Digital Stories of Rural Wyoming: An Exemplary Place-Based Project

October 5, 2019 |

Moorcroft students work on their "Digital Stories of Rural Wyoming" project.

Moorcroft, Wyoming's Andrea Wood was our 2018-19 National Signature Project Award recipient. Wood's project, "Digital Stories of Rural Wyoming," was selected from entries that were submitted from throughout the nation. This award is made possible by a partnership between the Rural Schools Collaborative and the National Rural Education Association.

Andrea recently provided this update on the work of her students, and she will be presenting on this project at the upcoming National Rural Education Association conference in Louisville the last week of October. We look forward to sharing more on Andrea and this good place-based effort at that time.

We hope you will take a couple of minutes to learn more about Andre's project:

Our project with TravelStorys was an exceptional experience that allowed my students to engage in the humanities as they thought land created products as if they were real-life researchers, writers and broadcasters. Our spring unit started with students selecting locations from our previously brainstormed list. They developed questions about their individual locations and made lists of people who might have a story about the place, knowledge of its history or perhaps would know someone else who might have some information.

Next, we took whole grade-level fields trips to the Crook County Museum in Sundance, Wyoming, the West Texas Trails Museum in Moorcroft, Wyoming, and the Hulett Museum in Hulett, Wyoming. Students worked with museum directors, librarians, volunteers and community members to research historical references tied to their research locations. Students learned to use the internet, books, magazines, museum displays and personal interviews to develop their research assignment. They had to sift through mountains of information in museum archives, museum displays and more to find what they needed for their work. Students were amazed by the microfiche machine and many used it to find old newspaper stories.

It was interesting to hear their comments as they discovered local history about some of their own families, people they know, and locations they are familiar with. It was even more exciting to hear them exclaim when they were successful in ferreting out a tough bit of trivia or found a local person to interview. During this process, students learned "soft" skills in communication as they navigated phone books, left voicemails, returned phone calls and conducted research interviews. They strengthened their organizational skills and developed systems for tracking their research and prioritizing their informational needs.

At the completion of the research stage, TravelStorys conducted a live meet-up using ZOOM to teach students about the app and how their stories would need to be structured to meet the GPS and time requirements. Students were able to see how the stories are created on the "backside" and ask questions to a developer. This process was really

eye-opening for everyone. Students were especially interested in the process for determining the precise location of the GPS trigger points for the stories.

Having an understanding of how the stories needed to be structured, students next wrote their stories. Their first versions were quite long and will eventually be bound into book form and shared with each of the museums and the local library. Students worked in teams to revise and edit their stories before referencing a "storyboard" created by the TravelStorys team. The storyboard allowed students to see where on the county road map their story would fall and how many words they needed to par their work down to. Students then edited their original stories to meet the storyboard requirements. Additionally, they found at least five photographs using specific search parameters and captioned them to accompany their stories in the app.

The last step in the process was the recording of the stories. We listened to countless stories on the app and made notes about how the readers paced their reading, their volume and enunciation and how they made the story come to life. Students used recording equipment to make recordings of their stories until they had final products they felt were the best they could do.

The kind folks at TravelStorys are currently reviewing the stories and making touchups where needed. We are so excited to see how our grand adventure turns out!

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