1. Description of Our Community
Our general community is Camden County, New Jersey. We are a private, all special education school 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 city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Our community includes the families and hometowns of our students, many of whom come from surrounding towns in Camden County.
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
Our project concerns the issues and local resources related to stray and unwanted pets. Information was acquired from a variety of resources. We kicked off our research with separate presentations by a local veterinarian and an animal communicator. Both discussed responsible pet ownership, reasons for unwanted and stray pets, and resources. We read about local animal shelters on the Internet and made fieldtrips to two of them. We interviewed two people who had adopted animals from local shelters. We discovered a wealth of information from the State of New Jersey on the Internet, including content about rabies and rabies statistics, and reported animal shelter stats for the State and each county. We also shared photos of our own pets and discussed ways we care for them.
Before presentations, fieldtrips and interviews, students worked as a group to prepare questions to ask. Following activities, information was reviewed through group discussion. Students wrote or dictated their own thoughts and impressions. They also composed thank-you letters. Some students worked on drawings. One student constructed charts/graphs to illustrate statistical information. With guided direction from staff, students discussed findings and summarized main points they had learned. Two students researched and summarized specific assigned content. Students also provided content for three activity pages (wordsearch, vocab. matching, and quiz). One student assisted in the construction of these web pages.
All students participated in choosing colors and font elements for the web pages. Some helped develop and edit graphic images and photos. Students provided photos of their personal pets for scanning and inclusion on pages throughout the web site.
As pages were completed and uploaded, students reviewed and provided feedback. They also performed trial runs of the activity pages.
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
While using the digital camera to take photos of Dr. Bruce Weitzner and his dog, Duncan, one of the teachers accidentally changed a camera setting from still photos to video. This wasn’t discovered until a day later when the images were downloaded. We didn’t know how to get still shots off the video. Another staff recommended contacting one of our Technical Support Specialists, Greg Skoufalos, and he very graciously lifted several nice still shots off the video for us. Since students had limited access to a school scanner, staff scanned student drawings and photos at home.
Miss Sue had some problems uploading edited web pages, but resolved this over the phone with the host service (it was their error).
Due to school being cancelled because of snow, one of the people who had agreed to visit us for an interview was unable to be rescheduled. We overcame this by conducting our interview through email, and she sent in photos of her pet. Since our students have disabilities and display a wide range of skill levels (including communication, reading, attention span, memory) teaching staff reinforced basic concepts and information through guided group oral discussion and the use of pictures and examples. Language terms had to be simplified. To prepare for trips and interviews, staff assisted students in brainstorming questions to ask, and then wrote these on individual index cards for students to refer to. Some students participated independently in related writing activities, while others expressed their ideas through group or individual dictation.
5. Our Project Sound Bite
“I learned a lot from CyberFair about animals . . . why we talk about it cause other people around the world don’t want to take care (of) their pets sometime . . . but pets I have in my house I take care of my animals. I feed my pets because it is nice to do. I felt happy about this because I get to learn more about stray animals. It was fun to do.” – by Steve
“I think it is important to help stray animals . . . abandoned by their owners. It’s wrong to abandon a pet. You have to love it. The project means you must take care of animals, take them to the vet, and give them shots so they won’t get rabies.” – by Travis
“I am happy that we chose stray animals for our CyberFair project. I love animals, especially cats. I liked working on this project because I like to help animals.” - by Melissa
6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?
Our project addressed several of New Jersey's Core Curriculum Content Standards: Computer Information and Literacy (skills related to computer use, Internet, email), Career and Technical Education (vocational skills, critical thinking, decision-making); 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); Mathematics (data interpretation and comparison, graphs/charts); Social Studies (experiences in democratic process).
It is especially important for our students to have experiences generalizing skills in authentic, real-life situations. This project presented many opportunities for doing so. During the fieldtrips and presentations students had the chance to practice appropriate speech and language communication, social interaction and behaviors. Reviewing statistical information printouts gave practice with table/chart interpretation and numerical comparisons. Other skills addressed during the project included group collaboration and computer skills (keyboarding, Internet searches, printing, graphic software, Excel charts). Special vocabulary terms introduced and discussed during this project included: stray, shelter, spay, neuter, impound, redeem, adopt, and euthanize. Students also had the experience of sharing information and photos about their own pets with the group.
Use of the Internet to discover information and to display our findings is very effective for our students because it makes it real for them. Our students tend to be more motivated and sustain better attention when using the Internet instead of traditional textbooks.