Weeklong student exhibit opens at museum

Krystle Wagner • Mar 20, 2018 at 1:00 PM

More than 80 fifth-graders from Spring Lake Intermediate School have their works on display through the “Life in Colonial America” exhibit at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum, 200 Washington Ave. in downtown Grand Haven. 

The exhibit was celebrated Monday night as the students and their families participated in a private reception for it.

The museum and local school partnered as part of a project-learning base opportunity for students.

Mathew Keller, a fifth-grade teacher at SLIS, said the experience exhibit is the first time the students are taking their work outside of the school for an authentic audience.

For the past two weeks, the students have spent social studies class time dedicated to their projects. In learning about life in colonial America, the kids selected areas they wanted to research — dress and accessories, arms and armor, starving in Jamestown, hygiene and health, exchanges, households, tobacco, industry and craft, people, and dioramas of Plymouth Rock Jamestown.

Through the project-based learning opportunity, Keller said his students have learned about collaboration and communication, in addition to curriculum content.

Kevin Geary, the curator of education for the local museum, said it’s the first time the museum has worked with a school for an exhibit.

“It’s been fun,” he said.

Typically, the museum gives tours and does classroom visits to share information. Geary said he hopes the partnership will help children take away an interest in museums.

On Monday, museum staff members helped the SLIS students display their projects. Mike VerHulst, the exhibits facilitator for the museum, and other staff explained to the students their roles in the museum and ways exhibits are displayed.

VerHulst said he was “blown away” by the projects. He said they want everyone to feel welcome at the museum, and the recent collaboration is another way for the area’s youth to feel like they can contribute.

Through the project, 11-year-old Gabe Trask said he learned a lot about collaboration. The SLIS student said the project about a small plantation wouldn’t have been possible without the teamwork of his partner, Adetunji Adams.

Trask said he’s happy Keller worked with the museum to provide an opportunity for his classmates to showcase their work.

“It’s cool the public will get to see our hard work,” he said.

The “Life in Colonial America” exhibit will remain on display at the museum through Sunday, March 25. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 12-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

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