1. Description of Our Community
Our general community includes Camden County and neighboring counties of southern New Jersey. We are a private school exclusively serving students with multiple disabilities through both day and residential programs. Located in the town of Haddonfield, New Jersey, we are just a few miles east, across the Delaware River, from the historic city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and about an hour away from the Atlantic Ocean. Our community includes the families and hometowns of our students, many of whom come from nearby towns. This area of South Jersey is both residential and commercial. Geographically it is primarily flat, with small creeks and marshes feeding into the Delaware River.
2. Summary of Our Project
We began the topic of Our Flag by discussing symbols in general and the roles they play. We viewed a video about our flag, and learned more details from web sites (early flags, our flag’s history and changes, proper handling and care of the flag, associated traditions like the Pledge of Allegiance and our national anthem). We talked about what our flag means to different people, and the various occasions and places where it is displayed. We discussed how our flag may continue to change in the future.
We took a trip to the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A local high school JROTC group visited and talked about proper flag care. They answered questions, demonstrated flag folding, and assisted students in folding the flag.
Some students interviewed parents about what the flag meant to them. They also interviewed local celebrity Lauren Hart who sings the national anthem at area events, and Robert Heft, the man responsible for the current flag’s star arrangement. After learning that the first flags with 13 stars had no designated arrangement of stars, students developed their own 13 star designs.
We learned about some flag companies (Annin, SuperFlag), and details about the first flag on the moon.
While walking around our school campus and the local town, we took photos of flags. Towards the end of our project, students also made a flag pizza.
Students participated in choosing web site colors and special fonts. Two students helped prepare graphic images and photos, the opening page design, and the title banner. Students viewed constructed web pages and gave feedback.
Per our confidentiality practice, and after acquiring written parental permission, only students’ first names were used within the project web site (exception of last initials being used by two students’ with the same first name).
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:1
C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection
D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:4-6
4. Problems We Had To Overcome
One of the people we wanted to interview, Lauren Hart, was unable to visit our school due to a very busy work schedule, but she agreed to answer questions via email.
Several of the original images we had wanted to use were not clearly available for public domain use. We resolved this by finding alternative images or using our own photos. Since all our students have disabilities and a range of academic skill levels (some of which are significantly lower than those of chronological aged peers), teaching staff needed to frequently reinforce information and learning throughout the project. This was primarily done through weekly review, guided group oral discussion, and the use of pictures and concrete examples whenever possible. Vocabulary was simplified. Some areas covered were not investigated to the full extent which non-disabled students might explore. In preparation for interviews, staff assisted students in brainstorming what questions to ask, sometimes by providing verbal models or examples. For the JROTC presentation, students relied upon index cards with their written questions. Students who had difficulty reading were given verbal prompts to help them get started.
Content for the web site was obtained through both large group guided dictation, and independent writing by some students (with prompting and guidance from teaching staff).
Web pages were deliberately constructed to be clean, uncluttered, and simple with obvious navigation so our students can enjoy viewing and navigate with more independence.
5. Our Project Sound Bite
“I felt very interested in the CyberFair project . . . it was fun learning about our flag.” (by Michael S.)
“I enjoyed meeting (Sgt.) Henry and the cadets. . . flag pizza . . . folding and unfolding the flag.” (by Melissa)
6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?
Our project addressed the following New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards: Computer Information and Literacy (skills related to computer use, Internet, email); Technological Literacy (computer and information literacy); Visual and Performing Arts (use of arts elements and arts media to produce products; process of critique); Language Arts Literacy (reading, writing, speaking, and listening standards); Social Studies (Civics, US History).
Our overall school program particularly stresses providing all our students with opportunities to generalize social, communication, and other skills through authentic, real-life situations. Our project gave students a chance to do this through interviews, interaction with the JROTC cadets, and the field trip to the Betsy Ross House. Other skills included experiences in group collaboration and numerous computer skills (keyboarding, Internet searches, printing, graphic software, email). Some students also had the experience of interviewing their parents and then sharing this information and related photos with class peers.