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Student project inspires an entire school
Two ninth grade students talk about a class project that caused their entire middle school to get involved in a knowledge competition.
By Melissa Brown

Have you ever attended a school assembly where the whole school got excited about answering questions about math, science, and music? Generally, when the whole school gathers in one room to celebrate, it's a pep rally for an athletic event or accomplishment. This month, Kidspeak spoke with two ninth grade students who were involved in a project that caused the whole school to get excited about knowledge. These students are enrolled in a gifted education course called SPECTRA. This course is designed to help students develop their intellectual strengths and to teach problem solving and critical thinking skills. As part of their coursework, students are required to complete an independent project each quarter. Tony and Zach were part of a group of eight students who decided to take a suggestion from their library media specialist (Elaine Nuhn) and run with it.

Mrs. Nuhn had located a Jeopardy template on the Web and suggested that they use it for a middle school week project. Tony and Zach decided it would be fun to create a Jeopardy game and get other classes involved. The research for the project took an entire month. The group did quite a bit of research to ensure that the questions were specific to the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade curriculums. They spoke with teachers and borrowed textbooks to find questions over material that the students had already been exposed to. Once the questions were written, there was quite a bit of critical thinking to determine the point value of each question. Many of the other students in their class got involved in this process.

Once the research was complete, they determined the structure of the game. Tony described it for us. "The game consisted of two rounds, single and double jeopardy, like the game. The rounds are almost exactly like the real game, like categories and daily doubles. But instead of using money we used points. The answers were ranked based on difficulty and were put into categories like science, music, and math. This all worked on the PowerPoint program for Windows and required hyperlinks to link the questions and answers to the main page, which was the one with the categories."
"Their excellent use of technology allowed them to create a final product that the whole school was able to be involved in."
Once they had adapted the template off of the Internet to meet their specific needs, they inserted all of the information and put it on the school network. Using the school network allowed the classes to compete in the first two rounds at the same time. The third round was completed during an all-school assembly. Their excellent use of technology allowed them to create a final product that the whole school was able to be involved in.
     Organizing the game to include the whole school was a challenge. Zach and Tony took a primary role in this process. They communicated with Mrs. Nuhn. They collaborated with the tech coordinator. They worked with the computer instructor to learn how to use PowerPoint. They also scheduled a meeting with the principal to get permission to set up the assembly and schedule the events. Their SPECTRA teacher, Mrs. Funk was very impressed with the organization of the project and the ownership that they took in planning such a large event.

Zach explained how the competition worked, "There were about four levels of competition. The first was when every student in the middle school took a four point jeopardy quiz. The top winner from each class was selected to compete on a networked computer with the whole class cheering them on. Then the top three winners from each grade - sixth, seventh, and eighth - competed for grade level competition. Then after each grade level winner was selected, the whole school gathered for an all-school assembly. We projected the questions on a big screen and had the students ring in with buzzers. At the end, the Macon Middle School champion received a trophy."
     Both Zach and Tony said the school assembly was very exciting. They had a master of ceremony and judges to run the show. Tony ran the computer and the finalists competed for the grand prize trophy as the whole school watched and cheered them on.

The school's strong commitment to technology allowed Zach and Tony the access they needed to tie everything together.
This project was a class requirement. SPECTRA students are free to choose from all types of topics to fulfill their independent project. Some students write papers or give speeches, others study lasers or robotics. As long as it involves problem solving, students can choose what they want to learn about for this project. The Jeopardy project certainly fit that criteria, from the research, technology, and organization aspects. One of the dilemmas they faced was loss of sound in some of their PowerPoint presentations. The sound had somehow been deleted, but they overcame that problem.
     The school's strong commitment to technology allowed Zach and Tony the access they needed to tie everything together. The technology that they utilized for this project was extensive. They used the Internet for research. They used Carson projectors for the all-school assembly. They also used a Smartboard and the school's networked computer. SPECTRA students have an account on the network that allows them to continue working on their projects on any computer in the system. "That helped us during this project because we stayed after school a lot of nights, even after the library was closed and were able to use another teacher's room to work," said Zach.

Teachers were very enthusiastic about the finished product and the fact that the template could be used in their classrooms to review for tests or to reinforce information in a fun and interactive way. "The work that we did was very advanced, I would have to say. But it can be simplified easily. You don't have to do the work that we did, you don't have to make all the rounds and categories. It can be simple, but it can be adapted for a lot of uses," said Tony.
     What role will technology play in their future? "I want to be one of those people out there actually making the technology for future students to do what we've done. Only more advanced, and a little more put together. I want to see the same thing in the future only like in a 3D environment. I have big plans. I don't know if they will ever be done, but big plans and big goals," said Tony. And at the rate these students are going, they're right on track to accomplish those goals.

Interested in SPECTRA? Visit these sites!
1. The SPECTRA program is for gifted students in grades three to eight.
2. Visit the Macon County R-1 Middle School Web site!

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Students interviewed for KidSpeak are nominated by teachers. Send nominations to the editor.

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