The Great Eden Vale Detective Caper

An Ongoing Local History Project

Description for Teachers

Linda K. Taber Ullah, M.Ed.

[Bernal Rancho] [Santa Teresa Springs] Hayes Mansion] [Edenvale Gardens] [Downtown San Jose]

Ideas for teachers to use to create your own Local History Projects

"The Great Edenvale Detective Caper" is an ongoing, school-wide local history project dedicated to teaching students to love history while providing equal access for all students. It integrates history/social studies with all other disciplines with a carefully planned thematic curriculum through primary research, technology, the visual and performing arts, science, and writing and publishing.

The project was begun in May, 1991 when planing for Edenvale School's 25th anniversary celebration began. Over the past five years this project has grown, changed, emerged and produced real products. Currently the project is part of several larger multimedia collaborations, and is constantly recreating itself in fresh now formats, virtually taking on a life of its own.

Goals and Objectives

The original goals and objectives for this project were:

1) Community and ethnic pride;

2) Love of history;

3) Appreciation of our multi-ethnic heritage;

4) Empowerment of students, community and local historians;

5) Cooperation between school and community.


While these goals and objects remain in tact some additional goals and objectives have emerged:


1) Collaboration between communities of mutual interest and practice.

2) Modification of the educational paradigms concerning the design of meaningful curriculum and instruction practices

3) Experimentation with various forms of multimedia to best publish and display student work


The need for this project is based on the fact that Edenvale has been a low-income, disenfranchised neighborhood. It is ethnically diverse, and much of the population is "transient." Approximately forty-seven percent of our students are Hispanic, twenty-five percent are White, fifteen percent are Asian, ten percent are Black, two percent are Pacific Islanders, and one percent are American Indian. There is a need to empower our students, through primary research, to understand the impact that their culture and other cultures have had on the Edenvale Community so that they can have greater control of their own destinies.


We believe that "The Great Edenvale Detective Caper" is unique because Elementary students are involved in real, primary research which is leading to real products (Living History Day, play, book, HyperStudio stacks, museum, videos, political action, web pages, networked multimedia collaborations). The project utilizes school-wide, thematic planning/integrated instruction, involves other schools both in the Oak Grove School District and other districts, and includes adults in the community. Proceeds from the book provide funds for our college scholarship program.

Project Summary

"The Great Edenvale Detective Caper" is analogous to a giant jig-saw puzzle. As such, it is part of a rich integrated, thematic curriculum which goes beyond the traditional school day and beyond classroom walls. It is an outgrowth of the 1991 plans to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the opening of the school. The 25th Anniversary Celebration Committee began with a few basic questions about the names of streets and schools coupled with some interesting neighborhood myths and legends. Initially, there was a need to create a history wall as part of that celebration.

Using the Gifted and Talented Education (G.A.T.E.) class as the first group of students to become involved in the primary research, the students and teacher began to look for secondary sources (books, videos) only to discover that most had little or no mention of Edenvale. Other areas of the Santa Clara Valley had whole books written about their history. Edenvale seemed to have none. This revelation gave birth to the idea that Edenvale students could write and publish a book on local history. Through information gathered for our 25th Anniversary Celebration, we began to contact "old-timers" to present their oral histories to classes using the history social studies framework as a guide These oral histories were videotaped by the students, and students took notes for their research files.

As we began to find answers to the initial questions, new questions arose. Students began to develop special interests in certain eras and areas of Edenvale History --Ohlone, Spanish, Mexican, Pioneer, Victorian, transportation, 20th Century, Frontier Village, wealthy families, agriculture, schools....

The G.A.T.E. students were, then, grouped into cooperative research groups, according to these interests. Both first hand, primary research, as well as second hand research using books, written family histories, newspaper articles, and other written sources have been used by the students. Local historians, members of the Ohlone Tribe, and members of old-time local families have provided oral histories which the students have video-taped. Field trips to the San Jose Historical Museum (including the archives), the Peralta Adobe, historic downtown San Jose, the Winchester Mystery House, the Hayes Mansion, Oak Hill Cemetery, the Santa Teresa Spring, and other places of local historic interest have provided information for this project.

With the help of a poet-playwright from the San Jose LEAPartners Program (now Artpath), students wrote the play Edenvale 95111-The History of Edenvale from Ohlone Times to the Future. This play was first performed by the Edenvale School Drama Club in the Spring of 1992. The original production involved over 90 students including LEP, Special Education, Chapter 1, and G.A.T.E. students. Appropriate costumes for each era had to be acquired, and sets had to be made. Money for costume acquisition came from a grant from Lifetouch Photographers. Sets were made by staff, community members, and students.

Several ways to involve the total school in the project have been used. The school library has been used to display projects which relate to the project, and to display artifacts which have been collected. Displays of photographs and news articles have been displayed in the computer lab, the Oak Grove District Office, and in the Eden Vale Community Center. In 1993 a school-wide Geography-thon incorporated local history questions. The G.A.T.E students became a resource for teachers and their classes.

Play and Living History Days

The play, "Eden Vale, 95111" was revised and expanded to include newly researched information. For three years it was performed as part of a day-long annual Living History Day. The annual Living History Day was originally organized by the Edenvale School "Mystery Club." The Mystery Club's focus was on games, songs and dances from various eras of Edenvale History.

The first annual Living History Day involved more than 100 students in the revised play which was presented as a series of skits. In between the skits were activities to support the history presented in the skits. These involved dances, games, gold panning, myths and legends. The Edenvale Mexican Dance Club, involving a dozen students, presented dances from the Hispanic culture. In addition, a fourth grade class from Baldwin School presented the myths and legends from Rancho Santa Teresa. The other students from that class and students from a special day class from Baldwin School participated along with the Edenvale classes as an interactive audience.

The 2nd and 3rd annual Living History Days in 1994 and 1995 involved outdoor games, dances, demonstrations, and activities which represented the various eras of Edenvale history. Each primary classroom was responsible for setting up one "station" or activity which represented one era of history. The play was, then, performed on the stage in the cafeteria by 4th through 6th grade students.

The first four scenes of the play were. also, performed at the Santa Teresa Community Festival in October, 1994.

In 1996 a partnership has been forged with Santa Teresa High School Video Production and Drama classes. Five high school students directed the play, and acted in key roles along with the Edenvale School Drama Club.

Creation of the Edenvale Productions

In October, 1994 THE MYSTERIOUS HISTORY OF EDENVALE, a book about the history of Edenvale, was self-published by a student operated "virtual corporation" called Eden Vale Productions. The creation of the "virtual corporation" was a logical outgrowth and next step in to cooperative group model.

The creation of Eden Vale Productions has provided the vehicle for the expanision of "The Great Eden Vale Detective Caper" beyond the original G.A.T.E . class model. It made up of both G.A.T.E. and non- G.A.T.E. third through sixth grade students. This student run company has a board of directors and a CEO for each of two divisions For the 1995-96 school year these are: The Great Eden Vale Detective Caper Division and the Multimedia Division. Each division is divided into projects, and each project has a manager. The full company meets once weekly. Each project meets on a different day of the week so that the G.A.T.E. teacher focus on the needs of, and can effectively assist each team.

The board of directors was elected by the members of the company after they briefly campaigned for the position. All other jobs required a resume, application, and interview process. Each student responded to a series of questions and activities designed to help them identify their areas of strength based on Gardeners Seven Intelligences. Then, each member of the company filled out an application form and resume. The G.A.T.E. teacher, along with the board of directors hired the CEO's. The CEO's interviewed the rest of the applicants, and with the help of the G.A.T.E. teacher students were offered job contracts.

The focus of each project team is to create a product. In addition to these projects, the company can "contract out" projects. For example, the play is performed by a contracted drama club. This year the contract extends to Santa Teresa High School's involvement as well. Last spring a local history mural was contracted out to the Artpath program and a group of identified "at risk" students who created a mural on one of the walls of the Edenvale Community Center on the school campus. This structure also allow for other company curriculum contracts for whole company projects such as the Santa Clara County Young Author's Faire, the Jason VII Project, the Odyssey of the Mind, and year long grade level specific history projects.

The Mysterious History of Edenvale

Although the original goal was to research, write and publish a book in one school year, the reality was it took three years to fully accomplish this goal. Because there was little written material on Eden Vale history, students had to conduct primary research. This involved first hand interviews, accessing information available through the Historical Museum and other archives, visiting historical markers, graveyards, and other sites of local historical interest. The primary research necessary for the writing and publication of this book took longer than originally anticipated, and has been more thorough than originally anticipated.

Students worked in research groups based upon a period of Eden Vale history ( Ohlone, Spanish, Mexican, Pioneer, Gold Rush, Victorian, Agricultural, Wealthy Families, Transportation, School District), In addition, students worked in job alike groups (editors, typists, scanners, HyperCard scripters, video editors, publishers, artists, writers, presenters). It was this organization that led to the creation of the "virtual corporation".

Local historians, old-time residents, members of important families, Ohlone descendants, and other people knowledgeable about Eden Vale history have been interviewed by students both at school and other locations. Most of the interviews and presentations have been video taped, and are part of a growing Eden Vale history video tape library.

The book has been sold at the Santa Teresa Community Faire, at various Edenvale functions, and through word of mouth, as its reputation spread. More that $1000 has be earned and distributed to former Edenvale Students for college scholarships though the school's "Adopt-A College" program. Several copies of this book were purchased by the San Jose Public Library, and a copy of the book is in the main library's California Room as part of its archival collection. The book has, also, been read internationally. Along with the Edenvale Local History Museum, and the GEDC archives, the book is used as a text and reference for the third and fourth grade social studies curriculum.

Museum and Archives

In the spring of 1995 Edenvale Productions created a local historical museum at Edenvale School to display artifacts, documents, student projects and pictures. This was be a collaborative effort of students and community volunteers who donated artifacts, or helped build the showcases. A number of artifacts, photographs and documents have been collected and labeled by students for the museum and archive boxes. The Swenson Construction Company and the Renaissance Corporation, who are remodeling the Hayes Estate to create a convention center, saved artifacts for the museum. The archive boxes were set up and are maintained by Edenvale Productions. They are checked out by teachers, and sometimes local historians for use in their classrooms or research. Edenvale students are intimately involved in preserving their local history.

Note: April 2002-- In June 2000 the museum was dismantled due to school modernization and rennovation. In April 2002, Linda Ullah and a group of Edenvale School students began a new museum in the school's office. Click here for more information

Other Products

In addition to the book, play and local history mural, students have continued working on the Hyper Studio stacks. During the 1996-97 school year the project took on a life of its own. The book is nearly sold out, and will need to be edited, updated and republished.

Edenvale School has been participating in the Santa Clara Valley Digital History Project which focuses on a collaborative integration of local history resources. The pilot project is the Rancho Santa Teresa and the Santa Teresa Spring. This project is spearheaded by Mike Boulland and Baldwin School who is a member of the California History B SJEN team.

Another project that Edenvale School was invited to participate in was the City of San Jose Council for Fine Arts' Edenvale Gardens project. Artist Anna Murch designed the park which is located next to the Hayes Renaissance Center. This park was the garden for the Hayes family when they lived in the mansion. It was then Frontier Village Amusement Park until it closed around 1980. For this project students from Edenvale, Davis Intermedate School, and Oak Grove High School who had worked on the MYSTERIOUS HISTORY OF EDENVALE book, along with students from Hayes Elementary School, were invited to work with the Council for Fine Arts, Anna Murch and the Elkhorn Sleugh to replant the park in native grasses and flowers. About a dozen students worked with Artist Anna Murch and scientists from the Elkhorn Sleugh to learn about public art, and native plants. The students met weekly for two months to replant the park. About half the group continued to meet weekly and Edenvale School to create digital videos about the project. Some of their information is posted on the Edenvale Gardens Page. The next step for this project will be to publish the digital videos and Hyperstudio stacks as a CD. As with the book, proceeds from the sale of the CD will be used to support the Edenvale School's "Adopt A College" program. It is hoped that the CD will be used by teachers to integrate local history with their history/social science programs.

Throughout the project photographs and videos have been taken of oral histories and field trips, Some of these have been incorporated into the products of the project. All are available to be used to create a series of short video documentaries that can be used by third and fourth grade teachers to supplement their social studies curriculum. It is expected that the project will continue in various forms over the years.

Multimedia and Collaborations

The Great Edenvale Detective Caper and Eden Vale Productions have exceeded many of their original goals and purposes. The following projects have either been completed or have been aculterated into the total school program and or curriculum: The book, the play, the museum, the history mural, the research model, living history day, the field trips, the connections with local historians. Other projects have been modified and are continuing until completion: The HyperStudio stacks, which will eventually become a CD; the video documentary, which will now become a series of shorter video documentaries; and the timeline which is in progress.

Over the years the direction has changed as awareness of interest in this project has increased. It has created a paradigm shift in how technology is viewed and used at Edenvale School. The original Mac Lab is evolving into a Dual platform (Mac and PC) multimedia production studio. Currently, students involved in Edenvale Productions are becoming the designers of their own curriculum, through this project. As such they are participating in the Multimedia Makers project. This project was originally sponsored by the former BAMTA (Broad Alliance for Multimedia Technlogy Applicaitons) as their pilot education project. Although BAMTA no longer exists, the Multimedia Makers project has continued through IRL (The Institute for Research in Learning) in Menlo Park, CA. The focus of the Multimedia Makers project is currently the collaborative creation of a virtual Mars Colony Web site based on NASA's "Live from Mars" project. This collaboratory of schools is a vertical slice of elementary, middle and high school students collaboratively creating multimedia products in the area of math and science using the Internet.

For their initial Multimedia Makers project, however, students from Edenvale School teamed up with students from Frost Elementary School. Using the Great Eden Vale Detective Caper as the basis for their projects, seven teams of students designed their own projects. Each team was composed of both Edenvale and Frost students. The teams collaborated both physically and virtually. Virtual collaboration involved use of phone, fax, district "pony" ( internal mail courier) email, and Internet connections. In addition the students met physically at one of the sites every few weeks to establish and build team relationships. Each project had to tie the local history with a math or science concept.

As the project grew nd developed opportunities for other collaborations have continue to unfold. Through the original BAMTA Multimedia Makers project theres eems to be the opportunity to expand the original project design to include a variety of resources and collaborators for future projects.

The project design has been developed thematically. Using "The Great Eden Vale Detective Caper" as the central thread, all curricular areas, Gardeners Seven Intelligences, technology have been carefully integrated into the projects. State frameworks, best practices models such as GLAD, Complex Instruction, and cooperative learning, and district curriculum guides have formed the foundation for this instructional model:

Students who work on the various products learn a variety of organizational skills including mind mapping, production planning, story boarding, outlining, use of the writing process ( brainstorm, outline, mind map, story broad, etc), draft (write, script, draw, photograph, video, etc.), edit, revise, rewrite (redraw rescript, re photograph, re video, etc.), proof, edit, revise, etc. until the final product has been published or produced.

Thematically Planned, Integrated Instruction

The teaching methods used in "The Great Eden Vale Detective Caper" involve empowering students, teachers, and community members to work cooperatively in producing real products. Students are learning to take control of their own learning. Community members are being empowered to coordinate their own fragmented interests in local history to assist students and teachers to implement this project. Students are beginning to look at their neighborhood and heritage through different eyes, through the eyes of the various groups of people who lived here before them as well as through the eyes of visionaries who can take charge of their own destiny to restore pride and improve their local area.


"The Great Eden Vale Detective Caper" provides this equal access by involving all students, including Special Education, LEP, Title 1, and general education students in some aspect of the project. All students participated in the Living History Days. All Edenvale teachers have been provided with information, resources and ideas for lessons based on local history by the resource teacher. Oral histories have been presented in classrooms where the information best fits into the thematic plan. This is an ongoing program. All work products will continue being shared with other classes and other schools as the products integrate with that grade levels thematic curriculum. Local history is a planned part of the K-6 integrated, thematic curriculum through the history/social science component


Evaluation is ongoing and based on authentic assessment. Each part of the program is evaluated on its product, and the presentation of that product. Activities, such as the play and Living History Day, have been evaluated and edited by students for the next year's production. All products are evaluated and revised and adjusted as products are completed.

In addition to finished products and productions, academic progress in history/social science will be measured using data collected and test results from the ITAS and CLAS testing programs. An observed outgrowth of this program is the obvious love of history/social science among Edenvale students as witnessed in their enthusiasm. Ethnic pride is displayed by our students along with an appreciation of other cultures in our multiethnic community.

Benefits of the Project

Edenvale is a diverse community. Many cultures, and languages are represented in our population. Seventy-five percent of our students are of color. "The Great Eden Vale Detective Caper" emphasizes the school's dedication to the principle that each child has ability, dignity, worth, and an equal "right" to develop his or her full potential. Students are developing an interest in their personal roots, as well as in the history of the Edenvale community and how that history fits into the history of the world. Edenvale students are coming into contact with powerful ideas, great events, significant trends, major issues and the contributions of their own culture to society.

Another benefit has been civic involvement. Students studying the Bernal Rancho discovered that a tree where over 700 grizzly bears were tied, along with the remaining foundation of the original adobe, was about to be destroyed to make way for new houses. By signing a petition and sending essays about the history of the rancho to the city council, the students were able, along with local historians, to save this part of their history so that it can become part of a county park. Through this experience, students have been empowered to work within the political system to create positive change.

When the students discovered that the Ohlone did not have legal tribal status, they used the World Almanac to find out who the senators and representatives from California are. They, then, wrote letters on behalf of the local Ohlone Indians asking Congress to grant them tribal status.

A third benefit has been the cooperation of local old-time residents and historians. People who normally would not have become involved with Edenvale School have become a regular part of the history project. In all cases, the adults have not only been impressed with the students' interest and knowledge, but have, in many cases, made a commitment to our project. These adults have now formed the adult local history club component of this program. Recently, a local historian shared a farmer's journal he had bought in a garage sale. As students looked at this journal, they noticed an entry for March 6, 1911. They had just finished identifying a photograph of Monterey Road taken on March 7, 1911. In this photograph the road was flooded. The journal entry spoke of the rains and flooding, thus collaborating the identification of the picture. In another photograph, a school room was being used as a hospital. While going through class registers for the old Oak Grove School students discovered several weeks in 1918 marked influenza epidemic. Again, through deductive reasoning, an important discovery was made.

Currently, Edenvale Students are learning the value and worth of their efforts and products in the world at large. Through the BAMTA/ IRL collaboration on the Multimedia Makers project, the students learned that their research and products have value to others, and can be a resource for others not only through collaboratively produced products, but through the Internet vehicle of the World Wide Web. The City of San Jose Council for Fine Arts project reemphasized this. Former Edenvale Students had the opportunity to extend their original research into a project that will benefit their community for years to come.

Another Council for Fine Arts project now rests on First Street in San Jose. Itis a statue created by East Los Street Scapers that tells the history of Pueblo San Jose. During the summer of 1994 Edenvale Summer School Students were asked to work with East Los Streetscapers to create designs for this statue. This is another example of students working with professionals to create real products that will benefit their community.

"The Great Edenvale Detective Caper" addresses the diverse learning needs and multiple intelligences of an "at-risk" population of students in a low socioeconomic community that in recent history has been disenfranchised and undereducated. It is empowering these students to discover their cultural roots, develop an appreciation for history, and the importance of each citizen participating in a democratic society. It is a nonlinear project which provides equal access for all students by integrating local history into the district-wide K-6 curriculum. Critical thinking, research, writing, and technology skills are being increased as students discover the contributions of the native Muwekma Ohlone and the many immigrant groups which settled in the Edenvale area on this once affluent, agricultural part of San Jose. This project involves students in primary research by interviewing community members, analyzing original historical documents and photographs, sharing research with each other and local historians, and organizing thoughts into text, graphics, video, performing arts and interactive computer assisted formats. Ultimately, the challenge is to increase student success by improving academic skills, giving students a reason to stay in school, and possibly go to college. Students are learning to become productive citizens.

GEDC Timeline

GEDC Philosophy

Return to CA History B

Rancho Santa Teresa

Walking Tour of Downtown San Jose

Hayes Gardens Project