CyberFair Project ID: 6579

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Project Sweet Talk
Category: 4. Local Specialties

School: Fairfield Center School
    Fairfield, Vermont, United States of America

13 students, ages 11-14 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 10, 2011. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 2011

Classes and Teachers: Stacey Tully, Wendy Scott, Richard Pigeon, Greg Titcomb, Fairfield Middle School Students

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Our community, Fairfield, is a small rural town in northwestern Vermont. Our population is about 1,950. Agriculture is our main industry, and dairy farmers have often supplemented their income with the production of maple syrup. Vermont is the leading producer of maple syrup in America and Fairfield is the leading producer of syrup in Vermont. Sugaring, as it is called, is not just for dairy farmers. There are many people who “sugar” just because they love it, and love the product it produces. Our school has a poplulation of about 220 students, grades kindergarten though 8th grade. In 2004 our community built a sugarhouse on our school grounds. We achieve many of our state learning standards through following the process that our ancestors have followed for years and years.

2. Summary of Our Project

Project Sweet Talk is a sugaring project that started with the 6th grade class in 2009. Our students interviewed local sugarmakers to answer the question, 'What significance does sugaring have with the town of Fairfield?' The sixth graders interview sugarers, the 7th grade learns about the sugarbush, and the 8th graders tap, gather, and boil sap to make pure maple syrup. Our website showcases our school sugarhouse and the connection our community has through making maple syrup.

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:4-6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:4-6

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

With Fairfield being a small, rural town our technology and Internet connection is not what it is in larger communities. We have worked hard to increase our technology and connection, but are still slow and working with older computers. Technology is a priority to us and taking part in CyberFair has made it more so. Providing our students with a global audience is attainable!!!!!!

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

We really didn’t have that many obstacles once we got started. The scary part was at the beginning when we agreed to enter and neither myself nor Mr. Pigeon had any idea how to build a website from scratch. I had a bit of google sites training, but how to embed, and build the site with video editing was beyond my skills. Luckily our supervisory union has a webmaster who visited and taught the kids how to create a site through MODx, edit video and get it on the site, and copy images to the site. Greg Titcomb is the webmaster and he has been awesome teaching the kids and facilitating their learning. The students rose to the challenge, and did all of the work. They only had 30 minutes of enrichment time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays to work on this site and we didn’t start building the actual site until January, so they have done a tremendous job!

5. Our Project Sound Bite

CyberFair has allowed our students to share their community with the world. Sharing locally is something they are used to, but in the future I see them choosing tools that will allow them to get their work out to a much larger audience.

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

Project Sweet Talk and allows us to cover many standards. Reading strategies and comprehension skills were addressed for everything we did. Language skills such as speaking and listening were used during the interviews. Reports, procedures, and personal essays were written and shared. Our school district, as well as the Vermont Department of Education, is really focusing on the NET standards and 21st Century Learning. Our students leaned how to design a website, as well as learned how to edit video and images. The middle school studies sugaring each year through interviewing local sugarers and working in our sugar house. An enrichment class used this information to design a site that highlights the connection our community has with sugaring; linking our school with the community. Different groups created the different pages of the site. The Internet has opened our teaching and learning to a global audience. Last year we presented what we learned to our community, and this year we are presenting it to the world.

Project Elements

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

During Project Sweet Talk the students used oral interviews to gather most of the information. Some books were used, which are listed in the bibliography. The students used telephones to schedule the interviews themselves. Our school has flip cameras and still cameras and the students practiced until they could run them independently. They downloaded the footage to the computers (laptops). Windows Movie Maker, Photostory, Flipshare, and Picassa were some programs we used to share and organize the footage. Modx was the program we learned to build our website. The flip cameras were the best tools for this project. They are very easy to use and download to the computer. The kids would use the tripod to steady it. The most interesting aspect was that the teachers were as new to this technology as the students were. In some cases, the students were teaching the teachers what they were doing. It’s scary as a teacher to give up control like that, but so worth it in the end.

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

The students practiced interviewing and telephone skills before contacting community members. Students called and emailed local sugarers. Once interviewing was completed the students wrote and shared their findings through art projects and slide shows. Thank you notes were sent out after each interview. The students made an exhibit and community members came and viewed their work. During the exhibit we asked the community members what they thought the significance of sugaring was to the town of Fairfield. The quotes were then used to help us answer that question through writing reflective essays. We received glowing comments from the community! Project Sweet Talk will continue to happen and grow every year! This website is considered a living exhibit that will continue to grow and change in years to come.

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

The difference this website will make is it will strengthen the connection between our community and school. Many people know we have a sugarhouse, but don’t really know what we “do” with it. We learn how to run our sugarhouse from the community. This website will let our community know how we meet state standards through our sugaring unit. Sugaring is only done in certain climates. People viewing our site will see the process we go through to produce maple syrup. Many people in the world believe maple syrup to be the stuff they buy at the grocery store. Producing maple syrup is time consuming and hard work. Staff at our school and family members have previewed our site and given us feedback on how to make the pages better. People have loved the sugaring stories section. Staff members in our school, who don’t teach middle school, have learned a lot about what goes on in our sugarhouse.

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

Many community members helped get Project Sweet Talk off the ground. Kristen Hughes, our local librarian, first brought the idea to the sixth grade to go out and collect sugarmakers’ oral histories. Julie Wolcott , a local farmer ,invited the whole sixth grade to her farm to conduct their first interview. Many farmers and sugarers allowed us to interview them, as well as take videos. These sugarers are showcased on our site. We will add new community sugarers each new sugaring season. John Baxter, Fairfield School’s head of maintenence , and community member, is the sugarer for our sugarhouse. He spends a lot of time with the students during sugaring season. The town clerk’s office let us hold our exhibit in their building. there were about 50 community members who came to view the exhibit. Greg Titcomb, our webmaster, first brought the idea of entering CyberFair to us, and he has been a great teacher/mentor. All staff members came and visited our exhibit and teachers brought their classes over to see our finished products. Greg Sharrow, from the Vermont Folklife Center, visited to teach the students how to conduct interviews.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

I relearned that, as a teacher, you do not need to master technology before providing to your students. They are often more comfortable with it, and the learning of it, than we are. My students amazed me with what they accomplished with this project. I don't think I could do what they did! I wish I learned this way when I was in school.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 6579)

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