Synergy through Collaboration, Place-based Learning, and E-scrapbooking

Collaboration involves synergy. When people work together toward a joint goal, they can accomplish something larger, greater, and with more impact than something done in isolation. Check out some examples:

The following resources are long running collaborative projects that may have ideas for classroom management.

Collaborative Community

Students, teachers, parents, and members of the local and global learning community may all be involved in building a collaborative community. Your project may involve individual students, teams, or the whole classes working with a partner individual, team, or class.

Consider whether you will just share or whether you'll work toward a joint goal. In other words, a cooperative project would involve each partner sharing their findings or conclusions. However a collaborative project requires interaction and creation of something larger than the sum of the individual pieces.

  • Collaborative
  • Generative
  • Interactive

Project Ideas

Wish Lists

Use a "get to know you" activity to get you started with a project. Then, follow-up with a related project.

  • Create and share a scrapbook page "wish list" for a special occasion such as your birthday or Christmas. Use e-bay, amazon, froogle, or other tools for ideas. Save this in Word or as an Adobe PDF file. Share it with your partner school.
  • Create and share a scrapbook page "wish list" that might have been created in another time period. Or, interview a family member and find out what they would have been "wishing for" in the 1920s, 50s, or 70s. Or, create a list for fictional family members. Use local resources and historic photos for ideas. Also, try e-bay.

Antiques Roadshow

Go to Antiques Roadshow. Try the Appraise It Yourself game. Check out the "lingo" of antiques at Antiques Speak specifically the definition of Antiques. Read Stories of antiques. What's an antique? What does "value" mean to you?

  • Take a photograph of something meaningful to your family such as a piece of furniture, china, sports equipment, instrument or something else that has been in your family for a long time. Describe this artifact. Write about its significance or share a story about the item. What's its monetary value vs its family value. How does it reflect your culture or family traditions? How does this item reflect your community?
  • Compare your antique with someone in your partner class. How are they alike and different? How do they reflect the similarities of the communities?
  • Variations: Select an artifact from local history that reflects the community and the Mississippi River history. Create your own Virtual Experience like Antiques Roadshow.

Mississippi Influence

What role has the Mississippi River had on the development of your community?

  • Explore local products that are in some way connected to the river. How has this connection changed over the ages?
  • Trace the history and develop a plan for a new way to make use of the river. Could you invent a new kind of boat? How about a new way to use the land along the river? What about a way to revitalize the historical areas?

Riverboat Adventures

Choose a time period. Select an historic photo from the time. Write about the day that the riverboat came to your town. Write it as a diary entry or newspaper article. Incorporate unique aspects of your community. Or, consider who might have been on the boat such as Mark Twain, the President, a runaway slave, a Civil War soldier, or a singer from New Orleans.

Historical Fiction

  • Trace the adventures of runaway slaves who are working their way north on the Underground Railroad.
  • Write about a family who is split during the Civil War between the north and the south.
  • Write about someone who jumps on a riverboat during the time of Mark Twain and visited both towns.


Collaborative Project Options

There are many kinds of collaborative projects. Judi Harris identified three areas: Interpersonal Exchanges, Information Collection & Analysis and Problem Solving.

Interpersonal Exchanges

One option is to focus on communication in a collaborative environment. Students can use a variety of tools such as traditional mail, email, chats, blogs, forums, and video conferencing to share ideas and information.

Here are some ideas things to share to get to know each other.

  • A Day in My Life (i.e., school, work, play, activities)
  • Likes and Dislikes (i.e., music, TV, movies, books, magazines, games, sports, hobbies, interests, work)
  • Who Am I? Go to Who Am I? for ideas.

Community Exchanges. After getting to know each other, students may share information about their community, discuss key issues, make comparisons, and draw conclusions.

  • Adventure Connections. Write a joint historical adventure between the two towns incorporating real or fictional characters. Select a specific time period such as Civil War era or World War II. Each student should write from the point of view of their character. Then, write a final chapter as a group.
  • Alike and Different. Compare basic data about population, diversity, economics, culture, and history. What are three key differences and similarities? How does each community connect to a common experience or resource such as the Mississippi?
  • Business Bonanza. The VICTORY videogame company is thinking about moving it's headquarters to your area. Why should they move to your community? What does your community have to offer? Why should they consider your community rather than your partner school? Create a structured debate.
  • Disasters. How have natural and man-made disasters impacted your community? What about fires, floods, tornadoes? Share photos and other materials.
  • Eyewitness Accounts. Share the history of your community through townspeople's memories, local histories, or local legends. Share local accounts of key historical events. Go to EyeWitness to History or Timewitnesses for ideas.
  • Festival Fun. Compare the local festivals in your area. How do they reflect you culture? What's the history of the festival? Compare the activities at your festival with a partner school.
  • Cultural Connections. What is the cultural mix in the community? How many nationalities, races, and religions are represented? How many languages are spoken? How many people are bilingual? What's the history? How and why did people come to live in the area? What are the trends? How does this compare to the national statistics? What local events reflect this cultural mix? How do people maintain their own cultural identify?
  • Gone Forever. From buildings and animals to traditions and languages, some things have been lost forever. Share something that is gone from your community such as a foreign language, a local business, or an endangered animal. Compare your losses with your partner school.
  • Headstones Happenings. Share the memory of someone local. Photograph their headstone. Select someone of particular interest. Is their story happy, sad, or strange? Are they connected to an historical event? Are they the oldest member of the community? Are they a founder? Compare them with your partner school. Were any alive at the same time? Could they have had friend or family connections? Why or why not?
  • History's Impact. Start with a blog containing a historical event, photo, or newspaper article of interest to the world at large. How would the people in your town have reacted? Why? What was going on in your town at the same time? What was happening in your area when Jamestown was settled, Lewis and Clark started their expedition, or the Civil War began?
  • Important Issues. What are the important issues facing teens today? How are they alike and different from other communities today and in the past? Select and issue (i.e., drugs, drinking and driving, teen pregnancy, bullying, crime, parent divorce, cost of education, suicide) and trace it's history in your community and the world. What services are available in your community? What are the local and national statistics? What are solutions? Compare this with your partner school.
  • Joint Journey. Plan a trip to visit your partner school. Write an adventure story incorporating facts (i.e., distance, cost, time, towns). This could take place in present day or any time in the past. Consider a particularly significant time in history and incorporate authentic experiences such as experiencing a steam boat or riding on horseback. Use real buildings, transportation photos, and other elements. For example, it might be trip on the underground railroad.
  • Mysterious and Unexplained. What are the mysteries of your community? What are the local legends? How are they like and unlike your partner school? What strange things have happened in local history? Are any connected with a natural place such as the river or bluffs? For ideas go to 42explore: Mysterious & Unexplained.
  • Name Origins. Explore the origins of the names of people in your class. Connect them to local history and to your partner schools. How do they reflect the culture of your community.
  • Nothing But The Truth. Every community has interesting stories from their local history. Write about a true story, but don't tell the ending. Ask your partner school to describe how they think the story ends. This could also be done with a photograph. Ask about the significance of a building or artifact.
  • People Power. Interview members of the community (i.e., police, mayor, firefighters, doctors, business people). Share these key community members.
  • Recipe Exchange. Share a recipe that has been passed through the generations. How does it reflect your family or culture? As a small group, select a recipe that reflects your community. Different groups can work on different parts of a meal.
  • Share a Day. Write about a day in your life today. Also, write about a day in the life of someone who lived in your own on a specific date. Compare these with your partners. Go to A Day in the Life... for ideas.
  • Spirit of Community. Select an image that represents your community. Then, write a paragraph that captures the spirit of your community through time. What significant contribution has been made by your community?
  • Sports Spectacular. What sports are popular in your area? What's available locally? What about in the region? What's the history of sports in your area? Compare it to your partner school.
  • Traditions. Share your family traditions. Are they connected to your community, culture, or religion? What do you do on special occasions? How has this changed through the history of your community?
  • Travel through the Ages. How do people get to your community? How has this changed over time? How has this impacted the community (i.e., river, trains, stage coach, bus, airlines).
  • Tour Guide. If your partner were coming for a 3-day visit, what would you plan to give them the best insight into the unique aspects of your community? What cultural and historical sights would they see? Where would you take them? How would you visit? What would you eat? Where would they sleep?
  • Visions. Share the past, present, and future of your community. Compare conditions in 1900, 2000 and speculate on 2100. Go to Utopian Visions for ideas. Some of their suggestions include:
    • Arts - local events, art and music emphasis
    • Environment - temperature, precipitation, natural resources, land use, parks
    • Communication - television stations, newspapers, websites
    • Demographics - population, density, growth rate, ethnic breakdown, major religions, immigration/emigration, country vs city, housing types, crime
    • Economy - major employers, agrarian vs industrial, cost of living, employment rates
    • Health and Education - size of school, facilities, hospitals, support
    • Recreation - popular forms, use of leisure time, sports facilities and groups
    • Transportation - travel mode, use of river, public transportation, airport
    • How has life changed from 1900 to 2000? How will it change between now and 2100? What industrial or technical developments affect quality of life? Were innovations shared by all or just the majority? What intangibles are not revealed through data? Why are they important to the quality of life?
  • What Is It? Share photos of local history or culture. Ask partners to figure out the purpose of the item. Or, ask them to guess the time period or significance of the item. For example, you might show a butter churn or early medical item. Consider using a Mississippi River theme.
  • What's Hot? What are the fads in your school? Compare the popular words, fashions, music, and trends. What about in history?

Question and Answer Activities. Ask students to formulate questions and answers related to their partner community. They could exchange photos and ask the other class to solve problems, make choices, or draw conclusions. For example, they might compare local plant and animal life or the growth of local crops.

Impersonations. Ask students to take on a role in their community from past or present. They could discuss an historical event from the perspective of famous or ordinary people from their community.

  • Pretend that you're a person from local history. If possible locate a photograph of this person.
    • Write a letter to your partner about something that is happening in the community. You can either introduce yourself in the letter or include a character description along with the letter.
    • Read the class blog that introduces key days in Mississippi River history. Add an entry in the blog related to a particular historical event from the point of view of your character

Information Collection and Analysis

Consider projects that involve students in collection, analysis, and sharing of information.

Information Exchange. Share current and historical data. Compare the cost of living for the communities. Trace how local businesses and industries have evolved over time. Compare the communities. Go to City Quest for ideas.

  • Economic data: cost of groceries, cost of movie tickets or rental, cost of food (i.e., pizza, hamburger, taco), cost of clothing - compare over time using historical newspapers from area
  • Environmental data: temperatures; water, soil, air quality; plant growth - compare over time using historical newspapers from area

Database Creation. Collect and organize information from both communities for use in a database for analysis and sharing. For example, collection recipes, weather disaster stories, business data, or recycling information.

Electronic Publishing. Share photos, news articles, and other communications containing information such as local histories, traditions, or folklore. Work together to write historical fiction that would involve both locations.

  • Compare local sayings and folklore, what is the same and what is different? Can these be traced to similar or different cultural background... What will be... "knee high by the fourth of July" or "eye high by the fourth of July".

Here are some products you can share in electronic publishing project:

  • Brochure. Create a city pamphlet, travel brochure, historical site brochure, or other cultural event flyer for the teen audience. Create an historical version for another time period.
  • Game. Create a PowerPoint Jeopardy game related to your community history.
  • Interview. Conduct an interview of key members of the community, people from older generations, or people representing particular groups or professions.
  • Newspaper. Create a newsletter or newspaper representing a time period.
  • Map. Draw a map of your community. Create links to photos and information.
  • Indepth Analysis. Focus on a community leader, historical landmark, environmental issue, or other key idea from the community.
  • Poems and Songs. Write poems or songs that reflect your community.

Pooled Data Analysis. Conduct experiments and share data. For example, compare the growth of plants under different conditions, share soil, water, and air quality data, or conduct social issues surveys. Draw conclusions about similarities and differences. Predict future results.

Virtual Field Trips. Share virtual field trips of their community with their partner community.

Problem Solving

Identify problems that could be solved through collaboration. In solving these problems, students may need to organize information, use charts or graphs, create maps, and analyze data. Consider developing interactive games, blogs for brainstorming, and other areas of sharing ideas.

Peer Feedback. Share a problem, then ask partners to solve a problem. For example, share a photo and ask others to write a story, poem, song, or solve a problem. They could also make a comparison.

Parallel Problem Solving. Work on a similar problem at the same time as another group and share the results.

Sequential Problem Solving. Work on a series of problems over time. Build on the problems of others. For example, write a story that involves a character moving from place to place with a different person describing what happens next.

Simulation. Design a virtual environment to discuss a "real world" problem such as earthquake preparation.

Social Action. Identify a need for social action.


Collaboration Management

  • Team Meetings. Use large group activities for motivation, to bring ideas together, and to share experiences. Brainstorm ideas as a group. One person or one member of a group posts message.
  • Bulletin Board. Create a project area in the classroom with a banner and timeline. Share messages on a bulletin board.
  • Create a class binder containing messages and projects.


Place-based e-scrapbooking

"Tradition is to human beings what instinct is to animals" - Erick Erickson, Psychologist

Explore the world where you live. A place-based approach focuses on exploring and sharing idea about your local area. Explore the Star Community.

Explore lessons:

Consider some of the following areas:

  • Agriculture. What crops are common in your area? How large are the farms and ranches? What's the growing season? How is the community impacted by agriculture? How has this changed over time?
  • Characteristics. What are some key ideas you could use for comparison (i.e., cost of food, number/types of retail, parking restrictions, climates, entertainment costs, sports options, public transportation)
  • Communication. How long have telephones been in the community? How many land and cell phones are in the community?
  • Economy. What businesses and industries are part of the local community? How has this changed over time? What do you predict for the future?
  • Entertainment. What types of entertainment was popular before radio and television?
  • Events, Festivals, and Traditions. What are the unique and interesting events, festivals, and traditions?
  • Geography. What are the boundaries of the town? How is the town connected to other areas? What geographic features characterize the area (i.e., river, stream, roads)?
  • Historical Events. How did a particular historical event influence the development of our area? We interrupt this program to bring you a news bulletin...
  • Land Use. How is the land in your own used? Where are the homes, schools, businesses, library, town hall, medical facilities, utilities, and roads? What controversies exist about land use such as Walmart coming to town or zoning for highways, utilities, etc.? What’s an issues related to land use? What are the perspectives? How can information be collected? What are the possible solutions?
  • Local Legends. What famous people were born or lived in the area?
  • Highs and Lows. What are the highs and lows in your community (i.e., temperatures, water levels, unemployment, student numbers, costs)? What is increasing and decreasing in your areas? Is this good, bad, or neutral?
  • Industry, Agriculture, Business. How has industry changed over time? How does it compare with the current industries? What caused the change?
  • Movement. How has the town’s population changed? What are the migration patterns? Why do people move into the town, away from the town, or within the town?
  • Natural Disasters. What are the most common natural disaster risks in the area (i.e., blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, drought, floods, fires, ice, wind storms,)? How frequent are disasters in the history of the area? Are people prepared for these problems? What local services plan for disasters? What is the school and town emergency plan?
  • Peoples and Cultures. What local groups of people can be identified through history? Did these people come from particular areas of North American or the world? How far back can they be traced? How did they use the land? What were their customs, traditions, and religions? What tools, instruments, or other things did they create? Are they still in the area or did they move?
  • Place Profile. What are the key buildings, geographic areas, etc. to explore? What’s its history? Who built it and why? What was it used for? What is it used for now?
  • Schools. How has education changed? How have the schools changed? Why? When I look outside the school windows what do I see?
  • Transportation. How did people travel around the local area through history? How often did they take long trips? Where did people go? Why? How are products and people moved over distances? What modes of transportation have been used (i.e., carriage, stage coach, train, truck, car, airplane)? How does transportation impact business and industry? How could transportation be improved? What role do the geographic features (such as rivers or hills) play in transportation? How much do people travel each day to school, work, and play? What mode of transportation do they use? How does geography impact this? How has this changed through generations?
  • Travel. If you were planning a trip to your partner town, what would you want to know about the new place? What do you want to know about the history, local culture, geography, tourist attractions, weather, and transportation? Plan a trip for your partner school students to your town. How would they get there? How long would it take? What local animals and plants would they see? What local geographic and historical features would you explore?

Created 11/04.
For information, contact Annette Lamb.

All rights reserved.

The following materials were developed for a conference presentation. They will be expanded and refined over the next year. Eventually, they will become the basis for the e-scrapbooking website.