Sixth Graders ‘Find Themselves’ in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sixth Graders in Irene Mortensen and Emily Caspersen’s English Classes are collaborating with Middle School Technology Instructor Carrie Johnson to produce what is an engaging, educational endeavor: The Personal Heritage and Culture Project.

In this interdisciplinary project, students are tasked with creating a movie which uses artwork from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to visually represent their values, their heritage, and what makes them unique. To start, they interview family members using a list of questions ranging from the simple (Where are you in your family birth order?) to the complex (What major world events influence or have influenced your life?).

“I really enjoyed asking my parents and grandparents the questions,” said sixth grader Dani Briones ’28. “I connected with them on our Mexican American heritage and learned things that I never knew before.” Those things included the story of her grandparents’ immigration to the United States. “My grandparents were only 17 and 18 when they came to California from Mexico. They were newly married, and they didn’t know anyone. They were so young. I can’t imagine it!”

Classmate Ava Bell ’28 agreed. “This was my favorite project so far this year,” she said. “It was really fun, and I liked learning about my family. My grandmother worked for the government for a while, and she went to the March on Washington in 1963. I never knew that!”

Students take what they have learned from the family interviews and answer 10-12 prompts such as “What is a Personal or Family Value?” and “What Are My Family’s Traditions?” The written responses become the basis for their movie’s ‘script.’

“After exploring personal and family values, we ask the students to reflect upon which GSB core value best represents them,” Mrs. Mortensen explained. “This allows them to draw a connection between themselves, their immediate family, and the larger GSB community.”

For each answer, the students search the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s digital database to find a piece of artwork that visually represents their written response.

“I like how we have the freedom to find the artwork that works best for us,” said Evan Mendez ’28, pointing out a realistic painting of a mountain range. “This reminded me of Colorado, where my family went on winter break.” He then shifted to an impressionistic image of a tree. “This picture represents me. I like branching out and trying new things.”

Once they have their artwork, the students must explain the connection between the visual piece and their written answer. The explanations are then recorded and become the narration for the movie.

“Sometimes the artwork was harder to find,” Mark McNamara ’28 admitted. “I spent a lot of time looking for images to represent kindness, perseverance, and respect. But I liked writing about my memories and the fun times I’ve had with my family like swimming in Lake George, playing Uno, or baking Christmas cookies.”

The final steps of the project involve meeting with Mrs. Johnson to put the images and recorded script together into a movie format using Adobe Creative Cloud. “This is the first time most of them are using this platform,” Mrs. Johnson said. “This project exposes the students to new technologies and expands their technological skill sets.”

In the end, students leave with a multi-media representation of their family, their history, and how they see themselves at this point in their lives. It captures a precious moment in time.

“My favorite part of this project is how well I get to know my students,” said Mrs. Caspersen. “The project allows me to better understand who my students and their families are. Several students have written a segment of their project in another language because of the importance that language holds for their family.”

See our photo gallery below to sample some of the final productions.

Congratulations, students, on a job well done!

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