District: Pinellas County District Schools
City: Safety Harbor, Florida
Wendy Drexler's Seventh Grade gifted classes
Their ages were: 12-13 years of age
Safety Harbor is a small community west of Tampa Bay. With an approximate population of 16,000, it has a small town feel, even though it lies within the Tampa Bay metropolitan area. The city is celebrating its 80th birthday this year. Our project will be part of a history fair to be held the evening of March 6 at Safety Harbor Middle School.
Our school was just networked last year as part of a grant obtained through our district office. Our local area network is connected to the county wide area network via a 56kb line. Frame relay makes internet access possible in virtually every classroom. Prior to that, we accessed through one or two telephone lines.
We used a "force field" at the beginning of the project to brainstorm our assets and the challenges we might face while doing this project. This helped the students to foresee problems and discuss possible solutions. Of course, other unforeseen problems did come up. But the students did not get over anxious about them because they knew it would not be easy.
This project showed us that even though we are only in seventh grade, we already have a valuable talent to offer the community. We can organize ourselves and our work in a mature, grown up way and deliver a grown-up product. It gave many students the confidence to create web pages of their own or even for parents' businesses. The parents, the community, and the students were able to benefit in very positive ways.
The seventh grade gifted curriculum is problem solving with a focus on technology. There are no texts or major guidelines for this course. It therefore provides a lot of freedom to experiment. Safety Harbor Middle School is committed to provide real-world problem solving practice to make our students marketable in an ever more competitive environment. By targeting the community of Safety Harbor for this web site, students learned about the history of their home town. They learned how to organize their thoughts and words in a concise and meaningful way. They saw city government in action. Furthermore, they recognized the importance of revising/editing a work that would be seen by people all over the world. They wanted to do their best because they knew their reputations depended on it.
Five to seven Macintosh computers and one IBM.
Our school LAN and frame relay for internet connectivity.
Telephones to call local area businesses.
Scanners to scan original art work.
A digital camera to take pictures of Safety Harbor
We are very lucky just to have these tools available for use in a middle school. Many of our local schools do not have such resources. Everything else we needed we downloaded as freeware or shareware. (Transparency, Graphic converter) We did not use an html editor. All code was straight html programmed by the students.
We acted as ambassadors in a number of ways. First, we presented our ideas to Safety Harbor's city council. They were very impressed at our professionalism and mature manner. We contacted the Chamber of Commerce and put a flyer out in their newsletter providing for free advertising on our web site. (See our business page) As a result, business leaders did come forward to offer server space and their time working with the kids. We sent letters requesting permission to use photographs of unique architecture in the area. (See our architecture page.) We entered the city's history contest as part of their 80th birthday celebration. We contacted the Sheriff's office to request and obtain permission to use a photograph from their page. Our project was even featured in the St. Petersburg Times. As a teacher, I believe the greatest reward for the students is the community's respect and support for their talents as young people. How refreshing to see the positive in our youth.
Again, the greatest impact is the realization that young people have so much to offer at any age. Safety Harbor continues to benefit in the promotion of our wonderful community. Parents have become more interested in their children's work. We even provided some internet training for parents to realize the potential of the web's many resources. Local area businesses benefit in the advertising of their business on the web.
Workshops provided by the University of South Florida and the TelEd Conference in Tampa were most helpful to the teacher. Our greatest helpers/assets were actually students who had already had some experience creating web pages. We even brought back a student from the previous year to help with technical difficulties.