After the Bruce Museum exhibition last year, I looked forward to the second time around and what new knowledge, creativity, and struggles my classmates and I would receive. However, I had no idea just how taxing the process would end up being, and additionally, how much the stress was worth for our final product.
The Humanities Bruce Museum project for sophomores versus juniors has a stark contrast. While the tenth graders are asked to do an individual art piece, the juniors are put into groups to research the United States’ government response to various crises. My group decided to research the Japanese-American internment camps that took place during World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the deciding factor for Japanese-Americans to be sent to “relocation centers,” as they were called, simply because of the fear perpetuated as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although there was no evidence to prove that Japanese-Americans were a threat to American society, FDR signed Executive Order 9066 which stated that all Japanese-Americans, citizen or non-citizen, where to be sent to the internment camps to keep these “enemy aliens” as they were called under the supervision and away from others. Even after the financial reparations offered almost 40 years later by the Civil Liberties Act, a law created by the legislative branch, the internment camps left scars on the people that were forced inside.
After officially choosing our topic for the Bruce Museum, we were asked to create a rough prototype made out of paper of what we wanted our future project to look like. When we presented our idea to the class, we were met with many critiques that ended up improving our final product. Our original vision was too focused on meeting the literal requirements of the assignment rather than being an original art piece. We had to get creative, and through further discussion with the group, we mapped out a new idea. We would build a model of a camp inspired by our research and the infamous Manzanar Internment Camp which kept the most Japanese-American internees. We would build a model barrack using foam board and acrylic, put sand at the bottom of the box the barrack would be placed in to represent the rural locations of the camps, and build a fence out of chicken wire standing on a wooden sandbox. Within the barrack, we would include a timeline of significant events that took place during this crisis. Outside of the barrack, we would add faceless figures to represent the 1942 Lordsburg shootings, where a guard shot two Japanese-Americans because he believed that they were attempting to escape.
After weeks of extensive research, we gathered all of our materials with the help of our teachers and were eager to build. The group five split up, with two of the members tackling the barrack, and the other three figuring out the fence and sandbox.
As with any project, we faced many challenges along the way. The most prominent regarded the sandbox. We initially planned to pour a substantial amount of sand inside of the sandbox for a more realistic touch. However, we did not know how we would get this in and out of the museum without making a mess. Therefore, we came up with the solution to super glue the bottom of the box, pour a minimal amount of sand inside, and dump out any excess in the STEM courtyard. This was an amazing compromise and looked magnificent under the museum lights.
We also struggled with time management. While the building process felt like it lasted for months, it actually started about a week and a half before the exhibition. Nobody was spared from the persistent feeling of stress that made its way into every InLab classroom. It was imperative that we used our time wisely if we were to present a final product to the public. The aspects of our projects that affected our time management the most were the creation of the notecards and painting details on the barracks. Since class time was mostly focused on building, the note cards had to become homework for each individual member to complete. We found ourselves constantly changing the format and wording so that it could be ideal for the audience to read through quickly and effectively. When it came to painting, though acrylic paint does not take long to dry, the process requires a lot of patience. If we rushed through any detail, it would show. We attempted to organize our time by setting goals for ourselves at the beginning and end of Humanities classes. We would meet and go over what was expected of us by the end of that workday and anything that was for homework.
Though the process of this project was lengthy and strenuous, everything managed to come together in the end. There are so many things that would not have been completed without each group member’s help. We all contributed to this project in some way, shape, or form for the art piece to be the best it could be.
As for our Bruce STEM project, we were assigned to create a piece reflecting on the history of space travel related to orbital mechanics. I researched the Voyager Probes, two research space-crafts launched in August and September 1977, designed to take advantage of a rare alignment of the planets in our Solar System that takes place every 176 years. The probes flew by various planets using not just fuel but the gravity of each planet they passed, taking thousands of photos and collecting information regarding the chemical composition of their surfaces. Inspired by the story behind the probes, I decided to create a standing model out of the hardboard of their path through the solar system and highlighted ten key events related to their journey.
Unlike our Humanities projects, the STEM project was individual. If any setbacks were to occur, the only person I could blame was myself. I knew I had to manage my time wisely, so before anything else, I did extensive research on the probes and organized the information into the text that would end up going on the model. This ended up coming to my advantage so that once midterms had ended, I could completely focus on building the model. About a week and a half before the Bruce Museum, on the same day my Humanities group began to build, I started the physical aspect of my project.
While organization was my strong suit for the STEM project, I struggled with making the model visually pleasing and more of an art piece. I initially just planned to paint the board black and add a couple of starts to create a space-like background. However, I soon realized that it looked bland. To compensate for this, I drilled holes into the board that would later act as stars once I put lights behind it. I also added a galaxy design using white, purple, and blue paint. This helped attract more people to my project and added some personal flair.
While I wasn’t close to my project for most of the night, I did have some people come up to me interested in the background of my model and the process I went through creating it. It was incredibly rewarding to have my model in the Bruce Museum along with my Humanities.
It’s sad to know that I won’t be a part of another Bruce Museum exhibition next year. However, the exciting process, the appetite for learning, and the bursting creativity of my classmates will always stay with me.
Now, on to National History Day…