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Ben Franklin Middle School students document downtown

Walking the streets of downtown Fargo, it's easy to focus on where you're going, not what's around you.

Students on a walking tour
Ben Franklin Middle School students, from left, Alex Ridley, Alicia Swenson, Natalie Hastings and Samantha Swenson, along with instructor Matt Hallquist, look over one of the pillar markers along Broadway on Wednesday while participating in a walking tour of downtown Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

Walking the streets of downtown Fargo, it's easy to focus on where you're going, not what's around you.

But for a group of Fargo eighth-graders, Wednesday morning was a chance to stop, zeroing in on everything from sidewalk plaques below to the architecture of buildings above.

"A lot of these buildings in Fargo are pretty darn old," eighth-grader Jacob Borge said, adding about the history of them: "It's kind of something you want to know."

The 110 Ben Franklin Middle School teens spent Wednesday documenting downtown's heritage as part of a class project to get to know Fargo.

In the past, teachers taught them the history and architecture of downtown using a 63-page book the city publishes online.


This year, though, they decided to turn the architectural lingo into eighth-grade-friendly jargon, and make the lesson more appealing to today's teens.

That was students' mission Wednesday.

Together, they took photos, did research and will record narration, transforming the walking tour into a video podcast.

"We're really taking them out of the classroom," technology education teacher Tom Weber said. "It gets them out of their element."

The video podcast, which teachers hope is available on the school district's website by mid-May, will detail the history and architectural style of 60 downtown buildings, statues and attractions.

With most teens in English teacher Matt Hall-quist's class owning an iPod or MP3 player, he hopes the interactive lesson engages more students.

"Podcasts are popular," he said. "We're hoping some of the younger students ... (look) at it once it's done."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

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