team wins ThinkQuest silver!
Students in Savannah learn more about their local river, the wide Missouri.
By Alicia M. Bartol
dream that you could win $500 by doing your class work? That's just what
Missouri students did this year! David, Nicole, Shaina, Katie, and Nick formed
a team and entered ThinkQuest,
the popular competition where students develop educational Web sites for
monetary prizes. The team worked on the Missouri
River Quest project in their GEMS class with Gifted Teacher, Mr.
If at first you don't succeed . . .
students didn't hesitate when Mr. Williamson suggested doing an interdisciplinary
ThinkQuest project, even though they'd entered the year before and lost.
David says, "We all wanted to do it because it was fun the year before."
student worked on topics that
interested them and reflected
some aspect of life on the Missouri River. David got his idea while talking
to his folks one night. "My dad's grandfather made a scrapbook of the flood
of 1952 on the Missouri River. And so I brought those and scanned a whole
bunch of pictures and articles off onto it and we just sort of got our parents
Nicole joined the team a while after the school year started, so she came to the project without previous experience. "At the beginning of the school year, they decided they were going to do ThinkQuest ... then later I came and they told me to choose a topic and I was given a few suggestions, and I chose to do wildlife." In all, the students covered riparian wildlife, the history of the river, the expeditions of Lewis and Clark, Missouri steamboats, and the Flood of 1952.
Shaina's logo for the River Quest home page.
Starting the research
they decided on topics, the team began their research. Nicole describes
the process: "First, we had to gather our research and write a rough draft
and then make a final draft and then we typed it up on the computer. And
then we put all of the reports together on the Web page and then added
other stuff to make the Web page more fun." According to Katie, they began
in October and finished up around March, working one day a week for three
or four hours. They did most of their research in the school library or
on the Web.
Overcoming technical difficulties
entire team tackled the technical chore of putting all the reports online.
David explains: "We all sort of designed the pages on our own, but we
got help often from Mr. Williamson and each other." The team used a variety
of programs, including Adobe Page Mill, to produce the Web pages. David
says that Page Mill "just makes it really easy to make your Web pages."
advises "not to get frustrated if the Web site doesn't work at first. And
you have to spend a lot of time on it, more than you would think."
most of the kids had a lot of previous computer experience, Shaina says
that, " I didn't really have very much experience but the one I did last
year helped me do this one better." They learned that some programs were
more useful than others, and they had a better sense of how to make the
project complete. Shaina explains that this year, "All of our games and
stuff worked and we had better reports -- longer reports and more pictures."
She also says that, "The year before we did quizzes and we wanted to do those again." They added a lot of extra features to the site to make it enjoyable and educational.
Katie describes the extras: "The quizzes were [for] after you read the report. You would fill in the bubble and at the end, it showed your percentage and how you did. And Mad Libs we just made one for every subject, and then we made a big Missouri Mad Lib which was on every subject. And then treasure hunts: what you did is you made a couple of questions up and you put a couple of Web sites on it. You went to those Web sites to find the answer."
student gained a lot from doing the project, aside from the $500 prize,
which almost all of them put quickly into the bank! Nicole, who was unfamiliar
with Macs, says: " The biggest thing I learned was probably how to run
a Macintosh computer and how to work all of the programs."
agrees with all of them: "It was interesting. I got to learn a whole bunch
of new stuff about [the flood]. I never really knew that there had been
a flood in '52 until my dad told me about it and we looked through the
scrapbook. Actually, I had never used half of the computer programs that
we used in it and so I learned a lot about some of the software."
that learning paid off. Nicole says that when they finally completed their
ThinkQuest entry, "We felt pretty confident; we knew it was good. But
I don't think we were expecting silver. I was a little shocked." It took
a few months for the judging, but since ThinkQuest posts the winners online,
the kids knew as soon as they were announced.