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Chestatee students showing off their knowledge
S.O.A.R. museum lets younger kids learn from projects
Chesatee Middle School students Nicole Peck, left, 13, and Maggee Wilson, 13, serve a cupcake to student Jada Wilson, 11, on Tuesday during a Night at the Museum event. Students showcased their creative projects they completed during their SOAR academy time. Peck and Wilson studied marketing strategies and invented a bakery they called Sweet Treats. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Did you know Laika was the first dog in space, but lived only a few hours in her Russian rocket ship? Did you know giraffes have knees that can bend forwards and backwards?

Chestatee Middle School students do. So will students from Lanier, Sardis, Lyman Hall and McEver elementary schools when they visit the S.O.A.R. Academy museum on a field trip to Chestatee Middle School today.

Chestatee Middle students showcased their Seeking Out Authentic Relationships projects Tuesday evening at the school’s first Night at the Museum event. Students have been working on their group projects in their self-determined S.O.A.R. clusters that meet for 30 minutes Monday through Thursday and for one hour on Fridays.

Dawn Richards, a seventh-grade science teacher at Chestatee Middle, said each S.O.A.R. academy, whether it is a hospital academy, a drama group or a clown college, has between 10 and 25 students. The academies require all students to complete a display, oral report and written report on their chosen topic.

“We wanted to find a way to engage kids and keep them interested in school and also to give them a focus in careers,” Richards said.
Matt Caudell, an eighth-grader at Chestatee Middle, serves on the school’s S.O.A.R. Advisory Council and gives teachers input on how to make learning more fun.

“We basically just wanted an opportunity to break out of our regular school schedule,” he said. “We wanted something that would be really, really hands-on.”

Chestatee seventh-graders Alexa Starr, Jordan Croy and Savannah Aroyo are aspiring doctors, and were able to get hands-on experience by dissecting frogs and pigs in the Chestatee Medical Center academy. Their project focused on the bones and muscles of the knee, as well as arthritis problems and physical therapies associated with the knee.

“We could venture out and explore the knee as we wanted,” Savannah said.

“We had a lot of time to do this,” Jordan said. “And we had a lot of fun doing it.”

Richards said the academies are part of the school’s movement toward becoming an inquiry-based charter school.

Students will select new academies next semester and their discoveries will culminate with another “Night at the Museum” event at the end of the school year.