CyberFair Project ID: 1817

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Pet Therapy
Category: 2. Community Groups and Special Populations
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

School: Bancroft School
    Haddonfield, New Jersey, United States

19 students, ages from 14 to 18 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 26, 2002. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 2002

Classes and Teachers: Judy Stein’s Career Studies class, Sherri Colan’s Secondary Academics class, and some students who receive individual instruction with Susan Powell (Learning Consultant)

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Our community is centered around our school, which is a private special education facility exclusively serving students with multiple disabilities through both day and residential programs. We are located in Haddonfield, New Jersey, just a few miles east, across the Delaware River, from the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Our community extends to include the families and hometowns of our students. It includes many small surrounding towns in Camden, Gloucester and Burlington Counties, where our students participate in frequent outings as well as job placements.

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. While there are still some small farms and wooded areas, development and construction is ongoing. The addition of many shopping centers, industrial parks, homes, townhouses, condo and apartment complexes have resulted in very crowded traffic conditions, especially during rush hours. New construction has also included numerous nursing homes and assisted living communities to meet the needs of the growing aging population.

Since September 11, 2001, our students have been more conscious of their community and are reaching out to include other Americans in different states, particularly New York and Washington D.C.

2. Summary of Our Project

Our project investigates basic information about Pet Therapy and some authentic examples of its use in our community. Through some initial meetings students listened to and discussed various proposed topics before selecting Pet Therapy, using democratic decision making (paper ballots). Animal related topics seemed to appeal to all, crossing gender, age, experiential background and skill levels. Some of our students were already familiar with the idea of service dogs (i.e., Seeing Eye Dogs) but Pet Therapy was something new. Some students could relate personally to the sadness, depression and pain associated with emotional and physical problems which Pet Therapy can help address.

A school assembly followed by a private interview with some local representatives of Greyhound Friends, Inc. gave us a good introduction to the topic. Internet research resulted in more general background info and specifics concerning training and how Pet Therapy was used to help families, friends and workers after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. One class visited a local assisted living center for seniors, where they interviewed a resident about the special cat who lives there.

Classes kept track of information regarding their sources, which was later assembled by a student into a formal bibliography. Students enjoyed drawing pictures of pets and expressing their own thoughts and reflections following meeting the greyhounds. In developing ideas for the look of the final web site, students voted on fonts, colors, and navigation. Two students made a word search activity. Four students directly participated in creating computer graphic images and the construction of the web 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:2-3

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:1

E. Additional comments concerning your computer and/or Internet access (Optional):

Our school has a small computer lab (9 stations) where students have access to the Internet during scheduled times. Some classrooms have a need for more computers in their rooms and more Internet access. Wiring for Internet access has been a gradual process, which continues in the different classroom buildings on our campus.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

We had some general issues related to limited computers and unreliable Internet access. There was limited access to using a scanner (since we wanted some students to directly experience scanning we had to schedule special times to use it – towards the end as time and availability became concerns, staff scanned photos and drawings at home).

We were disappointed with pictures taken with the digital camera (results tended to be dark and not very clear), so traditional and/or throw-away cameras were used.

It was sometimes difficult for the teachers involved to schedule planning meetings due to other commitments and additional responsibilities outside the classroom. We also had limited physical space for large meetings with all student participants (ideally we would have liked to have met more as a large group).

As students represent a wide range of skill levels (academic, attention, memory) staff also had to make sure basic information was simply stated and reinforced through oral discussion, using pictures or concrete examples whenever possible. While some students participated independently in related writing activities, others were able to contribute their thoughts and summarized main points through individual or group dictation.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Pet Therapy was very interesting for a class project and a lot of fun. It made you think about a whole lot of feelings. Said one student, “It was helpful to me in the mood I was in.”

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: Cross Content Workplace Area Standard #2 All students will use information, technology, and other tools; Visual and Performing Arts Area Standards # 1.3 All students will utilize arts elements and arts media to produce artistic products and performances and #1.4 All students will demonstrate knowledge of the process of critique; Language Arts Literacy Area Standards # 3.1 All students will speak for a variety of real purposes and audiences, # 3.2 All students will listen actively in a variety of situations to information from a variety of sources, # 3.3 All students will write in clear, concise, organized language that varies in content and form for different audiences and purposes, # 3.5 All students will view, understand, and use non-textual visual information.

As our program is dedicated to provide our students with opportunities to generalize skills in real-life practical applications, this project presented them with a meaningful authentic task which was directly related to their community, and tied in with key national current events. Some of the specific skills addressed in addition to those mentioned in the formal standards included: speech and language communication, social behaviors, collaboration with students outside their own classroom, meeting and interacting with new people, using a democratic process (voting), computer skills (keyboarding, Internet searches, printing, scanning, graphic and web site creation software, saving/backups). Numerous new vocabulary terms were introduced and discussed, including the concepts of “copyright” and “bibliography” .

Project Elements

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

This project made use of a variety of tools. Students used both PC and MAC computers to research basic info on the Internet. Other technical equipment included printers, a scanner, and a digital camera (however most pictures were taken using traditional or throw-away cameras). Under direct staff individualized supervision and guidance, some students used Adobe PhotoShop 5.5 to create graphic images and rollover navigational elements, edit scanned drawings and photos, and prepare images for web page use. Also under staff direction, selected students participated in constructing web pages using Adobe GoLive 4.0. Both these pieces of software were vital for our web site construction, and students really enjoyed this hands-on experience.

Other tools included Internet sites, magazine articles, an assembly and later personal interview with two local pet therapy handlers and their greyhounds, a community outing visit and interview at a local assisted living community, email correspondence to seek permission to use photos featured on Therapy Dogs International’s web site, and thank-you letters using traditional snail mail.

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

Our Pet Therapy project provided students with different experiences, meeting people and interacting with them. In planning for a special school assembly by Bill and Harriette Baker of Greyhound Friends, Inc., students met to brainstorm specific questions to use in a private interview, which was conducted following the general assembly. During the interview students used index cards containing key questions. Most had an opportunity to actively ask questions (while staff recorded the answers). As a follow up, students wrote “thank you” notes to the Bakers.

Several students had expressed some initial fears about dogs in general prior to the assembly and interview. When they met the Bakers and their three greyhounds in person, these same students quickly felt at ease. They readily petted and helped lead the dogs around.

Sherri Colan’s class arranged to visit a local assisted living community called Haddonfield Home. Students interviewed a resident senior, and then later wrote and mailed thank-you letters. The students really enjoyed meeting Mrs. Marion Barbour and talking to her about her life and a very special cat. The Home’s Director later related that the students’ letters were read aloud and shared with the residents. She and the residents are interested in having the students come back again for future visits.

Some of the students involved in this project enjoyed sharing what they were doing with other students, teachers, clinicians, administrators, and family. Several parents related that they periodically checked the emerging web site at home with their children. One student who helped create some of the graphic images explained rollover navigation to some other students and staff in the computer lab, and then demonstrated, using some of the project’s web pages which had just been uploaded.

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

Our project has been good PR for our school. It makes a positive statement. Our students, despite multiple disabilities, were able to tackle this project with the support and structure provided by staff. This is an example of our students achieving excellent results.

Students have received recognition and praise in-house from other students, staff, and administrators. Families and friends have also given them positive feedback. Our students feel a genuine sense of accomplishment.

Interactions with the Bakers and their greyhounds, the Haddonfield Home Director and resident Mrs. Barbour were very positive. Sherri Colan’s class also used the Haddonfield Home as a site for their community service day work in celebration of Martin Luther King Day this year. Students helped the senior residents participate in a recreational activity. The Home has expressed interest in having the students return again.

Exposure to new places helps our students practice communication and interactive skills, which they will need in their vocational program, as well as increase their awareness of possible future job options. One of the students who visited the Haddonfield Home Assisted Living Community recently secured a position as a volunteer at a local nursing home.

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

We had positive experiences with our community resource people. The Bakers from Greyhound Friends Inc. readily volunteered to put on a free school assembly with their three greyhounds, and then participated in an interview specific to pet therapy questions. They let us take photos. They provided several printouts of related Internet sites, including Therapy Dogs International. In a later email they also gave permission for us to use their email address in our bibliography.

Following an email request, Therapy Dogs International generously allowed us to use some of their Internet site photos of pet therapy animals helping in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 (while the Bakers and their greyhounds had participated in disaster therapy work, security was extremely strict in this situation and they were not permitted to take any photos themselves).

The Haddonfield Home director and senior resident were very open about arranging for students to visit and conduct an interview. They also allowed photos.

We were fortunate to have some staff who had experience using the Adobe PhotoShop and GoLive software (Susan Powell worked individually with students developing graphic images and constructing web pages). Beth Greer (our Instructional Technology Assistant) provided planning input, ongoing feedback, and guided students in comparing and critiquing web site elements.

When students made a word search activity, we didn’t know how to convert the file into PDF format. Dolly Bernard-Marks, a computer teacher at Pennsauken Middle School, converted the file for us. She also provided suggestions for our navigational structure.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

This was the first time several classes had worked together on collaborative project based learning, and our success will probably inspire future projects. The staff involved learned that preplanning was very important, and helped provide better structure to enhance students’ success. A pleasant surprise occurred during the project when one student (who had initially refused to participate) contributed some wonderful creative writing following the greyhound visit. It was also rewarding to hear the students sometimes talking to themselves, peers and other staff about this special project.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 1817)

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