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. There are cities, suburbs, and rural areas all within a short distance. Geographically it is primarily flat, with small creeks and marshes feeding into the Delaware River.
2. Summary of Our Project
We began our topic, Take a Walk, by reading about and discussing the growing obesity problem in our country. We learned about some of the serious health consequences, and that each person needs to take responsibility for what they eat and how much exercise they get. We decided to explore “walking” because it is an easy exercise almost anyone can do.
Over the next few months we visited a local sporting goods store to learn about some popular walking equipment. We interviewed a fitness expert to hear her thoughts and experiences about walking for exercise. We interviewed police officers to explore safety tips for walkers, and also a podiatrist to learn how to take care of the most basic walking equipment you have – your feet. Students took several walks in our local community during the Fall, and shared their impressions. They also selected to write about either their all time favorite walk or a fantasy walk. We asked some of the people we interviewed about their favorite or fantasy walks. As another activity, students paired off to reflect on a particular season of the year and came up with some descriptions and suggestions for walkers.
Students worked together to create questions for an online quiz, and to pick words for a word search activity page. All students participated in choosing the topic and title for our project, web site colors, and fonts. Two students helped prepare graphic images and photos, the opening page design, and the title banner. All the students had opportunities to view 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. Also per our school practice, photos do not show any student faces.
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, Tammy Strunk, was too far away to come visit us in person, but we worked around this by doing a phone interview (we used a speakerphone).
We had some unexpected technological problems. The office computer used to make the web pages died, and after the new hard drive was put in the software program we’d been using would not work. To create the actual web pages, one of our teachers used her home computer during weekends.
Towards the end of our project, our school experienced several weeks of computer problems with the school’s server. Files could not always be accessed. Internet access was not always available and pages loaded very slowly when it was working. Fortunately, most of our project was completed by this point, and we had some backup files on disks we were able to use finish the remaining pages.
Because of the wide range of reading abilities of our CyberFair team students, much of the information was discussed and reinforced through class discussion. Students who were unable to independently write contributed their thoughts through discussion and dictation. When preparing for interviews, teaching staff assisted students in brainstorming what questions to ask, sometimes by providing verbal models or examples. Staff then wrote out these questions on index cards which students used to read from during the actual interviews. When needed, verbal modeling and prompting was supplied to assist them.
Our project’s web pages were deliberately constructed to be clean, uncluttered, and simple with obvious navigation so our students can enjoy viewing their work with maximum independence.
5. Our Project Sound Bite
“The whole project was compelling in a good way.” (by Kyle ) “I liked walking in the woods. . . . It was good exercise. . . I liked meeting Dr. Yarnell. He is Jodi’s father. He is a nice guy.” (by Niesha)
“I liked the walk. . . . I liked the police, they were kind. My favorite gift was the water bottle. I liked the staff at Dick’s (Sporting Goods Store).” (by Nicky)
“I liked meeting the police officers. I liked the gifts they gave us. The safety vest was my favorite gift.” (by Jon)
“I liked the walk in the woods. It was interesting and I thought if was quite adventurous. In the path I did not know what was going to happen next. I thought the police officers . . . were nice and they gave us unexpected things as gifts. Dick’s was a very cool store and it taught us some interesting things. The phone conversation with the representative of Rodale was also nice and told us that everybody who worked there had (the) privilege to use the exercise room.” (by Michael)
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); Comprehensive Health and Physical Education (wellness, and fitness standards).
Our school program, in following “best practice” for instruction of individuals with disabilities, emphasizes providing opportunities to generalize skills through authentic, real-life tasks and community-based instruction. Our project gave students a chance to do this in several ways: meeting and interviewing several subject-matter experts; visiting a local sporting goods store and asking employees questions; taking several class walks in our local community; and sharing information and opinions with each other.