CyberFair Project ID: 1451

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: The Historic Farms of Franklin Township, Hunterdon County
Category: 6. Historical Landmarks
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

School: Franklin Township School
    Quakertown, New Jersey, United States

46 students, ages from 9 to 11 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on December 1, 2000. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): This is our first partici

Classes and Teachers: Barry S. Kramer: 4th Grade Class; Tracy Strysky: 4th Grade Class

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Franklin Township, Hunterdon County, is a small rural community in western New Jersey. It is found in the geographical center of Hunterdon County. The township is very proud of its agricultural history. Agriculture can trace its roots back over 300 years. There are many buildings within the township which are over 200 years old. Over the past few years, suburban growth has caused the face of the township to change. The township now is characterized by a mix of agricultural families and suburban commuters.

The goal of the “The Historic Farms of Franklin Township, Hunterdon County” project is to reach students, parents and residents of the township community. We believe that we can make the school the center of local historical research by having the students of the school create an informational web site that preserves the agricultural history of the township.

2. Summary of Our Project

Franklin Township in Hunterdon County, New Jersey has been blessed with a rich agricultural history. Over a period of years, suburban growth has caused the face of the township to change. It was the goal of the teachers and students of the fourth grade of Franklin Township School to preserve the historical facts, stories, opinions, and images of the historical farms that still remain in the township.

The fourth grade students (1999/2000) of Franklin Township School in Quakertown, New Jersey have created a permanent Internet site called “The Historic Farms of Franklin Township, Hunterdon County.” This web site was designed by the students and teachers of the fourth grade. The students were responsible for the writing, graphics, and photographs used in the web site.

This project was selected by the New Jersey Agricultural Society to receive one of ten grants awarded each year to promote a greater understanding of agricultural awareness in the State of New Jersey.

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:2-3

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):

Franklin Township School has T1 Internet access. The school is part of a coalition of 5 other schools. This coalition has entered into a school-business initiative with a private Internet provider. Each school district in the coalition sells Internet access to the school community. In return the private business provides high speed Internet access to the schools for an extremely low cost.

The school has two computer labs and individual computers in each classroom. The entire building is networked.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

The students began by identifying six farms in Franklin Township. Local community members with a background in local agriculture and history were an integral part of this process. Farms were chosen based on the type of farming along with the historical background of the farm. Students worked as research teams and traveled by school bus to visit the selected farms in the township.

At each farm the students interviewed the farmer and his/her family. These interviews, research and additional background data provided the information for the written text of the web site. The students also took digital pictures, digital panoramic virtual reality shots, and video of the farm sites.

The first major obstacle to overcome was to instruct students in research and interviewing skills. The students had a limited amount of time to gather information and only an hour and a half to spend at each farm. During their farm visitation they had to acquire the information for the text of the web page and take all the photographs and video that would be needed for the site.

A great deal of time was taken equipping students with skills needed to process digital pictures, construct virtual reality shots, and make QuickTime movies. Students also had to be taught how to design and construct web pages.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

The fourth grade students (1999/2000) of Franklin Township School in Quakertown, New Jersey created a permanent Internet site called, “The Historic Farms of Franklin Township, Hunterdon County.” This web site was designed by the students and teachers of the fourth grade. The permanent web site has been posted on the Internet for the school, township and world community with the hopes of preserving the rich agricultural heritage of the Franklin Township.

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

The goal of this project was to provide an interdisciplinary project that would ask students to expand their knowledge base and strongly use skills in the areas of language arts and technology.

A great deal of pre-instruction and preparation was implemented to train students to work as reporters, researchers, photographers, and video camera operators. After the students acquired their information they had to switch roles and become the processors of their information. Their goal was to produce a permanent web site that would highlight the agricultural history of the community.

A major part of the fourth grade curriculum at Franklin Township is the study of New Jersey history. Students had already participated in research on historic sites within the township. It was decided by the teachers that a web site that focused only on the agricultural history of the township would be an excellent method to reach a part of the community which had been ignored.

Skills and goals were identified that directly related to district curriculum stands and the state core curriculum standards. The following New Jersey State Core Curriculum Standards were identified:

Cross-Content Workplace Readiness Standard 2

Language Arts Literacy Standard 3.3 Standard 3.5

Social Studies Standard 6.3

This project proved to be an outstanding experience for the students. They willingly embraced the research requirements and developed technology skills to accomplish tasks of their own design and determination. Students had to learn how to process digital pictures, design and construct web pages, piece together panoramic pictures, and create quick time movies. This captivated their attention and resulted in a tremendous amount of dedication and personal ownership of the project.

Project Elements

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

The information tools and technologies the students used were different depending on the various phases of the project.

The first phase involved a great deal of student preparation. This began with students using traditional print and library materials. After initial research students were given lessons on reporting skills.

Students were given specific lessons on web page design and development. The students actually produced small web pages projects to practice their skills. Additional lessons were given on the use of digital cameras and video recording. After this the students were divided into task groups. Students functioned as: Reporters, Roving Reporters, Photographers, and Video Operators.

On the farm visitation days the students performed their various tasks while at the farm. Reporters took turns asking questions while the farmers showed their farms. Photographers and Video Operators were in the background capturing images on their predetermined list as well as photographic opportunities. All information was collected in one and a half hours or less.

The final phase was web page construction. Back at school students worked to type up their notes or process photographs. Specific student writers pieced together all the information to form a narrative describing each farm.

Web page design was discussed and a general format was decided for all the farms. Text were examined by students and teachers to determine the best way to construct web pages. In some instances it was decided to use multiple web pages for each farm.

Photographers and Video Operators processed pictures and video for inclusion on the web pages. Colors were selected, graphics were researched and the web pages were pieced together under teacher instruction.

The web pages were posted on the Internet each day so that students and parents could monitor the progress of our work. It took about three weeks of one to two periods a day to complete the web pages.

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

The students had to act as ambassadors for our school district at almost every phase of the project. In fact, the project was designed as a vehicle to strengthen school-community relationships. The agricultural community of the township is a group that has often been at odds with the school district particularly in the area of taxation. New Jersey has a unique situation when it comes to school budgets. Citizens of the township vote directly on accepting or rejecting the school budget every year. Close school-community relationships are very important to the school. Any opportunity to strengthen those ties is extremely critical to the success of the school.

Over the past few years the school has used the Internet and technology as a way of bridging that gap between the school and the community. The school district has entered into a business agreement with a private Internet Service Provider. The arrangement is set up so the school sells access to the community and the provider locates a T-1 access line in the school building. When community members sign up for the service they help support the school district in receiving very low cost Internet access. Community members actually have the opportunity to have the school’s homepage as their Internet portal. Local history projects are an excellent vehicle to encourage community members to see what the school is doing on their behalf.

Students had to develop skills of interacting with local farmers. They actually visited their homes, interviewed them, and reported on their findings. The students often made phone calls back to the individual farmers to double check their information.

After the project was finished the local farmers were invited into the school to view the finished project and to review all the information. The farmers were presented with Certificates of Appreciation at the reception held in their honor.

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

The “Historic Farms of Franklin Township” project was very warmly received by the community. A local newspaper, The Hunterdon Democrat, ran two major articles on the project. The first focused on the school receiving a grant for the project and the second focused on the final project.

The project was recognized at a School Board meeting and recognized by the Town Council. Another article was also published in the New Jersey Agricultural Society’s quarterly newsletter. This newsletter was distributed to teachers and farmers throughout the state.

A very unexpected result of the web site has been the number of emails we have received from people who have run across our site while doing research on family members. We have received emails from people all over the United States and Canada who have been researching family heritage. Names and locations in our web site have been picked up by major search engines. We knew that the web site would have an impact on our local community and we have been very pleased that the world community has also found our web pages to be a good source of information.

The success of this project and its reputation has allowed my teaching partner and myself to secure a further grant to continue the second phase of this project. This project will add six more farms in the spring of 2001.

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

The “Historic Farms of Franklin Township” project drew upon the expertise of a group of local community members. Help was needed to identify six farmers who would be willing to invite students to their farm and work with the students to develop this project. Since we did not have a model to work on we thought it best to draw on the expertise of community members.

Susan Blew of Oak Grove Plantation has developed an excellent reputation as a farmer who works with schools to develop agricultural awareness programs. She was asked to be one of the first farmers to participate in this project. She was also instrumental in providing suggestions on fellow farmers to include. We also consulted the town's local historian, Ed Stoudt, for historical information.

In addition, the local farmers themselves were volunteers. We contacted August Knispel, a former town mayor and outspoken member of the community; John Peterson, of the Peterson Farm; Dr. John Grande, of the Snyder Research Farm operated by Rutgers University; Linda Pearce and Karl Zschack, of Brass Ring Farm; Samuel Leon and Wayne Berger, of Leon’s Sod Farm; and Ted and Susan Blew, of Oak Grove Plantation.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

When we began this project we were quite certain that the students would be capable of learning the technology skills needed to complete the project. What we were amazed at were the complexity of skills that the students were able to integrate. The students' ability to learn processing of digital pictures and their ability to take video and convert it into QuickTime movies amazed us.

Another satisfying result of this project was the way it was so warmly embraced by the community. Many of the farmers who participated in the project became our best spokespersons to the community. They took every opportunity they had to tell their neighbors and fellow community members. Word spread throughout the community of the contribution the students of Franklin Township School were making to the community.

Another added benefit of this project was that I was able to speak about this project to a group of international teachers at the International Education and Research Network’s (iEARN) Seventh Annual International Conference in Beijing, China. At that conference many teachers from different countries were looking for suggestions on Internet projects that could be accomplished in their home towns. I presented a workshop on local history projects that featured the “Historic Farms of Franklin Township.” I found that projects that bridged the ties between agriculture and schools proved to hold many possibilities for many of the participants, particularly those is less developed countries.


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