CyberFair Project ID: 3703

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Pioneer Park From Sacred Space to Soccer Field
Category: 6. Historical Landmarks

School: Grant Elementary School
    San Diego, California, United States

12 students, ages 9-11 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 18, 2005. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 2005

Classes and Teachers: Patsy Kirk

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site: http://

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

The Grant Elementary School community is diverse. It is a math and science magnet school whose purpose is attract students in kindergarten through fifth grade who are interested in enriched math and science programs with an emphasis in technology, and to create a school environment that is ethnically and economically diverse. Approximately one-half of the student population lives in the Mission Hills neighborhood, and the remaining students, selected through an application process, come from other neighborhoods throughout the city of San Diego. The range of economic levels is wide, including Title 1, and there are a large variety of ethnic groups represented.

In addition to the math and science program, the Grant School learning community has other classes to support students’ emotional and academic needs. Our class is a seminar class designed for 4th and 5th graders with advanced learning abilities. An active student council and Thursday Kids’ Club give students choices for other activities.

The Grant School community includes a very active Parent Teacher Association and Foundation. They work separately to organize and fund “above and beyond” what is provided by the San Diego City Schools. They provide such things as technical equipment, field trips, and extensive classroom and school libraries.

The geographic community is Mission Hills, which is centrally located towards the downtown area. It is one of San Diego’s oldest residential communities consisting mainly of single-family homes, many of which are of historic significance. Mission Hills’ residents support Grant School and its activities. Many of the students are second or third generation Mission Hills residents. Local businesses are also supportive.

Working together, the students, teachers, staff, parents, and neighbors have created the Grant School community.

2. Summary of Our Project

Pioneer Park is a historic landmark next to Grant Elementary School. It was once the site of Calvary Cemetery, and many of San Diego’s pioneers are still buried there. Our project began as a simple investigation into this curious landmark with old tombstones. We soon realized that it was a complicated story about change and community growth. Working together, we were able to learn what occurred in the past and how to make wise decisions about preserving our heritage for the future. Students named their project “Pioneer Park — From Sacred Space to Soccer Field”. Some students felt we should also say “And Beyond”.

We made a plan for the project using a computer program called “Inspiration”. This plan divided the investigation into 4 main categories, which were subdivided. Pairs, small groups, and individuals worked on different topics making direct connections to Mission Hills, the cemetery, and Grant School. The first category is “Historic San Diego” and is divided by the changes in the population: Kumeyaay, Spanish, Mexican, Americans, and Americans moving into Mission Hills. The second category called “Calvary Cemetery” traces the changes in the cemetery from the beginning until it was closed to become Pioneer Park. “Pioneer Park Evolution” explains the transition from cemetery to park. The fourth subdivision category describes “Pioneer Park Today and Tomorrow”. The focus is to show a community making informed decisions to preserve its heritage and plan for the future. Students developed opinions about the value of preserving memories and were outraged by some of their discoveries.

The website design followed the “Inspiration' plan. Students talked, dreamed, and planned as a group what the website should look like and what it should include. They wanted it to look vintage, like an old scrapbook, so it was kept to neutral colors using the change in the park as a theme We have great pride in the final project.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:more than 6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6

E. Additional comments concerning your computer and/or Internet access (Optional):

Grant School is a magnet school committed to math, science, and technology. Our classroom and school computer lab are well supplied with computers. Most of the classroom computers are one of the results of Mrs. Kirk’s participation in a grant awarded to Grant School by National Science Foundation a few years ago. The lab also benefited from that grant. Computers in the lab have been totally upgraded during the last year because of efforts by the Grant School Foundation. Several years ago the Grant School staff and community held their own “net day” to wire the school for Internet. This past year the San Diego City School district had the wiring in Grant School upgraded with a faster more efficient system. We are hopeful that upgrades and improvements will continue in the classrooms and lab.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

At each step of the way there were hurdles to cross. Fortunately, none were insurmountable.

To begin with, we underestimated the size of the project we were undertaking. We had to continually refocus efforts and reorganize assignments. Pairing fifth grade students with fourth grade students was one successful strategy.

Another problem we encountered was the availability of resources. Grant School has a well-supplied library, as does our classroom, but we soon discovered we needed more. The Internet provided some significant information about the cemetery, but this still wasn’t adequate. With the help of parents, we were able to make trips to the California Room at the Downtown Library and the San Diego Historical Society. The information at these locations provided students with pertinent information including newspaper articles and primary source documents such as memos, original cemetery records, maps, and official documents.

Extracting information from old primary source documents was a wonderful experience that provided another challenge. The students were fascinated by all of the documents from the past. They sometimes had difficulty focusing on what was important to our project. Some of the documents were legal, formal, or technical in nature. We also found conflicting information

The technology portion of our project was probably the most exciting and challenging. Our school is well equipped with computers and other equipment, but we have little experience with web publishing. To solve this problem, students began planning what they wanted their web site to look like and what they wanted to include. Their dreams were much larger than their skills. Fortunately another parent volunteered his expertise to assist in the design by setting up templates. With templates, volunteers, and site teachers, students were able to publish their content while learning to using portions of our recently acquired “Dreamweaver Suite” software. Another hurdle was overcome.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Participating in the International Schools CyberFair was important to the students because they were able to share their discoveries about a historic landmark significant to them and their Mission Hills neighborhood with the world. It also provided them with an exciting opportunity to use the higher level of technology necessary to complete “Pioneer Park From Sacred Place to Soccer Field”.

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

The Pioneer Park research project provided authenticity, enrichment, and meaning as it met and exceeded California State grade level standards in Reading Language Arts, Social Studies, and National Educational Technology Standards. San Diego City School District requires teaching to State Standards. California Standards are available at

Reading Language Arts • Students gathered and synthesized Information from above grade level expository text in newspapers, primary sources, and online information. They took notes using focused questions and organizational structures to determine importance of information. • Students wrote focused research reports with coherent sentences and paragraphs with a purpose and audience. Reports include introductions, supporting details, conclusions, and summaries. Students used the writing process with several revisions and editions to maintain focus of project and grade level appropriate writing conventions before work was published online.

Social Studies • Fourth Grade Students learn the story of their home state, California, and how it is unique. This includes the multiple waves of immigrants to California back to pre-Columbian societies. The diversity focus also includes the effect of the economy, the rapid growth of the area, and changes in government and institutions. • Fifth grade students study United States history up to 1850 in a more global manner, including immigration, westward expansion, colonial governments, independence, freedoms, and self-government.

Technology Standards This project addressed the National Educational Technology Standards for Grades 4 and 5 in all six recommended categories as students researched, wrote, collected assets, and produced their web site. These standards are found at,

Working as a member of a team was a positive learning experience. Students planned, researched, wrote, revised, discussed, and made decisions. As a result recognitions of individual strengths and collaboration grew.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?

Information tools • Internet • Primary source documents • Copies of primary sources • Field trips • Newspapers • Oral interviews

All information tools were valuable. The Internet was valuable for researching historical San Diego. Students learned that the Internet doesn’t always provide information needed when they discovered the limited amount of information available online for Calvary Cemetery, Mission Hills, and Pioneer Park. The most valuable information sources were primary source documents and newspapers studied on field trips to the California Room at the Downtown Library and the San Diego Historical Society. The oral history interviews were probably the most interesting information source. People shared their memories of the cemetery and Grant School. These were video taped.

Our classroom is a good example of how using the Internet for teaching and learning can be very productive on a daily basis.

• 10 online Macintosh workstations (1 eMac, 3 G-4s, 2 G-3s, 4 iMacs) • 2 scanners • 2 networkable printers • 3 digital cameras • 1 digital video camera

Classroom software used includes • Inspiration - planning software • Word Processing (Microsoft Word, Appleworks) • Photos, videos, scanned documents (iPhoto, iMovie, Photo Studio, Photoshop)

For the work on the Internet site students moved into the school computer lab to use the Dreamweaver template developed for this project. The lab is equipped with 27 online Macintosh eMac workstations. We also used a projector and a Smart Board to view the project and learn how to add information to the template, edit text, save, make photo corners, resize and add pictures, and upload to the Internet.

Computer lab software includes; • Dreamweaver • Fireworks • Flash

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.

As the Pioneer Park project began we realized that much of the information we needed was not in a book or online. Students had to reach out for assistance. Community people were contacted in a number of ways in order to gather resources and information.

Information notices were distributed to our learning community. These notices explained our project and asked for information or leads. Many individuals were very supportive and interested in the project.

The most effective example of being ambassadors was when current and former neighborhood residents were invited to visit and share their memories. Not everyone who responded with information was able to come, but they certainly encouraged the students. Students prepared questions and interviewed our visitors. Six people were video taped. Audio portions of the videos and still photos are on our website. Those interviews gave the neighbors a connection to the school that had not existed before and they gave the students some amazing first hand accounts. The communication continued with thank you notes and an invitation to visit again.

Public institutions also got involved. The San Diego Historical Society and the Downtown Public library are very close to Mission Hills. Trips to these locations were effective communication devices. The librarian in the California Room at the Downtown library was especially enthusiastic about our project. E-mails to people in the San Diego Park and Recreation office were interesting, and information continues to come from them as they discover other facts.

People involved currently with the school, other students, staff, and parents, ask questions and are always surprised by some of the facts uncovered about the school and the old cemetery. The most amazing example of involving others is the discovery of headstone pieces by a student who is not participating in the project.

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

“Pioneer Park From Sacred Space to Soccer Field” was unveiled at the Apple Computer Store in San Diego to an audience in addition to all of the shoppers. The students explained how their project was chosen and how it developed from the first idea to the informative website that it is. They shared many of their findings and significant observations. The project was extremely well received. Observers found the content interesting and somewhat surprising. The technology was impressive.

In addition, the students were excited about showing their work and their feelings about preserving this historical landmark. Other events are planned to further advertise the project and share this important information. Students will present their project to the Grant School learning community at the next Parent Teacher Association Meeting. Press Releases are being prepared for our site newsletter, the San Diego City School’s newsletter, the Mission Hills newspaper, and the San Diego city newspaper. Students want to share their project and some of their findings. A few of the local television stations report important activities occurring at schools. They offer another venue to pursue. Some students participating in our project are concerned about the treatment of most of the headstones and would like to expose that in a more vocal and in-depth manner so that this kind of treatment does not affect the Mission Hills community again.

People either haven’t heard of San Diego or they think of it as a tourist resort. We hope our project also informs people in other places that San Diego is more than beautiful beaches and a world famous zoo. It is a wonderful place to live with an interesting history and students who are concerned.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

The nature of our Pioneer Park project demanded the involvement of many volunteers and support people. When we realized that much of the pertinent information was not available at our school site in books, magazines, or online, we asked for help.

Miriam and Martin Buchanan, parents, agreed. They organized student trips to the library and San Diego Historical Society and they made copies of news articles and documents to enable students to spend additional study time with them The Buchanans also assisted students to understand the more complicated documents. Miriam coordinated the oral history interviews and either Mr. or Mrs. Buchanan attended each interview. They also joined the planning sessions for the website and assisted with the photography. As the website progressed, Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan also assisted with troubleshooting the text. Mrs. Jeanne Shanks, Mission Hills resident and retired Grant School teacher, also assisted with some of the literacy related activities.

For the development of the website more volunteers were solicited. Loren Kramer, a parent, and two other Grant School teachers, John Snyder and Ola Olsen joined the support team. We all joined in various conversations to plan the site design. Students explained their ideas and Mr. Kramer developed templates to facilitate those ideas. He also worked with Mr. Snyder to train the students to do a variety of tasks with Dreamweaver. Mr. Kramer provided the server for the project as well as on going help with troubleshooting, instruction, and error correction. Mr. Gary Holly, an associate of Mr.Kramer's, held a photo shoot and made our ideas for the opening photo sequence and animation become a reality. Mr. Ola Olsen assisted the students, Mr. Kramer and Mr. Holly with the oral history component. We deeply appreciate the assistance from all of these individuals to make our project something to be very proud of.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

There were many surprises in the content of this project as students worked to maintain focus on the Mission Hills community. Most were those information pieces that affected the students on a more personal level. We were surprised that we could trace the Mission Hills area all the way back to the Cosoy Village of the Kumeyaay tribe, and then make direct connections to all of the waves of immigration into California. Many more surprises occurred in the discovery of what actually happened in the cemetery. Imagine hearing a teacher at your school describing how her friends jumped and played around the graves when they were growing up, or reading a primary source document describing how spooky the place was to many people. The surprise that park where they play everyday is still the burial place of almost 2,000 people led the students to choose the title for their project, “Pioneer Park From Sacred Space to Soccer Field.”

We were all surprised by the way the project grew to be so large when we were all thinking about our beautiful neighborhood park with its curious tombstones. We were impressed with the information that showed the strength and unity of the Mission Hills community over time. The eager participation of long time residents in the project was more evidence of this.

The biggest surprise had to be the discovery of cemetery artifacts in the canyon by one of our fellow students. This was amazing to everyone and upsetting at the same time. Students had just learned of the disrespectful treatment of the tombstones that had been relocated. Then to have a piece of a tombstone with an identifiable name etched into it was even more bothersome. Student investigation showed that the date of death for this person on the tombstone was a few years earlier than the date recorded in the actual burial record. There may be further investigation.


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