The students put their parents to the test. Did they know what a yehankin was (a longhouse) was, or how the Powhatan Indians traveled (by canoe)? Although their parents might not have been able to answer the questions, the second-graders at Mosby Wood Elementary could. As docents for their museum exhibits on American Indians, the students needed to know all about the Powhatan Indians, and how they differed with the Sioux or the Hopi.
The exhibits were part of a week-long museum project at Mosby Woods Elementary in Fairfax aimed at integrating core subject areas with the arts. Using artwork and the written word, students created exhibits that examined how the theme of change is evident in the sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences.
The museum, which had its opening reception for parents on March 26, was the culmination of more than six months of work. Teachers who had attended arts integration workshops at the Kennedy Center came up with the concept late last school year.
"We saw the museum as an opportunity to capitalize on the integration," said Mosby Woods principal Laura Shibles.
DEPENDING ON the grade level, students divided into teams to create their exhibits. Head Start students created artwork using different art techniques, while first-graders examined the changes to the seasons by creating 5-foot-tall trees. Each tree represented a season, and next to the trees were poems and stories about the seasons, as well as scientific facts and weather tidbits.
Second-graders created a canoe, a wigwam and a teepee village to examine the life of several American Indian tribes. They also had exhibits on clothing, crops and housing.
The Hopis "only used their natural resources of clay and rocks," said Rachel Helfgott, a second-grader, who acted as a docent for her class's exhibits. "Their houses are just like apartments. They walk up the ladder."
Rachel added that the Hopis drew murals and grew corn, but unlike the Sioux, they didn't use horses for transportation.
"All they had to do was walk," Rachel said.
Another second-grade class studied the Sioux.
"They lived in teepees, and they put it in a circle because they believed that all things round, like the sun, had special powers," explained Sebastian Torti, who acted as a docent for his class.
ON BUFFALOES, the Sioux's main resource, Sebastian said, "They never wasted a single part of the buffalo. They used droppings for fuel. They used fur for costume decoration. They used muscle for bows and bow strings."
While second-graders studied American Indians, third-graders chronicled the evolution of writing processes from the ancient Greeks, Romans and Chinese to today's use of computers.
Fourth-graders created exhibits on Colonial Virginia, such as miniature Jamestown settlements and displays on the cultivation of tobacco. Fifth-graders examined changes in transportation, inventions and clothing over time, and highlighted their presentation with a fashion show.
SIXTH-GRADERS examined changes in communication, from the Pony Express and the railroad, to the telegraph and the computer.
Sixth-grader Maria Crespo learned about the different codes groups of people have used over time.
"Most people think all codes are difficult, and that's not true," Maria said. "The only code that has not been cracked is the Navajo code."
Her classmate, Ben Rappold, said his exhibit on computers was "a cool experience.
"We learned that because we have computers, we can send a message halfway around the world in less than a second," Ben said.
Both Ben and Maria liked the collaborative aspect of their projects. Sometimes they would spend as long as three hours together assembling their exhibits.
"This gave us a real taste of what teamwork is like," Maria said.