Little kids on a big missionSeven thousand five hundred dollars is a lot of money for a group of children to raise.
By: Vera Roy-Stoeberl, River Falls Journal
Seven thousand five hundred dollars is a lot of money for a group of children to raise.
But that formidable amount isn’t stopping 25 enthusiastic Westside Elementary School children from trying.
For the last few weeks, the school’s kindergarten through fifth-grade special needs students have been taking time out of their regular classroom schedules to use their creative skills and make lots of items they plan to sell at the high school’s annual FBLA craft fair.
What is their $7,500 motivation?
Two SMART boards: Mobile computer labs consisting of 25 laptop computers with wireless Internet capabilities each.
SMART boards are a product of SMART Technologies. As explained from SMART Technologies’ Web site: “(A SMART board) is a large, touch-controlled screen that works with a projector and a computer. The projector throws the computer’s desktop image onto the interactive whiteboard, which acts as both a monitor and an input device.
“Users can write on the interactive whiteboard in digital ink or use a finger to control computer applications by pointing, clicking and dragging, just as with a desktop mouse. Buttons launch a popup keyboard and a right-mouse-click menu for more input options.
The interactive whiteboard is usually mounted on a wall or a floor stand and is used in face-to-face or virtual settings in education, business and government.”
Two Westside teachers, Missy Murphy and Sarah Erb, who work with the special needs children and have been guiding them through the fundraising project, listed some of the benefits a SMART board would offer their students.
“It’s a ‘hands-on’ learning tool; it presents skills and learning activities in a visual way; it gets the kids moving and away from seat work and pencil paper work; it’s of high interest to the students; it’s motivating; it’s good for kids with fine motor needs; it facilitates independence,” and more.
For the kids working on the fundraiser, the best part of a SMART board is that it’s fun.
Murphy and Erb, who have taught special education in River Falls for about eight years each, say their students are already reaping positive results from working toward the SMART board goal even though the craft fair hasn’t even been held yet.
“This has been such a great undertaking and so many benefits have come out of it already,” said Erb. “These kids are so excited about a SMART board and they truly enjoy creating these wonderful crafts. The learning opportunities that come along with (SMART board) technology are immeasurable. This tool is very motivating for kids and easily accessible to all learning styles and motor abilities.”
Lynn Graven, a program assistant at Westside Elementary, originally came up with the idea of having a table of items to sell at the craft fair, after talking with Murphy and Erb who were trying to come up with fundraising ideas.
All 25 students have had a hand in making the items that will include: Note cards; Mason jar cookie mixes; candle holders; decorative plant stakes; and Christmas tree and jingle bell earrings and bracelets.
Murphy noted: “These guys are going to experience and practice life skills at the craft fair. What a great way to learn and apply skills to everyday life!”
Both Murphy and Erb give credit to their program assistants.
“The program assistants in our programs have been amazing thinking of ideas and preparing everything for the kids. They have done so much for this project and have been so supportive. The ideas they have come up with make it successful for the children. These are crafts that the kids are really doing and creating on their own.”
Murphy also gives credit to high school special education teacher CeCe Gillis. Gillis’ students have already experienced taking part in the annual craft fair. She provided answers to questions from Murphy and Erb as they made plans for the fair.
The teachers also shared a few comments they’ve heard from the students as they’ve worked on different projects.
One third-grader said, “I like SMART boards because you can draw with them and play learning games.”
Another added, “SMART boards are cooler than chalk boards,” while another classmate added, “SMART boards are great! We need it for school for learning.”
Two fifth-graders already have plans for their SMART board use: “I would do math problems on a SMART board,” said one, while another said, “I want to write a story on a SMART board.”
Murphy, Erb, the program assistants, and especially the 25 “hard workers,” as Erb called them, all want people in the River Falls area to attend the FBLA’s 29th annual craft fair, held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, at the high school, 818 Cemetery Road. They’ll also accept any money donations area residents would care to contribute to their cause.
In addition to theirs and area crafters’ displays, home cooked food will also be available to purchase, along with free child care from 9 a.m. to noon.
To learn more about the kids’ mission, call Murphy or Erb at Westside Elementary, 425-1815, or send them an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.