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Fourth-graders in Greencastle win national contest

March 11, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Local fourth-graders learned Internet research skills while following the travels of a globe-trotting soccer ball, and brought national honors to their school in the process.

Students in Beth Wilson's class at Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School participated in the Around the World with B.O.B. program sponsored by UPS and Mail Boxes Etc.

The companies celebrated the opening of their 5,000th worldwide location by helping teachers teach geography, according to the UPS Web site.

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On Sept. 13, 2004, a commemorative Stars & Stripes soccer ball - called B.O.B. for ball-on-board - began an 11-week journey on a UPS jet, visiting a different country each week. Students tracked B.O.B.'s travels by visiting the UPS Web site. Clues were given each week, in the form of a postcard from B.O.B., as to his location.

When the students figured out B.O.B.'s whereabouts, they filled out a worksheet which asked about the country's population, language, religion, climate and terrain. Participants also had to figure out how far B.O.B. had traveled in the past week, and give the answer in miles, kilometers and nautical miles.

"They were not expected to know the answers off the top of their heads," Wilson said. "It was an Internet scavenger hunt. They were honing their Internet research skills, looking for very specific information."

There actually were three B.O.B. soccer balls, Wilson said, and three winners were chosen nationally. "I told the class (at the start of the contest) that if we win one of the balls, whoever answered the most questions would get to keep the ball," she said.

If the class did not win, she planned to buy a Wilson soccer ball and give it to the student who had answered the most questions.

When the 11 weeks were up, Josh Cram, 9, had missed only one answer on the entire project. He was off to a running start when he saw "Surf's Up!" on the first postcard.

"I immediately thought 'California,'" Josh said.

Josh said he did the Internet research at home in the evenings. "I didn't really know how to search the Internet until this came up," he added. He started out using askjeeves, yahoo and ask.com. "Then my mom found the CIA's Web site," which turned out to be a valuable resource.

Flags of each nation B.O.B. visited were given as clues; one that stumped him was Japan, Josh said. China was difficult also, when B.O.B. was there during week three, because the sites he found to help him answer the questions "gave the word in Chinese. I didn't know what it was in English, and we had to know how to say" hello, good-bye, friend, and thank you in Chinese.

Josh said he found a site that translated the Chinese characters to English and told him how to pronounce them.

Wilson said she was notified before Christmas that the class had won one of the soccer balls, but did not tell the class until after students returned from their holiday break.

Josh said he plans to put B.O.B. in a display case.

His mother, Whitney Cram, "said 'Cool!' in a very excited tone," upon learning her son had won the national contest, Josh said.

Josh's favorite subject is science; he wants to graduate from Harvard University and become a chemist. He has been to NASA space camp in Alabama where he "studied about astronauts, made rockets and launched them. It was awesome there. Who knows, I might become an astronaut."

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