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The California Project

The California project of the 4th Grade students of Balboa Magnet is a comprehensive summary of a topic they cover throughout the entire year. Students start learning about the California regions, its twenty one missions, and end up covering the Gold Rush. This topic’s diversity made it a good project for students to work on throughout the year. In addition to learning about California, students learned a great deal about technology.

Students used their Google Apps accounts to work on all parts of the project. To present the California regions, students used Google Presentations, which is the Google Docs equivalent of a Powerpoint presentation. Each region was described on a presentation slide with a short paragraph and several images. The California Missions assignment was more challenging in terms of the technology. Students were divided into teams of two or three and each team created a Google Map of the Missions. The map was shared by all team members and each student in the team was responsible for creating placemarks for their share of missions, which included an image and a short description about the mission. When users clicked on each placemark image, they got a text bubble with the mission’s description. At the end of this assignment, students had 21 mission placemarks on their mission map.

The entire project was put together in a Google Site, called California. The same team that created the Google Map, was also responsible to create the California Site. Students learned a lot creating the site because they did their own site design. They created the following pages in the site:  Home, California Regions, California Missions, Mission Focus, and Gold Rush. In the Home page, students were asked to create a promotional message intended to lure visitors to their site. In the California Regions page, students learned to embed the Google Presentation they created for the regions, into their site. In the California Missions page, students learned to embed the Missions Google Map. In addition to mapping the missions, students were asked to focus on one mission, writing a detailed description of the mission and its history and enhancing their writing with a series of images. All this was presented in the Mission Focus page. The last part of the assignment was to follow the experience of a typical family that went west, following the Gold Rush. Students were asked to pick one trail, amongst all the trails that people used to go west. Based on historical resources, they were supposed to build an itinerary of a trip, with detailed descriptions of what happened in each trail stop. When the research was complete, students were to create a Google Map for the Gold Rush trip itinerary and create placemarks for each trip stop, marked with an image and a description of what happened in each place. This assignment was challenging and not all students finished. A few students, enjoyed this assignment so much, that they used every break time they had, to come to the lab and finish the assignment. The outcome looks like this site. However, since this site was created in 2008, some of the files that were embedded in it, were deleted by the students and cannot be seen anymore.