I have been waiting for waaayyyy to long to write this post! I've been gathering the pictures and working hard to prep this all so I can show you what an AMAZING job my students did at the end of our school year with my newest classroom project: The Famous Americans Museum!
Last year, my students created scrapbook pages as if they were the Famous American they chose to study. They turned out great, but I wanted something MORE. More engaging, more interactive, just more fun in general, and something from which they would take more away.
So, after some thinking and researching, and an entire day of creating and writing.. The Famous Americans Museum was born!
I took it to school and started planning the dates.. which became a difficult task. We had so many school events, testing, and other time off that setting the due dates was not easy. It kept getting pushed back, but finally I had a date set for mid-May.
My students knew something BIG for our history project was coming and were itching to hear about. Finally, the day came that I could send home the information packets and tell them alllll about it!
Let me tell you what.... they were SOOO EXCITED!! When I sent the packets home, I read them the information and told them all I could think to tell them. Then, I said that they had to wait until they went home, read over everything with their parents, and came back the next day to ask me any questions. I do this so that they can talk with their parents and (hopefully) come back with less questions after reading the information twice. Well, it didn't quite work that way...which didn't surprise me. They had SO MANY questions when they came back the next day!! We spent almost 2 hours talking only about the museum and report projects! That seems like so much time (and let's face it, that is a lot of instructional time gone) but I didn't mind it one bit because they were fully engaged that entire time. They were thinking, planning, and completely excited to do a research project. I was beyond thrilled.
So, let's get into how we did this project so that if you want to do this in your classroom, you can do what I did!
I sent home the packets that outlined what my expectations were, and gave my students about 3 days to think about their Famous Americans choices. I asked them to make 3 choices (in a prioritized order) because I did not want any choices to be repeated in the museum.
Here's a look at some of the information parents saw in the packets..
Here you can see where choices were listed for the student. I required parents to sign when this paper was returned so I know they saw this information and knew this project was assigned. I also required the students to sign so they knew what was expected of them as well.
I gave my students a variety of Famous Americans to choose from. This list is a bit different from what was sent home. I had 13 girls in my class this year, so I needed 13 female Famous Americans, because (of course) they all wanted to be a female!
At the museum, students had two choices of the project to display. They could create either a tri-fold board or a set of artifacts that gave factual information & representation of their Famous American.
My favorite part of the entire project was the portion listed in #3 above. When my students participated in the museum on the due date above, they could either participate as a museum guide, dressed as their Famous American and speaking in the third person.. OR they could speak in the first person, as that American come to life!
I wasn't sure about that part of the museum, as it was more of a challenge. I had a very high-achieving class this year and wanted to kick up the rigor a notch. But, it was a great way to differentiate and let my students make that choice for themselves. Let me tell you what, they were the MOST excited about this part. They started thinking about the movie "The Night at the Museum," and relating it to the characters that came to life at night when the museum closed... and instantly everyone wanted to do this! To be honest, I was still nervous and unsure about it... but by the day of the museum, those feelings were completely gone! But, I'm getting ahead of myself...
So, once my students brought in their choices, I started to organize them with these two documents on my computer. (I could have easily done this in my Erin Condren planner checklist pages, or on a sheet of paper.. but I like nice, neat fonts. I'm OCD like that!)
It took a day and some extra research to help all 13 girls settle on different Famous Americans, but we got them selected and I was able to send home their final choice for their parents to confirm and start gathering materials. I worked hard to honor first choices, and went by a first-come, first-serve basis. Many students turned their choices in immediately, so I put their #1 choice down first. If someone else had the same #1 choice, I went to their #2 choice. It didn't really cause too many issues. My girls were very gracious about it and were just so excited to get started working that they went with something that sounded interesting. They didn't want to hold up the project any longer! I loved their example of flexibility and understanding to their friends.. so sweet :)
Once students brought in their resources for research, we got to work in class researching and writing. The written report was an in-class only part of the project so that I could help them with research and writing, and also ensure that the work they did was completely and authentically their own.
We used these research organizers I made to gather specific information about each Famous American to help my students organize it before turning it into their final draft.
Once students got the information gathered, I help them organize the thoughts into complete sentences that made sense, which we then turned into paragraphs to form a written report. Finally, they had the opportunity to type their report for a clean,, final product.
As the museum date approached, I created an invitation flyer that I sent home to parents so they could come to view all of our hard work. I also included a time for other classes in our building to come and see all we had put together as well. In the end, we had two one-hour blocks of time set aside for everyone to come check us out!
I also made some brochures to pass out (my students' idea!) and organized the Famous Americans into groups of similar historical impact, and made signs to match that hung throughout the museum to guide our guests. I also wore a name tag that day, serving as the museum "curator." I greeted and welcomed the visitors (mainly each class in the building that came) and review the "rules" of the museum, especially emphasizing all of my students' hard work!
I wish I had taken a picture of my outfit that day. My students insisted I look the part (even suggesting I wear a tux! haha) but to give you a sense, I work dress pants, a button down shirt, and a vest with a chic, bright colored scarf, you know, to look the artsy, yet professional type! lol.. I know. Too funny.
Before I show you their amazing hard work that came to life, I just have to tell you how BLOWN AWAY I was with their presentations. They were absolutely AMAZING! I was speechless and BURSTING with pride all day! I really have no other words to say, but just how fantastic they did. Many of them spent days memorizing their speeches in the first person and rehearsed so many times with their classmates.
I required their at-home projects to be brought in two days before the museum date so that if anyone forgot anything, it wouldn't be forgotten on the day of the museum. They used the day before the museum to practice their presentations, and we spent most of our day rehearsing. Many students actually had what they wanted to say completely memorized, but I gave everyone some notecards so they could have notes in front of them (and of course they had their tri-fold and artifacts for prompting as well).
The next day they brought in their costumes and we prepped ourselves for the day. I highly recommend some parent volunteers to help with costumes, if you can! A few extra hands DOES NOT HURT!
We set up our "Big Room," (the nickname for our multipurpose chapel & cafeteria) and waited for our first guests. It was a whirlwind. It was exhausting. It was fantastic. They set the bar so high for my future 3rd graders who will do this project (because I could never NOT do it again!) and got the entire school so excited about it.
Kinders to 4th graders were so impressed with their work, and the 2nd graders across the hall cannot wait to get the 3rd grade to do it too! and neither can I! It was a priceless day full of engaged students (and parents) everywhere I looked. I was on the verge of tears all day!
Like I said, it was so fantastic. I was bursting all day! My mother-in-law came to help and took pictures of all of the students, and EVERY child's parents and family members came to see it as well. How amazing is that?! We received thank you cards and sweet, congratulatory words from my teacher-bestie's fourth graders when we returned on Monday (oh yeah, it's highly important you pick the museum to be on a FRIDAY! they need the weekend to recoup...and so do you!) and my entire class was floating from that project through the end of the year!
So, what are your thoughts? How would you like to do this with your students? I will tell you, it is absolutely worth the work and time that we all put in, and so rewarding!
If you're interested, you can take a look at my TpT store for the time saving pack I created if you want to implement this yourself! It includes all of the forms you saw above, plus so much more so you can jump in and start right away!