PITTSBURG -- Maryfrances DiMaggio is curious about Pittsburg's history. That curiosity found an outlet when she and two other middle-school students from Synergy Charter School chose the city's history as their contribution to a student-created museum.
"If you don't know the history of Pittsburg, you wouldn't know where Pittsburg really came from," said DiMaggio, a seventh-grader at the open house event last week that featured more than two dozen museum exhibits created by teams of middle-school students. The event also included dance and drama performances.
DiMaggio and her fellow collaborators, eighth-graders Jake Aparicio and Anthony Vierra, answered questions asked by parents in front of their display, which included a timeline of Pittsburg's history, population charts and information about elected city council members.
"I chose Pittsburg because I live in Antioch," Vierra said. "I wanted to learn about the history of Pittsburg and everything because I've never learned much about Pittsburg. I like to learn something new."
Most of the research for the exhibits was done online, which fits in with the concept of the charter school's technology-driven approach to learning. Another component is project-based learning, of which the student-created museum is an example.
"The projects, they really are fascinating because you're learning more about your history and everything else. You're learning the whole topic," DiMaggio said.
About 100 middle-school students attend Synergy, which opened for its initial school year last August in a converted office building on East Leland Road.
Seventh-grader Angel Valdovinos put together an exhibit about transportation that featured a photo of the Caldecott Tunnel and a model of a BART train that used clay to make commuters and seats.
"I thought it would be interesting because I go through BART all the time. They do tunnels and I didn't know how they did that kind of stuff," he said.
The students who put the exhibits together did so over a two-month period. Each exhibit involved a team of students working together.
"The museum concept for kids is great, especially if they are given an extended period of time to study the material. So it's really about the process. You are seeing the project," (at the event), said Cheryl Townsend, co-founder and program director of Synergy.
"This is the just the culmination of seven weeks of study," she said. "We are a technology-driven school. We don't use textbooks. You see a lot of laptops here. Every student is assigned a laptop."
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.