Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Students Redesign Monument

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Students Redesign Monument

Article excerpt

Some groups of eighth-graders at Mars Area Middle School thought President Barack Obama should be on Mount Rushmore - if such a monument existed to honor distinguished African-Americans.

As part of Mars Area's push toward "project-based learning," nearly 300 eighth-graders used their social studies and language arts classes to research and design a Mount Rushmore-type monument for African-Americans.

"The kids have expressed that they liked doing this. It was nontraditional," said social studies teacher Jason Thompson. The project was to commemorate the 2015 opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African-American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.

Each group of four or five students chose their honorees from categories including politics, science, sports and cultural icons. Some groups actually constructed models of Mount Rushmore with the new faces, while other groups used photo editing software to superimpose their honorees onto a photo of the real monument.

"The kids did a great job of collaborating," Mr. Thompson said. "You can tell that they put a lot of time out of the classroom. The students were highly engaged." The students made their case for their choices, presenting slide shows to classmates and a panel of teachers, administrators and school board members last Thursday and Friday.

A group consisting of Nick Dinderman, Sophia Lamm, Nathan Walker, Paige Schindler and Daniel O'Connell set up their choices as a March Madness bracket, starting out with 20 names before ending up with the "Final Five" of Oprah Winfrey, Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, scientist and inventer Benjamin Banneker and Maya Angelou.

Sophia said the idea came about when Nick was thinking about the project while filling out a chart of college basketball teams.

Members of another group showed off their acting ability, by introducing their picks as other characters, then turning the presentation into a game show called "The Fighters of America. …

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