Mi-STAR Trek: A Journey of Discovery for a Challenging Seventh-Grade Class

Monday, June 27, 2016


This year, I was having a lot of trouble getting my students interested in their lessons, and I needed to adjust my teaching often to keep them moving forward.  So, as I started our Mi-STAR pilot, I had some concerns.

The unit was Building Materials: How We Use Our Natural Resources, and it focused on insulation. This was not a topic I thought would interest all of my seventh graders. I was wrong. It is an understatement to say I was completely surprised by what happened.
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Students came to class not knowing what to expect. But within a couple days they were entering my room with excitement and questions about what we were going to be doing next. They were fully engaged and participating to the best of their abilities.

In fact, some of their most difficult behaviors were nonexistent during this unit. They were all interested in learning, they were on task, and they cared. They worked well together in their teams—so well that we realized that we needed more time for them to work as individuals. Of course, not everyone was really successful, but they were all trying, and no one was failing. Some very challenging kids did just fine.

Middle school is a challenging time, and seventh grade can be the mostdifficult grade to teach. Seventh graders often clam up and often don’t want to tell their families what they are doing in school. But during the Mi-STAR unit, my students talked in class about the insulation in their own homes—they had actually been asking questions at home and sharing what they were learning with their families! And then bringing it back to class! That amazed me. In retrospect, I believe Mi-STAR led to deeper learning and interest because my students were able to connect the lessons to their own lives.

I’ve been teaching for 15 years, and I have a largetool box to engage my students. But students are not predictable. I’ll have a lesson that works fabulously with one class and tanks with another. Now I’d like to pilot this Mi-STAR unit again in the fall, to see if it engages a new group in the same way. I am looking forward to great things happening again.

Sheri Turner
Bangor Township Schools

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Mi-STAR was founded in 2015 through generous support provided by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. Mi-STAR has also received substantial support from the National Science Foundation, the MiSTEM Advisory Council through the Michigan Department of Education, and Michigan Technological University.