CyberFair Project ID: 1878

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: World War II Memories:Our Community's
Category: 2. Community Groups and Special Populations
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

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

31 students, ages from 13 to 14 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 26, 2002. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002

Classes and Teachers: Beth Christensen, English 8, period 5

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

The combined communities of Mankato and North Mankato, Minnesota, are located in south central Minnesota, USA, near the confluence of the Blue Earth and Minnesota Rivers. The "twin" towns serve as an education and retail center for the agriculturally-based economy of south central Minnesota. They have a combined population of just over 40,000. Dakota Meadows Middle School serves these communities and is located on the plains above the Minnesota River Valley.

2. Summary of Our Project

Five years ago, in 1997, my students were involved in a project where members of the community talked about their World War II experiences. The information was then put on a web site called "Mankato Memories." The technology was primitive, and our results left much to be desired. Over the years, the need for revising the WWII web site became greater. It needed updated technology, clarification of the oral histories, increased use of graphics and more information. In short, it needed more than revision, it needed to be completely redone. Time was against us. Already several of our original volunteers had moved away and three had passed away. However, September 11 become the catalyst. What better way to show how our community, both local and national, had united before in times of crisis. We contacted the original volunteers. Many immediately volunteered again. Some letters were returned, and we scrambled to try new addresses. We sought out volunteers through service clubs and senior citizen centers. Students made an appeal on the local TV station, and spoke on a live radio program. Children of the original volunteers were contacted. One contact was even made at a funeral. Interview times were scheduled, and students worked their classes around the interviews. Finally, the students used all the information from their interviews and research on the war years to create their web site. In order for the judges to see this is a completely new web site, we urge you to visit the old site listed below, which will be terminated after the judging of this contest is complete. Mankato Memories

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):

Dakota Meadows Middle School Internet access is provided by Independent School District 77, Mankato, Minnesota. Our service provider is Onvoy. A grant from the state of Minnesota facilitates the use of technology in the district's schools. All district buildings are connected by fiber optics. Much of the funding for technology and technology-based learning is from the district. However, due to the cut in state funding, and the failure of our school district's local referendum, most of the funding for the computers in our school is a direct result of the fundraising efforts of our parent-teacher organization.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

Students accepted the CyberFair challenge in January, 2002. They knew they would have to work, hard, fast, and smart to complete the project on time. Students elected to work on the project after school and on weekends. Students also had to gain an understanding and knowledge of the history of WWII, and of military terms in a short period of time. They had to learn where to locate various battle areas. Detective skills were used by students to hunt down pictures and internet links to WWII. New technical skills had to be learned to transfer old family pictures and memorabilia to a digital format. Students called on the school district's technical experts to provide advanced training on computers and new software programs incorporating audio and video clips. In some cases, students found out they knew more than anyone else and were on their own to solve technical problems. Halfway through the project, our old scanner finally stopped working. What to do? Our building had no more funds, so one student contacted our school's parent organization and was put on the agenda of their meeting the following day. She explained our project and our need for a new scanner. As a result of her presentation, the parent group bought us a new scanner. We were up and going within four days. Most interviews were scheduled during school hours, and many students missed classes, resulting in additional make-up work and extra time spent after school, not only on this project, but on tests and additional work for missed classes. Some interviews, due to the health of the interviewee, were held in care facilities. Several interviews were held in different cities where former interviewees had relocated.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

At the start of the school year, both WWII and the Trojan War are ancient history to my students. By having my students interview local residents, WWII came alive. History has a face; it is the face of their neighbors. Veterans' stories resonate with the students, and connect a part of our country's history to their own community. Ordinary people become experts, a living textbook. After September 11, the stories of WWII veterans become even more relevant and poignant to my students and to all Americans. Community members have interesting stories to tell. Their tales should be recorded before they are lost forever. Many oral histories have been preserved electronically as a result of this community-based project. They are now available to family members and to the world at-large. Without my students' efforts, they may never have been preserved.

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

The project met the state and school district's non-fiction reading and writing Profile of Learning requirement. Students improved their research and writing skills. Although 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 to join the project. 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. This web site stressed high-level thinking skills. Instead of writing "about" something from a textbook, students experienced WWII firsthand, and then communicated it to the world. Suddenly students moved up on Bloom's taxonomy from the knowledge level to application, inference, analysis and evaluation. These English 8 students wrote for an audience other than the teacher. A student constructed web site motivates students to write clearly, without error, and to use a vocabulary understood by a worldwide audience. 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 was used in producing the 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 arrange for class presentations. These interviews were invaluable in putting a human face on history. Video cameras and digital cameras were used by students to film parts of the interviews. Often students recorded the complete interview on tape cassette. When interviews were conducted in different towns, or in nursing homes, a Macintosh IBook was used, and the scanner was taken along so all personal pictures and memorabilia would not have to leave the volunteer's possession. Digitizers and scanners were of prime importance in this document, as they were used to capture historic photos and personal memorabilia which is the heart of this web site. Recordings of WWII era songs were rediscovered and favorite tunes were recorded into the computer. E-mail was used to ask permission to use audio clips. Students learned to edit the movie "A Wartime Romance" from 25 minutes down to three. Students worked on 31 Macintosh G4s and used a wide variety of computer software and programs, such as Photo Shop, GIF Converter, IMovie II, Java Script, Java Applets, QuickTime movies, Image Maker and Claris Home Page 3.0, in building the web site. The class looked for web-based references on the topics. The Dakota Meadows Middle School media center, the Mankato Free Press, the Red Wing Republican Eagle, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and local county historical museums provided information and graphics. Some of these documents were available on line.

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

My students have gone beyond the school walls. For some students, these projects provided their first experiences visiting with senior citizens outside their families. Students suddenly found new friends. I often overheard them discussing their volunteer's opinions. Many conversations in class started with "Butch/Glen/Neal (fill in the blank) said that he thought. . . " Students were no longer memorizing dry textbooks, they were quoting the real thing. There was a renewed interest in swing dancing by my students who can now recognize Glen Miller's tunes. Several burned their own personal CD of favorite 1940's tunes. One student sought me out before school and announced, "My mom and I were in the mall's parking lot, and the car ahead of me had a Pearl Harbor Survivor license plate. I thought 'I've got to interview him.' I was going to get out of the car and ask him to come up to school, but the light changed and we missed him. He was driving a yellow car. Do you know who he is?" Another student told me, "Now when I think of Pearl Harbor, it's not Josh Hartnett and the movie I think of, it's the people we talked to who lived through it." The interview volunteers often returned to school to drop off more information, video tapes or books to help the class. My students are now very involved in an essay contest sponsored by the state WWII POW organization. I am on the mailing list of several service organizations. and was invited to attend the annual southern Minnesota POW's reunion . Veterans helped spread the word of our project and recruited others to volunteer. I constantly hear from veterans, "Why aren't more schools doing this?" I only hope our site encourages others to do just that.

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

We have just finished our web site, so the impact will be happening in the future. However, based on past experience, it will be powerful. The number of "hits" we have recorded on our previous web site tells us thousands of people all over the world visited our community's WWII memories because our interviews answer real questions. The memories of their lives are as fresh and exciting to others as they are to my students who interviewed them. This site is shared with people who care and respond. With our new site, we expect a larger volume of "hits" since our site provides a variety of experiences and our imovies add a unique and special touch. We also anticipate local interest will be heightened after media coverage of the site's presentation at our open house on April 7, 2002. Already over 150 people have signed up for this event, plus we will have both TV and print coverage of the event. With this site students have sought to provide a user-friendly and informed resource to persons around the world who are interested in American experiences and perspectives on WWII. In addition, students have given back to the community by sharing their knowledge. The student-constructed web site serves as an added reference and resource in our community. More importantly, Dakota Meadows Middle School students' web site is a focal point of community pride. As such, these students will be ongoing community ambassadors. The site will be an added reference and will complement resources already in the community.

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

This project brought together students and experts on various subjects, families, members of the community, peers not involved in the project, and teachers not involved in the project. Faculty and staff at Dakota Meadows Middles School provided students with assistance in completing the project. Sue Krohn, Colleen Fritz,Denise Winter, and Jim Keltgen acted as our troubleshooters. Virjean Griensewic provided immense technical assistance, as she 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. Pete Steiner of KTOE radio and KEYC TV helped publicize our appeal for volunteers. Pete Steiner also helped narrate one iMovie. However, this site would not have been possible without the help of the people listed below, who agreed to shared their memories with us. Darlene Anderson Ken Axelson Chuck Baird Ken Berg Milt Casebere Evie Casey Glenn Cotton Harold Davis Bill Edwards Butch Engel Marie Florine Sal Frederick Carol Gappa Glen Gober Dr. Arnoldus Gruter Dr. John Heimark Barb Hogan Robert Isdahl Carl Kittleson Royal Lee Shirley Lukens Iris Nigg Lundin Gerald Mans Chester McDonald Martin Menk Paul Meyer Bill Morris Oliver Mulford Ken Nibbe Lee Nordgren Marcella Nordgren Lyle Pearson Mickey Phelps Jack Ringgenberg Doris Rowe Dee Saman Paul and Roberta Schuster Leona Schweim Neal Siebenbruner Mary Sohler Ray Sponberg Mickee and Bill Steiner Marvis and Alvin Thisius Marie Thomas Virgil Thorn Richard Tigner Beth Zimmer Cletus Zitzmann

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

One of the surprises during the World War II project was the number of times veterans stated, "I never talked to my children about this, but I am getting old, and if I don't start talking now, it will just disappear." When we contacted the family of one of our original volunteers, who had since passed away, his grandson said, "You know, we never heard any of Grandpa's stories about the war. It wasn't until he told your students about them that he started to tell us. It took your project to get him to talk. It was almost 50 years before he could. Just think, we might have lost them all."


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 1878)

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