1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?
Both schools used computers (Alta 3 power PCs or better, 14 e-mates. West Carthage used the 4 classroom computers and the Computer Lab), telephones, digital cameras, scanners, tape recorders, Claris Home page, software for graphics, local newspapers, local reporters, and oral and online interviews. The biggest tool hasn't been a tool, it has been people and individuals who have brought in resources, shared information, and shown enthusiastic support. The most important technology has been simple communication and caring. The computer has been a vehicle of connection, distribution, and the potential for unmeasured growth and potential.
2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.
This entire project focused on the becoming ambassadors and spokespersons for our communities. The children realized this would be best implemented by directly visiting and inviting clubs, businesses, and organizations to interact and collaborate. That is what they did, yet it was far less than what they envisioned because of time constraints. For example, there was no time to visit Breaking Barriers with the club. Two of the Alta's Tech Club used to perform with this group. After Cyberfair, some students will have a chance to see them perform at a Kiwani's Club breakfast meeting. This is one club still need to interview. Whenever either school directly asked for an interview, photo opportunities or permission to use material, the response was wonderful. Enthusiastic permission has been granted for every logo and graphic used on this site. Students had to write letters to both individuals and newspapers in both communities, they interviewed visitors and combined information for reports. They spread word about the project and Website. A direct outgrowth of this project in Carthage, the Rescue Squad is going to be conducting classes on all grade levels to introduce students to their services. The Red Cross is also arranging to share their Masters of Disaster Curriculum with the school as a result of the interview with the technology club. This is obviously only a beginning of what has phenomenal potential.
3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?
People who volunteer and help others in need deserve the recognition that this site can give them. We all can make a difference and children need to see the impact of the individual for good. We are not aware of another site in either of our communities that gives this type of recognition. Sometimes reporters and papers acknowledge volunteers of the week, People of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, yet there are a lot of untold and unsung heroes. Further, the Carthage site provides former residents with information they need about an on-going problem, it has become an online lifeline to help cope with the fire of March 2, 2002.
The students and people visiting the site learn about services that are available to them as well as obtaining information about their community. They may be surprised at how far the connections go. Our stories took on personal meaning after March 2. We had already interviewed the Red Cross and fire department, there are not words to express how this impacted both advisors and participants.
The Carthage site has been viewed by former residents in many other countries. They have communicated their reactions via e-mail. A great-grandmother of one Carthage student who lived by the fire unexpectedly came to the classroom to share her experiences. We have been asked by the Chamber of Commerce and the local Library to link our site to theirs. The schools have also provided links.
Just consider, if this project has been this profound in two months time for two small communities, what impact will it have 12 months from now?
4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?
This entry has been about acknowledging volunteer efforts in our community. The site has made connections between other Web sites, invited community involvement at the schools, and opened potential for sharing efforts that people care about all over the world. The local communities represent and showcase Everyman and Everyplace. It is an inspiring mural of all that happens in our society on an everyday basis that we can all take pride in.
The stories are everywhere around us. Driving to work, the teacher at Alta stopped to take a picture, and a story was born (Kids Day). Articles have been collected that have not even had time for contacts to develop into stories. Another example from West Carthage, one of the people who lost their home had a unicorn that was visible on the street and this was mentioned in the paper how sad it was to see the unicorn disappear. On hearing this, students spontaneously responded by donating unicorns from their own collection to replace the one lost in the fire. The moment a teacher or student begins consciously looking for these type of stories, they find more than they can imagine. Peter Reynolds was so touched by hearing about this project idea that before a Web page was designed and up, he immediately went to his favorite cafe to sketch the initial graphics. We had a trademark logo before we even had a project! This was so motivating for the students; it was our first seed.
5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)
The most amazing discovery has been that what began as a project that was abstract and honoring others, became quickly a project that was real, meaningful, personal, and important to a community. When the fire erupted on March 2, 2002, our focus was sharpened and driven as both teachers tried in some small way to help this town heal. We are not in Afghanistan, we are not in Kosovo, we are not living in an orphanage in Zimbabwe that burned to the ground, we are not visiting a temple in Japan, and yet we are connected, we are a community, and we care passionately about our neighbors wherever they are. We rejoice when we see girls attending their first day of school in Afghanistan. We weep when we hear of another's loss, and we realize we can step in and help in small measures. That is more important than a Web site, more important than this project, and it is what keeps people going. Planting Hope ™ is only a glimmer, a reflection, a piece of Starlight that shows the tremendous power of the human spirit.