Where can you find high-tech, student-programmed robots, Shakespearean thespians, a criminal trial, authors Mark Twain and Suzanne Collins, delicious Spanish cuisine and a red carpet press conference all under one roof?
In late February, Santa Barbara Middle School held its annual Academic Fair, where students shared a selection of their semester-long learning with a variety of critical-thinking projects.
In the seventh grade, well-known authors came to life when the library was transformed into a “Wax Museum.” Students researched an author of his or her choice and became that author in an evening presentation.
Members of the Santa Barbara Teen Press, dressed in their red carpet bow ties, recapped their celebrity and filmmaker interviews from Santa Barbara’s International Film Festival when they were part of the press corps covering this premiere Santa Barbara event.
After a month-long study on government and the judicial system, eighth-grade SBMS students portrayed the roles of attorneys, witnesses, bailiff, court clerk and judge in a criminal “mock trial.” The prosecution and the defense faced off, as the audience became the jury.
This year’s trial, “Who Tried to Kill Snooki White?” was a contemporary satire written by history teacher Marlene Beckerman on favorite fairy tale and Disney characters.
In Spanish class, eighth-grade students researched a Spanish-speaking country, explored its cuisine and developed a menu based on native ingredients found in their country. For homework, the students worked in teams to shop, prepare and cook a Latin American meal for their families. The preparation and cooking were documented on video and presented in the form of a slide show or movie at the Academic Fair.
After reading The Taming of the Shrew, ninth-grade students performed scenes from Shakespeare. Student Zoe Plaxco said that re-enacting Shakespeare’s work allowed her to “understand the context and literature with more depth and meaning.”
Ninth-grade SBMS Spanish students translated and then performed traditional fairy tales in Spanish, with lively Spanish theatrics. While sixth- and seventh-grade students starred in a Latin American version of Project Runaway as they strutted the latest fashion trends on the catwalk — all emceed in Spanish.
Physics students engineered, built and programmed robots to achieve a variety of fascinating feats. Some of the robots played pinball while others were able to solve a Rubik’s Cube.
The SBMS annual Academic Fair is a great example of how students’ creative, hard work coupled with an authentic, live audience can bring learning to life in a way that is lasting and meaningful.
— Marlene Beckerman is a history teacher at Santa Barbara Middle School.