CyberFair Project ID: 1856

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Who will tell the story of Fort Mose?
Category: 6. Historical Landmarks
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

School: Millennium Middle School
    Sanford, Florida, United States

180 students, ages from 11 to 15 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 22, 2002. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 2001

Classes and Teachers: Rosemary Shaw

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Located in Central Florida, Sanford is a town steeped in history. The town was once a thriving produce center and earned its nickname “Celery City” by being one of the largest vegetable shipping centers in the United States in the early 1900’s. The town has changed little since then. The same buildings line the main street downtown and the same town clock keeps time, (but in a different location).

The town also has another history that is not as well known. Located near two historic black communities, Sanford also boasted a thriving black community of its own. Georgetown was almost halfway between Eatonville, home of the author Zora Neale Hurston and Fort Mose, the subject of our CyberFair entry. The pride in Georgetown remains strong, but the area was long ago incorporated into the city limits of Sanford.

Millennium Middle School still boasts a large minority base and is proud of the cultural diversity, which is celebrated every day within its halls.

2. Summary of Our Project

There is a story to be told. It’s a historical tale about bravery, freedom, and betrayal. Its a story about people who conquered oppression, who rose above their enslavement and who, even in death, are now conquering those who would have hidden their story. This is the story of the people of Fort Mose. Every school child in America is taught about St. Augustine, Florida. The history lesson begins with Florida being discovered by Don Juan Ponce de Leon, a former governor of Puerto Rico. He sighted the eastern coast of Florida on Easter Sunday, March 23, 1513 while in search of gold and silver. Ponce claimed the land for Spain, and named it La Florida. But the students are not taught about Fort Mose. Until now........... Fort Mose was the first free black settlement in the Americas. It was located above the well-known city of St. Augustine. Originally called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, Fort Mose was built in the early 1700's. In 1738 more than one hundred men had reached the Fort and the Spanish government officially declared Fort Mose a city. The men of Fort Mose opted to stay with the Spanish Militia. In fact, the captain of this militia was Francisco Menendez, an escaped slave. You see, by that time, escaped slaves from the Caribbean and from the English colonies had joined the original black inhabitants of the area. Spanish slaves could own property, could buy their freedom, could sue their owners and others and it was prohibited from separating families. The Spanish also promised freedom to any escaped English slave who become Catholic and promised to fight with the Spanish against the English. This is the story of the men and women of Fort Mose.

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:2-3

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

We do not live extremely close to the area. There was a field trip originally planned to go to the site and meet the administrators of the area, but it was cancelled due to lack of funds. Surprisingly, a few students participating in the project talked their parents into taking them anyway. The students brought back pamphlets, booklets, pictures and even a video of two of the students describing the boardwalk that leads out to where the Fort once stood. It was amazing what an impact the story had on the students. They were determined to make the most of this project, and to tell the story of Fort Mose!

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Our project taught the students that not everything is taught in our schools. Certain pieces of information, sometimes-important information is inadvertently left out of the curriculum. But with a little bit of persistence and determination, the reward of discovering the truth is won.

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

This project allowed the students to become a more integral part of the community by helping to expose a piece of history to the classroom curriculum that is usually overlooked. Our students were extremely excited about this project. It was like whispering an old secret to them that would change the way they would forever look at history books.

The students fulfilled the SunshineStateStandard (SS.A.4.3) by researching and understanding the impact that the Spanish colonists had on the values and traditions of Florida. The students also can now understand how the mixture of cultures and societies helped to shape the future of Florida.(SS.A.6.3) The students also fulfilled State requirements in learning how to do research, online and through the media center at the school and at the local libraries. The students also didn’t stop researching there; they went into the area and asked local people about the history of the Fort. The students also felt empowered because they had gathered information that no one they knew had any previous knowledge about. They could help spread this information to parents, other students and to teachers in other classes.

After gathering all of this information, the students wrote reports and turned the reports into web pages. The students had to learn animation, digital photography and HTML to turn their reports into web pages. The students worked with other students that did not have the same focus, so they could link to each other and have a richer, more meaningful report.

Project Elements

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

My students used the internet via computers in the computer labs to do research. They also students used the media center, library, and interviewed people about this project. They went to the site and took digital pictures and a video. The students also drew pictures and used scanners and computer programs to manipulate the pictures. My students would tell you that the best tools were computers with internet access and physically going to the site and taking the digital pictures and video. The students could not have gotten as much material as they gathered without use of the internet. Our school and local library had a very limited amount of information on Fort Mose. Also, going to the site and talking to locals about the area allowed some of the students to gain a unique perspective that others who only used the internet had missed until the groups came together to discuss what information had been amassed. Seeing the pictures of the site as it is today was a shock to the students who had expected to see large monuments and other signs that a fort had been there.

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

Our main student ambassadors were those students who made the long trek with their parents to St. Augustine and Fort Mose for purposes of obtaining information. These students went into the area with the specific purpose of talking to different types of people to gain an insight into the story of Fort Mose. These students talked to people at the St. Augustine tourist information center, they talked to tour guides, they talked to locals they met while walking around St. Augustine and the talked to locals walking around Fort Mose.

They explained what they were doing and many times were met with confused smiles as people didn’t know about Fort Mose, or with delight such as when a museum guide was surprised by the account of the report.

The students also went to their history teachers asking them if they knew the story, and not one of them did. The students explained to their teachers that they were making it their job to tell the story of Fort Mose.

I think by spreading the word about the Fort, their report and the distance they traveled to obtain information impressed a lot of people. It also made some of them aware about the importance of knowing about the history of Fort Mose.

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

We have begun working with the acting director of the Fort Mose Historical Society. It was at his suggestion that we tried to take a field trip and meet him there for an educational workshop on the Fort this past February. We unfortunately ran out of funds, though, but we are working with him now for the field trip next year. Plans are already being made for a field trip to the Fort site next February.

Our project has also already impacted our immediate community. Two other teachers are already making plans for ways to explore the history of Fort Mose in more detail. The science teacher wants to take soil samples of the area, and the art teacher wants to incorporate the history of the Fort into an Underground Railroad art showcase she was working on.

I believe that as the word is spread, more schools will take up the story of Fort Mose. Perhaps we can generate enough interest to have large educational programs focused on the history of blacks in Florida and on the impact that Fort Mose had on slavery in the colonies. This is a story that needs to be told.

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

The biggest helpers were the parents who took their children to St. Augustine and Fort Mose to gather information! Thank you!

Also thanks goes to the director of the Fort Mose Society who is encouraging us to come en masse to the Fort’s site. (Mr. Laws)

The art teacher and drama teacher who continually offered to help with props for a physical representation of the Underground Railroad to culminate the Fort Mose project. (Ms Swanson and Ms Rogers)

The science teacher who was going to help with the field trip, the soil samples and who encouraged the students to finish the program even when the field trip was called off. (Ms Hayes)

To the wonderful people of St. Augustine who took the time to talk to the children about Fort Mose and to commend them for trying to find information on such an unknown subject.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

I think the biggest surprise came when students began coming to me and telling me about their trips to St. Augustine. All the children had been disappointed about the field trip being cancelled, but I had little faith, and thought they were disappointed about not being able to miss school. When I found out that the project had inspired these students to go the extra mile and drag their parents to the Fort Mose site, I was speechless.

I remember one little girl bringing in a class set of pamphlets and a small book that talked about Fort Mose. The light in her eyes was brighter than the sun. I would like to take credit for such a burning desire to learn, but it wasn’t me, it was the project. It was exciting learning about something so important and yet no one else seemed to know about. It is exciting to get on the computer and with the right key words and a little luck make new discoveries.

I guess we all learned that not everything important is in the textbooks. We also learned that with hard work, determination and inspiration we could possibly convince the world of the importance of telling the Story of Fort Mose!


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 1856)

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