For the past 17 years, sixth graders have delved into a single real-world topic in a weeklong interdisciplinary project – first Energy Quest and more recently the Mars Project. This year the Middle School decided to replicate that model across all three grades, suspending regular classes the week of May 22-26 to allow students to fully immerse themselves in grade-level interdisciplinary projects.
Each grade heard from local experts, took field trips and worked in small groups to explore their topic, culminating with presentations at the end of the week. The projects presented a wonderful opportunity for students to apply the collaboration, research, persuasive writing, critical thinking and problem-solving skills they have been developing in the classroom to grapple with real-world problems in a meaningful way.
Grade 6 - Mars Project
Sixth graders continued the Mars Project, working in groups of four to design a sustainable community on Mars. They had to consider the resources necessary for survival, design living structures and decide how to create culture and community. Students took a field trip to the Carnegie Science Center to tour the exhibit Mars: The Next Giant Leap and heard from Zac Masterson of the CMU Robotics Institute, who has worked with NASA. On Friday, student groups gave presentations to the class and a panel of faculty judges to try and persuade them to join their Mars community.
Grade 7 - Wellness Project
Seventh graders spent the week grappling with the question How can we lead more fulfilling, happy, and stress-free lives? They heard from SSA parent Dr. Aimee Kimball, a sports psychologist, engaged in design challenges, took a field trip to Camp Guyasuta for a day of team-building, and had a wellness assembly with the Fox Chapel Police K-9 unit. Later in the week, they worked in groups to design a wellness-related product or plan, and heard from SSA parent Berry Wanless, a former Shark Tank contestant. Each group designed a business plan and promotional pitch to sell their wellness solution at a “Best in Show” Shark Tank-style competition on Friday.
Grade 8 - Legacy Project
Eighth graders explored the question How does one create a lasting impact or legacy on society? They did this by researching Pittsburgh icons Andy Warhol, Rachel Carson and Roberto Clemente, touring the Warhol Museum and walking the bridges named in their honor. They heard from visiting community leaders including alumna Lisa Scales '78, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Jennifer Walkup, mentorship program manager at Hello Neighbor, and parent Jeff Capel, head men's basketball coach at Pitt. Students worked in groups to examine different mediums one might use to leave an impact – art, music, writing, community service or sports – and created final multimedia projects and presentations.
The week was a huge success and a great way to end the school year!