On May 19, ThinkQuest headquarters in New York announced the premier of the limited run ThinkQuest Junior 2000 Awards Ceremony. The virtual event, hosted by the animated brother-sister duo of "T" (Think) and "Q" (Quest), honors those students -- from New York to Hawaii -- who created the winning Web sites for this year's ThinkQuest Junior competition.
ThinkQuest Junior is an annual event in which students in grades 4 through 6 use the informational and collaborative capabilities of the Internet to create educational and entertaining Web sites. Just three years old, the ThinkQuest Junior program is growing up fast. More than 3,400 students and teachers took part in this year's competition, representing a 100 percent increase over last year.
In the competition, teams made up of from two to six students and one or two coaches created 625 Web sites in five categories -- arts and literature, science and mathematics, social sciences, sports and health, and interdisciplinary. The teams tackled a wide variety of topics -- including bicycles, bald eagles, mummies, mysteries, and monsters of the deep -- reflecting the particular needs and interests of the students involved. Growing Up With Epilepsy, for example, an entry created by two students from Public School 56 in Richmond Hill, New York, was inspired by the personal experience of one of the students with the seizure disorder.
Whatever the topic, however, the inspiration comes from the students. "ThinkQuest provides student teams and their coaches with chat sessions, a help desk, and the tools to create their sites," ThinkQuest spokesperson Andrea Papa told Education World. "But all the credit goes to the kids. It's the kids' imagination and creativity that makes it work."
And work they did! The teams spent more than five months creating their sites, which were then judged by members of the Internet Society. The winning sites, chosen for their educational value, site quality, degree of interactivity, and student interest, were awarded trophies and cash prizes worth more than $250,000. (See Junior 2000 Winners for a complete list of the award-winning sites.)
This year's Best of Contest award went to Rat Tales, a site based on the Newbery Medal-winner Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O'Brien. This ambitious cross-curricular online unit, created by six students from Pennsylvania, integrates math, science, and craft activities into a reading of the popular book.
"The idea for the site was a result of a brainstorming session," coach Cynthia Lang told Education World. "It started with Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, a book the kids loved. The book has so many interesting themes and ideas that the site just unfolded out of the book." The students, Lang added, loved working with the technology and did all the work on their home computers.
Lang, who has coached two previous ThinkQuest teams, had some advice for teachers who are thinking about entering the next ThinkQuest Junior competition. "Be prepared to invest many, many hours. Most kids this age do not have the technical know-how to get their ideas into Web-friendly format without a lot of help. There is also a need for lots of proofreading. But if you've got really motivated kids -- I say 'Go for it!'"
If you're thinking of "going for it," ThinkQuest will begin accepting teams for ThinkQuest Junior 2001 in September 2000! (Registration for The ThinkQuest Internet Challenge, an international competition for students ages 12 through 19 takes place in May.) If you would like to look at some previous winners, all the ThinkQuest Junior and Challenge sites can be found at the ThinkQuest Library.
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