Remember your first research paper? Hours and hours in the library, toiling over card catalogs and microfiche, scavenging the racks for sources to support your thesis, notecard after notecard written and categorized about topic on which you had little interest. Certainly, if you are a middle school student in The Learning Center at The Lexington School, words like “microfiche” and “card catalog” mean very little. And while their research “paper” may look different, these middle schoolers are building better biographies and a bunch of life skills too. 

Biography box research projects happen every year in The Learning Center’s middle school. Each year, students choose a person of interest to discover. Teachers guide them to assure they are able to source a variety of citable information and have a passion for their subjects. After all, they will be spending a lot of time with them; they even become them!

“The project is so multi-faceted,” says Jane Childers, Director of The Learning Center at The Lexington School. Students learn the fundamentals of research plus the creative process that supports their art and presentations. “It is a really good experience and interesting to watch the kids grow each year of middle school. To see their writing improve and their presentation skills improve is pretty amazing.”

  • Pick a historically relevant person.
  • Find primary and secondary sources.
  • Use print and digital sources.
  • Take (Cornell) two-column notes.
  • Outline.
  • Write. Edit. Revise.
  • Cite appropriately.
  • Build a box that presents a visual of an important facet of the person’s life.
  • Collect artifacts that represent milestones in the person’s life (designed to help the student remember main points of the research).
  • Take on the person’s persona through character and costume.
  • Learn how to use notecards to guide your presentation.
  • Use eye contact.
  • Articulate clearly and smoothly
  • Listen prepared to answer questions after each presentation.
  • Provide positive feedback to each presenter.

Reading, thinking, analyzing, culling, organizing, writing, citing, editing, revising, creating, building, speaking, acting, looking, listening, responding…the list goes on and on.

Take a deep breath. It’s your turn to stand up in a blonde wig or a grey, felt Fedora and deliver your “paper.” This research delivers way more than a microfiche or card catalog can. This research is a springboard for life.

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Comments (1):

    Kendra Adkisson April 18, 2019

    My name is Kendra Adkisson (Erickson and Love’s mom). I had the pleasure of attending the biography presentations. As a Certified Nurse-Midwife and faculty at Frontier Nursing University, I was thrilled to see Gracie (6th grade) present the life of Mary Breckinridge!!! Gracie, you did an outstanding job! Mary Breckinridge was an incredible woman who improved healthcare for women and families in rural Kentucky. Let me know when you want to become a midwife! I’ll hold a spot for you at Frontier!!! Well done!

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