March 12, 2011


Seventh-graders show how ‘We Are Cortland’

Staff Reporter

The past, present and possible future of the city and Cortland County intersected Thursday in Bill Lee’s English classroom at Cortland Junior-Senior High School.
Twenty groups of seventh-graders researched and presented projects about local people and places, from three-dimensional models to a snapshot of where students saw themselves living and what careers they would have, a timeline, a look at things to do in the city, and comparisons of prices in 1961 and now.
Lee called the overall project “We Are Cortland.”
“I was looking for something different, and my classes did this 20 years ago,” Lee said as students walked around the room, writing comments about the projects. “I like to mix things up. This was a challenge for the kids and they rose to it.”
Shelby Parker said her group’s timeline of county and city history, from Cortland’s founding in 1808 to the year after they graduate from high school in 2016, required a great deal of research both online and in libraries.
The group projected aspects of life it wants to see, such as more pets being adopted from animal shelters, universal rights for teenagers and a championship football team for their school.
“We got along pretty well and had to decide how to divide the work,” she said.
Gianna Marks and her group made a cake decorated with a map of the county, following Lee’s requirement that projects should be about the city or county and be collaborative and creative.
Students will submit grades for the projects, which Lee will factor into the projects’ overall grade. He said students are fairly honest in assessing each others’ work.
A project called “Red Purple Carpet” showed famous people who grew up in Cortland.
Ryan Gabriel, Michael Bay and Justin Adamczak showed off their group’s layout of places in the city, with milk cartons decorated to identify some buildings such as the county Courthouse, 1890 House, post office, Cortland Standard building and SUNY Cortland.
The boys made the project with Kali Oaks and Lauren Kiley. They included a list of famous people from Cortland and text about two athletes, the late Gary Wood and John Gee.
Gabriel said some material about sports came from his stepfather Eric Young’s memorabilia collection. The boys added an image of Action Auto, owned by Gabriel’s father, Patrick, “to make him laugh.”
“It was a lot of fun,” Bay said of the project.
The clock tower building at Main and Tompkins streets and the building it replaced, the Squires Building that burned in 2006, were the subjects of more than one project.
Groups interviewed Mayor Susan Feiszli, Police Chief F. Michael Catalano and Superintendent of Schools Larry Spring.
Lee showed the students “We Are Cortland” booklets assembled by his students in 1990, ’91 and ’92. The students’ projects were all written, compared to this year’s range of presentations, and were compiled into booklets.
Those students interviewed a range of community leaders, with their own biographies on each page. One interview was conducted by Jeremy Milligan, who was 12 in 1992 and is now a social studies teacher at the school. Some students interviewed him about his research then.


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