Academics, Middle School

Sixth Graders Embody Scientists from Ancient Times to Present Day

Every Northwest School 6th grader adopted the life of a scientist, mathematician, or inventor, and conversed about their lives over tea or cider during the annual Tea Parties Project on January 31. The interdisciplinary project engaged students in science, Humanities, and library research. It also heightened students’ awareness about gender disparities in science professions.

“This year we asked students to think about the social identifiers of their scientists and how discrimination placed barriers in their way because of those identifiers,” says Humanities teacher Julie Kim. “We want them to take away the idea that not everyone, depending on your race, gender, nationality, language, and a whole host of identifiers, gets the same recognition for their achievements.”

Students chose from a list of scientists, mathematicians, and inventors, which did not include any white males, and read a biography and other online resources about their individual. Students then wrote an outline that detailed the person’s history, achievements, and lasting impacts in their field, working with library faculty to cite each source correctly. After the outline was completed, the students worked in groups of four to write an original script for the tea party scene, which they presented to the entire class. Students in the audience took notes on the scientists’ achievements during their classmates’ presentation.

“Everyone we learned about has done a lot of equally important things, and they don’t get as much exposure as white men,” says 6th grader Anusha S. “I think it is very important to give women scientists and people of color the attention they deserve since they had just as big of an impact on our world.”

The project developed researching and writing skills while also shattering the pre-conceived notions of what it means to be a scientist or engineer. To introduce the project, 6th grade science teacher Erica Bergamini asked the students to quickly sketch a scientist, and many students drew a man in a white lab coat.

“I like this project because we aren’t just learning about people like Albert Einstein or Nikola Tesla,” says Josephine D. ‘21. “Instead, we are learning about people like my scientist, Dr. Birute Gladikas, and all sorts of others who made big contributions to science.”