A Message from Dani Steele, Head of Middle School | January 18
Dani Steele, Head of Middle School
Dear Middle School Families,
Sometimes, there is no greater joy than hitting the road with your classmates, and this week, the 6th graders ventured out to the Field Museum! These students have spent much of this first semester studying the characteristics of ancient civilizations in History class and have become quite the experts on ancient Egypt. At the Field Museum, they could apply their previously learned knowledge and continue practicing the skills of thinking like a historian. 
We spent much of the morning exploring a three-story replica of a mastaba, an ancient Egyptian tomb. Here, students marveled at the large collections of mummies—both human and animal!—and played with the experiential activities meant to mimic an ancient marketplace. Our 6th graders made wonderful connections between our everyday lives and the everyday activities of ancient Egyptians. We also had the excellent opportunity to examine historical artifacts in a learning session with Field Museum staff. During this activity, students learned more about Egypt's economy, writings and social classes by analyzing sources. I was blown away by the ease at which they discussed questions such as: 
  • How do historians learn about people and civilizations from the past? 
  • What might this artifact tell us about life during this time period? 
  • What can we learn about Egyptian society from these sources?
As one 6th grader explained, "it was so cool to actually see what we were studying instead of looking at pictures or just picturing it in our heads. I loved learning more about what we have been studying!" 
6th graders also had the opportunity to break into smaller groups and choose from many other exhibits to visit. They analyzed the characteristics of other civilizations in the Tang Hall of China and Africa exhibits, checked out the sparkling jewels in the Grainger Hall of Gems, and even visited Sue the dinosaur in the amazing Evolving Planet exhibit (our 5th graders also visited there this Fall!) It was an action-packed day full of learning, spearheaded by Ms. Ousley and the rest of the fantastic 6th-grade team. 
I feel so fortunate to have participated in this field trip. I love nothing more than seeing the light bulbs go off for our students as they discover the real-life applications of their studies. As we stumbled across a preparation lab in the Pacific exhibit, we watched scientists and anthropologists analyzing an Iron Age skeleton in real time. Breaking through our hushed silence, one 6th-grade student uttered, "whoa, I want to do that." Goosebumps. Nothing is better than seeing our students deepen their understanding, make connections, and feel inspired to pursue these skills in the future. 
Our students are lucky enough to "hit the road" throughout their Middle School experience. They visit the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and the Art Institute, to name a few, and of course, Washington D.C in 7th grade and Israel in 8th grade. In Middle School, we pride ourselves on experiential learning in our classrooms, but sometimes there is no greater joy, and learning, than a field trip.
If you are interested in venturing out with your middle schooler, here are some free days coming up at the local museums! Any of which would provide fantastic curricular connections to their studies.

Dani Steele, 
Interim Head of Middle School 
Adler Planetarium 
  • Free every Wednesday evening from 4 – 10 p.m.
Field Museum
  • Free January  24, 25, 31 and February 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 20
The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Always free for Chicago teens under the age of 18 and all children under age 14!
The Chicago History Museum
  • Free January 24 – 27, 31 and February 1 – 3, 7 – 10, 14 – 17, 20 – 24, 28
 DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center 
  • Free admission for all every Wednesday

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