CyberFair Project ID: 3575

Close this Window

NOTE: Due to URL changes, some links may no longer be valid.

International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Changing Perspectives: A Child's Guide to the Old and New Peabody Essex Museum
Category: 5. Local Attractions (Natural and Man-Made)

School: Saltonstall School
    Salem, Masssachusetts, USA

18 students, ages 7-9 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 31, 2005. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 2003, 2004

Classes and Teachers: Jan Morris

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Saltonstall School is located in historic Salem, Massachusetts, 20 miles north of Boston. Our school is in the neighborhood of the original settlement, called Naumkeag ('the Fishing Place'). In 1629, the Puritans renamed it Salem from the Hebrew word Shalom that means, 'Place of Peace'. Many classrooms look out over Salem Harbor. Saltonstall is 'home' to 350 students of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The Saltonstall community of today was developed ten years ago by parents and teachers who designed a 'break the mold' school as part of the federal initiative, America 2000. Some unique features of our school include extended year, extended day, multi age classrooms, a teaching model based on Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences and Responsive Classroom. The Responsive Classroom model focuses on community building. Although our infamous history of the 1692 witch trials is dramatized in several local museums, it is the rich maritime history and the adventures of the people of that era that are the focus of our treasured Peabody Essex Museum. Originally established in 1799 as the East India Marine Society, sea captains and merchants shared 'curiosities' collected from other parts of the world. Today, the PEM, located in the heart of Salem, maintains the mission of the early collectors to share unusual artifacts. Recent expansion of the building to include the 200 year old Yin Yu Tang House and the contemporary atrium, along with museums collection of historic homes document the evolution of architecture. Dedicated to creating a welcoming experience, the PEM has continued to be a place where people can come, relax, share ideas and learn about each other.

2. Summary of Our Project

Our project has been a journey of self-discovery. As part of our social studies unit on community, we began talking about museums we've been to and their purpose. Conducting a survey of 2/3 students in our school, we learned about their museum going habits. Initially, our project focused on how the PEM is preparing for the future by reaching out to the community through opportunities for multiple visits and creating a museum that appeals to both children and adults. During our visits, students connected to art in new ways. The museum is built to change your perspective by using light and space as you walk through the galleries. In the atrium you feel small, like a sailor at sea. Moving through the galleries, we felt big. We learned how artists have been inspired by the natural world and saw adventurous paintings of ships in wild weather and unfamiliar ports. In morning meetings we addressed personal differences and how to get along. As students viewed paintings from different time periods and exotic locations, comments such as, 'That guy looks funny' were common. These conversations have changed the direction of our project. We’ve reexamined our own stereotypes and considered how the PEM helps us look at things differently; up close, from a distance, from a safe place, from a place of danger and adventure. We began to look at art as a way of understanding and experiencing different cultures and finding ways to connect to others. On our web site we share some of the artifacts which interested us, made us wonder, inspired us, and helped us to see the world and ourselves differently. We agreed that PEACE is what we want for our future. The PEM has taught us how to look at others with an open mind.

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:1

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:2-3

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

We have limited access to the computer lab in the school and one working computer in the classroom. The technology support person works with us part time.Our school uses MacIntosh computers, while our technology support people use PCs.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

Probably our biggest challenge was understanding that we are the future, and a future of peace begins with ourselves. Learning to see things from another person’s point of view is very difficult at this age! In addition to visiting the museum, we have read books and had class meetings to discuss how we can better understand and connect with each other. We wrote 'I' and 'You' poems about our artifacts to help us consider other perspectives. We also struggled with time. Initially, all five classes wanted to participate, but dropped out after Christmas break. Inclement weather and the flu affected our daily attendance. Some students visited the museum during the weekend to complete sketches and to gain more information. We had big dreams of having a flashy site with animation and music, but had to find simpler ways of completing our project with the resources and time we had. Working with just our class made it somewhat easier to complete the writing. We had lots of conferences during literacy block to determine what we needed to finish. We also learned that writing a nonfiction piece is much more difficult than writing fiction. Second and third graders are wonderful storytellers. We just had to make sure their stories were true! We had to keep emailing Ms. Kershaw to make sure our notes were accurate. Our art teacher, Mrs. Pace helped us out by using art class time to let us work on our drawings. We have a built in project block every Friday that we used to finish our work. The museum does not allow flash photography, so many of our photos had to be lightened. We also forgot to turn off the date stamp on the digital camera, so the date had to be removed from all our photos.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Museums provide ways for people to experience and understand different cultures and learn more about themselves in the process. Learning to see things from a different perspective builds empathy, respect, and understanding: These are the foundations for a peaceful future.

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

The most important thing we learned was that we all have different perspectives and different ways of looking at things. The Peabody Essex Museum helped us understand how to change our perspective and look at things from the artist’s or subject’s point of view. Students used their eight intelligences to complete this project and met the following requirements for 3rd grade curriculum in History/Geography, Civics and Government, and Economics: 3.8 Locate your hometown and local geographical features. 3.9 Identify historic buildings, monuments, and sites and explain their purpose and significance. 3.11 Identify different groups that have settled here. 3.12 Draw on the services of local museums to explain how artifacts of the past tell about how people lived. 3.13 Give examples of goods and services provided by the community. In addition to the Technology and Social Science Standards required by the state, we also met many of the English Language Arts Standards. In the Composition Strand, students are required to gather information from a variety of sources and use it to answer their own questions (standard 24). Much of this was done in preparation for field trips and interviews. While doing the actual writing, our students were learning and using The Writing Process (learning standards 19- writing, 20-consideration of audience and purpose, 21- revising, 22- Standard English conventions and 23- organizing ideas in writing. Within these same frameworks there is a Media Strand. We worked on Analysis of Media (standard 26) and Media Production (standard 27). In the Language Strand of our frameworks, students participated in discussions, posing questions and ideas in groups and in interviews in order to acquire new knowledge (standards 1 & 2). Required in the Reading and Literature Strand, our students read nonfiction informational materials. They used this information to support their understanding (standard 13).

Project Elements

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

We used 30 imac computers in the computer lab, digital cameras, scanners, telephones, the library, books, newspaper articles, and the Internet, oral interviews and of course, the museum. These tools helped us research our topics and present them in quality ways. Most of our tools were available to us here at school. Our most valuable tool was the museum and the interviews. We learned from our previsits what to look for when we went to the museum. Being able to actually see and experience the museum helped us learn how to make connections to other areas in our lives.

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

As ambassadors of our school, we represent our school values and principles both in the community and globally through our web site.

Students contacted people at the Peabody Essex Museum to get permission to do a web site about them and arranged for Dr. Duda (educational outreach) to meet with all the 2/3 students here at school. In each museum visit, the docents who worked with us commented on how well behaved the students were and what wonderful and thoughtful questions they asked.

As ambassadors within the school, the students have brought the lessons of the PEM to the school community. Data gathered from our survey enabled us to incorporate the views of other 2/3 students in our project.

Our student ambassadors are peer models of a keener appreciation and sensitivity to people with different points of view. This is exhibited on the playground, classroom and when working with the student council.

As global ambassadors, we have done our very best to share our perspectives, and to encourage people around the world to experience our beautiful Peabody Essex Museum and spark an interest to learn more about the people of Salem.

The children are very proud of their city and wanted to share its historical past as well as its bright future. We know that our work is just beginning as we work towards creating a more peaceful school, community and world.

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

The Peabody Essex Museum needs continued funding and support to have multiple visits available for schools. Our project shows that multiple visits are productive and meaningful ways for young children to learn about abstract concepts such as 'the past'. Multiple visits help youngsters experience different cultures through the eyes of artists and collectors. Returning to the museum allows children time to develop deeper connections with the artifacts.

The PEM has done extensive marketing research and advertises in local newspapers and radio stations. A unique feature of our project is that Saltonstall students represent a child’s perspective of the museum’s venue. While visiting our web site, we believe that the community will gain an appreciation for this treasure.

Our student survey revealed that although the majority of students would recommend the museum and wanted to return, most students had only been to the museum once or twice during school field trips. Through our web site, parents will recognize that museums offer opportunities for families to learn together. We also prove in our survey that children think museums are fun! More people in the community will want to visit this FUN, FREE place and partake in its outreach and enrichment programs.

The greatest impact on our class has been that we’ve learned so much about ourselves. We discovered that we could do things that we didn’t think we could do, like draw beautiful pictures and write nonfiction pieces. We developed patience with our classmates and ourselves as we edited our work and coached each other.

We are the link between Salem’s history and it’s future. Our decisions and behaviors determine the attitudes of tomorrow. By sharing our experience of the Peabody Essex Museum, we hope others will join us in looking at the world with more peaceful and accepting eyes.

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

We are grateful to those who helped us! The most influential person during this project was Abigael Duda. She initially told us about the multiple visit concept and got us very excited about the museum. She helped us to change our perspective when looking at artifacts. We learned from her how to look at art from the artist’s perspective and the subject’s perspective. Then we learned how to make connections with our own lives. She also gave us inside information about how the architects had to think about the audience and how they planned to organize the building. After Dr. Duda, Melissa Kershaw from the museum helped organize our trips and answered questions we had about specific artifacts. Stephen Silbert is a friend and neighbor of one of our students. He is currently attending Salem State College to earn a degree in education and technology. He masterfully (and painstakingly) removed the date stamps on all of our digital photographs. He also helped load our site and get it up and running! Scott Moore is our computer teacher. He introduced us to Survey Monkey and helped us get our survey out. He has worked with Mr. Silbert to get the site up. He has also given us practical advice for making a web site. Jane Pace is our fabulous art teacher who taught us more about architecture of different time periods. She helped us do our drawings and taught us how to scan our artwork. Mrs. pace has also been very supportive and encouraging to all of us! We have had parents who helped chaperone field trips and Mrs. Crawford, our super assistant, who helped work with kids in small groups as well as pulling a student with medical needs to and from the museum in a wagon.... in the snow!!

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

This project brought our class together as a group as we stretched ourselves personally and discovered new strengths. Here are a few of the comments:

Julia- I’ve learned these things about me: I learned how to scan different pictures. I didn’t know I could draw so good! I was inspired by the Yin Yu Tang House. I learned about different museums. I learned a lot about my artifact and I learned that I LOVE the Peabody Essex Museum!

Jaime- I learned that I could be good at something even though you think you’re bad at it.

Adonis- I didn’t know that I could do all that work!

Ben- I’ve learned about different types of boats. I’ve learned that people see things differently. I’ve learned so much stuff.

Nathaniel- I learned that I have a way of looking at things, like right away knowing that the long necked penguin was a penguin (and it’s not because I studied about it). I see things my own way.

Shawn- Here’s what I learned- I thought I could not draw the Bonebreaker (silverware eagle) and I couldn’t write about it because I thought it would be too hard. When I finally did it, it was easier than I thought!

Shannon- I learned that if you look at something and you don’t take the time to REALLY look at it, you won’t learn anything new. You can look at things from the past and learn about your own history.

Aletha- I learned that there is so much more history to the Yin Yu Tang than it seems there is. I learned that I could appreciate things at the Peabody Essex Museum more when I learned about them. I learned about different cultures. I learned that I was a better writer than I thought.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 3575)

Close this Window