ThinkQuest Newsletter - April, 1998
"Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling" (team 13681) was featured in a workshop presentation at the AT&T Technology conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on March 13, 1998. This conference, in partnership with the New York City Board of Education, Division of Management Information Services, was designed to disseminate outstanding technology in the classroom and integrate similar projects into the curriculum of New York City Public Schools.
A Lesson Plan for the "Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling" site has been accepted by Encarta and is published online at: http://encarta.msn.com/alexandria/templates/lessonFull.asp?page=1225
ThinkQuest Newsletter - May, 1998
Two ThinkQuest teams, "Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling" (team 13681) and "The Basketball Explorations" (team 12006), presented at the "Classroom of the Future" exhibit at the School Tech Expo in New York City On April 27, 1998. Because of the location, I was lucky enough to attend. Both teams presented to an audience with interactive computer access. Thank you, Gwen Solomon from Global School Net, for organizing a great event.
"Why Is the Mona Lisa Smiling?", ThinkQuest entry from 1997, gains more press coverage! "EDNet Briefs" announced the site in its USA and Washington DC Editions on April 20, 1998. You will also find an article by coach, Mr. Steven Feld, at the "Well Connected Educator" Web site at: http://www.gsh.org/wce/articles.htm===================================================================
ThinkQuest Newsletter - July, 1998
- ThinkQuest Teams in the News
The Museum of Art and Science, San Francisco's Exploratorium has featured "Why Is the Mona Lisa Smiling?", ThinkQuest entry from 1997, along with "Walrus", entry 3500, a ThinkQuest Jr. project, as their June Cool Sites. We have "archived" this page to commemorate the occasion. http://data/learn/science1.htm.==================================================================
ThinkQuest Newsletter - August, 1998
"Why Is the Mona Lisa Smiling?", ThinkQuest entry from 1997, once again makes the news! This well-traveled site has been chosen as the Newsday Cool School Site of the Month at http://www.newsday.com/nie/schools/month.htm Additionally, the site has been listed by Newsday in Education under "Projects Straight from Schools" at: http://www.newsday.com/nie/schools/projects.htm
ThinkQuest Newsletter - September, 1998
Contents:"Why Is the Mona Lisa Smiling?", ThinkQuest entry from 1997, receives more awards! Look for the Education link on the New York Times "New York Today" page in the September 16, 1998 issue. http://www.nytoday.com/
- ThinkQuest Teams in the News
ThinkQuest Newsletter - October, 1998
- ThinkQuest Teams in the News
"Why Is the Mona Lisa Smiling?", ThinkQuest 1997 entry #13681, has been featured on the Idea Channel page as a music resource: http://www.ideachannel.com/Music.htm --------------------------
ThinkQuest Newsletter - November, 1998
- ThinkQuest Teams in the News
ThinkQuest Newsletter - February, 1999
Congratulations to the "Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling?" website. The site has garnered 11 additional distinctions for their site including:
The Boston Science Museum features our project in the Exploring Leonardo
The Children's Commission of Queensland, which links 400,000 schools in Australia:
Community Learning Network Canada - Network Nuggets:
and Site of the Month on Educate the Children in England:
ThinkQuest Newsletter - June, 1999
Feel free to pass this newsletter on to your friends!
ThinkQuest Newsletter - September, 1999
"Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling?" ThinkQuest team #13681 is proud to be featured by ZD Net Australia: http://zdnet.com.au/zdnn/content/zdnn/0427/310640.html ----
Volume 48 No.32 Thursday October 2, 1997
By PAM FREDERICK Could the Mona Lisa's smile really be the grin of a mischievous Renaissance man? For centuries, art historians have wondered whether Leonardo Da Vinci actually painted a self-portrait when he created the world's most famous two-dimensional woman. Last spring, John F. Kennedy High School students expired that topic and everything else Da Vinci. Their Mona Lisa Project turned into an electronic history lesson and an experiment in collaborative learning. And the new site they created on the World Wide Web as a result is winning honors and attracting attention from all over the world. The students entered their web site in an inlternational student competition. Last week, the Kennedy team" led by teacher Steve Feld was declared a semifinalist, making the students and the school eligible for some serious cash prizes. The recognition has surprised and pleased team members, who dedicated hundreds of hours over the past months to create a compelling site. "The fact that we're competing worldwide with people way better than ourselves made me think we could never win," said Khoa C., who graduated last year and now is a computer science major at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He and Kennedy senior William P. helped put the site together after Mr. Feld came up with the concept. Their work could net up to $25,000 in scholarship money for each student, as well as money for the school. "I'm happy that we did this" well, said Mr. C. "I saw the other entries, and I was quite impressed. But I'm confident we have a chance." The project started last winter when Mr. Feld, the school's data coordinator and computer graphics teacher, heard about the contest at a meeting at City College. As part of the contest, schools were required to link with another student group abroad, and find common interests by meeting with each other electronically. The Kennedy team eventually connected with a teacher and student in Sweden. Mr. Feld came up with the Da Vinci idea after meeting an art historian who had researched the mysterious origins of the Mona Lisa's smile.
He approached Mr. P. and Mr. C., who had created Kennedy's science honors home page and updated the high school's web site, to work on the project's animation, graphics and computer language. "He presented me with a problem and told me to solve it," said Mr. C. "If I couldn't, he would help me." The challenges didn't end there, however. At Kennedy, Mr. Feld and his students were forced to work on I5-year-old computers. That's like asking a tennis player to take on Pete Sampras with a wooden racket. (Continued on page A2) At school, the students worked without a mouse, windows, or hard drives. Principal Gino Silvestri made one phone line available for them, and Mr. C. did much of the work, at least 10 hours a week, on his computer at home. During lunch periods, after school, and late at night, the group put together a sophisticated project.
"Since we only started last Christmas, it's tremendous that we're taking these leaps," said Mr. Feld. "Despite the equipment, each year these kids participate in state and national contests and do very well."
Morphing and audio
The web site's address is /13681. A visit shows DaVinci's famous technical study of the male anatomy, arms and legs outstretched touching the perimeter of a circle. A click on one of the figure's four illustrated hands takes visitors to the essay about the Mona Lisa, a morphed image of the Mona Lisa and da Vinci created by the students, or an audio sampling of a little known da Vinci musical composition. The site also links to 12 other da Vinci sites the students discovered on the Web, as well as to the Kennedy home page. The team will spend the next three weeks waiting to hear the results of the contest Already, the site has been noted as one of USA Today On-line's Hot Spots, and as Site of the Day from a World Wide Web rating organization.
Lots of talent
"Kennedy should enter more competitions. There's a lot of talent in that school," said Mr. C. "I learned more from this than almost any other class. I was willing to do it, and I wasn't forced. If a kid is forced to do something, forget it." The school this year does have a new computer lab with 34 terminals and Internet capabilities. The catch, says Mr. Silvestri, is that the school does not yet have the high-speed Internet connection needed to operate a room full of terminals. Moreover, because the lab was funded with occupational education money, it is reserved for use by the business department, which has the room filled every period of the day.
Hope for future
But the school is slated to get the line installed in January, and should also be taking delivery on enough new computers for another lab, which will be available to all classes. Mr. Silvestri also hopes to have computers hooked up in the college office, so students can apply to colleges on-line. This fall, Mr. Feld has four sections of his computer graphics class filled with students, possibly looking to follow in the footsteps of Mr. C. and Mr. P. "Its really important that we grow in these areas," said Mr. Feld. "Its no longer just the career of the future. Its a viable cultural, technological and educational need in our society. To be able to get in on the High school level is key to learning it."
The Bronx Shopper
Volume 6 Number 49 Saturday December 6, 1997
Who was the Mona Lisa?
John F. Kennedy H.S. students explore the mystery behind her enigmatic smile
By Joseph P. Griffith
People use the term "renaissance man" to denote someone with many talents. It stems from the proclivity of educated men of the late 15th and early 16th centuries not to specialize, but to be adept at many things. Leonardo da Vinci was perhaps the ultimate Renaissance man. He was a painter, sculptor, scientist, engineer, musician and architect. He is perhaps best remembered for paintings like The Last Supper, but an examination of his great body of work reveals a many-faceted artist and technician whose efforts still have repercussions today. He sketched a prototype of the bicycle at least 250 years before a rudimentary one was ever built, and his multi-armed symbol of "Vitruvian Man" is used universally in many contexts. It was perhaps inevitable that this visionary genius would have a presence on the World Wide Web, but the tribute paid to him is no mere historical commemoration. Rather, it is a current debate about a very live subject: the inspiration for his most famous work. The Mona Lisa. Nearly five centuries after Leonardo painted the art worlds most enigmatic smile. Dr. Lillian Schwartz of Bell Labs posed a question: Who was the actual person behind that smile? Historians have made many educated guesses over the years, but perhaps none that aroused as much attention and controversy as hers. In her book The Computer Artist's Handbook, the pioneer in computer graphics and art theorized that La Gioconda was actually a self-portrait by Leonardo. She digitized images of artist and.sub-ject, reversed his and merged them. In her view, the facial features match so closely that it is undeniable that they are one and the same person. A group of students has created a website illustrating the argument. They were not in Florence or Rome, where many of Leonardo's works are exhibited; they were not affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art or the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, where Schwartz's own work is shown; nor did they study at Princeton, Rutgers or New York University, where she has taught. Those students are found in the Bronx, at John F. Kennedy High School. They did more than just create a highly imaginative website; they did it with rudimentary programs and equipment that are far behind the technology curve. Steve Feld, a computer graphics teacher and programmer, helped them create it. They had access to a single 386 computer - three generations behind today's 686's - which lacked even a mouse, hard drive and Windows operating software. The students could not buy a sophisticated drawing program costing hundreds of dollars. Instead, they created images using a public domain program that cost $1. The images were converted and made Windows-compatible, and a single phone line was offered for an Internet connection. Working painstakingly, they created a 170-page website for the school a year ago, and the Mona Lisa project came online last May. A contest called ThinkQuest, which encourages different types of schools around the world to cooperate, ' helped them find one in Sweden for a partnership. The Swedish school had only about 10 percent of Kennedy's enrollment of 5,300. Feld said the site has received a tremendous response, and its guest book has been signed by visitors from as far away as China and Mongolia. It has attracted more than 30,000 visitors and received awards from many Internet sites. It has the distinction of being both a "hot site of the day" and a "cool site of the day." USA Today has featured it, and being recognized in some way can generate as many as 5,000 .visitors in a single day. "Almost on a daily basis I receive e-mail that we've gotten another award, and we've been featured' on many important websites," said Feld. The Seattle Art Museum, which is currently having a major show devoted to Leonardo, chose the site as a resource for museum-goers and visitors to its own site. The way in which Feld and the students have overcome technical limitations probably would not please the computer industry, which prides itself on continuously producing costly hardware and software upgrades. Their computer's own browser is Netscape 1.0, positively ancient in comparison to Netscape's own upgrades. '^We're trying to reach as many people as possible by making the site accessible," said Feld. "We wanted to be viewable by anyone, so our site is made for any browser. "Its twice as much work to create this kind of environment, but it represents the way the computer industry should be. It shouldn't be that just because you have an older machine or software, you can't see the site." He said the site even offers visual assistance for persons who are hearing-impaired, and help for those whose software lacks the latest features. "We're very flexible in accommodating what anybody" has. This should be the wave of the future." Feld said he has even written to Bill Gates, chairman of the software manufacturer Microsoft and the richest person in the known universe, asking not for money, but for Gates simply to visit the site for the students' sake. He said he had not yet received an answer. The site also. contains school information such as exam schedules and PTA news. Feld said this can help parents get involved as well. In the spirit of interactivity, the site will continue to grow, as viewers answer a survey indicating the directions they would like to see it take. He said he would like to see more mysteries such as that of the Mona Lisa's smile put forth and perhaps solved. The school may work with art organizations on another project. One possibility is the work of M.C. Escher, whose graphic riddles have amused and confounded art lovers for much of this century. ' Teachers in China and South America have also expressed interest in working with the school on a project and in learning how to create their own. "We're open and flexible and want to grow in whatever direction the viewers want," Feld said. The address, of John F. Kennedy High School site is http://www.con2.com/~jfkhs
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