Blending Project Based Learning into the Classroom and Community




Project Overview:

The people in community of Koyukuk are very concerned about their children losing their heritage. My job as an educator is to meet all state and district requirements as well as give the children the education that their parents want them to have. This is a very difficult thing to achieve but this project bridges the gap between parental concerns and district and state requirements.

The idea is simple. Teach the students and others around the world about the Koyukon Athabaskan language using the Internet. This project has been in the works since the beginning of last year. I started with typing and using word processing. By Thanksgiving we were working with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe PageMaker. Then after Christmas last year we had Frank Odasz help work with the students for a couple of days. After that we began using digital cameras and Adobe PageMill®. With the help of his book Common Ground – A Self-Directed K12 Internet Guide  I began studying web page design and publishing. By spring we had created a basic Internet site. This year we have worked a lot with keyboarding and Adobe PageMill. The first quarter we spent working on creating tests and quizzes on local servers. Each student was responsible for one question on a given subject then they created a small site for that question. When the question was answered correctly the user would be linked to the next question. The second quarter this year we developed the idea of using the Internet to teach about the culture of the people of Koyukuk. We divided up into three teams. Two teams are working on sites which will teach the Athabaskan Language and the other is working on a site which will teach about the community.

In order to teach the language we are using an idea from LITTLE EXPLORERS by Enchanted Learning, 1998. At this site they post the picture, the word in English, then the word in Spanish, or some other language. We are also going to add the sound created using Sound Edit 16, at the bottom so the student can pronounce it. Here is an example.

Some of the pictures are being created in or modified with Adobe Photoshop. The students are shrinking them down so that they are less than 10K. Most of the original pictures come from Master Clips Vector Clip Art. The sound file too is saved with very low quality to make it small. Each page will have from 9 to 12 words at a time. We have started saving the sound in three different formats so that it could be heard by all computers. After careful consideration and because of the wide availability of QuickTime we are going to save the sound in only the QuickTime format.

We are staring out by teaching nouns, verbs, and short phases. These have been easy to develop pictures for.

I am originally from Iowa and went to school in Minnesota needless to say my Athabaskan is nonexistent. For that reason I brought in an expert on the Athabaskan Language Eliza Jones. Eliza teaches Athabaskan classes for the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. She is teaching the children the correct pronunciation of the words as well as the spelling. It is great to have her working with us. We also use her book, Han Zaadlitl'ee, 1983.

In order to assess the projects impact we will put a counter on the school home page and then one on the language page. From that we will be able to determine how many people are visiting the home page because of the language page and how many are interested in other aspects of the home page.

To view the completed PBL activity go to

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Purpose in Education

You can see below that this project ties into every Alaska Technology Standard. It does more than that, however. It ties in with Alaska English/language arts standards, geography standards, government and citizenship standards, history standards, skills for a healthy life standards, art standards, world language standards, and employability standards. Wait, this project does more than that. It allows students from around the globe to meet their standards. The possibilities for educational exchange are endless.

Tie to Alaska Technology Standards

 Alaska Technology Standard

 How this project addresses that standard.

 A student should be able to operate technology based tools

 Students operate Adobe PageMill® and Photoshop, Sound Edit, Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, Quick time and Microsoft Word.

 A student should be able to use technology to locate, select, and manage information

 Students research the site and found many related sites such as Little Explorers, American Sign Language, Spanish Lessons for Children, Instant Communication
Language learning simplified
, Learn Spanish a free online Tutorial.

 A student should be able to use technology to explore ideas, solve problems, and derive meaning.

 The students explored the sites above experimented with different applications and then helped solve problems presented by putting all these different types of files together in a single page.

 A student should be able to use technology to express ideas and exchange information.

 The students will be exchanging information with others from around the globe. They will also express their ideas through the different items they translate.

 A student should be able to use technology responsibly and understand its impact on individuals and society.

 This project is a very responsible use of technology and the counter should show the students the number of people they are having an impact on.

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Conclusion: (A written reflection of the project)

I originally envisioned the project a lot smaller. The kids have really enjoyed working on their pages and instead of doing 1 or 2 pages each student created 4 or 5 pages.  We have not been without obstacles though. We had a hard time at first finding an appropriate application program to create the pronunciations of the words. We overcame that obstacle when we found Sound Edit 16. We had an old version that did not work with OS 9.2 so we downloaded an update from Macromedia. At our school students seem to be more migratory than most. Of the thirteen students I had last year this year I have 6 of them back. I also have 4 new students whose computer skills we behind those students I had last year. Fortunately, my returning students have done a great job helping those unfamiliar with Photoshop, sound edit, microsoft word, and PageMill®. With the help of all the students working together we have gotten through most of the hurdles.

The students also became searching wizards. This was an unexpected bonus. The students were searching for everything from free clip art to free animations. They had a lot of luck but most of their images still came from Master Clips Vector Art.

If others are going to try and duplicate this project there are very few concerns they need to have other than the ones already mentioned. One thing you can do for your art.  We didn't think of until this until just recently.  The quickest and easiest way to complete this is to have the students draw their own images by hand and then scan them in. They are not as professional but they give it a very personal look. The more friendly and personal you can make the site, the better.

To view this project click

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Supporting Research


Adobe Photoshop

by Adobe Systems Incorporated Copyright © 1993

American Sign Language date unknown URL:

Han Zaadlitl'ee Yukon Koyukuk School District Koyukon Language Curriculum Copyright ©1983 Yukon Koyukuk School District 4762 Old Airport Way, Fairbanks, AK 99709

Common Ground – A Self-Directed K12 Internet Guide ©1998 by Frank Odasz You can find the handbook on line at

Instant Communication Language learning simplified. This page has a list of teaching resources for several languages but most of it has to be paid for. It was last Modified:
Sat, Sep 18, 1999 5:10:41 PM GMT

Learn Spanish, A free online tutorial. This page is an excellent resource for teaching Spanish but the pages lack graphics and it is rather dull to the average teen-age mind.

LITTLE EXPLORERS by Enchanted Learning Software
Little Explorers-A multi-lingual picture dictionary with links to educational activities and games. Even preschoolers can surf
carefully chosen kids'
Last modified on: 28-Feb-1998 - 10K bytes - in English

Master Clips Vector Clip Art by IMSI, 1895 Francisco Blvd. East, San Rafael, CA 94901-5506, USA Copyright © 1995

Spanish Lessons for Children by Angelfire creation date unknown make contact at

Sound edit 16 version 2

Copyright © 1995 Macromedia, Inc. All rights reserved

Macromedia, Inc.
600 Townsend St.
San Francisco, CA 94103


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 School Home Page

 Marley's Page

 The Start of this Project