1. Description of Our Community
The Grant Elementary School community is diverse. It is a math and science magnet school whose purpose is attract students in kindergarten through fifth grade who are interested in enriched math and science programs with an emphasis in technology, and to create a school environment that is ethnically and economically diverse. Approximately one-half of the student population lives in the Mission Hills neighborhood, and the remaining students, selected through an application process, come from other neighborhoods throughout the city of San Diego. The range of economic levels is wide, including Title 1, and there are a large variety of ethnic groups represented.
In addition to the math and science program, the Grant School learning community has other classes to support students’ emotional and academic needs. Our class is a seminar class designed for 4th and 5th graders with advanced learning abilities. An active student council and Thursday Kids’ Club give students choices for other activities.
The Grant School community includes a very active Parent Teacher Association and Foundation. They work separately to organize and fund “above and beyond” what is provided by the San Diego City Schools. They provide such things as technical equipment, field trips, and extensive classroom and school libraries.
The geographic community is Mission Hills, which is centrally located towards the downtown area. It is one of San Diego’s oldest residential communities consisting mainly of single-family homes, many of which are of historic significance. Mission Hills’ residents support Grant School and its activities. Many of the students are second or third generation Mission Hills residents. Local businesses are also supportive.
Working together, the students, teachers, staff, parents, and neighbors have created the Grant School community.
2. Summary of Our Project
Pioneer Park is a historic landmark next to Grant Elementary School. It was once the site of Calvary Cemetery, and many of San Diego’s pioneers are still buried there. Our project began as a simple investigation into this curious landmark with old tombstones. We soon realized that it was a complicated story about change and community growth. Working together, we were able to learn what occurred in the past and how to make wise decisions about preserving our heritage for the future. Students named their project “Pioneer Park — From Sacred Space to Soccer Field”. Some students felt we should also say “And Beyond”.
We made a plan for the project using a computer program called “Inspiration”. This plan divided the investigation into 4 main categories, which were subdivided. Pairs, small groups, and individuals worked on different topics making direct connections to Mission Hills, the cemetery, and Grant School. The first category is “Historic San Diego” and is divided by the changes in the population: Kumeyaay, Spanish, Mexican, Americans, and Americans moving into Mission Hills. The second category called “Calvary Cemetery” traces the changes in the cemetery from the beginning until it was closed to become Pioneer Park. “Pioneer Park Evolution” explains the transition from cemetery to park. The fourth subdivision category describes “Pioneer Park Today and Tomorrow”. The focus is to show a community making informed decisions to preserve its heritage and plan for the future. Students developed opinions about the value of preserving memories and were outraged by some of their discoveries.
The website design followed the “Inspiration' plan. Students talked, dreamed, and planned as a group what the website should look like and what it should include. They wanted it to look vintage, like an old scrapbook, so it was kept to neutral colors using the change in the park as a theme We have great pride in the final project.
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):
Grant School is a magnet school committed to math, science, and technology. Our classroom and school computer lab are well supplied with computers. Most of the classroom computers are one of the results of Mrs. Kirk’s participation in a grant awarded to Grant School by National Science Foundation a few years ago. The lab also benefited from that grant. Computers in the lab have been totally upgraded during the last year because of efforts by the Grant School Foundation. Several years ago the Grant School staff and community held their own “net day” to wire the school for Internet. This past year the San Diego City School district had the wiring in Grant School upgraded with a faster more efficient system. We are hopeful that upgrades and improvements will continue in the classrooms and lab.
4. Problems We Had To Overcome
At each step of the way there were hurdles to cross. Fortunately, none were insurmountable.
To begin with, we underestimated the size of the project we were undertaking. We had to continually refocus efforts and reorganize assignments. Pairing fifth grade students with fourth grade students was one successful strategy.
Another problem we encountered was the availability of resources. Grant School has a well-supplied library, as does our classroom, but we soon discovered we needed more. The Internet provided some significant information about the cemetery, but this still wasn’t adequate. With the help of parents, we were able to make trips to the California Room at the Downtown Library and the San Diego Historical Society. The information at these locations provided students with pertinent information including newspaper articles and primary source documents such as memos, original cemetery records, maps, and official documents.
Extracting information from old primary source documents was a wonderful experience that provided another challenge. The students were fascinated by all of the documents from the past. They sometimes had difficulty focusing on what was important to our project. Some of the documents were legal, formal, or technical in nature. We also found conflicting information
The technology portion of our project was probably the most exciting and challenging. Our school is well equipped with computers and other equipment, but we have little experience with web publishing. To solve this problem, students began planning what they wanted their web site to look like and what they wanted to include. Their dreams were much larger than their skills. Fortunately another parent volunteered his expertise to assist in the design by setting up templates. With templates, volunteers, and site teachers, students were able to publish their content while learning to using portions of our recently acquired “Dreamweaver Suite” software. Another hurdle was overcome.
5. Our Project Sound Bite
Participating in the International Schools CyberFair was important to the students because they were able to share their discoveries about a historic landmark significant to them and their Mission Hills neighborhood with the world. It also provided them with an exciting opportunity to use the higher level of technology necessary to complete “Pioneer Park From Sacred Place to Soccer Field”.
6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?
The Pioneer Park research project provided authenticity, enrichment, and meaning as it met and exceeded California State grade level standards in Reading Language Arts, Social Studies, and National Educational Technology Standards. San Diego City School District requires teaching to State Standards. California Standards are available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/engmain.asp.
Reading Language Arts • Students gathered and synthesized Information from above grade level expository text in newspapers, primary sources, and online information. They took notes using focused questions and organizational structures to determine importance of information. • Students wrote focused research reports with coherent sentences and paragraphs with a purpose and audience. Reports include introductions, supporting details, conclusions, and summaries. Students used the writing process with several revisions and editions to maintain focus of project and grade level appropriate writing conventions before work was published online.
Social Studies • Fourth Grade Students learn the story of their home state, California, and how it is unique. This includes the multiple waves of immigrants to California back to pre-Columbian societies. The diversity focus also includes the effect of the economy, the rapid growth of the area, and changes in government and institutions. • Fifth grade students study United States history up to 1850 in a more global manner, including immigration, westward expansion, colonial governments, independence, freedoms, and self-government.
Technology Standards This project addressed the National Educational Technology Standards for Grades 4 and 5 in all six recommended categories as students researched, wrote, collected assets, and produced their web site. These standards are found at http://cnets.iste.org/students/s_profiles.html,
Working as a member of a team was a positive learning experience. Students planned, researched, wrote, revised, discussed, and made decisions. As a result recognitions of individual strengths and collaboration grew.