Students learn from each other at Glen Montessori School

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It was a project that brought some very big kids to the classrooms at Glen Montessori School in Ross and some very little students to the Duquesne University campus in the past few weeks.

Duquesne University anthropology professor Jason Schlude created a joint program -- the Archeology and School Identity Project -- for the two schools that not only taught both groups of students about anthropology, but also lessons on working with other students, both big and small.

"Everyone learns in a program like this. The Duquesne students have a great deal to offer the Glen students when it comes to both archeology and life experience, but the Glen students also have a tremendous amount to offer our students," he explained.

Mr. Schlude's own son, Hendrick, attends Glen, so when he started planning a joint program for his freshmen students at Duquesne, it was only natural that he turned to Glen, which moved this summer from Emsworth into the former Perrysville Elementary School on Perry Highway.

"I knew that they would be open to a learning experience like this," he said.

Jackie Hermann, elementary education director at Glen, said 43 students from 6 to 12 years of age participated in the project.

"We wanted our students to see what they may have in common with college freshmen," she said.

The overall theme of the project was to study how the material goods that someone owns could reflect his or her culture, according to Mr. Schlude.

"These belongings -- artifacts -- are a reflection of society, and we want all of the students to think what their own belongings might say about our society and culture," he explained.

The Duquesne students ventured out to Glen for two Friday afternoon field trips, and then the Glen students visited the Duquesne campus for the third Friday session. Glen Montessori paid for the transportation for the project.

The first visit introduced the two groups of students after the entire group listened to a lecture and PowerPoint show by Mr. Schlude that discussed exactly what artifacts are and how archeologists discover them.

"People's stuff, artifacts, can be found thousands of years from now and can tell people something about what our life was like," he said, showing the students photos of ancient housing, tools and weapons.

The students then worked together to look at their own homes and what their belongings might say about our culture.

They then went outside to find "artifacts," objects that Mr. Schlude had placed in the school yard.

"This is fun," said Olivia Parker, 6, a first-grader at Glen, as they searched the playground for pot shards and other objects.

Olivia, Juliette Vybiral, 7, and Jack Kelly, 8, worked with their Duquesne students, Andrea Lisky, 18, and Beth Gidenings, 19, to find their artifacts.

"My name tag could be an artifact," said Jack as he thought about the whole concept they had discussed. Ms. Lisky assured him that it would be a good one.

The enthusiasm of the students was palpable from both sets, although the older students seemed a bit more nervous than the little ones.

"I'm not really used to kids," one of the college students said as they ventured outside.

The second week, the Duquesne students went to the classrooms with the Glen students where they talked about the items in the rooms and what they would tell future generations. The third week, the Glen students visited Duquesne and toured the campus, complete with little backpacks that the admissions office had donated for the project.

For many of them, it was their first time on a college campus. Some of them thought college students had all sorts of free time and sat around.

After the last session, Julie Pawlinkowski, 18, from Duquesne, said, "I was a little bit intimidated before the project because I'm the youngest in my family and not really around kids. But it was actually a lot of fun and we learned a lot."

Ms. Pawlinkowski was surprised at the maturity level and questions from her young study partners.

"We kept joking that the little kids were much more mature than we had been at their age," she said, "And they were so eager to show us everything. They kept asking, 'Is this an artifact?' It was great."

The younger students were fascinated with the university campus, said Mrs. Hermann, particularly the dormitory rooms.

According to Mrs. Hermann, when one of the young Glen girls was asked by a Duquesne student if she thought she could live in a dorm room like the older student, she quipped, "Yes, if I stay exactly the same size."

Mrs. Hermann said, "This project was incredible. It got our kids thinking of science-based careers like archeology."

The project also has the Glen students looking at the world in a different way, said Mrs. Hermann.

"They have been making comments about the context where materials are found and how they can affect the meaning of what they mean to society," she said.

The lesson was such a hit that both Mrs. Hermann and Mr. Schlude hope other classes will adopt similar projects and they will continue joint-projects.

"Everyone learned something. The Glen students showed our students that people of all ages -- even the wee ones -- have the impressive ability to ask sophisticated questions and to be sophisticated thinkers," said Mr. Schlude.

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Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer:


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