District: Canton Central School District
City: Canton, New York, USA
Michele Flores-Ward, Linda Shaver, 7th and 8th Grade Alternative Program
Their ages were: 12-15 years of age
Our local community is Canton which is the county-seat and is found between the St Lawrence River and the 6 million acre Adirondack Park. We are ecologically aware of, affected by, and connected to the global community in many ways. For example, in past years in our classroom, we have focused on acid rain, and, then, the introduction of non-native species. (Zebra mussels have had a great effect on nearby lakes). Use of the Internet has expanded our definition of both our classroom and our community.
In 1994, this classroom was awarded a Star School grant, which gave us the hardware and software to be on the Internet. We also have a scanner and digital camera. We have been experimenting since, learning what creates a good telecommunications project, and also how to integrate these things within the classroom and the curriculum. Our class uses a local Internet provider -we host a Middle School dance first thing in the Fall to pay our monthly costs!
First, we had to overcome a Building and Grounds Supervisor who was sure trash bins of empty milk cartons would attract rats. (He retired and the rats haven't shown up.) Then, we had to have a series of meeting to set target dates, create posters, and distribute information to everyone involved so the whole school would be ready. Then, we had to paint the compost cans (because the industrial ones only come in one color!). We also had to answer some very serious questions about how milk cartons can really turn into something good for one's garden. That led us to talking to a local chemistry professor and having our cartons testing by a laboratory.
Our project represents a good idea which we hope will spread throughout the North Country of New York. CyberFair represents a way to spread it around the whole planet.
The 7th grade Life Science curriculum includes the concepts of renewable and non-renewable resources, conservation, solid waste, and environmental management. In the 8th grade in Physical Science, we study the nature, types, and energy of chemical reactions, solution and carbon chemistry. The Alternative Program always functions through cooperative learning and is project-based. CyberFair gave us the opportunity to extend this beyond the classroom. Our efforts to understand the impact of recycling and increase it within our school system took us from basic understanding of what is in our textbooks to its application in our daily lives and impact on the Earth itself.
We learned that an entire school community can indeed unite in action. We also learned more about collaborating through the Internet, data collection, finding and contacting experts, and, of course, publishing.
The students travelled throughout our campus and used the phone to set appointments for interviews. They went with a set of questions, wrote a summary and typed it into their html pages. They also sent a thank-you (with our new URL included) for the interview. Students realize that their preparedness and etiquette reflect on them as an "ambassador" of our school. We also e-mailed a professor here in Canton and his colleague in Massachusetts in order to find a certain company.
Our 8th grade is required to take a state English competency test which has a business letter component. We took this opportunity to have them "practice" that skill - writing to a company in Dallas, explaining our project, asking the cost of a chemical analysis. We were very gratified to receive 24 individual answers on business stationary, applauding our efforts, and offering to do the analysis free of charge. Besides that inspiring response, we have received videos of composting programs to share with other classrooms and actual compost (made of recycled milk cartons) with which to do experiments this spring!
The three schools in the Canton Central School District are located on one campus and they now all recycle milk cartons, napkins,and paper straws in their cafeterias. In the elementary school, where there is Snack in the classroom, there are compost bins for the leftovers. The Art and Science rooms all are recycling their paper towels.
Our client -the student- tends to come to school somewhat educated on the benefits of taking care of the Earth, thanks to such programming as Sesame Street. We are now training them, at every grade level, how to take local and global actions in their everyday lives. This project has seen all staff (from custodial to administrative) unite in a common effort. It has opened up communications and has been a resounding success.In order to create this page, we first brainstormed a list of people who were involved in the Recycling Project. This in itself was amazing - just the number of people and the length of time (and patience) united in a common effort. CyberFair caused us to examine and digest the entire, two year event. We also established ties to local industry and with the local colleges. We hope to add our Webpage as a link to several Canton/Potsdam pages, St Lawrence County pages, and surrounding school's homepages. We also hope to further "advertise" on recycling pages and hope our project is an inspiration to other places, especially schools. Also, we are sure to discover new ways to promote recycling as our guestbook is used. In this way, our small community and our big community are impacted!
My classroom is fortunate to be down the hall from the Technology Department and its two wonderful advisors, Lori Skelly and Gary Staples. They did everything from provide us with a new keyboard (when our mmm's were sticking and our 2's were disappearing) to patiently answering our daily cyberquestions. Also, being on one campus, "graduates" of our program, Justin Hewlett and Dulcie Ward, visited from the high school and helped in the search for graphics and with HTML programming. Our local Internet provider, Northnet, answered our questions about FETCH and ftp'ing. We all learned a tremendous amount and the nicest part is we learned it together.
The constant surprise about the Internet is that one can know absolutely nothing about a subject (such as ftp'ing) and, in the matter of a week, become adept. We are now the Homepage Experts of the Middle School and teachers and students alike come to us for advice. Willingness to learn and take on a challenge translates from the computer to any life experience - I'm sure we will use this as a stellar example of "Yes, I can."