Multiage Projects

Material World






















ur aterial orld

How do seven and eight year old international students view their world? Are these views shared by thirteen year olds in the same school? Will a second grade student see how habitats in Japan, Bosnia and Mali affect the people who live in them? Can an eight year old construct a robust hypermedia stack from start to finish? For answers to these questions, and more, come explore 2-F's and 8-H's second year of a multi-age project based on the CD-ROM The Material World  by clicking on the children's names to the left. There have been no modifications in the children's pages since this web was first published in the fall of 1997 but, since the focus of the reposting of the site is on the teaching structure of the project, those teaching elements have been moved here to the index page and the navigation structure revamped. 

What Did Multi-Age Have to Do With It?

In the spring of 1995, our particular cross-age technology pilot began. The original members of the pilot were Gary Eastman-Brown, Richard Snell, Andrew Hoover and myself-Bridgette Fincher.. At that time, we were working at the kindergarten level, second, fifth and in eighth grade. Several core tenants drove our work together. We believed that children, and teachers, learned best when the environment was child-centered, made use of integrated subject matter within the framework of a generative (process-oriented) approach, and when the teacher served in a mentor role. All the projects were to be tied to core questions for children to research that tied into a larger world view. We all felt that technology was but really a tool, one of many, to express parts of these elements. These tenets have held fast even though the pilot has mutated: grade levels have shifted; the individual projects between members have ranged in content, duration and composition; the software programs have varied; the differences between schedules and the drive of the curriculum have created quandaries. However, the advantages of having a cross-age tie continues to benefit the children and teachers. Aside from the affective "gee whiz" of being paired up with a child a different age, several other elements have held constant. Ownership and responsibility of the students towards their own learning increased; the depth each child assimilated the information improved; and the students' abilities to work with others in a cooperative and supportive way were reinforced. These things happened regardless of the grade level or age of the student. Pleasingly, all of these aspects were alive in the content, and in the process, of making this year's version of Our Material World. From an educator standpoint, being able to collaborate with people from different fields and levels strengthened our understanding of how children learn and how best to teach them substantially.

What Was The Big Picture?

Children this age tend to believe that what is true for them is true for everyone else. Signature amounts of adults also tend to share this view. Given that all of us now live in an expanding global society, one of the purposes behind the project was to enlarge the children's scope a bit. To do this, when the buddy pairs looked at the Material World CD-ROM, they had to describe what they saw in the major picture; list three things that they thought was most important about the picture and why; and then go o n to state how the habitat seemed to affect the family. These questions were applied to the countries of Japan, Mali and Bosnia. As a class, we reviewed the habitat characteristics that we learned at the start of the unit. Then, the second grade students listed the three items that they, and their buddies, had listed as most important. Next to these items, they assigned a habitat characteristic that would fit. For example, in the Japan analysis, a piano, a small refrigerator and tons of shoes were listed. These corresponded with the habitat characteristics of relationships, food and protection. From Mali came pots, a dirt house, and a pestle. From Bosnia a gun, pictures, and food was listed by one buddy pair. After all the items were assigned characteristics, the items were grouped together by characteristics and bar graphed. That way the children clearly saw what was important to each family in each country. Then the graphs were compared to each other. In the end, the children found that obtaining food was most important to people from Mali, protection in Bosnia and relationships for people in Japan. When they compared how rich the families were, they stated that people in Mali were relatively poor because they had to grow their own food to live and because most of the children had to work to support their families. This made big impression on the children when they saw kids their own age who had to work to get dinner on the table. They thought that people in Bosnia had it better because they felt that the deprivation caused by the war situation there could be fixed if the war stopped. The fact that the Bosnian family used the mattress as a block against sniper fire, rather than as something to sleep on, not only startled them but really brought home how safe the environment they live in really is. Finally, comparing the life expectancy rates and the ratio of urban land to country per country rounded out their understanding of the differences of circumstances to be found in this world.

How We Did The Project in Second Grade

The Material World Unit formed the bulk of our language arts, social studies and science for two months in the fall of 1997. Although quite complex, if a person looked at the whole unit, each sub-unit's core concepts were very manageable to a second grade child. The first step of this multi-layered unit was the exploration of the key habitat characteristics- air, water, sunlight, temperature, shelter, protection, and relationships. The students interviewed their parents about the major characteristics of where they lived. All this information was recorded and then generalized into what the students learned was an urban habitat. Doing this was vital because it provided first hand, concrete examples of how the urban characteristics directly applied to them and how they were affected by the habitat they lived in.

The unit then unwound into several different strands. Scientifically, the students went on to study various other habitat types, like tundra and grasslands, and applied the habitat characteristics to each by doing a research paper on an animal specific to that habitat type. The language arts strand used several key fictional and informational books to broaden the students understanding habitats using an idea circle method. The Salamander Room and A House is a House for Me are examples of two such books. The social studies/math/technology strand was called Our Material World and this HTML project is the presentation outgrowth of that strand.

In this strand, the children compared the human condition of people in various countries by searching for the answers to the question "How does the habitat a person lives in affect them? This was done with Andrew Hoover's eighth grade social studies class. Before the buddies started work they exchanged a series of interview questions. The questions made the buddies focus on each other, as individuals, and on the key question. The results of the interview questions were used by the second graders in math to form generalizations, by making line and pie graphs, about the similarities and differences between them and their buddies. To their surprise, they found that they were more like their buddies than they thought they would be at the start.

Following the initial getting to know you interviews, the teams then explored the The Material World CD-ROM. The eighth graders had used this CD-ROM as a base for their Family History Unit and were able to help the second grade students navigate through the program. The teams looked at the "big picture" in which all the material goods of a family were set out in front of their house. By looking at what kinds of things a family had, or didn't have, the students were able to figure out what habitat characteristics most concerned one family or another. The teams looked at Japan first because that would be familiar and help the second graders apply the skills they were learning to a known environment. They then went on to look at Mali and Bosnia. The results of each buddy team was graphed and looked at. The second grade students really made some signature connections about wealth vs poverty, industrialized vs agrarian societies.(
I then sent a digital camera home with each child to have them document these four questions.

  • What is your favorite place in the house?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What is the most important thing to you?
  • Who is in your family?

The questions mirror, in second grade language, the types of questions that the interviewers used in the CD-ROM with the families from the other countries. The students compared the types of pictures they took, and the questionnaires that went with them, and then began the task of constructing their own html pages.

2nd Grade Technology

The technological aspect, at the start, looked like it might be more than we could chew. However, by the end of the project, all the kinks had been worked out, and all the children formed all their own pages using Microsoft FrontPad. Given the skill and the age of the children, the only way this kind of intensive work could happen was if the technological element were fully integrated into the language arts portion of the curriculum. Next, an integrated team with the computer specialists and the classroom teacher, encompassing both content and methodology, had to form. Luckily for me, it did. Both Toby Tobiason and Gary Eastman-Brown put in the time with me to help the students learn the multitudinous steps needed to keep the project going. All of the word processing, except the full typing of the buddy information that two parents helped with, was done in Microsoft Works using a full writing process approach. The digital pictures in each page were taken by the students, at home, using a Kodak digital camera. To start their pages, the children had to use the Paint program to draw their world. Then, in FrontPad and in Word, the students learned how to: manipulate files; save under multiple drives; construct the base pages; change backgrounds and fonts; import pictures and text; and pay attention to the aesthetic aspects of graphic design. Interestingly, a similar draft, edit, peer edit, teacher conference technique used for the writing turned out to be a very viable process for the technology end as well. Linking, importing the digital pictures, and other fine points of the project were done by Gary, Toby or me. All of the work, from start to finish took about a month and a half, with an average of 30 minutes a day of class time being devoted to the project.

More Alike Than Different! Who Knew?

So, are eighth grade students really different from second grade ones? The second graders thought so. They figured that because they were so much bigger that very little would be the same. To test out this theory the students compared themselves to the eighth graders on four questions. The questions involved how the students got their first names; where they were born; what the most important thing was to them and what their favorite thing to do was. The students got together in groups and compared their answers by making headings and tally marks for each age group. Then we made bar graphs with the information. I took the largest amount of responses for each class and represented that as a pie chart. As a global comparative, the kids were able to see more with the pie. For a detailed understanding of each response, the children used the graphs. As for the types of responses, it turns out that for both ages, half of the parents selected names for their children either based on the meaning of the name itself or because it was the name of a family member. The second graders thought this was rather common sense because "We all have parents and the parents pick out what they know." As for where the children were born, the ratio for each class was exactly the same. 57% were born in the States, 26% were from Asia and the rest was divided between parts of Europe and South America. The children wondered if the percentages would have been the same for every class in the school. What we did know was that this was very close to the whole school breakdown.

The Project- In Their Own Words

The children worked hard. The adults worked hard. Was it worth it? Yes. The obvious pride the students have in their accomplishments shows up in their final reflection sheets' words.

How do you feel about your web page and why?

  • I feel great because I worked very hard and it took a lot of work. John
  • I feel great because I did it by myself! Tamaki
  • I feel good because all the colors are fixed and all the pictures go with the words. I feel great that went down. Yael

What are you most proud of? Why?

  • I am most proud of what I wrote because I get proud when something that that is cool gets on the Net. Mitusaki
  • My thinking because I used to do it sort of bad on the computer. Paul

What was the hardest thing and why?

  • The most hardest thing that I did on the web page was making the world because we had to check again and it was hard. Marie (They had to flip between a Compton's map of the world and the Paint program to construct the first page of their project.)
  • Writing because you really had your brain on and it made you tired! Chris

Overall, this was...

  • Great because we go to try all sorts of different things and now its over and everything looks great. Michele
  • Great because I think all the colors for the background and the writing were terrific! Laura
  • The best because it had lots of details in it. Martin
  • Fantastic because I think that everyone did a really good job on their stuff. Kristle


Original posting November of 1997. Repost in July of 2003

Site maintained and constructed by Bridgette Fincher

August, 2007