Conference to introduce results from the 100-School Networking Project (Phase
Junior high school meeting
Kids, become a part of Gaea!
The 1997 Gaea Project
Kenichiro Fujita, Junior High School attached to Faculty of
of Joetsu University of Education
- We named our project the Gaea project, after the Gaea theory proposed by
Doctor J.E. Lovelock's Gaea, who participates in a NASA project to explore
Mars. According to his theory, the earth is a living organism, and all animals
and plants, including human beings, are a part of it. He calls the earth "Gaea,"
after the goddess of the earth in Greek mythology.
The Gaea project was established in 1995 to offer children the opportunity
to communicate online and to research the potential for educational use of
the Internet. The theme of this project is: "Earth, Children, and the
Future: What We Need to Do as the 21st Century Approaches."
We've done a lot of things these past two and a half years. We've had our
fair share of successes and failures. I would like to talk some of them now,
particularly some of the things we did in FY 1997.
2. Gaea work group and workshop
- The Gaea project was proposed and established by members of the wshop mailing
list, an Internet workshop.
The children's communitywhich I'll refer as the Gaea communityincludes
a mailing list called ML gaea, which wshop is a part of. E-mail sent to the
Gaea project by children and by people generally are delivered to wshop.
Wshop participants become volunteers of the Gaea project, sharing the workload
and collaborating with each other in running it.
The ML wshop was established in May 1995 to discuss and report on the potential
of the Internet for educational use. As of February 1998, it has 106 participants
from a range of fields: including people involved in primary and secondary
education; university scholars and students; people from research centers
and from media-related jobs; video producers, English juku teachers, urban
developers, government employees; and representatives from environmental groups.
In 1997, this project was selected as a school-initiative project of the 100-School
Networking Project (Phase II). Wshop was involved in a number of Gaea-related
activities, especially in developing comprehensive studies in collaboration
with schools using the Internet.
After joining the Gaea Work Group ML, which was established by the 100-School
Networking Project (Phase II), participants can share ideas and propose them
to the wshop.
We also invited advisors to join our ML to help us develop a more comprehensive
3. Establishment of the Gaea project: The Experience of Trial and Error in
- The Gaea project was launched in September, 1995, when students from Junior
High School attached to Faculty of Education of Joetsu University of Education,
and Junior High School attached to Faculty of Education of Chiba University
met over the Internet. The students decided on themes to study such subjects
as peace, social welfare, and environmental problems and exchanged opinions
on these topics. Later, students from Maebashi Daiyon Junior High School joined
the project. Students from all three schools gathered information by drawing
up and answering a questionnaire.
Another late joiner was Junior High School attached to Faculty of Education
of Mie University. Students held a teleconference using a ML, and exhibited
students' poems, compositions, music, and HTML on the Gaea project home page.
Recently, we've been collaborating with schools using the Internet to exchange
opinions on how to deal with the environmental problem of garbage. By using
CGI to create a photo database on environments designed to accommodate handicapped
persons, based on an automatic image transmission and automatic HTML converting
system placed on our home page, we illustrated some potential solutions to
the problem, then had students rank and discuss the solutions offered.
4. Programs conducted in FY 1997 and future plans
- The following are programs we conducted in FY 1997 and which the Gaea Work
Group is planning for the future.
(1) An exchange of opinions on the garbage problem, with ratings of potential
- We've worked on this project continuously from FY 1996.
On the Gaea home page, viewers rank nine proposals on a special diamond-shaped
chart using CGI. The ranking is recorded in the server database. Viewers exchange
views by checking their own ranking and recording their opinions on ratings
by others, and continue studying the problem.
An example of student exchange from the Gaea home page:
"In the first place, the primary goal should be to reduce the amount
of waste produced. Companies should cut excess packaging and produce recyclable
"But companies need to make profits. The government should be responsible
for regulating industry and establishing laws."
(2) Creating a database on environments designed to accommodate handicapped
persons, and exchange of views on ratings of park slides for kids
- We've been working on this project from FY 1996. In the section of the Gaea
home page dealing with handicapped-friendly environments, automatic image
transmission and HTML converting system were installed to allow viewers to
participate in creating a database with images, without having to know about
FTP tools or HTML. They can also check the work they submit through real-time,
In FY 1997, we displayed four pictures of park slides for kids and asked viewers
to rank them for ease of use. The resulting exchange of views made it clear
to the participants the number of possible viewpoints that may be held on
(3) Participating in Think Quest (A contest, in which junior high and high
schools students from all over the world create a home page that can be used
for educational purposes)
- The Gaea Work Group now plans to participate in this project.
The research and preparation needed to create a home page for contest submission
serves as a comprehensive study. The collaboration of students from different
schools as members of the same "Gaea team" promotes the kind of
cooperative work that the Gaea project represents. When we're done our preparations,
we plan to invite others to join the Gaea team.
(4) A Comprehensive study using imagery of change
- The Gaea Work Group is currently planning this study.
For this study, we plan to juxtapose two pictures taken in different times
(for example, Tokyo station at present and a hundred years ago) and ask students
to consider the differences represented by the two pictures. We plan to ask
students to consider the reasons behind the changes, the results of the changes,
whether the changes are temporary or permanent, natural or artificial, planned
or unplanned, good or bad. We expect students to pick up numerous changes,
evident in cars, clothes, and buildings. Becoming aware of these differences
should make them more aware of issues such as the environment, energy, social
welfare, other people, and the flow of information.
We then plan to ask them to imagine a photograph that may be taken many years
from nowthe qualities of the future or city they would like to creatend
ask students to share their ideas with us.
We are also considering using a live camera image for the picture representing
the present, and also using a satellite picture of the earth.
- Although it's common for schools to incorporate studies of issues such as
peace, the environment, information, international understanding, human rights,
and social welfare into various regular subjects, we haven't had a chance
to evaluate them or share our findings about these comprehensive, cross-curriculum
studies as we have for traditional subjects. The Gaea community has created
a place where schools can present results of their activities and evaluate
other activities at other schools. Students have begun taking advantage of
computers and the Internet as effective tools to share or gather information.
In addition to its many potential benefits, the project presents a number
of problems. Differences between school curriculums (time at which each unit
is taught) greatly influences student collaboration. We've established a system
with some flexibility that allows students to participate at different times,
but this solution reduces student contributions. We plan to tackle this problem
in the future.
Conference to introduce results from the 100-School Networking Project (Phase II)