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John Jay Sixth Graders Bring Ancient Egypt to Cross River

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – It's not every morning you come face to face with a sphinx, King Tut or Nefertiti. However, at John Jay Middle School, they were on display recently as part of a sixth grade Egyptian Museum, along with an assortment of other ancient Egyptian topics that students featured through their projects and exhibits.

The museum was comprised of booths focusing on themes that included Egyptian medicine, inventions, music, art, games, landmarks, historic figures, food, and more. The displays provided tangible aspects such as ancient tools, setups of miniature living quarters, and samples of food that students created themselves. As visitors explored the museum, students offered information about ancient Egypt.

Initiated 15 years ago by teachers Kathy O'Neil and Alice Cronin – who is now assistant superintendent for instruction – the Egyptian Museum continues to be a favorite project of students, staff, and parents. This year, teacher Guy Amdur collaborated with O'Neil to coordinate the event, with additional support from the sixth-grade social studies and English/language arts teachers. The project integrated both the ELA and social studies curricula.

Team Evolution, a group comprised of 100 sixth graders who participated in the museum, was introduced to the program in November through a video about Egypt. The students then selected a topic to focus on and spent a month conducting research through a variety of sources, including books and periodicals, both on and offline. Each student wrote a comprehensive report about his/her topic and created visual representations such as charts and replicas.

“Making the artifacts was the most fun,” said student Tara Heneghan, who researched leathermaking and constructed handmade leather sandals.

Eddie Cohen chose boats and travel as his topic.

“I was surprised that the boats were originally made from papyrus – a form of paper,” he said.

Allison Bauer studied the roles of women.

“A surprising fact was that at four years of age, daughters were taught to sew, cook and make food,” she said.

Amdur said the faculty has been delighted with both the process and the product, noting that the project provides many ways for the students to apply interdisciplinary skills.

“A great advantage of working in teams is that we are allowed more time and scheduling flexibility to coordinate such an interdisciplinary learning experience,” he said. “The Egyptian Museum unit provided a worthwhile experience, and all the students felt very positive about it.”

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