June 12, 1997

In 1942, elementary school teachers taught children to read and write about the world they knew. Thus, the farmer milks the cow. You drink milk for breakfast. In 1997, children learning math, history and social science are invited to hit the road, surf the Internet and tell their teachers where to go. In all kinds of ways, going back to school, then and now, couldn’t be more different. But a unique project started at the University of Michigan School of Education bridges the gap between past and present. Linking teachers and students along 2,300 miles of highway, from Detroit, Mich., to Aberdeen, Wash., the Route 12 Project uses the technology of telecommunications to introduce school children to their communities, both as they are now and as they were in the past. “The World Wide Web links all of us together today, but once upon a time highways such as Route 12 did the same thing,” says Dan Jacobs, a graduate student at the U-M who heads the Route 12 Project. Towns sprang up and thrived at the edges of Route 12, which runs from Detroit to Aberdeen. Then, as now, new technologies replaced the familiar, as Route 12 gave way to mightier and faster highways. Jacobs started the Route 12 Project in 1994, inspired by U-M education Prof. Fred Goodman. Since then, he has made many trips back and forth, gathering stories, artifacts, information and support from more than 200 individuals and institutions in the 10 states the highway traverses. In July, he’ll hit the road again with two colleagues from the U-M School of Education and an enterprising high school student. When school opens in September, scores of middle school students will make their way along Route 12, taking real trips on buses as well as “virtual” trips courtesy of the project’s innovative Web site at, where they are invited to “Tell Your Teacher Where To Go.” 


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