"Learn and DO". This is written on the chalkboard in our room at school. We never paid much attention to it, but now we know what it means. By doing this website we learned that it's one thing to talk and learn about problems in the world,
but it's another thing to actually do something about it.
Choosing team members. Breanne, Daniel, Jaylon, and Sarah worked on last year's ThinkQuest team, so four members of the team had a year's experience. We asked Allie to join our team. Eva, our assistant coach, is originally from Slovakia and asked her family for help finding a team member. Her cousin's
son, Marek, agreed to join our team. We were very excited to have Allie and Marek on our team!
Deciding on a topic. We didn't know until we started this website how important clean water is to all of us. We live near a refuge and the management staff needed someone to do a water quality study, so we decided to help out while making a website about what we learned! It was a little scary to commit to this project because we didn't know anything about our topic. We decided to jump right in and find out all that we could.
Naming the site. We think the name of the website is important and we took time to make sure we had just the right one. We wanted to use a detective theme because we are very curious kids, so we decided to name our team CSI:Cahaba Student Investigators. We still needed a name for our site. This took us awhile because we couldn't think of anything cool. We began to look on the Internet for articles and information about our topic, macroinvertebrates. We did research for a few months and decided on a great name for the site, "The Case of the Mysterious Macros".
Learning about the topic. We looked for methods for collecting the macroinvertebrates. We learned that there are other ways to monitor water quality such as testing water chemistry, but monitoring macroinvertebrates would be the most exciting and best method for us. We printed the articles we found and read them. We highlighted important sections. Our teamates who were not able to be with us on our visits were able to see pictures of our work. They were able to help with the research. Soon, it was time to actually begin our water monitoring project. We made a visit to the river and chose a monitoring site. On each visit we took turns recording data, disturbing the water, and holding the net. It was awesome and fun!
Designing the site. We learned how to use templates to create a website last year.
We received two more copies of Dreamweaver when we received
the software grant. This year we decided to start our own design from scratch. We found a style sheet in Dreamweaver that had a menu on the side. Then, we went through it and took things out until we had it like we wanted it. None of us, including Mrs. Harris, knew a whole lot about this, but we ended up with a menu on the side like we wanted. We really don't know how we did it, but eventually it worked! Everyone thinks that making a website is hard, but it really isn't. It just takes a lot of time.
We used Front Page for some things on our website, too.
We already knew what we needed to have a good site. From
our experience last year, we decided that we wanted our site
to be more "kid friendly" with many drawings, bright colors,
and great links. We drew all of the images for the website.
The photos on the website are our own or are from people who
gave us permission to use them. Allie sent us photos from her watershed. Marek
helped us find information and photos, too. We used the
EPA website for a lot of our information and Mr. Wayne Davis
gave us permission to use photos of macroinvertebrates from
the EPA site. He was very encouraging to us and liked our idea for this website.
Making the site.
We worked on the website during our computer lab time every day.
Daniel and Sarah 's teacher allowed them to come and work on the website anytime they finished their work in the classroom.
Mrs. Harris helped us get organized and we listed our jobs for the day on a sticky note and emailed Allie and Marek. The rest of us came to computer lab each day and got started on our list of jobs. Sometimes it took us several days to finish our list and sometimes only a day. There was always work to do on our site. We are all good at drawing, writing, and researching, so all of us did a little bit of everything. Last year, we learned how to make hyperlinks and anchors. This year we learned more about adding color and tables. Only two of us has Internet at home, so we printed off topics to take home, read, and highlight.
Marek and Allie had to find links and information for us to use on our website. Allie sent us pictures of her watershed.
We drew all of the pictures on paper, scanned them into the computer, and edited them. Sarah and Daniel got so good at this they were able to do many drawings in a very short time. Sarah loves art and made many of the backgrounds for the site.
We were happy to get the grant for Dreamweaver, Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe PhotoShop Elements, and Macromedia Flash 8. We were very excited when our new software arrived! We haven't learned to use the Flash software, yet. We did use Adobe PhotoShop.
One of our favorite jobs was making the banner for our site. Mrs. Harris showed us how to make the background and use rippling and waves. It was perfect for our site. We chose the colors and Breanne drew the rocks on the banner. Sarah drew the picture of the Cahaba Lily. Jaylon drew the crayfish and the dragonfly. Then, we used UnFreeze to animate the banner. We also used UnFreeze for our other animations.
We had a quiz on our website last year. Mrs. Harris showed us how to copy and paste it into our pages for this year. Then, we just had to change the questions and make sure the questions and the answers matched each other. That was pretty hard to do. We had fun making up the questions.
Daniel and Sarah made the photo stories. This took many hours because every time we messed up we had to go back to each slide and do it over!
Obstacles we faced.
Most of the time there were 28 other fourth grade kids in the room while we worked on this website. It was hard to stay focused. The good thing about that is the other kids now know a lot about our topic. Mrs. Harris had to explain many of the things we were reading to us and the other kids were able to learn about the topic, too. The other students do assignments on Think.com,
so we missed many of the days they work on one of our very
The other obstacle we faced is that we had a difficult time finding international team members. We left two spots open when we registered, but we had no luck. Finally, Allie joined our team. We were happy about getting a new team member.
Then, Eva told us she had a cousin in Slovakia where she lived before coming to the United States. Marek joined our team and
we were excited to have someone from another country to help.
Marek speaks Slovak and doesn't speak much English, so Eva had to translate the emails for us.
The other problem we faced was time.
The ThinkQuest deadline this year was right at the end of our achievement testing at school. This meant the site had to be finished by April 2nd for us because we had to focus on our tests.
How we are different. Some of us work well by ourselves. Others like to have someone to help. Some of our jobs needed to be done as a group. We had to work out who was doing which job, especially on the days we collected macroinvertebrates.
How we are alike. We all love school, love to learn, and love to work. We like challenges and and exploring. We think the best way to learn is by doing.
Finishing the project.
We had many people help us with this project or we would have
never finished it. Eva, Deputy Wildlife Refuge Manager, made many trips to our school to talk to us about our topic, give us advice, and help us proofread. She went with us on every visit to the river. Elizabeth, the VISTA volunteer in our county and many people who live around our town gave us information we needed.
Mr. Randy Haddock has studied the Cahaba River for many years.
He talked to us on the phone or by email whenever we had
questions. Mrs. Harris reminded us that we had to do more than just draw pictures and have fun at the river. We had to write, make pages, links, find links, add images, resize images, and all of the things that took A LOT of time. Then, when all that was finished we had to proof read!
How our topic impacts the world . We think working on this website taught us how everything we do affects everything around us. We learned about watersheds and how each small watershed affects the entire earth. Even though we all have different watersheds, eventually all of the oceans and seas become one. We learned that many countries do the same type of monitoring we learned how to do. Water pollution causes diseases like cancer, lupus, immune diseases, cholera,
typhoid, dysentery, and other diseases. Millions of children are killed because of the poor water quality.
We also learned about aquatic ecosystems, biodiversity, biomes, and pollution. We had never heard the word" biome" before we worked on this website. We didn't know what an ecosystem was either. We surely didn't know what biodiversity meant! This project is one of the most fun things we've ever done at school.
We hope our site will convince people to stop trashing the water and polluting it. We are willing to take on the challenge of helping to make sure our water stays CLEAN!