Q&A with Renaissance Academy’s Museum of Ancient History curators

7th and 8th grade students from Renaissance Academy have curated two museums of ancient studies so far this school year, transforming an entire area of their school each time, for exclusive one-night events open to the Mt. Pleasant and surrounding area communities. The first was planned and produced by half of the middle school population which was open Oct. 18; the other was this week on Tuesday, Dec. 20, as the remaining half of the students participated as Museum of Ancient History curators. 

With guidance from Renaissance Academy middle school teachers including Mr. Blake Buzard and Mr. Dave McCausey, the students were responsible for learning about ancient topics, exploring the CMU Museum for research on developing museum exhibits, and designing their own exhibits themselves using the Academy’s materials to put on display for their families and the community to visit and enjoy.

The December Museum of Ancient History exhibition focused on human innovation and engineering.

Renaissance Academy's Museum of Ancient History Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Tablet and Rosetta Stone. (Photo: Courtney Jerome/Epicenter)Renaissance students and teachers share more about how the middle school level classroom studies have carried over into a hands-on activity for the students this school year, in this Q&A.

Q: What inspired Renaissance Academy to develop a project like this?
A: “In everything that we do at Renaissance, we try to think about how we can make our projects mirror authentic experiences. We realized that we do not have a local museum that focuses on the Paleolithic Era, Neolithic Era, and Ancient River Valley Civilizations. In accordance with our ancient history standards, we chose to have our students take on the role of and think like historians and museum curators to create a museum for our community.” (Mr. Buzard and Mr. McCausey) 

Q: Can you tell us more about how the classroom studies carried over into the students’ museums?
A: “Through direct instruction and activities, we learned the content, while considering how we might use that content in our museum.” (Mr. Buzard and Mr. McCausey)

“Then, as a class, we got to pick something that inspired us, research it, and create an artifact related to our topic.” (8th grade student Sophia Prehn)

Pictured left to right: Renaissance Academy middle school students, Olivia Bean, Jessie Noggle, and Sophia Prehn. (Photo: Courtney Jerome/Epicenter)Q: How was the CMU Museum a pivotal resource for the students while creating their exhibits?
A: “The CMU Museum was a crucial resource because it gave us an example of what the information regarding our artifacts should look like and how it should be formatted. It also had the benefits of showing us how a museum is set up.” (8th grade student Jessie Noggle)

Q: What materials did the students utilize for the museums? 
A: “We had access to and used: lumber; paper mache; foam; clay; paint; fabric; string; beads; poster boards; and a variety of other materials.” (7th grade student Olivia Bean)

Q: How were the two Museum Nights different?
A: “The first group created individual artifacts and large group builds based on that group of students’ excitement and interests. The second group expanded and added to the large group builds of the first group, and then replaced their individual artifacts with artifacts of their own based on their own interests.” (Mr. Buzard and Mr. McCausey)

Renaissance Academy's Museum of Ancient History Mesopotamia Ziggurat large group build. (Photo: Courtney Jerome/Epicenter)Q: What’s next for Renaissance Academy for the remainder of the school year? 
A: Our humanities classes will be learning about ancient empires, world religions, and world conflict. For our religions unit, we hope to partner with the CMU Museum again as students create websites and murals to inform others about religions of the world. As with everything we do, student voice and choice will likely steer the direction of work being done and shape the outcome of the project. (Mr. Buzard and Mr. McCausey)

Read more articles by Courtney Jerome.

With 15 years of professional media experience, Courtney Jerome has found a passion for storytelling and showcasing our region in a positive light. She's written stories for television broadcasts, numerous magazines, and digital publications. In addition, she owns a boutique creative marketing agency that focuses on social media, photo, and video storytelling for small businesses across Michigan and the country — courtneyjeromemedia.com. Contact Courtney, the managing editor of Epicenter, at editor@epicentermtpleasant.com.