Students as Teachers: A Senior Reflects on her Final Exhibitions Evening

By Division 4 student Isabel

As wild as it sounds even to me, last Wednesday I attended my very last Exhibitions evening. Although I may not have the 21 Exhibitions under my belt – like some seniors who’ve been at Meridian since 6th grade – I have now completed 12, and it’s safe to say that they have been a staple of my youth.

After all of those Exhibitions – and, of course, with the wisdom of an elder 12th grader – I wasn’t nervous to present our division’s work. As students spend time at Meridian, we quickly get to know the parents and extended family of our classmates. Because of this, our audiences on these nights quickly become a sea of familiar faces. I started the night in my mathematical modeling class, where I talked with visitors about a bicycle insurance policy I created and about how game theory can be used to explore one's commitment to solving climate change. After that, I moved on to Humanities, where I talked with a prospective family about a theatrical model that my friend Jo and I built as part of our playwriting unit.

Later, I spent time in the Art room showing off my work in ceramics and lamenting about how much I’d miss our teacher Emily’s classes. Finally, I went to Spanish. After talking briefly about the ceramic piece I created for a project on Argentina’s Dirty War, I reflected for a moment on how far my Spanish skills had come since 9th grade. Just then, my classmate Ifrah tore me away from my sentimental reflection, telling me that we needed to gather everyone for a senior picture. This was it: the beginning of the good-byes. My heart could barely take it. After finally locating our classmate Piper, we all – yes, our entire graduating class – crammed onto the couch in the hallway, glowing for the paparazzi of teachers and parents.

A dozen Exhibitions have not only gave me the confidence to present my own work. They’ve also demonstrated to me how satisfying it is to teach others about what I’ve learned. As I walked out into the night after that final class picture, I promised myself that this teaching element of my learning would not end here. Thanks to Exhibitions, I want to continue learning and sharing newfound knowledge wherever I go.

Fitting Functions to a Bear: Trimester 1 Exhibitions

By Division 3 student Mara

Three times a year, Meridian students show the public the work they’ve been doing throughout the trimester. In each class, students present their projects and their peers’ projects to all sorts of visitors. As a new 9th grader at Meridian, I experienced my very first Exhibitions in early December.

In the weeks leading up to Exhibitions, we had a lot of work to finish, and I was specifically excited to present my Functions of Art project. For this project, we needed to create and fit algebraic functions to a work of art, and it was the first time I had ever applied math to a creative piece like that. For my project, I looked at a work of art called “As it Comes to Bear” by Venetia Dale and fit functions to create a bear like the one in the piece.

On the day of Exhibitions, I felt nervous but prepared. I had heard a lot about the event, but I was still not 100% sure about what to expect. It began with a performance from musicians in classes ranging from singing to composition to our school band. I was excited to hear all the original music that students wrote, along with new arrangements of songs that I knew well.

After the music, it was time to go to my classes and present my work. I was worried that I might not have anyone to talk to, but each room included many visitors, and they all wanted to hear from students about what we’d learned. During the evening, I was able to talk to several visitors and families, and it was a completely new experience for me to tell people I didn’t know about my work.

I also talked to other students about their projects, and it was really interesting to see and explore their learning and ideas. When I was in the art room, I talked with Jo, a 12th grader, about a shirt she had made in her Sewing class. Like my Functions of Art project, Jo had to apply practical skills to make this creative piece, and it was neat to see how projects in different classes can use such similar skills.

Exhibitions was really different than other presenting experiences I have participated in, and I’m excited to do it again in March!

Challenges, Conversation, and Ocarinas: One Student’s First Exhibitions

By Division I student Amos

The Exhibition evening on December 6th, 2017, was my first as a Meridian student. I had seen others last year, but actually taking part was an entirely different experience.

It’s true – as I had heard – that homework increased around Exhibitions, but I was excited to be part of an event that so much work had gone into. The night was more structured than I thought, and it was helpful to have a schedule. Each student moves to a different class for a set period of time to show parents, visitors, and peers the work they’ve done throughout the entire trimester. Each of the classes felt different to discuss, but I didn’t have a favorite – in each one, you’re still having an interesting human interaction.

I remember one such interaction when I was playing a song on the ocarina – a kind of vessel flute – that I made in Ceramics. An older student recognized the song I was playing and that led to a more in-depth conversation.

Exhibitions is also fun place to see how classes overlap. For instance, the same teacher who taught me how to make the ocarina also helped in my Humanities class. For that project, we interviewed family members about challenges they had overcome, and then we made Greek-style coil pots and etched illustrations of the family stories we’d collected.

Spring Exhibitions: Focus on Microbes

For spring Exhibitions, students showed a range of projects, including Division III's SHEWASSA (or Simple Human Experiment with a Sound Statistical Analysis), Division II's Ferdinand work, and Division IV's Ethnography Project. In Division I MST, students showed their original antimicrobial research in several formats: oral presentations, journal articles, and blog posts. Below, read a blog post by Division I student Jesse about her group's process and findings:

Antimicrobial Research Series: What Bacteria Does Soap Kill?
Have you ever wondered exactly how well handsoap actually works? We did an experiment to find out how much bacteria softsoap really kills.

Our motivating question was: How much bacteria from a lunch table, the inside of a microwave, a keyboard, and a toilet handle does softsoap kill?

We swabbed each of the areas, and rubbed it all over a petri dish. The petri dishes were split into two halves: one was the experimental side, and one positive control. On the experimental side, we took a mixture of two parts soap and one part water, and swabbed it on top of the bacteria. On the control side, we swabbed water over the bacteria. We also had one more pertri dish. This one was for negative controls. We had one negative control that just had water on it, and one that had the soap mixture on it. Positive controls were a key part of our experiment. Without them, we wouldn’t have known how much bacteria there was to begin with on the experimental petri dishes, so we wouldn’t have have known how much bacteria the soap actually killed. We also used negative controls, which tell you if the water or in our case soap mixture already had bacteria in it. This is helpful if you have bacteria on the experimental petri dishes, because you can say that it came from the water, not the place you swabbed.

What we finally found from our third round of doing the experiment was that the soap works very well. There was no bacteria on the experimental sides of the petri dishes, and the positive controls were covered in bacteria. (as you can see in the pictures below)

It’s not as easy as it seems to answer this question. In our first experiment, we didn’t have any softsoap, so we used Gojo soap and we were not sanitary about putting it into the petri dishes. There also wasn’t much bacteria at all on our positive controls, so we couldn’t say much about what we found. We tried the experiment again and swabbed longer parts of the areas, and got better results, but they were still not perfect. This was because we decided that because there was soap on top of the experimental bacteria, and nothing on top of the positive control, the fact that there was almost no bacteria in the experimental could have been because the bacteria was being smothered by the soap. To solve this, we put a layer of water over the positive controls. This didn’t affect our results, so we are sure now that the bacteria weren’t just being smothered and our results meant something. Lastly, on the third round, there was bacteria on our negative control, but we decided that our negative control was not very important, given our results, so we let it go. Because there was no bacteria on the experimental side, it showed that even if there was bacteria in the water, the soap killed it.

The experimenters all agreed that the most frustrating thing about this experiment was having to redo the experiment multiple times and not getting conclusive results.

Isabel, one of the experimenters, said that “after doing this experiment, I would like to do another experiment to see if there are types of bacteria that this soap can’t kill.”

Talking Up the Crowd: Division 1 Reflects On Their First Exhibitions

The morning after their first Exhibitions in December, Division 1 students could be found in their classrooms dismantling displays, reading visitor comments, and sorting their essays, stories, and other projects into portfolios. These activities might look unremarkable to an outsider, but the room held palpable enthusiasm and relief.    

Exhibitions, which occur three times every year, hold both excitement and trepidation for many students, who not only display their finished projects but discuss them with outside guests. As visitors move from classroom to classroom, students teach them about the essays, stories, experiments, sculptures, labs, and other projects they’ve completed in the past trimester. As 6th grader Ibrahim said, this process makes the work pay off because students get “to meet new people, and after they see your work, you got to see what they thought, which gives you new ideas.” Talking to new people can also be challenging for younger students, and Exhibitions provides them with the chance to practice this skill and gain greater comfort speaking publicly. “By the end of the evening, I felt a lot more confident talking about my work,” said 7th grader Jack.

At this Exhibitions, Division 1 students showed a wide range of work in terms of both form and content. In Humanities, they displayed thesis essays arguing whether Atalanta, the character from Greek mythology, is a hero or a villain, original myths that explain natural phenomena, and pottery sculpted and illustrated to demonstrate themes from these myths, among other projects. In Math, Science, and Technology, they exhibited Lego robots that they had programmed along with equations they wrote in order to manipulate those robots in a repeatable and systematic manner. In Español, they, along with many other students, sang the Mexican folksong “La Bamba” live in front of the entire Meridian community accompanied by Meridian’s Ukulele Army.

As she filed her papers and projects into her Humanities portfolio, 6th grader Isabel explained, “I really like this part of Meridian: the opportunity to show our work to other people, and for them to be inspired as well."