Second-Grade Class Helps Design School Web Site

"When I started working on our school's Web site, I was under a tight schedule to complete it," says Greg Wagoner of Clark Elementary School in Whiteland, Indiana. however, and a rush job is nowhere to be found. Instead, browsers will find a site with crisp, clean graphics and a simple yet elegant design that suggests a professionally designed Web site. A nice graphic of the school's main building greets visitors, underneath which is a menu of links such as About Our School, Our Quote of the Week, A Scavenger Hunt and the ubiquitous Favorite Links. At the bottom of each linked page are links to other pages on the site, including the home page, providing easy navigation for the novice Web surfers out there. And, there are e-mail links.

HTML Not Required

What's especially interesting about this site is that, when he began, the author didn't know a single line of HTML code -- and still d'esn't! Curious yet? A small icon at the bottom of the home page with the words "This site created with Adobe PageMill" gives a hint -- along with a link directly to Adobe's (Mountain View, Calif.) site. Wagoner had tried a few of the widely available shareware Web authoring tools, but found them too complicated -- and they required one to learn HTML code. However, after downloading a demo of PageMill 1.0, he found himself quickly and easily creating a variety of Web pages. "My favorite feature of PageMill is its ability to easily add graphics that can be viewed by any Web browser on any computer platform," says Wagoner. "You can insert graphics using Copy/Paste, dragging, or using the Insert Image button. When you double-click a graphic, you can click a tool to make it interlaced so it will load in more quickly. On my Mac I can paste a PICT image and PageMill automatically converts it to GIF format."

Links, Limericks & Hats

From the very beginning, Wagoner wanted to include his students in the creative process. "The first pages I created with PageMill were school information pages," he says. "My second graders gathered information about our school, including a school history story from Mrs. West, our principal. The students drew maps and pictures to include in our Web Site. We wanted to include links to our favorite places on the Web, so after a few weeks of surfing, the students voted on which links to include." The students' favorite links include sites for Apple Computer, Bill Nye the Science Guy, the Indianapolis Zoo and many others. After visiting several school Web sites, Wagoner noticed that many of them were just pages containing school information. Obviously wanting something a little more interesting, he gave his students the chance to have their own Web pages.

"One day we had Hat Day in our room," he says. "Every student wore their favorite hat all day. The students wrote stories about their hats and drew pictures of them. Then I scanned the hat drawings and entered the text and graphics into PageMill. The students were excited about having their own 'Page' on the Web." But the students' involvement did not stop there. "As the year went on we added some other features to our web site, such as our Quote of the Week and the Chart of the Week. For the Chart of the Week the students voted on a topic, such as My Favorite Sport. Then I created a pie or bar chart and added it with PageMill." After a few weeks, Wagoner ran out of ideas for topics, so the students brainstormed a long list that was used for the rest of the year.

Their next major project was publishing a collection of student-authored limericks. Students also created accompanying illustrations and all were then "published" on the Web site. Another interesting student project involved linking to another site for a "scavenger hunt." Two students, Alex and J'e, visited the Bill Nye Science Guy site and created a question-and-answer scavenger hunt using science facts from the site. To solve the hunt, students must visit the Science Guy site and browse for answers to carefully chosen questions.

2nd-Grade Web Masters?

The key here is active student involvement -- and Wagoner is not content to rest on his laurels. "Next year I plan to involve the students more in the actual creation of the Web pages," he says. "I think even 2nd graders can successfully use PageMill to create pages of their own."

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.

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