One Project-Many Learning Pathways

January 10, 2023 | Melissa McCallihan

In science the students in the sixth through eighth grades are continuing their study of planets and space with a compare and contrast project of the earth, the sun and the moon with other planets, the sun and their moon(s). Students have compared the composition of the other planets, the orbits and rotations, and the relationships with the sun and their moon(s). 

Each day I share a mini lesson about the planets and the solar system, as well as the governing body called the International Astronomical Union. As a class we marveled at the idea when comparing mass of the objects in the solar system, the sun is 99.85% of the mass. One star! We also are overwhelmed by the sheer size of our solar system and the Milky Way galaxy. 

The work of this project is intentional in many ways. The task  of comparing and contrasting, for example, grows students’ ability to generalize, categorize, sort and understand new information.  

For this assignment students are working in collaborative groups picked for their diversity of learners and experience in this type of project work. Older students bring a wealth of confidence and a strong leadership style that allows all the members of the group to share their ideas and bring their gifts to the work. 

Through projects like these learning is visible in model making and sharing presentations. Sharing presentations is an alternative assessment tool that removes barriers often in place in typical assessments. Testing works for some, presentations work for others, and because students are provided with many ways to share what they know–everyone gets to shine! 

Speaking of assessments, students are creating assessments on their topic. Students’ plans include a variety of ways to do assessment–Jeopardy, Pictionary, Blookit, Google Forms and others. The process of creating an assessment has students evaluating the information they are sharing and presenting. Revisiting generates new ideas and connections extending learning. 

Lastly students will evaluate their collaboration, honestly assessing their own work as well as the work of others. The conversations that come from the time of evaluation has students sharing things they could have done differently or what they will do next time. This grows critical skills and forward thinking in the students. 

One project, many pathways of learning.

Melissa McCallihan

Teacher, Grade 6; Science Grades 6-8

Teaching children to take risks and fail well is important to Melissa McCallihan, who has taught for over 30 years. She believes children learn as much through their failures as they do through their successes. She celebrates both in her classroom. In collaboration with the middle school director, art teacher, and other fourth and fifth grade teachers, Mrs. McCallihan has been instrumental in developing the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program, an extension of the Lower School’s Shared Space model. “STEAM is where students solve problems and sometimes get it wrong,” says Mrs. McCallihan when asked about risks and failing well. “Students need to learn how to do that with grace, and to try again with grit and determination.” Mrs. McCallihan currently teaches sixth through eighth grade science.

Mrs. McCallihan cares deeply about relationships with her colleagues, students, and families. She works hard to make and maintain connections on a personal and professional level. And follows the mantra “Worship God, Love All.”

When not at school, you can find Mrs. McCallihan searching out a fantastic restaurant or hidden sight to see in New York City.

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