The Halifax Chronicle-Herald
Tuesday, April 20, 1999

School's Internet project too successful

Mill Cove kids get thousands of e-mail messages

by Bill Power, bpower@herald.ns.ca

[Email] FLOOD OF E-MAIL: Ashley Langille, 11, Dawn Richardson, 10, and Eirik Homer, 11, are among the Mill Cove Grade 5 students inundated with e-mail responses. The students received 9,000 e-mail messages from around the world before they pulled the plug on the simple class project that just kept going and going. The students have been plotting the locations of those who responded with colour pins on a map.
-- Photo: Eric Wynne
Officials pulled the plug on an Internet project at Mill Cove Elementary School after a class experiment ran amok, attracting thousands of unexpected e-mail responses from all over the world.

"It was a simple class project for our Canada and the World studies program, but things got out of hand", said Grade 5 teacher Glynda Wimmer.

The Hubbards area class had to abandon its e-mail address and obtain a new one after thousands of people from around the world responded within days to a request for information about their communities.

Mrs. Wimmer said the class sent out 15 e-mail messages asking recipients to send the school a bit of information about their communities, then forward the message to someone living elsewhere. "The purpose was to incorporate language arts and computer technology into our social studies program", she said.

But by the time the class disconnected to obtain a new e-mail address about a week ago, over 9,000 e-mails had been received. The number would have been higher had the school not abandoned the project, she said.

It's all added up to an interesting experience for the students involved, most of whom were amazed as the number of responses continued to swell.

"We started the class project on a Wednesday and Thursday morning there were 208 responses", said the teacher.

"The volume kept increasing and when we shut it (the e-mail account) down we were getting about 150 responses per hour."

The Lunenburg County school, part of the Southwest regional school board, will continue to use the Internet in its curriculum.

"We will be more careful about sending out e-mail queries in future", said Mrs. Wimmer.

Responses came from as far afield as Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Los Angeles.

The teacher said the class was particularly interested in one e-mail from a large seismic research vessel several hundred miles off the coast of Brazil.

"The crew member who responded actually attended Chester Municipal High School near here", Mrs. Wimmer said.

It's been a world-class learning experience for students. "Among other things, we've learned how large and small the world can be at the same time", she said.

A map in the classroom loaded with coloured pins shows the futility of students' efforts to keep track of responses. "We ran out of coloured pins pretty quickly", Mrs. Wimmer said.

Copyright © 1999 by The Halifax Herald. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.