CyberFair Project ID: 1861

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

School: Alta Elementary, W. Carthage Elementary
    Reedley, Carthage, California, New York, United States

30 students, ages from 9 to 11 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 30, 2002. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): Alta 1996, 1998, 2000, 20

Classes and Teachers: Lynn Thornton & Cheryl Vitali

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site: http://,

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Our local communities are two cities located in rural areas on opposite sides of the country: California and New York. Our group starts simple, yet our numbers are potentially limitless; our vision is this effort will inspire and encourage others to share how they plant hope around the world.

Alta Elementary is located in Reedley, California. This area is known as the

2. Summary of Our Project

Planting Hope is a visionary project designed by students to commend, uplift, and encourage our local, national, and global community in many worthwhile efforts of outreach and caring for each other and our world. Our project focuses on the many stories about how our "community cares." The events of September 11 have helped students to realize how important it is to find meaningful and concrete ways of reaching out to others. Children are not isolated or insulated from the global actions of their elders. They keenly feel connections to the world community; the Internet has empowered and enabled this to become a positive interaction and exchange of ideas and information. An earlier group of students at Alta expressed these sentiments keenly during the United Nations efforts in Kosovo. They were dismayed that the news media only portrayed what was sensational and evil in global events. They desired to have even a few minutes of international nightly news that told of positive actions others were taking. They wanted to call it "Kids News." This group of students felt the same way, and this project is a reflection of that desire to find what is good, true and right in the actions of the people around us. The students felt it was extremely important to acknowledge all ways schools, community groups, and individuals positively care. We wish to celebrate and acknowledge those efforts and encourage each other to actively become involved in making a difference by planting seeds of hope around the world.

(Please note this entire project narrative is best viewed on our site at where additional links to reference and prior work makes the most powerful connections.)

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:less than 20

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:more than 6

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

At Alta, students have access to 14 laptop computers to take home and do initial work on. There are three computers in this classroom, two have Internet access. Alta does not have a computer lab. Most classrooms have seven computer stations and support four Internet connections; this is currently being upgraded to six connections in every classroom. At West Carthage, each classroom has four stations, and a new computer lab with 25 stations connected to the Internet.

The classroom at Alta pioneered the first school connection for the community in 1994. Alta established a local area network in 1993, schoolwide Internet access has been since 1999 through wireless district connections and T1 line. The connections between Alta and West Carthage began in 1998 with Patty Reed's Doll. This contact inspired West Carthage's first Cyberfair entry and the collaboration has continued to flourish since then.

(More information is online at

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

Our biggest barrier has been time; the students discussed topic ideas but did not develop this project idea until early February. There is not enough time to collect all the stories we would like to feature. They wanted to include stories from each school in the district; this will have to wait until later. Spring starts in February in Central California and track season begins. Many of the students involved in Tech Club also do track and this always presents further time constraint. All students at both schools are bussed and this significantly limits the amount of time students can work after school. Our partner school in New York does not have the same weather, yet they have ice storms, snow, and an unexpected community disaster that have had significant impact on their lives. West Carthage began after an invitation from Alta; this involved inviting students and community members to participate in the project. This entire project has developed and been built in two months time.

Communication obstacles between teachers are handled by e-mail and cell phone. The project design has intentionally been kept simple so technical pitfalls have been minimal. The heart of this project is caring and sharing, all involved feel it is a compelling enough project that the message it gives of hope and caring is what is most important.

Some of the interviews were done by telephone or visiting individuals. Others were done by group interviews or e-mail. Again, time has limited the ability to collect all the students desired to gather and they will continue to be added after the competition deadline. Students at Alta and West Carthage plan to continue this project in the 2002-3 school year and open it up to other participants.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Planting hope is devoted to how a community helps its members. The vision of this project is being a positive force to generate real seeds of action to encourage hope and caring around the world.

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

Addressing standards and curriculum was probably a secondary consideration with this project. Most of the work has been done with after schoolwork and volunteer efforts. No grade or requirements have been assigned to participating in the project; it has all stemmed from students' desire to help make a positive impact and difference.

The most compelling and authentic school projects and experiences are those that are driven by student interest and motivation. This project has been completely student driven. The events of September 11 made an indelible impact on this generation of children, do our standards and curriculum address such an event adequately? Prior to September 11, the inhumanity that students heard about was totally divorced from their personal life experiences. Often events even 30 years ago were outside the lifetime of their parents. They are just beginning to understand the basic concepts of democracy and what sacrifices were made by the country's founders. So this project extends far further than the expectations of the coursework and standards. The project acknowledges the value of their ideas and helping them to deal with the emotions and conflicts they have experienced over this past year. It has helped them deal with uncomfortable topics with insight, compassion, courage, and faith that the human spirit is stronger than the events of any given day or action.

To view how it actually fits the standards as well, please visit

Project Elements

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.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 1861)

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