Ancient Egyptian Museum

A curiosity-driven project

John Jay Middle School’s library was bursting with talk of makeup made from beetle shells, arrows with a range of 400 yards, and the sound that a sistrum makes. Each of these ideas, and dozens more, was represented by a handmade exhibit and a sixth grader who engaged parents, teachers and other students with a well-prepared presentation on the topic.

The impressive event is the annual Ancient Egyptian Museum, the curiosity-driven project that is the culmination of two months of work. This year, the John Jay Middle School tradition celebrated its silver anniversary— sixth grade teacher Kathy O'Neil co-founded it 25 years ago, with then middle school teacher Alice Cronin.

Insights and learnings

Combining research, writing and presentation skills

“Somethings never change and one of them is sixth graders’ enthusiasm for Ancient Egypt,” said O’Neil, social studies teacher for Team Affinity. She begins the unit by discussing possible topics with her classes, then students collaborate with Library Media Specialist Jenn Useted on exploring their interests through the library’s books and databases. What museum visitors don’t see is that each polished presentation is based on a research paper with bibliography.

Blending imagination and creativity

The sixth-grade experts were eager to share what they learned.

“One of the most interesting things I learned was that the Nile River flows from south to north,” said Nicholas. He moved his hand over a model of the African River Valley indicating the high-altitude source of the Nile.

“The Sphinx was built so that it catches the sun during the spring and fall equinox,” said Sophia, showing a model she sculpted of the famous monument with the head of a human and the body of a lion.

“Their surgical tools were much like ours today,” said Ava, who studied the medicine of Ancient Egypt. She held up a jar of squiggly shapes floating in liquid, representing the parasite infections common to the Nile Delta.

Well done, students!

Visitors to the museum included Superintendent Selesnick, School Resource Officer Brett Schlosser and Principal Swiatowicz.

“I was really impressed by the students in the museum,” said Swiatowicz. “They were knowledgeable, presented well and were able to answer my questions when I took them off script with my questions.”

“Every student I spoke with was able to share new and important learning with me. This really showed how invested they were in their research!”