‘Peace Museum’ exhibit shows lessons Monte del Sol history students learned
For Sierra Corriveau, letting go of the Renaissance was an exercise in trust.
Alongside her co-educator Elizabeth Tedrick, the longtime high school world history teacher embarked on an educational experiment this year at Monte del Sol Charter School.
Instead of letting traditional curriculum and chronology dictate their lesson plans, Corriveau and Tedrick broke the mold and adopted a project-based learning model. In her world history classes, Corriveau largely bypassed the Renaissance, Reformation and Colonialism, dropped traditional lectures and exams and focused instead on bringing the past into the present.
Sophomore year would be all about peace and conflict.
“This was really letting go of pretty much everything,” Corriveau said. “The kids had to sort of drive it, so that was really hard to adjust to. But the kids did a great job.”
The year-end culmination of Corriveau and Tedrick’s experiment — an art exhibit titled Peace Museum, designed and executed by their 43 students — will be on display this weekend at the Lannan Meeting House, 309 Read St.
Throughout the year, Corriveau and Tedrick, who teaches world literature, focused on a few themes: genocide, immigration and the Holocaust, to name a few. They learned dates and facts, but more importantly, Corriveau said, they learned to consider their role in promoting a peaceful world.
“My goal really was that the kids had an opportunity to truly ask themselves who they are in the world, how we can move to a better place, what their responsibility is toward that and what the obstacles are,” she said. “What are our personal obstacles? What are our bigger obstacles? I really wanted them to get a much bigger sense of self in the world, and I think they did.”
Classes were discussion-based, which students said led to a heightened closeness among classmates. Students also welcomed a few world-wise visitors.
Santa Fe resident Black Nature shared his experience as a survivor of the genocide in Sierra Leone, while Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Don Bartletti stopped by to talk about immigration.
The yearlong project culminated in the Peace Museum, an art exhibit featuring both individual and collaborative works of art. Themes include post-traumatic stress disorder, LGBTQ violence, the glorification of guns, and the effects of peace and violence on the body.
For students, the yearlong experience was an eye-opener on multiple levels.
“I knew there was conflict in the world, but not necessarily that it was that bad,” said Kiera Wilson, 16. “I didn’t have an understanding of genocide and stuff like that before this year. It’s important to learn and talk about that stuff, but also to talk about peace and what you can do to be peaceful.”
“I learned that peace has a lot of gray areas in it,” said Prayas Pradhan, a 17-year-old student. “There’s not just a good side and a bad side. There’s space in between where the line crosses over or the line disappears.”
Project-based learning has long been a method of choice in preschools and elementary schools, but Corriveau said it’s less often employed for older students. Despite the challenges of implementing a wholly new approach to learning, after her yearlong experiment, Corriveau said she’s a convert.
“When it comes to the topics that they explored, they learned way more about it than if it were taught in a traditional sense,” she said. “… I would definitely do it again.”
If you go
What: Monte del Sol Charter School’s Peace Museum
Where: Lannan Meeting House, 309 Read St.
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday