The author, a coach of an award-winning team of students in the ThinkQuest Junior web site contest, describes some of the lessons she learned along the way. ThinkQuest Junior is a competition for students in grades 4 through 6 who compete to develop educational web sites for their peers with high levels of interactivity.
Success starts with the students, so having teams of capable and motivated students is critical. The initial student team was comprised of top students who always met homework deadlines. Although no one on the team had created a web site previously, one student already was well-versed in computers and knew a fair amount about HTML.
The students suggested the topic for their entry, rejecting numerous ideas that their teacher offered. This was a crucial decision, as it started students along a path they knew something about and led them in directions they were enthusiastic about going to.
The students and their teacher found that actually building the web site with HTML was much more time-consuming and complicated than they anticipated. They barely completed the project on time for the first year’s deadline in 1998. In that year, they earned an honorable mention.
With this experience, the teacher returned to the contest in 1999 and encouraged all students in her fifth-grade class to form teams. Four groups did so, and again they chose their own topics (including a site on orthodontia and another on athletic competition for the disabled). Once again, time was an issue, as several intermediate deadlines for items such as basic research and storyboards nearly were missed. But deadlines were met thanks to the dedication of individual team members, and one team won the top prize.