Students Transform Liberty Jr into Memorial Site

Students Transform Liberty Junior into Memorial Site
Posted on 04/13/2021
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liberty jr memorial projectDuring the days leading up to spring break, Liberty Junior was the site of 350-plus student-created monuments or memorials honoring the likes of Princess Diana, Jackie Robinson, Amelia Earhart and even Seabiscuit. 


For the first year ever, all eighth-graders participated in the joint venture between the school’s social studies and language arts departments. Their challenge: Create a monument or memorial honoring an historical achievement, moment or movement that speaks to you or has personally impacted you in some way. The project was something language arts teacher Angie Belia and social studies teacher Rick Cooper introduced to their shared team of students four years ago.


“When you do something like this, you just realize that all students need is that spark. It is very affirming to see kids get so excited and take such great pride in their final products,” Cooper said. Alongside Belia, he pitched the idea to his colleagues to expand the project to the entire grade level and said they’ll never look back. 


Completed in several stages over six of seven weeks, the project touches a wide assortment of concepts and learning standards across both content areas. The topic selection and research phase gave students the opportunity to dive deeper into a person or event they may have glazed over in a social studies unit, for example, while students’ understanding of symbolism was applied to the final monument they created and shared with their peers. Students practice their writing, presentation and even art skills over the course of the project, too. 


“I loved that we didn’t have to stick to really strict guidelines, but got to put ourselves into it and really use our creativity,” said Arianna Trikilis, who chose to memorialize the Titanic. More specifically, she and her partners chose to research and honor the lesser known stories of people who lost their lives to the tragedy. Their final memorial honored such individuals in the form of wood planks like the ones used to create the bridge to board the Titanic. Each plank detailed the story of a fallen passenger. The group also constructed the Titanic using a 3D puzzle. 


Over the years, Belia has appreciated the opportunity to teach symbolism in a non-literary way, giving students the option to put it into practice through their memorial. This year, students also enjoyed a virtual tour of Cincinnati’s Holocaust and Humanity Center. They heard from the museum’s curators about such elements as lighting, color, shapes and symbols and the purposeful choices they made when designing the museum. 


“That experience provided some amazing visual literacy lessons,” Belia said. “And then they were able to take what they learned and embed it in their final projects.” 


Falling in line with Lakota’s emphasis on personalized learning, Cooper has always appreciated the element of student choice. Eighth-grader Tannia King welcomed the opportunity to dive deeper into the story of Seabiscuit, “this wimpy horse who became an all-star and a sign of hope during the Depression.” 


King chose the project because of Seabiscuit’s relevance to the era she is living through in light of the pandemic. “We all need hope these days and we are going to get through this just like Seabiscuit did,” she reflected.