CyberFair Project ID: 4049

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: A Tale of Two Streams
Category: 7. Environmental Awareness

School: Harshman Middle School
    Indianapolis , Indiana, USA

30+ students, ages 12 -13 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 19, 2005. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): none

Classes and Teachers: 7th grade, House C, science, math, social studies and languge arts

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Our school community is the near-east side of Indianapolis but because of our magnet program for students interested in Math and Science we have significant numbers of students from outside our boundary area but still within the IPS corporation boundaries. . Our community is diverse racially and economically even though, in general, our neighborhood is considered to be a low socio-economic area. Our immediate community was once a very well-off suburb of Indianapolis (hard to imagine considering we are one mile north and one and half miles east of center of the city!) As Indy grew, the area went into decline. In the past few years many people and the city have been working (successfully) on revitalizing the old neighborhood s surrounding our school. Harshman has a long history encouraging our students to be of service to the community tried to be a good neighbor to the residents of the area. The spirit of pulling together is in large part due to activism on the part of neighborhood leaders (including some teachers who live in the area), who feel strongly that Harshman should play a role in this rejuvenation. The school has become a focus for spring and fall clean-up days as well as planting trees and perennial flowers as well working to develop the community spirit within the school.

2. Summary of Our Project

A Tale of Two Streams” is about students who saw a problem, investigated the problem and developed solutions to the problem. It is also about how students can make a difference in their community and about the importance of looking beyond their immediate neighborhood to become part of a solution that requires both public and private actions. This project is also about solving real world problems, which has become a school-wide emphasis. As part of science class curriculum, we focused on water in our community in all its aspects, from the water cycle in nature to surface and ground water as a source of drinking water, recreational uses, and sanitation. As student knowledge developed about the water system, students began to ask questions about the water closest to them, in our case Pogue’s Run and Pleasant Run. They began asking “Why does the creek smell?”, “Why can’t we wade in the creek in the park?” Finally the question was “What can we do about it?” Research began and students soon discovered CSOs or Combined Sewer Overflows in which sanitary sewers are combined with storms sewers. When it rains even as little as a quarter of an inch, the sewers overflow into designated streams and ditches which then flow into the White River. Both Pogue’s Run and Pleasant Run are part of this system. At one time, (100 years ago) this was an acceptable practice but as the population of Indianapolis grew, the health risks outweigh the cost savings of doing nothing. The solution to pollution could no longer be dilution. The waste was overwhelming the 100 year old system. Now what?

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:21-50%

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:4-6

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

Because Harshman is part of the Tech Know Build project, students and their families have access to computers on a daily basis. This program lends each student an Apple iBook laptop computer for their use at school and at home as a way of bridging “the digital divide.” Because of this, most of our students have access to the internet at school and many have access at home as well. The computer has become an important tool for students. But there are problems. The new technology takes time for teachers to understand and begin to utilize well. This was only our second year with the project. Problems with hardware lead to frustrations on the part of students and teachers. The computer can also be a distraction with music, games, and instant messaging. Students became very adept at getting around restrictions instead of focusing on their work.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

The biggest problem for us in completing the CyberFair project is the lack of time to do a really good job. The project that is presented, “A Tale of Two Streams,” is a project developed to meet the specifications of the Tech Know Build program. TKB projects, as they are known, focus on using computer and related technology to develop solutions to real problems and put those plans into action. At the last moment, we were encouraged to adapt it to the specification of Cyber Fair. It has been a struggle to understand their focus and goals of the CyberFair program and revise the project to meet the requirement. Even though this has been a challenge, it will be good practice for next year when we begin the project in the fall. While working on the TKB project, we did experience many problems. There were hardware and software glitches. These are to be expected when you put laptop computers into the hands of 12 and 13 year olds, These crashes and breakdowns always seemed to happen at the most inopportune moments. Because of this, students learned that backing up files must become a routine part of their efforts. Part of our project relied on using digital video cameras. Students enjoyed this facet of the project and discovered that movie making is more than point and shoot everything around you! Editing was a very tedious process. Students had to become the experts and instructors because the teacher lacked the expertise. Eventually, students inserted the movie into their PowerPoint Presentations. This created more problems as students (and teachers) were not aware of all the resource folders that had to be moved and placed together. Movies would not play. Files could not be found. Therefore the CyberFair website lacks the videos we made.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

CyberFair is a way to have student reach a wider audience with their work and to learn about the work of others around the work. Through reviewing these projects we get an idea about what is important to other people throughout the world and the standards that we all must work to achieve.

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

When the original project was created, the Science standards and other curriculum standards were to be very much addressed by the project. Indiana and Indianapolis Public Schools science standards are very clear in that they address the role people play in their environment and the interactions of humans and the environments. The environment may contain many hazards (naturally occurring as well as human made) so people need to be able monitor their surroundings to keep themselves and other s healthy. This project began as a continuation of class room discussions and activities that focused on the environment. As the project developed, social studies and math requirements came into play as students investigated the role of government in the community and the importance of statistical information. To accomplish their goals, students needed to work with each other in a small cooperative group and then coordinate information with other groups. This can be a difficult thing for adults to do, let alone adolescents. Students learned about the interaction of government, communities and private citizens. Individuals can make a difference if they are persistent and arm themselves with knowledge. It was really great for the students to find how responsive the local government was to their concerns. The Metropolitan Planning Organization, other city sponsored groups and community groups were all more than happy to talk to them and take their efforts seriously. The internet turned out to be a very efficient tool to gather information. If we had to rely strictly on the printed word and personal interviews, out research would still not be completed. It is very empowering for the students to have much of the world at their fingertips.

Project Elements

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

Equipment included Apple iBooks (one for each student); Digital still cameras (Sony belonging to the school , Kodak belonging to the teacher) Traditional film cameras belonging to the students; scanner (teacher’s); the school library, libraries access on line; newsletters and pamphlets from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, NESCO, the Indianapolis Star newspaper, both print and online; guest speakers. The tools used for this project have come to be no more unusual than a pen seemed a few years ago. We relied heavily on laptops computers to which every child had access. These iBooks became the students’ notebooks, sketchbooks and personal communications system. They shared project files through email, turned in rough drafts via electronic drop boxes, searched the world for information and found it not too many blocks away. The most important resources they found were people they could speak to face to face and on site experience such as at the waste water treatment plant. Companies like Veolia and White River Environmental donated employees’ time to discuss the water cleaning processes with student. Arrangements were made by email. Still and motion digital photography made an easily remembered record of each experience.

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

Students approached people in their neighborhood, at church and at the local grocery store to get their opinions about their efforts to improve the two streams. In doing so they tried to increase the awareness in the community about the problems with the water ways. It was their first introduction to community activism. They also contacted different departs in the city by email

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

The project that the students completed has helped raise local awareness of the problems of combined sewer overflows and the dangers they can present to the community. The city has been developing and implementing plans to solve or at least lessen the contamination problem, but it will take tax and water fee increased to make it happen. Hopefully the students’ projects helped raise people's awareness about how important the city’s plans are and how essential it is that that are funded and completed.

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

Our biggest supporters were the people from CILC like Sherry Shelton and Monica Cougan who helped set up guest speakers from the Metropolitan Development Commission, the Metropolitan planning organization and helped set up trip s to the Veolia water treatment plant and the White River Environmental waste treatment plant, our technology. Great support came from or technology specialist Tammy Stansifer. Jeff McMahan and all the people who are with IPS instructional computing also played a crucial role, from getting equipment back running to being a goad when efforts flagged. A BIG thank you to Alena Bogucki at Ball State University who was crucial in helping our web site come together.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 4049)

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