CyberFair Project ID: 1402

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Minnesnowta: The Winter Wonderland
Category: 4. Local Specialties
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

School: Dakota Meadows Middle School
    North Mankato, Minnesota, United States

32 students, ages from 13 to 14 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 15, 2001. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 1999, 2000

Classes and Teachers: Beth Christensen, English 8, periods 5, 6

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Dakota Meadows Middle School is located in south central Minnesota, USA. The school serves the communities of Mankato and North Mankato, Minnesota. Mankato is the education and retail center for the agriculturally-based economy of south central Minnesota. The two communities have a combined population of just over 40,000.

Clean water and fertile soil attracted European immigrants to the area in the mid-1800s. Immigrants discovered mild summers and harsh winters. Winters proved to be an extreme hardship for early settlers. Winter death, or near-death, experiences are a part of the family histories of many Minnesotans. Winters, both mild and harsh, are a part of our community experience today. Each year, residents prepare for weather extremes and the challenges winter brings. Winter is one of the most prominent features of our environment and occupies a special place among our many Minnesota specialties.

2. Summary of Our Project

Our web site is divided into eight topics related to Minnesota's winter wonderland. In the Environment section we present data on temperature and wind chill records and show the reader how windchill is calculated. In this section we also describe how animals adapt to winter and the effect of ice dams on our houses. In the section on History, we tell how people in Minnesota have survived severe blizzards and highlight the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1941. Winter in Minnesota is challenging and one of the ways people cope is with humor. In our Humor section students demonstrate frozen turkey bowling, share local humor with Minnesota Ole and Lena jokes, and present silly songs. Recreation is another winter coping mechanism and in our Recreation section we show how to build snow forts, play King of the Mountain, make a snowball, build a snowman, and make a snow angel. Moving snow is a major job in Minnesota and in our Snow Removal section we describe how our streets and highways are cleared of snow and what living snow fences are. We even celebrate winter in Minnesota with Winter Arts. In this section we talk about our winter festivals, with ice sculptures and ice palaces, highlight Minnesota movies featuring winter, and show photos of winter scenes. Our Winter Dangers sections covers winter driving, school closing due to bad weather, and what it really means to be on thin ice. Our closing section on Winter Sports presents dog sledding, ice fishing, and the little known sport of curling.

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:2-3

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):

Dakota Meadows Middle School Internet access is provided by Independent School District 77, Mankato, Minnesota. Most of the funding for technology and technology-based learning is from the district. A grant from the state of Minnesota also facilitates the use of technology in the district’s schools. All district buildings are connected by fiber optics. Our service provider is Charter Communications Company.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

In completing our Minnesnowta: The Winter Wonderland web site we had to work around, if not overcome, winter. The winter of 2000/2001 was one of the harshest in the last decade, and students missed some school days because schools were closed. Yet, our eighth graders could not be deterred. As a matter of fact, with our challenging winter the student were even more resolved to share with others what it is like to live in a northern climate where winter weather can quickly alter schedules. Students elected to work on the project after school and on weekends, when faced with school computers reserved for regular classes during the school day.

Building a web site based on one of our local specialties, winter, required going out into the community for interviews and photos. Scheduling winter "experts" to meet with students at convenient times was a challenge. Bringing in the school district's technical experts for just-in-time training on computers and software also presented a scheduling challenge.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Minnesotans often say we have two seasons: winter is coming, and winter is here. This site explains a Minnesota winter to those not familiar with this phenomenon.

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

The Minnesnowta: The Winter Wonderland project met the state and schoo district's non-fiction reading and writing Profile of Learning requirement. Students improved their research and writing skills. For some students, this project was their first experience at filed research in which they compiled and shared what they learned with someone other than the teacher. Students brought a variety of computer skills to the project. Each student was introduced to new software and techniques in Web site construction.

Student teamwork was supported. Students decided to enter the International Schools CyberFair contest by enumerating the pros and cons and voting on the project. The vote was unanimous to proceed. Students knew it would take the entire class working as a team. They knew there could be no slackers. The organizational skills of 13 to 14 year old students were tested, but the students never faltered. As a result of the project, students developed an understanding of what it takes to work as a team member with an end product against a deadline. Students learned to resolve conflicts in short order so they could move forward. Students also learned new technology quickly and how to share it with others.

Dakota Meadows Middle School English 8 students must write for an audience other than the teacher. A student constructed Web site helps meet this requirement, but, more importantly, it motivates students to write clearly, without error, and to use a vocabulary that can be understood by a world-wide audience. Other English 8 student-constructed web sites at Dakota Meadows Middle School have demonstrated students are more motivated and learning is more effective when their product will be viewed by someone other than the teacher. When produced for distribution on the Internet, student know they have to stand behind their work before the world.

Project Elements

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

A wide variety of information tools and technologies were used in producing the Minnesnowta: The Winter Wonderland web site. Most tools and technologies used in the web site construction were provided by Independent School District #77. District personnel were available to assist students in their use. Telephones were used to contact people and set up interviews or arrange for class presentations. Video cameras and digital cameras were used by students on their field trip to the St. Paul Winter Carnival. Digitizers and scanners were used to capture historic photos and documents. Students used a wide variety of computer software and programs, such as , Photo Shop, GIF Converter, iMac II movies, Java Script, Java Applets, QuickTime movies, Front Page, and ClarisWorks Home Page 3.0, in building the web site.

The Dakota Meadows Middle School Media Center, the Mankato Free Press, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis Star and Tribune and local county historical museums provided documents relating to Minnesota winters. Some of these documents were available on line. Access to Minnesota Historical Society photos on-line over the Internet saved an immeasurable amount of time. Local television and radio stations will be present in April when students present the Minnesnowta: The Winter Wonderland web site to the community.

Students recorded interviews with video and audio equipment. These interviews were invaluable in putting a human face on the students' story of Minnesota winters. Moreover, the interviews moved the project beyond technology and moved the students' spirits.

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

Our Minnesnowta; The Winter Wonderland project brought together students and experts on various winter subjects. By linking with community members, students received numerous suggestions for ideas to add to the project and leads to other people to seek out for interesting winter topics. Throughout the project, students received strong support from members of the community, peers not involved in the project, teachers not involved in the project, and their families.

As our Minnesnowta: The Winter Wonderland website comes on-line on March 15, 2001, students are just beginning their role as community ambassadors. Students will host an open house in April to present their web site to members of the community and their families. School Board members and school administrators will attend the open house. Parents will be invited to attend. Honored guests will be the community members who shared their knowledge of winter in Minnesota. This event provides an opportunity for local television and print media to run feature stories on the students' work. Finally, our Minnesnowta: A Winter Wonderland web site will serve as a resource to persons around the world who want to know how people live in a cold climate. As such, Dakota Meadows Middle School students will serve as ongoing community ambassadors through the Minnesnowta: The Winter Wonderland web site.

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

Our students have provided a user-friendly and informed overview of living in a cold climate for others around the globe who have access to the Internet. More importantly, Dakota Meadows Middle School students in constructing the Minnesnowta: The Winter Wonderland web site serve as a focal point of community pride. The web site provides a concrete demonstration of the skills of our community's young people in the digital age. Other web based projects by Dakota Meadows Middle School students have generated widespread interest from around the world. For example, student projects on mini-mysteries and World War II memories have received comments from around the world. The mini-mystery site is used by English language teachers in Japan and Bosnia as a way to introduce their students to English usage by American adolescents. Local libraries have printed material from our World War II memories page for persons not knowledgeable on computer use. We expect that local interest in the Minnesnowta: The Winter Wonderland web site will be heightened after media coverage of the site's presentation at our open house in April.

Students and teachers believe that the Minnesnowta: The Winter Wonderland web site will continue in the tradition of previous Dakota Meadows Middle School Web sites and generate interest from far and near.

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

Larry Barott provided students with a demonstration of curling, explaining the rules and how the game is played. Brad Schultz, Chief Deputy for the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office, introduced students to winter safety with a hands-on demonstration. Steve Kortuem, with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, provided students access to snow plow equipment, to salt sheds, to computer program data on snow drift patterns and living snow fences in Minnesota, and to pictures of transportation challenges presented by snow and ice. The employees of the Champlin Car Wash provided students with pictures and information on the business of cleaning cars in winter. Ed Waltman, Superintendent of Independent School District #77, and Marilyn Shain, head of transportation for the School District, helped students understand the many decisions that go in to deciding if schools in Mankato will be closed due to bad weather. Jan Richards furnished information, and told of her personal experiences, concerning dog sledding. Mrs. Dutler, at Sunset Bowl, provided students with bowling pins to use in their frozen turkey bowling. Bob Olsen, St. Paul Winter Carnival volunteer and historian, made a special presentation to students on St. Paul Winter Carnival ice palaces. Education Minnesota provided space for Mr. Olsen's presentation. John Cross from the Mankato Free Press supplied photographs on winter and his recollections of the scenes in his photos.

Faculty and staff at Dakota Meadows Middles School provided students assistance in completing the project. Sue Krohn acted as our trouble-shooter. Virjean Griensewic provided technical assistance, helped us with a final check of our pages, and loaded them onto the district server. Dakota Meadows teachers graciously agreed to release students in order to conduct interviews within the community.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

As teachers, we learned that Dakota Meadows Middle School eighth grade students can work as a team, under timeline pressures, and produce a quality product with lasting value to the community. We also learned that our eighth grade students have the ability to construct a story about our local environment, culture, tradition, and deliver it electronically. We, as teachers, confirmed what we already knew: when challenged, Dakota Meadows Middle School students can be among the best eight graders anywhere in learning from, and producing for, the digital age.


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