May 5,  2008

Students’ video brings home the Bonner Bridge controversy


When First Flight High School teacher Lisa Duke was thinking of a year-long, benchmark project for her two sophomore civics classes, she immediately thought of the situation with the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge. 

Having briefly taught classes at Cape Hatteras Secondary School, commuting daily from the Nags Head area, Duke is pretty familiar with the bridge. 

While driving home during the 2006 Thanksgiving northeaster, Duke said could feel the bridge shaking and moving under her as she drove over it. That experience was one of the deciding factors in her decision to transfer to First Flight in Kill Devil Hills.

Planning for replacing the 45-year-old bridge over Oregon Inlet, the only land link to Hatteras Island, began almost two decades ago and has been controversial from the start. Any choice for replacing the bridge has environmental consequences on these fragile barrier islands.  And the controversy has only intensified in recent years as various alternatives have been put forward. Last summer, the state Department of Transportation announced that it would build a short bridge, parallel to the current span, instead of a 17-mile span out into Pamlico Sound that would come onto the island in Rodanthe.

Realizing the controversy surrounding the replacement of the bridge would fit perfectly with the curriculum of her civics and economics classes, Duke presented the idea to her students, who embraced it with enthusiasm. 

Work on the project began in August.  The students started researching the current conditions of the bridge and wrote letters to Congress. They also collaborated with the advanced placement statistics classes, which created graphs to help visualize bridge data. 

The students also decided that they wanted to create a You Tube video. 

The video quickly became a huge undertaking, and the students enlisted the help of senior Giancarlo Bauzulli, who was doing his senior project on civil engineering. 

Production of the video began in early November, and was completed in early April.  The video required a lot of extra work from the students, which they happily gave. 

They even came in on Saturday, for no extra credit. Now that’s dedication. 

All their hard work has certainly paid off. The video is receiving a good deal of press and attention.  

The video is available on You Tube and will also be shown on Channel 20, Dare County’s cable channel.

In addition, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, adjunct professor of educational technology at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, will be presenting the students’ video at conferences all over the world—Chicago, Alabama, China, New Zealand, and Australia. 

The students themselves will be presenting the video at the Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting on May 19 in Manteo. 

Work on the year-long project will continue, and in the upcoming weeks, Duke’s students will be talking to the civics students of South High School, a school near the collapsed Minneapolis I-35 bridge, about the impact that incident had on their lives, school, and community. 

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