CyberFair Project ID: 1378

Close this Window

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

International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Alaska Railroad Project
Category: 5. Local Attractions (Natural and Man-Made)
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

School: Weller Elementary School
    Fairbanks, Alaska, United States

200 students, ages from 6 to 12 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 9, 2001. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 2001

Classes and Teachers: Mrs. Hovda (K), Mrs. Thomas (K), Mr. Marok (3rd), Mr. Bost (4th), Mr. Wilkinson (4th), Mrs. Roberts (5th), Mr. Kraska (5th), Mrs. Huffman (5th/6th), Mrs. Rudig (Gifted and Talented, and Math)

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

We live in the city of Fairbanks, Alaska. Despite its rustic heritage, it has become a center of industry, education, research,visual and performing arts, and recreation. Fairbanks is located in the center of the state, at the north end of Alaska's Railroad route. The railroad continues to play an integral part in the growth and sustenance of our vibrant community.

2. Summary of Our Project

Alaska is known as the "Last Frontier." This continues to be a frontier for opportunities of learning and growth. People have long been curious about the diverse natural resources in the state. The railroad provides connections and links that lead us to new growth and understanding. Weller Elementary students have been involved in a project to learn about the important role the railroad has played in Alaska's development. We have looked at the railroad from different points of view including tourism, transportation needs, employment, history, recreation, wildlife, people, and weather. The railroad has provided us with the inspiration to enhance and enrich our curriculum. We would like to invite you to climb aboard and experience the Alaska Railroad. All aboard!

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:2-3

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

Our main problem was to interest members of the staff in joining the project because of anxiety with their own technology expertise. A variety of technical skills among the participants allowed some to take on more leadership roles than others. Frustration with finding the time and fully understanding the complexity of the project was also a hurdle that provided some delays. The patience of those more knowledgeable in the process helped alleviate some of these concerns and enabled the final product to see completion.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Weller's Alaska Railroad Project enabled students and staff to collaborate on a project that brought together the diversity of our unique state, the technological tools found in our school, and the resources our local community has to offer.

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

•We recognized the value of the Alaska Railroad as a theme for a cross curricular, whole school project. We incorporated mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, visual arts, divergent and critical thinking skills, cooperative skills, cross-age skills, community resources, and technology. •The participants in our project learned how to collaborate, organize, interview, record, list, evaluate, synthesize, engineer structures, chemically analyze, revise, research, compile information, write and publish to complete a technology project. •Students and teachers understand the importance of working together to achieve a common goal. We emphasized a variety of group concepts to reach this goal. The skills we utilized to practice these concepts included: peer instructing, group presenting, cooperative learning, defending, debating, critiquing, brainstorming, researching, and engineering. •The Alaska Railroad was an inspiration for our learning and provided the motivation to increase students and staff involvement. We brainstormed our ideas to find and make a connection from our curricular standards to an interesting topic. The Alaska Railroad Project was the vehicle that provided ties to various curriculum topics. •The educational system in Fairbanks has a lot of resources at its disposal. Utilization of these resources is often minimal. The use of technology and human personal are areas we would like to include more of in the future. •Use of the Internet has broadened the availability of resources to the students. A combination of the traditional methods of teaching in conjunction with the Internet, allowed students to enhance the comprehensiveness of their research projects.

Project Elements

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

telephones video and digital still cameras digitizers and scanners guest speakers computer software libraries books, newspapers, videos museums oral interviews members of the Alaska Railroad work force computers connected to the LAN and the Internet visiting artist field trip These tools allowed the different groups involved to develop their projects at a rate suitable for them. Learning how to use some of these tools was a learning situation for both staff and students. Some of the activities will be able to be put to use in other areas of the students' educational learning. Most of the tools were available at our school or at the district computer resource center. Members of the Fairbanks community were always willing to help in the school to provide more in-depth learning to occur on units of study within individual classes. Field trips to the Fairbanks railroad yard, and visits by community members and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game provided classes valuable resources. Some of the items we used were donated to the school by business partnerships and the local PTA. Six digital cameras and several of the computer lab IMACs were purchased by the PTA. Several of the computer lab IMACs were also donated by our local business partners. Use of the Internet for research, and computer use for pulling together all of the information was very helpful. However, the community members were most helpful in providing historical data that was very valuable and not easily accessed on the Internet. We believe that all of the resources, whether technological in nature or not, were of equal importance. If we had to choose, the use of the scanner, digital cameras, and the computers were tangible pieces of equipment which we could not have done without.

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

Each time the subject was discussed, we always noted the positive learning benefits the activity presented to the students and community at large.  For example, one fifth grade class used time on a Sunday to have a field trip of the Harding Car. Former Lt. Governor Jack Coghill took time out of his busy schedule to lead this group of eager students on a tour of this historic railroad car. Afterward, both the students and tour guide, mentioned how much they had learned from each other. Jack Coghill was impressed by the scope of the project and the enthusiasm shown by the students. This was a real boost of self-esteem for these students to know that they had an impact on someone of such importance.

Learning the appropriate protocol for receiving permission to use the artwork or writing of other individuals was a good learning experience for students.  Another fifth grade class spent a lot of time researching information regarding the Alaska Railroad on the Internet. In order to use the work of others, students had to ask permission from the author. In each case, the author or the artist wrote back and wanted to know when the project was to be completed and if there was anything else they could do to help. The students acknowledged the value of other people's work, while at the same time realizing how much can be learned from the experiences and work of others. Research skills were enhanced and built on to insure life long learning of the procedures and responsibilities associated with Internet publishing.  These skills should help the students retain this knowledge and respect other people's work as they continue their education.

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

The overall impact cannot be measured at this time. However, it can only help to provide positive public relations to the Weller community as business partners, contributing community members, and the students see their efforts on the Internet.  Pride in ownership of the site will serve as an impetus to continue future projects of this nature.  Our school community is comprised of families who are involved in many aspects of the Fairbanks community as a whole.  We will include information in the PTA newsletter about the project, invite families to view the project at Family Night, and link to the web site from our school web page. The natural dissemination of this information by these people will retain the pride that exists with our school and its members.

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

Parent volunteers, peer tutoring across grade levels, and recruitment of community members as speakers and resources helped involve many more than just the students and their individual classrooms. A large thank you needs to go out to community member Lt. Governor Jack Coghill for his willingness to give a private tour of the Harding Car on a Sunday. We read about artist Sue Dranchak in our local newspaper, The Fairbanks Daily News Miner, and decided to invite her to visit Weller so we could learn more about the Alaska Railroad through art. We invited Weller parent Wayne Horine to come to our classroom to tell us about his job. We contacted railroad employees via email. They took the time to answer our questions and to lend a helping hand as needed. The students found a number of sites that had already been created on the Alaska Railroad. They found it fascinating to email these people asking for assistance and actually receiving a reply! As all of these people assisted in the dissemination of information, collection of data, assistance in the editing process, and the final compilation of the information, they all developed ownership in the project. It truly has become a community owned project! Please refer to our credits for a complete list of individuals who helped with our project.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

Discovering how much of an impact the railroad has had in the development of our state was very educational for those involved. All of the different directions we were able to go with our research is evidence of the value of this institution called the Alaska Railroad.  Learning about the use of the scanner or digital camera,  where different species of fish live or the history of the Harding Car are examples of  new insights and connections made to many previously unrelated topics.  We hope that the project will be a vehicle for students to develop a desire for learning more about the history of our local community as well as the entire state we live in.  The connection of the railroad and how it brings together the whole state shows us what a small world we really live in. One of the major personal discoveries was how valuable our local historians and community members are as references and learning tools for our students.  Their assistance helped us realize how fortunate we are to live in this great state.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 1378)

Close this Window