ones at Giza. “I didn’t provide detailed instructions,” Mrs. DiVito explained. “They had all the supplies and tools necessary, but they had to really think like architects and engineers to figure out how to build the pyramids.”
Students selected artifact cards depicting real pieces of jewelry and pottery discovered inside of King Tut’s Tomb and created intricate clay replicas of the objects with colored clay that they baked in their ovens at home. Students also created hieroglyphic artwork in the style of the Egyptian tomb walls which depicted their own accomplishments and interests at Austin.
Theology teacher Mrs. Maureen DiPerna and English teacher Mrs. Leeann Blais also contributed to the Museum. Because sixth grade students travel to their humanities classes in cohorts, teachers are able to facilitate project-based, interdisciplinary learning.
Students have been exploring the beginnings of our faith family tree. As part of their study, they’ve learned about the difference between monotheism and polytheism. The students collaborated on an exhibit that applied this knowledge to the Egyptian pantheon of deities and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “Hopefully students will better understand the depth of the Israelite commitment to the God of their ancestors while they were living in Egypt, and will realize that the many gods of Egypt were no match for ‘“Yahwaeh!”’ said Mrs. DiPerna.
The story of the Israelites from the exile to Exodus is explored in depth in the third quarter grade six. Mrs. DiPerna used the preparation for the Egyptian Museum to preview the stories of Joseph and Moses with the students.
While students were learning about Egyptian history and culture with Mrs. DiVito, they selected fiction and nonfiction books set in Egypt to read independently with Mrs. Blais. Throughout their reading, students thought about setting and plot and were encouraged to make connections to their work in Social Studies.
At the conclusion of their reading, students used their emergent skills in Digital Media to create video book talks. On the night of the Museum, students and parents were able to scan QR codes with their phones to pull up these inventive talks. For a sample, please click here.
The opening of the sixth graders’ museum was a fun evening! Students were eager to show family and faculty members their collection of work and to celebrate the work of their classmates. Each student was also an “expert” on a particular topic like the Book of the Dead, Mummification, King Tut, or Queen Hatshepsut, to name a few.
Next up, the sixth graders will travel to Ancient Greece and Rome as they study the Classical World through the eyes of archeologists!