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Students begin research on lost document

Feb. 3, 2010- In teacher David Rapaport's U.S. history class at Palo Alto high school, students are embarking on a research project regarding an unreported World War II document containing  57 generals' signatures. 
    At this time very little is known about the parchment and the signatures.  Mr. Rapaport's U.S. History students will study the document and the signatures, recording its history on a website, http://signaturesofwar.com/.
    All 150 students in Rapaport's classes will be participating in the project. Each student will have their own personal page on the website where they will be able to design and record their own research.
    "I wanted to do something that 150 people could do and there would be enough choices for people to differentiate themselves," Rapaport said. "We are going to have 150 webmasters and it's going to be very detailed."
   Friday's will be utilized as research days as much as possible in Rapaport's class, but he added that a lot of work time will take place outside the classroom as well. The project is estimated to take around five months to complete.
    "It's nice because students rarely get a chance to work on a project for that long," Rapaport said. "It allows students to really embrace the project and throw themselves into it."


Feb. 26, 2010- Mr. Rapaport's U.S. history class is working on their second day of research and students are beginning to make progress on their respective papers
    Although the project is still in its early stages, the most notable achievement up to date is the transcription of the document. Students from all of Rapaport's classes have been re-writing the signatures of the generals from their previous cursive state, to a new legible and clear form. All but four signatures have been successfully identified up to date.
    "I was planning on interviewing a college professor but Mr. Rapaport suggested I do James Gavin, who came up on the new list," second period researcher Mariah Philips said. "[The transcribed document] really made it easier to find something to work on."
    As students begin their research, Rapaport has suggested several databases such as the online academic journal and periodical JSTOR to help students collect information on their topics.
    "JSTOR is great because it allows you to use authentic material," second period student Michael Cullen said.
    While students continue to research their topics, Rapaport is working on maintaining the web.
    "After overcoming some technical problems, we've been able to accomplish some very good things," Rapaport said. "Technologically speaking, our web is working very well and students have really been taking advantage of this project."


May 7, 2010- Today is the last research day for the World War II Generals project.  The students are nearing their final product for the website, which will be published in the near future. 
    The website server has recently been overloaded because too many students trying to access and publish the server, according to David Rapaport.
    "Register.com can't have us all working at the same time," Mr. Rapaport said.
    The minor setback is taking some time; however, it should not be a problem in the long term for the success of the project.
    "We will overcome the problem [soon]," Rapaport said.
    Although the situation has taken a toll on the progress of the website, students have successfully continued to work on their projects.
    "I just decided to write myself an email with all the information I had collected so far and continue the project at home," second period researcher Tyler Spreng said. "[The website malfunctions] didn't affect me as much as it did others."
    Students have had to cope with the website malfunctions in order to continue making progress on their research. 


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