CyberFair Project ID: 4318

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Project ALS
Category: 2. Community Groups and Special Populations

School: St. Paul Lutheran School
    Farmington, Missouri, United States of America

9 students, ages 13-14 years old worked together to complete this CyberFair project on April 16, 2006. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 4

Classes and Teachers: Teacher Leanna Johnson, Eighth Grade Class

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Our community is the entire St. Louis, MO region, south to the Arkansas line, and west to Springfield. The ALS Association Regional Chapter community serves 150-200 families a year, on average. The ALS Association Regional Chapter is located in St. Louis, MO, at 5615 Pershing Avenue. Our city of Farmington, MO, is south of the chapter’s headquarters

2. Summary of Our Project

We first learned about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a fatal muscular-degenerative disease, when a local student began a letter-writing campaign to the Oprah Winfrey Show (Chicago). The Oprah Winfrey Show is televised daily and is one of the most widely-watched daytime television shows in the United States. Oprah has often invited people on her show to share their inspirational stories, and she does this to raise awareness about the problems people face in their lives. Drew Zehrt, a third grader at Washington-Franklin School in Farmington, began the campaign by asking local students to write letters to Oprah. Drew had met a 28-year old former Farmington resident, Craig Thomas, who had been diagnosed with ALS. Craig's dream is that he could be on Oprah's show to raise awareness about the disease and to help raise funds for research. Once the information became widely known in our community, more and more people became involved. Soon most of the elementary schools in Farmington were writing letters to Oprah's show, and asking her to host Craig Thomas. Even some troops stationed in Afghanistan promised to write. Our school participated in the letter writing, and we additionally studied ALS as part of our computer curriculum of control systems. Grades 6-8 created PowerPoint slide shows to demonstrate their knowledge and three shows are included on Project ALS because they explain the disease. We built this website to share all that we learned about ALS: our community's efforts, Craig and others' inspirational stories, and what still needs to be done towards finding a cure for this disease.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:more than 6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

Our first obstacle was developing ideas to raise money for ALS. We attempted several avenues and some were more successful than others. We made more money soliciting donations for one day than we did by creating a product and selling it over the course of several weeks. The day we solicited outside at Wal-mart was extremely cold and we worked in two hour shifts. We also had time issues with making and selling our fundraising food products. We had to schedule time after-hours so that everyone was involved and contributed. We had to schedule a time when we could all meet to ask for fundraising donations at Wal-mart, and we all had to participate for our goal to be met. We dealt with some technical problems at the beginning of our website building. We had difficulties getting our jpg files to share on the network, and using our time wisely became an issue as we neared the deadline. It required careful scheduling to plan our interviews. We had to make travel arrangements to interview the two doctors at Washington University and relied on parents to drive us, since none of us can drive yet. We also spent hours transcribing interviews during class and during our free time, as well as writing an online blog (web log).

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Since researching ALS, we have a heightened awareness of man’s limitations in combating a disease. We know now that much work is still necessary to help people inflicted with this disease, and know that it is our job as a society to help people when they need it. We met a person with ALS and developed a passion to help others like him. We looked beyond our lives and “walked a mile in someone else’s shoes.” We found out how supportive our community is of people that need help. We found that as students, we could be as helpful as adults in fundraising, and making others aware of needs within our community.

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

Our CyberFair entry addresses many standards of the State of Missouri (Show Me Standards at in public education, as well as our Lutheran Synod standards in communication arts and social studies. The Show Me Standards for communication arts include: 1. speaking and writing standard English (including grammar, usage, punctuation, spelling, capitalization) 3. reading and evaluating nonfiction works and material (such as biographies, newspapers, technical manuals) 4. writing formally (such as reports, narratives, essays) and informally (such as outlines, notes) 5. comprehending and evaluating the content and artistic aspects of oral and visual presentations (such as story-telling, debates, lectures, multi-media productions) 6. participating in formal and informal presentations and discussions of issues and ideas. Some new skills we learned were working with our computer lab network (Shared Documents), and videotaping. Transcribing continued our keyboarding skills we have been practicing for several years. We used online resources for information and also used email to contact most of our interview persons. This enabled us to use cyber etiquette when emailing. Working on this project also gave us additional practice at writing bibliographies. We learned how to create an online “blog” (web log) and kept an updated journal of our activities for this project.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?

We used MS Word, MS PowerPoint, Windows Moviemaker, a digital camcorder, CuteSiteBuilder (a website building program), the Internet, a television, MS Outlook (email), and Windows Media Player for our project, as well as a cellular phone to make contacts. We learned how to create an online “blog” (web log) and kept an updated journal of our activities for this project. You can find our CyberFair project blog at

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.

Our class conducted interviews: with researchers, an ALS Chapter representative, and with an ALS patient. One student always served as a moderator of the interviews. With our online blog, whose online URL was released to the public through a newspaper article, we made available all the steps we completed along the way of publishing our website. Most importantly, when we solicited donations or sold our fundraising products, we conducted ourselves in a respectful and positive manner about the purpose of our efforts. We were excited about our cause in helping raise money, and this feeling was projected to everyone we had contact with while fundraising. We feel that we gained something lasting in ourselves by caring, helping, and finding out how to get involved with our community. At this date, our class has raised $497.00 in donationssince December for ALS and Craig Thomas. Our entire school had already raised $700 in the fallof 2005.

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

Our goal is to raise awareness of ALS by telling Craig’s story and providing information online for other ALS patients in the world. We hope to provide the cutting edge of what researchers are accomplishing in their work to combat ALS to all visitors of our site. We have provided more online information for their access. We want to continue with fundraising throughout the school year, even after this website is published. This project’s impact should be making our community aware of the needs within our society. We hope we have put a personal face on people suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. The more you know about something, the more you are compelled to help, and that is our goal.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

Lianna Stover, our web server host, helped us upload by providing us a domain for our project. We really appreciate all the help she gives us every year for CyberFair. David Gray, a seventh grade student, created the Flash heart movie on the home page. Sharon Gacki and her niece, the ALS St. Louis Chapter representative and Linda Kollmeyer, Craig Thomas’ aunt made special visits to us to share information and provide materials for our project. Debbie Thomas, Craig’s mother, gave us many photos from Craig’s life. The two doctors we interviewed, Dr. Baloh and Dr. Lopate, gave us insight on ALS research and shared online resources with us. We learned so much from all of these people and we thank them for their help!

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

Much more needs to be done to cure ALS… this is the tremendous lesson we have learned. A community can't do too much towards raising funds for additional research in ALS and other motor neuron diseases. One medical breakthrough for a neuron disease may help the other related diseases. We must continue to search for answers and ask for help from our communities. We must stay united in this cause.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 4318)

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