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Grafton Middle School students will have their Mars One project and others on display Tuesday during a student showcase entitled Shine!
Grafton Middle School students will have a Mars One project and others on display Tuesday during a student showcase entitled Shine! (Photo courtesy Grafton Middle School)

Students at Grafton Middle School in York County are ready to shine.

Projects across all content areas from the past school year will be on display for community leaders and residents Tuesday at a student work showcase Shine!

The school operates on a block schedule and peppers the curriculum with a number of different projects to add some hands-on learning to their 90-minute classes, ranging from arts performances to a mission to Mars.

Each project ranges from individuals to small groups and whole classrooms.

“The projects really complement their desire for significance,” Assistant Principal Doug Hartley said.

Hartley said the showcase allows students to explain their work to others, which requires deeper thinking.

“I think from an administrative perspective the showcase really highlights the process and project,” he said. “The journey is better than the destination.”

Hartley said the projects help answer those common questions from students: Why do I need to know this and why am I doing this?

“One of the biggest things is engagement. They’re owning their work,” said Michelle Moses, seventh-grade history teacher and event organizer.

Want to Go?

The Shine! showcase is 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at Grafton Middle School, 405 Grafton Dr., Yorktown.

Eighth-grader William Young has three years of projects under his belt and said his favorite project came when he was in sixth grade.

Geared toward the Mars One project, which proposes establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars, Young helped create a rover made from a box, foil, duct tape and lights for aesthetics.

Young said he enjoyed shaking people’s hands at the showcase and explaining his work as people took photos of his work.

“It was one of my best achievements of sixth grade,” Young said.

Seventh-grader Noah Allen put art and math on a colliding course, learning to make scale drawings of different fictional celebrities, such as Sonic the Hedgehog and the Tasmanian Devil. Allen said they learned to draw the subject larger, then bring it down to scale to a smaller drawing.

Jackson Kirsch, also a seventh-grader, embarked on an extensive and time-consuming history project in English class about President Theodore Roosevelt.

Kirsch said the project took nearly two quarters to complete and included a video and writing assignment.

He said an interesting thing he learned about the late president is he did not know how athletic Roosevelt was despite having a heart problem.

Seventh-grader Luke Owens will be performing percussion at the showcase in an ensemble with a trombone player, which he calls a unique combination.

“I like doing concerts, learning the music and performing it in front of family and friends and strangers,” Owens said.

He said there will be multiple rooms with different solo and ensemble performances throughout the evening.

Sixth-grader Cassidy Hays was able to participate in the mission to Mars project, which consisted of multiple groups designing different areas of a camp for humans to survive on the red planet.

Hays was part of a team that brought all the designs together and created the layout for the camp, trying to use as little space as possible.

One example of meeting that goal was combining the exercise and entertainment rooms into the same space.

“You have to think how you’re going to get air and food there and where you’re going to put it if you run out, like emergency oxygen,” Hays said.

Hartley said students learn a number of life lessons during the projects, whether it’s divvying up responsibilities amongst the team or picking up the slack in the absence of another student.

He said most importantly students are learning to take ownership in their work by working to discover their own solutions and expand upon their own interests.