David Rapaport, Ed.D.
and 150 8th Grade Students from Bret Harte Middle School
San Jose, CA
Edward Thorndike may be counted on to say in few words what amounts to a highly complex idea. He once said that with learning as with any activity, ability must be supplemented by interest or desire. “If we wish to learn a certain thing, we must arouse adequate interest …we must transmute this general wish into an interest that will carry us to and through the detailed activities necessary “(Thorndike, 1935, p.85).
His straight-forward conclusion was that in planning any educational endeavor, it is important to account for the level of student interest. “It is important know whether the student has it, how strongly he has it, and when and how he has it” (1935, 85).
A project in a San Jose, California middle school was imbued with Thorndike’s principles and placed them at the forefront of key decisions affecting instructional design. These decisions involved how to create a structure enabling students to learn the skills necessary to carry out many sub-processes that require prerequisite knowledge while at the same time have an absolutely authentic experience with real world consequences.
Twenty-five years ago, in the late morning on a breezy summer Sunday, the Santa Cruz flea-market was winding down. I had spent hours wandering around the legendary swap, looking for musical instruments, especially guitars, my new passion. Just before leaving empty-handed, I noticed a collection of old papers spilling out of the top of a brown, leather bag that resembled a doctor’s bag of some sort. It was sitting at the foot of a gold and green blanket holding down one corner. As I walked past it, I looked down and was drawn to this bag, as I thought there might be something interesting in there. The bag’s owner, sizing up the day’s meager efforts and seeing my interest, offered it to me for a remarkably few dollars. I agreed even before taking a good look inside. When I returned home, I took a closer look and saw an aging collection of letters, official documents, and family mementos. To my surprise, there were personal stories, family timelines, and even locks of hair from family members dating back generations.
I hung on to this object as I moved from the U. C. dormitories to a residence in Santa Cruz and then from place to place, back to my birthplace of San Francisco, even including a brief journey to New York City, bag in tow. Poking around in it one day, I saw a few documents and records that I knew represented a gold mine of primary documentation of the city of Deadwood, S.D. I never knew what I was going to do with this object, but it became part of my loose collection of odds and ends.
In the late 1990’s, I became a middle school teacher and thought that there might be some way to share this curious object with my students. Just this year, through incredible effort on the part of the school’s parents, I applied for and was granted funds to create a research laboratory in my classroom. Composed of five wirelessly networked Emac computers, a printer/scanner, and a lcq projector, this new research platform allowed my students and me to explore the world around us unfettered by typical boundaries often found in classrooms. It was time to investigate what exactly was in that decaying leather bag.
I designed a project in which this small brown bag would be the centerpiece of an historical investigation. Atypical of many instructional experiences in middle school, this project would run for several months, yet easily sustain student interest. I used principles of instructional design to build on the natural curiosity of students and tried to provide little personal interference or impedance as they navigated through their own interpretations of documents that they would delicately pull one by one from this pharmacist’s bag. Little did I know just what would happen when these amazing students would explore incredibly diverse research paths based on their personal, individual approaches to these artifacts. By properly integrating technology that worked without unnecessary and time consuming glitches, students succeeded in shedding years of dust from the story of the original owner of this bag, a pioneer druggist from the Black Hills of South Dakota named Julius Deetken.
Based on the work of theorists such as Aronson (1978), Bloom (1976), Cohen (1987), and Renzulli (1977; 1994), tasks were jigsawed by research teams or enrichment clusters building on individual approaches to the primary data being studied. These research teams were formed employing principles of an instrument called the Interest-a-Lyser (Renzulli, 1977) . Students needed to literally apply for jobs within the research clusters. Gathering an inventory of interests not only helped identify students strengths, but greatly assisted in the forming of teams based on shared interests, diversity, and personal goals corresponding to the major dimensions of Renzulli’s Total Talent Portfolio Model (1997) referred to as abilities, interests, and style preferences. Students were treated as research professionals coming together to bring their talent to bear to solve unique real-world problems: the unearthing of the life of Julius Deetken.
Assumptions transferred from Bloom’s model were those involving the variance explained by specific knowledge, abilities, or skills which are essential prerequisites for the learning of a particular task. It was assumed that given adequate instruction and accommodation of prerequisite skills, all students would be able to accomplish the tasks that were required of them (Bloom, 1976).
Gagne (1979) proposes that essential prerequisites are component skills that must be learned prior to, or at the same time as learning the target outcome if the total task is to be learned and performed correctly. In this project, prerequisites were defined as the precise skills or subordinate actions of a situation-specific demand on the learner. Each specialized team member had to learn certain prerequisite skills without which performance of the key inquiry experiences would have been exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. One set of sub skills required that students learn the proper techniques for preserving and handling rare artifacts. Another involved learning effective search strategies and keyboard and software operations. Specialized skills included the nomenclature and operation of the digital cameras and computer uplink software. Others learned the complex skills of high resolution scanning and creating shared files accessible to all researchers. Others had the opportunity to learn how to absorb large amounts of information, and how researchers sort through varying stimuli to determine their research paths and directions for future actions. Shared across all groups by demonstration, all students were exposed to these skills to a varying degree with some in actual possession of the proper skills necessary for the group to function.
Cohen’s instructional alignment model (1987) reminds practitioners that to define an outcome’s prerequisite components, the instructional designer must be able identify the outcome’s critical features. It follows that if an outcome’s critical features assume certain prerequisites, then the degree to which those prerequisites are present and activated will determine the quality of performance on the criterion variable. If this is true, the less the effect of intervening variables such as generalized aptitude. Ensuring possession of prerequisite component skills predicts a clear and convincing difference in achievement for all students, reaffirming the goal of a negatively skewed curve following group instruction over a bimodal distribution or normal distribution of achievement so typical in education.
One challenge facing the instructor was to ensure that learners in each group possessed prerequisite skills at the critical moment during the research process that would be far enough along to occasionally feel the frustration of a poor decision, but never far enough to reject their team goals or their overall role in the project. Making this task all the more challenging was that the instructor could not craft outcomes ahead of time. I couldn’t make prerequisite lists ahead of time because I could not make their discoveries for them; I had to teach them (by asking them) what experts do in a situation in which they discover something and how they might make evaluations within the research process to figure out what to do.
One memorable exchange occurred when a learner wanted to translate an 1860 letter that was barely legible and written in what turned out to be an archaic form of German. She audibly evaluated her choices, contemplating just how long such a translation would take and considered the value of the translation to the project as a whole. Just getting that response from a middle-school age student proved to me that these young researchers were capable of asking the right questions and learning key prerequisites in such a fashion as to operate very closely to adult real-world researchers.
After learning essential prerequisites, learners demonstrated an amazing capacity to apply these skills effectively throughout this project. The sheer number of researchers, performing effectively, significantly shortened the time needed to make major discoveries, compressing accomplishments into day to day expectations.
Enrichment clusters served as the ideal framework for learner exploration (Reis et al., 1998). Learning teams were formed based on principles of instructional design that emphasized student inquiry so that students would be able to construct for themselves their own, unique research opportunities and paths of discovery. Alignment to actual research experiences was the critical feature of instructional design. These similarities began immediately when students essentially had to apply in writing for jobs as members of a research team with the goal of not only trying to determine the particulars of this man’s life, but whose lives he may have intersected, what life might have been like in his home, and how he came to settle in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
After looking at the applications, and obtaining an inventory of interests, student teams were formed building on individual strengths. Five research teams consisting of six members were formed in each of five classes. Writers began analyzing and outlining these documents. Archivists took responsibility for preserving the collection. A Photographer and Media Specialist worked together to digitize the collection, creating an electronic portfolio of these rare items, while photographing the process as students went about their work. Planners got students focused on different avenues of research while Research Associates made direct contact with researchers, historians, and family members in an attempt to extend to enrich the collective learning experience. In a very short time, these 150 researchers assembled an enormous amount of information on a man named Julius Deetken.
Writers were more often than not students with exceptional leadership skills who could demonstrate understanding the “big picture” of the research process. They were not always the best writers, but those who expressed an interest in trying to make sense of what each member of the group was studying in order to communicate the effort to the intended target audience most effectively. This required that students have some familiarity with the intended target audiences: the research community, history community, and regional political structure. Writers, with the assistance of the entire research team, composed a detailed written summary of research process including, but not limited to, major findings, obstacles, and research methods employed. Coordination efforts focused on including all team members’ data in all cases.
Archivists worked directly with the primary data. They were the ones who put the white gloves on, literally. With so many researchers, a strategy was necessary to protect the artifacts without unduly limiting the amount of human contact with the materials. To ensure that the primary data were not harmed during the research process, archivists played a key role in the direct handling and storage of primary materials. Preserving original condition and integrity of artifacts was of ultimate importance; therefore, this person learned specialization techniques in preservation processes and evaluated which could reasonably be used in this case (hermetically sealed, humidity controlled rooms were impossible, for example).
Photographers were responsible for photographic documentation of the research process. They had to learn specialized skills to upload photos into a computer. They labeled each photo and evaluated the quality of photos for inclusion into publications. They were responsible for helping another student develop a planned multimedia collaborative presentation as part of a culminating activity. They were responsible for working with the archivist and others to preserve the digital record of the collection. They had to attend a specialized training in camera operation and care. These photos were placed in brochures sent out to key contacts in the historic, political, entertainment, and teaching communities. According to a family member, one such image has been transmitted globally to the e-mail address list that was created at a 2000 Deetken family reunion which took place in Mosbach, Germany.
Media Specialists were students responsible for assisting with all computer and media related technical activities which amounted to an extensive component of this project. Responsible (with Archivist and Photographer) for transferring content items into the digital realm for preservation, the students acquired specialized knowledge in scanning. They were responsible for working closely with the Archivist and Writer to provide digital record of research efforts. They proved to be good troubleshooters and were able to deal with novel challenges based on their repertoire of acquired skills.
Research Associates actually contacted the outside world. Because of the number of students involved, it was specified that each group would have only one person designated to make contact with adult professionals via telephone. Because there were five groups of six students each across six classes, that meant that a full one-fifth of students had direct contact with an adult professional. They had to document their personal conversations, working closely with the Planner, and with all other group members to document any research inquiries from specialists and others. They documented each step of that process and incorporated any feedback into the final research report. They were flexible and able to multitask. They possessed strong organizational skills which were essential for the many sub-tasks involved. This person doubled as presenter based on being able to transmit the intimacy of personal conversations with the outside world. The presentation, being roughly six months from project inception, necessitated incorporating elements of the entire research effort as well as key findings. That process alone fostered deep reflection and insightful analysis of the entirety of the project giving ample opportunity to resolve elements of the final products before publication, data transmission to our web site, and display.
Each team integrated with the artifact’s contents uniquely, and each individual played a key role in the analysis of the contents by virtue of the highly specialized nature of their work and the group’s small size. There was high interest in finding a document that would shed more light on the story of the bag’s owner, and a strong desire to work efficiently to pull as many documents as possible. Before a new document could be pulled, however, several very important steps would have to take place: labeling and documenting the artifact, placing a short description together with the document in a special binder to preserve it, scanning the document into a digitized library record of the collection for later uploading to a web site, archiving photo documentation of the entire effort, preparing written summaries of each group’s findings, process variables, and obstacles.
Each student participating in the project made a contribution within the enrichment or research cluster. Once he or she mastered the skills of scientific inquiry, research paths could be developed that would prove more fruitful rather than frustrating. As documents would delicately be pulled from this bag one by one, students quickly learned there were real-world consequences to each action being undertaken by researchers. Students had to become experts in assessing the probability of success in investigating one content area versus another in addition to investigating historical significance of each artifact they were responsible for documenting. Unique data points and investigations were revealed solely based on in the individual interpretations and decisions made by students.
Therefore, no lessons on document interpretation were prepared in advance by the instructor. Instead, the instructor had to coach, and attempt to qualitatively improve the level of performance throughout the length of the project (Renzulli, 2000). The instructor read student research reports, looked at photographs, assisted archivists, supported researchers honing search terms, predicted the needs of various group members and allowed groups to struggle along their own research paths without cueing students towards a single “correct” interpretation or a potential solution. The instructor listened to determinations of the value of documents, shaping student behavior toward criterion performance. What was that criterion performance? Simply put, it was student response to the following inquiries:
- What do the people with an interest in this area do?
- What knowledge, materials, and other resources do they need to do it in an excellent and authentic way? and
- In what ways does the product or service being used have an impact on an intended audience? (Renzulli, 1994)
These three questions share characteristics with elements of Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory which poses that patterns of abilities appear to fall along three major dimensions: analytical abilities, creative abilities, and practical abilities. Sternberg’s contribution to the Deetken Project is the simple applied notion that students can improve their performance if taught in a way that is appropriate for them, building on these dimensions as an expression of their interests, one might say. In practical terms, Sternberg offers that instruction need not be individualized across ability patterns, but more or less uniform across these patterns in order to build on both learner strengths and weaknesses, the rationale being to make the most of strengths and correct weaknesses (Sternberg,1998). Blending Renzulli’s approach with Sternberg’s theory and subsequent emphasis on the problem solving cycle, which some may refer to as an inquiry model, one is provided with a useful framework from which to create learner-appropriate instruction.
Sternberg (2001) also casts a spotlight useful to practitioners on what he terms “intuitive conceptions” by criticizing instructional programs which fail to engage processes designed to extinguish such conceptions when they actually impede learning. This is a valuable theory to consider in light of Renzulli’s second question cited above and the need to teach essential prerequisite skills necessary for mastery of a particular stage of learner performance. Defined as preexisting knowledge that predispose individuals to think and act in particular ways, Sternberg argues that classroom is heavily influenced by these students’ “intuitive conceptions” which might be otherwise referred to as variations in essential and supportive prerequisite component skills (Cohen, 1992 ; Gagne, 1985). Sternberg’s observations underscore the practical need to teach situation-specific essential prerequisites and to ensure that they learners possess such prerequisites in particular when they are an essential element of a subsequent learner performance. Those taught the essential skills that predict achievement of a particular situation-specific outcome will achieve that outcome in greater proportion than those whose only hope of achievement is random variation. In this project, if students did not possess essential prerequisites, valuable learning opportunities would have gone unexplored and new historical analyses could not have been undertaken.
What Did We Learn?
It turns out that important elements of Julius Deetken’s entire life could be reconstructed simply by studying these papers and deepening our familiarity with the region and its people. Miraculously, since obtaining this object some 25 years ago, the advent of the internet has made this type of research not only possible, but fruitful. In our case, students linked to biographical records dating from 1915 which were scanned, edited and electronically archived by researchers who publish comprehensive electronic records outlining the genealogical history of South Dakota. To their delight, within the very first moments of searching, students found a detailed biography of the owner of this artifact. His life has become the subject of their investigation.
The youngest of six children, Julius Deetken was born in Heidelberg Germany on October 27, 1844. According to the key biography obtained from a book entitled “History of the Dakota Territory” by George W. Kingsbury, Deetken intended to prepare for the Ministry of the Lutheran Church, but because of his father’s death, abandoned his preparations and entered an apprenticeship in a pharmacy. He left Germany in 1867 for America, along with his three brothers. He settled first in Pottawotamie County Iowa in the town of Council Bluffs, where he clerked in drugstores.
Proof of Deetken’s residency in Council Bluffs was obtained after Federal Census data from 1870 was retrieved from the National Archives. In one of the more poignant sections of Kingsbury’s biography, students learned that Deetken came to the Black Hills by walking most away along with those who were driving teams. He arrived in the brand new mining town of Deadwood, where he resided continuously from 1876 until his death. His was the first exclusive drug store in town, opening in a log store just below his subsequent place of business. He consolidated his interests with those of a man named Edward C. Bent.
Included in this bag are all the documents one might find in the most private, personal drawers or safe deposit boxes. During their first day of research, students unearthed Mr. Deetken’s formal papers documenting his becoming a citizen of United States in 1872. An archivist found records of his son’s induction into the army in 1918, and his son’s untimely death at age 28 just three years later. Extensive business records outline a merchant who cared meticulously about his clients and their interests. Detailed records of Deadwood citizen’s purchases fill pharmacy books and paint a picture of life in this rugged community. All this was procured in just one day’s efforts.
Whose lives might have crossed Mr. Deetken’s? Noted Deadwood photographer John C. H. Grabill’s photographic lens intersected the front of Deetken’s drugstore on at least one occasion that can be documented. Following an innovative series of electronic twists and turns, students ultimately discovered a digitized collection of Grabill’s photographs preserved within the Library of Congress. Employing sophisticated research techniques, students were exposed to our nation’s depository of historic images, data, and history.
It is unfathomable that some of Deadwood’s most celebrated residents, Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, didn’t go to the drug store! There is some evidence that pertains to a possible Deetken relationship with Hickok included in the bag in the form of a newspaper article dating back nearly 80 years. The signatures of noted City religious figures, including George Ayres, appear on numerous documents in this bag perhaps because Deetken’s son Albert, was a very active Mason adding to the degrees of encounter with different strands of the community. Julius Deetken was a founding member and first Secretary of the original Society of Black Hills Pioneers and a member of the group that formed the First National Bank.
Noted historic figure Reverend Henry Weston Smith regularly preached in front of the Bent and Deetken drugstore. As Secretary of the Society of Black Hills Pioneers, Deetken is given credit for the erection of the monument to Preacher Smith that still stands at the spot where Smith was killed just off the highway north of the city.
Deadwood’s City Archivist, Mike Runge, granted permission to put items on display at the newly renovated Fremont and Elkhorn Railroad Depot, now a major tourist attraction. Photos and measurements of the display case were forwarded by Runge so that student teams could create aesthetically pleasing displays.
Students found Mr. Deetken’s detailed biography on the internet transcribed from a 1915 book entitled, “History of the Dakota Territory” by George W. Kingsbury. A copy of this rare book was subsequently obtained via an electronic used bookstore and will accompany the bag when it is put on display in Deadwood.
That same electronic used bookstore yielded a book entitled, “Deadwood Doctor” written by Dr. Frank S. Howe, who practiced medicine in Deadwood. Bought on a whim because of its title, and unbeknown at the time of purchase, in the first paragraph, Julius Deetken’s name is mentioned prominently, adding to the serendipitous nature of students’ experiences on this project.
In one of the early outreach efforts, an Internet search engine was consulted, yielding a list of individuals with the same surname of Deetken presently living across the United states. Individuals were contacted to see if any genealogical information could be obtained. Because of internal family conversations in response to a single phone message left by a student on the machine of one of the subjects revealed on the internet search, students were able to meet a living relative of the Deetken family, a self-described family historian who visited our school and brought with her a second relative whom she had never met before that encounter. She brought with her family photographs, including one of Mr. Deetken himself!
One fellow living in Holly, Michigan, a 96 year-old man by the name of Reinhard Deetken, turned out to be our subject’s living nephew. Students were amazed at the opportunity to interact with him; the entire encounter left them spellbound with the tantalizing connection made to Julius Deetken. As it turned out, just after the first conversation, an archivist found a letter dated 1925, written from one of his aunts to another, that mentioned him by name and did so with a very nice compliment. Students scanned this letter, made copies, and sent it to him, including a copy of a photo of his aunt which was included in the original letter. A student researcher confirmed his receipt of this letter with a memorable conversation.
Students obtained documents related to a 2000 family reunion that occurred in Mosbach, Germany attended by 66 members of the Deetken family along with a detailed family timeline and copies of a family tree. Students added missing data stemming from their discoveries, including a handwritten family tree dating to the mid 1700s. They also were able to assess significant omissions from the biography, including an unknown and previously undocumented marriage, and subsequent events involving other family members which played out after publication of the biography.
Federal Census Data from 1870 was obtained directly from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Discovered during student investigations, Deadwood Magazine, was contacted and the editor, Rena Webb, has agreed to publish an article targeted for May/June 2004.
Local media have covered the events unfolding in class and students have been featured in the local residential news publication.
An Emmy-award winning cinematographer has filmed students in conjunction with efforts to produce a DVD which will showcase student efforts to uncover the story of this artifact.
Quite fortuitously, students learned that HBO was planning on releasing a new series entitled, of all things, “Deadwood.” The producer of this new series, David Milch, was contacted via his agent and detailed biographical materials were forwarded to Milch’s production company in the hope that an authentic character portrayal could somehow be incorporated in a small way.
The Deadwood public library’s online collection was reviewed. Dozens of articles from local newspapers mention Julius Deetken, and the library’s collection listed newspaper advertisements as well. Copies of relevant articles were forwarded to California. One such listing led to a subsequent electronic search in which a copy of an original paper dating 1880 was obtained from a private collector. This paper will be among the items sent to Deadwood.
The entire collection is being made available to other researchers and the general public through a student-designed web site that is linked to the SDGEN web site, the portal through which Mr. Deetken’s electronic biography was found. The SDGENWEB State Coordinator, a researcher working for UCLA, is hosting the web site.
The South Dakota State Archives became involved following a phone call notifying Governor Mike Rounds of the existence of the bag. Graciously, a representative from the Governor’s office phoned an archivist with the State who made direct contact via telephone.
One of Senator Thomas Daschle’s regional offices in Rapid City, South Dakota was contacted in order to follow-up a mailed parcel that notified the Senator about our discoveries. Given the delay from mail screening that now has to occur, our parcel had not arrived, so a representative sent an e-mail to the Washington office informing them of our story. An aide to Senator Daschle then contacted us the same day inquiring about our efforts. Getting such a prompt inquiry from the Senate Majority Leader’s office was a real thrill for all.
One of the eeriest discoveries occurred when students uncovered multiple drugstore envelopes containing hair from members of the Deetken family. Students were shocked by the amount of hair kept in this collection and its condition, and especially by the fact that the hair hadn’t turned gray in 150 years! The affectionate language on the small crinkled envelopes and tiny ribbons on each lock underscored the love and care that seems to have been abundant in this family.
Certainly, Bret Harte’s students have demonstrated that given an enduring interest, ample technological resources, a good research plan, guidance, encouragement, partnership, and raw primary materials necessary for meaningful historical investigation, original, authentic contributions to the field of history can be made by very young researchers. For the first time, pioneer druggist Julius Deetken’s life story may be told in full detail by marrying digitized images and photographs to an analysis of documents that have not seen light in 130 years. Students started to respond positively to this project right from the start. There was nothing more satisfying than walking into class and having students rush in eager to get to work…asking the question, “Are we doing research today Mr. Rapaport?”
The enrichment cluster approach created highly challenging learning opportunities that allowed high potential students to identify themselves as well as those who may be overlooked through traditional identification procedures. When any student showed high interest, expertise, and creativity, reinforcing follow-up experiences were provided that supported advanced, highly specialized work that made each student’s contribution essential to the project as a whole. (Renzulli, 2000).
The term authentic learning is bandied about in the literature. For the purposes of this project, four criteria embedded in real world problems were assumed to be present in what was termed an authentic learning situation: (a) a personal frame of reference for the individual learner was achieved, (b) the student explorations did not have existing solutions, (c) learners wanted to change prevailing beliefs or inform the target audience, (d) the target audience was a real audience for whom, in this case, solutions to the real world problem confronted by students had powerful implications (Renzulli, 2000).
It was critical that the students in these five classes become “first-hand inquirers.” I attempted to create enduring structures within each learner’s repertoire which would have the greatest amount of transfer for future use, resulting in a learning experience creating its own relevancy and meaningfulness (Renzulli, 2000). Students received highly reinforcing responses to their work from various segments of society and they ended up working that much harder because they enjoyed the fact that they were having a real impact. The list of their accomplishments is impressive. Situations were developed in which students did exactly what practicing professionals do as a regular part of their jobs. Historians write about history, archive data, reach out to other experts, and this is what students did. They transcribed, translated, scanned, photographed, and delicately preserved this collection. They reached out to myriad contacts ranging from family members, to the entertainment community, to the United State Senate. Students documented and otherwise defined each artifact. In doing so, they activated their own interests, skills, and task commitment to self-selected problems and areas of study (Renzulli, 2000).
The value of the enrichment model to instructional settings like mine is that it provides very young students with advanced knowledge and information about a particular field of study, while adding to their learning repertoires important principles of logic and methods of social inquiry. Highly specialized knowledge became the focus of these highly specialized learners, all 150 of them. They needed highly specialized knowledge to interact successfully with family members, historians, educators, librarians, and City officials. Their daily criterion performance would exceed the likely job experiences of advanced history students in college and graduate school settings. They were beyond theorizing; they were applying research skills from the first day of instruction to last.
By learning essential prerequisite component skills, students of varying abilities learned were able to succeed as members of a research team that transcended the boundaries of prescriptive instruction. Of note, this project was performed within five regular education classes, not as a drop-in activity conducted by a Resource Teacher or specialist. There was an equity of opportunity for each student to contribute to the discoveries being made within each class.
It is hoped that by preserving this collection, layers of the history of the Black Hills and Julius Deetken’s contribution to it may be uncovered and more deeply explored. It is also hoped that teachers may view this project as a model lesson on which to design and develop meaningful, authentic learning experiences for their own students. There are many clear advantages to basing a lesson on primary research. First and foremost, there is a real world consequence to the work being conducted in the class aside from the skills that each students is expected to learn following a sequence of instruction. The impact of this project on others has been staggering. Allowing young learners the opportunity to build relationships with adult professionals has been an extremely important and successful part of this project. In addition, student interest never waned in this project because student-directed inquiry prevailed as the process. New twists and turns drove the project into unforeseen directions, with exciting discoveries happening virtually each day. Students began to expect success, uncommon as that is in research.
Another important reason to foster authentic learning experiences such as the Deetken Project is that schools should be a place where students participate in relevant, intelligent activities. “Learning how to analyze, criticize, and select from alternative sources of information and courses of action, how to think effectively about unpredictable personal an interpersonal problems…and how to confront, clarify, and act upon problems and situations in constructive and creative ways” are outcomes worth teaching (Renzulli, 2000).
We have become fascinated with the hard working men and women, with honorable principles, who came to Deadwood in the 1800s to form a small community. They built a rough-and-tumble town as they became the foundation of the entire area’s success. But go beneath the surface of Deadwood, to the story of one of its original members, and read a little bit more about Julius Deetken. Go visit our web site and see the thoughts and feelings of his family in letters written by his sister or son and sent to his widow. It will become obvious why the occasion of his death was deeply regretted by the entire Deadwood community.
Some questions have lingered: How did this end up in my hands? Why would someone give up those mementos? In short, what was the chain of ownership that led to someone selling it to me at the Santa Cruz flea market in 1978? We have some answers to that. We proved that Mrs. Deetken maintained ownership of the bag when we traced her to Berkeley, CA where she moved shortly after her husband died in 1915. From there, things get a little fuzzier, but consider that of the Deetken relatives who attended the 2000 reunion in Germany, a large number hail from within a 100 mile radius of Santa Cruz. Perhaps that part of the story can be unearthed someday.
A book written primarily by students and an accompanying DVD of the collection are being prepared for release by the close of the school year. The collection will soon be on display and may be viewed in person by visiting the City of Deadwood’s Information and Visitor Center located in downtown Deadwood.
Questions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org