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Museum of Activism: Grade 8 Explores the Power of Individual Action

By Shannon O'Connor, communications coordinator
Middle School students learn about activism and its impact on society while honing research and presentation skills.
Grade 8 U.S. History classes created a pop-up Museum of Activism at LJCDS, showcasing the work of activists who have made a lasting impact on both U.S. and world history. Stepping into the role of docents, students used their presentation skills to educate other students and faculty/staff about various activists, including Martin Luther King Jr., Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Malcolm X and Dolores Huerta.

Students conducted extensive research on their chosen activist, delving deep into their background, accomplishments and impact on society. They explored the context of the activist’s movement, including how people’s rights were denied, the reasons behind it, and the barriers and obstacles that the activist overcame.

After completing their research, students wrote a 500-word informative essay detailing their findings on the activist, including what contributions the activist made to their movement. They examined why the activist is considered a hero to understand their legacy or their lasting impact on civil rights. Along with the MLA-formatted essay, students were tasked with showcasing their creativity and putting their research into visual context by creating an art piece, video documentary or display piece.

This is the first year the activism project has been presented in this format. The project was developed through collaboration between eighth-grade history teachers Ryan Sturgeon and Jenna Dalva. Mr. Sturgeon previously implemented a similar project in his 12th-grade AP Government and Economics class at a different school, and they combined elements from the previous LJCDS model to create its current version. 

The Museum of Activism was an impactful way to bring history to life. “This project served many purposes for our eighth graders,” says Ms. Dalva. “It allowed them to practice important research, writing, and presentation skills, which they will continue to hone all year. But it also allowed them to explore the many ways one can be an activist and contribute to their community. Students learned that activism can come from artists, musicians, athletes, and student organizers as well as leaders and politicians. I hope that by completing this project, they will be inspired to be changemakers in the future.”

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