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Veterans Website

Born as a Cross-Curricular research assignment, The Kiski Area Veterans Website evolved into a Community Outreach Program honoring Veterans.

The student created, student managed Kiski Area Veterans Website, established in 2016, showcases local veterans stories while honing Biographical Research skills. Combining Gigapan Technology with the power of G-Suite, photos of local monuments are uploaded to our site, serving as the foundation bringing students closer to local Veterans while encouraging community involvement in our curriculum.



HundrED shortlisted this innovation

HundrED has shortlisted this innovation to one of its innovation collections. The information on this page has been checked by HundrED.

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February 2019
"This project embodies what we hope to accomplish in education...working on traditional skills in innovative ways while bringing topics to life and connecting them to the world around us." ~ Jason Lohr, Assistant Superintendent, Kiski Area School District

About the innovation

Veterans Website of Community Outreach

The Kiski Area Veteran’s Website serves to not only tell the stories of the Veterans within the community around the Kiski Area School District, but also creates opportunities for the school to become more interactive with the local men and women who have served our country so that we may honor the sacrifices they have made.

The website, established in 2016, was born as a cross curricular project between English and Social Studies classes around the novel The Things They Carried.The original idea was to have students write a historical biography graded in history for its historical accuracy while being graded in English for grammar, syntax, etc... The program evolved when the idea to use Gigapan technology obtained through our district partnership with Carnegie Mellon via the Alle-Kiski Best Practices Collaborative (ABC Create) to create a website honoring Veterans whose names appear on various monuments located within the Geographic boundaries of our district was discussed.

Using a camera and Gigapan (not necessary to replicate this model-only impacts the quality of the images found on our website) images were taken by our student co-founders Kelsey Sofaly and Kylie Zaffina along with Dan Smith & Jim Christie in a supervisory role.Once those images were taken a master list of names available was compiled and added to our website by the Program Co-Founders and Student Co-Founders. The work of creating biographies then got started; students taking Modern World History at Kiski Area High School select a Veteran from our list when they cover those time periods in class.The hope is many students can find Veterans they are related to or are neighbors with to develop the personnel connection to history.

The students find information about where the Veteran is specifically from, the education they’ve had, involvement with which war(s), medals or awards from the service they have received, etc…and construct a biography for the student created, student maintained website. Resources afforded the student include district has a one year access to all the original and primary documents of Ancestry's U.S. Collection ),, (free resource), and local books such as Honor in the AK Valley. The information, along with pictures relating to the Veteran, is added to their name on the website by the student as part of their class assignment.

After the students add new biographies, the work of our student editors begins. The editors check for broken links, inappropriate information, and that the correct format and style was used for each biography. When any of these items are found, the student editors remove the link, incorrect information, etc...or if the biography does not stack up to the standard expected to honor a Veteran, it can be improved or removed. Our student editors also handle designing the general layout of the website, its appearance, and seek improvements to the website through in school endeavors such as Broadcast Media classes creating a video to act as an introduction to the Website.

Through our research, we have come to understand many Veterans of the Kiski Area School District still live in the region but no longer live within the geographic borders of the school district. Conversations with other local districts began in the fall of 2018 for expanding the project; neighboring district Apollo-Ridge has volunteered to learn from our experience to build a similar program at their district! In April of 2019 the Program Co-Founders and Student Editors will begin mentoring the Apollo-Ridge School District in their efforts.

As we have become more involved with the community, we have been able to come into contact with more veterans by establishing an email for the website and establishing a social media presence in the name of this project. We routinely reach out to the community through Twitter and Instagram in an effort to bring the community into our project.This easily enables Veterans to reach out to us by asking to be included on the site, add more information or detail to their biography, and occasionally we will be contacted simply to thank us for the time we have spent dedicating and honoring those who have served.

Our main goal is to show tribute to Veterans from the Kiski Area School District by properly sharing the great sacrifices they have made while bringing our community into our curriculum in a modern approach to Community Outreach.This project has inspired other local districts to begin work on their own journey to honor Veterans as referenced earlier.

Our eventual program goal is to help as many districts as possible to develop a way to honor local Veterans!We are proud of where we are, but know we have a long way to go.We look forward to the opportunity to continue our mission in the years to come!

Implementation steps

Motivated Individuals
To get a project of this scale started will take a motivated individual or several individuals. Before anything concrete can be started these individuals have to be found and commit to the process before anything else can be done. The force behind our project so far has been Dan Smith, the Supervisor of Technology Integration, and Jim Christie, Honors Modern World History teacher. They worked together to bring this program from a cross-curricular in class project, to being a website designed to reach out to the Community by honoring Veterans. Our Project Co-Founders work to supervise the student editors in their responsibilities (See Step 6) and look for opportunities to showcase the project to a larger audience. The Co-Founders have arranged for this project to be presented or discussed at ABC Create Regional Conferences, the 2019 PETE & C Conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and at the 2018 Model Schools Conference in Orlando, Florida. They additionally own the responsibility of expanding the project beyond our district's geographic borders. In the image are co-founders Dan Smith and Jim Christie; but this project spans across several departments in the high school, multiple buildings in our district, into our local community, and is reaching out across other local school district who hope to replicate our project.
Curriculum Tie In
In all cases our district focuses on Student Learning. In order for this or any project to succeed; it needs to fit into the Vision established for your district. In our case we chose to rethink an age old assignment, the biography, to fit our vision. Students continue learning the same skills as always (Research skills, Writing skills, Citation skills, etc...) while focusing on local Veterans rather than historically famous individuals. The image in this step shows the Google Classroom for the Modern World History Class in which students conduct their research and write their biography. We then had to think about how to bring this project to the community to engage and support our vision.
Honoring Veterans
Research monuments located within or near your school district which are dedicated to Veterans. These monuments can take on many styles. They can be in honor of those who served, those who were killed in action, or any other style of honoring Veterans. If monuments don't exist which contain names; any other type of monument can serve as the motivation. The purpose is to put an image in front of the community; specifically one they recognize from the local area.
Take Images

Through a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University's Create Lab via the Alle-Kiski Best Practices Collaborative, we used a special device calledGigapanand a standard camera to create images such as the one linked. These images were taken by our student co-founders. The images were then uploaded to the Gigapan website so we could have a list of Veterans from which to work on writing biographies. (The thumbnail shown is beside the flag pole of our High School Campus. ) However, the Gigapan only creates the ability for the image to be scaled and zoomed to an incredible amount of depth. Images created without the Gigapan using the ever improving world of cell phone cameras will be sufficient to provide the desired effect.

Write Biographies
Now that a bank of Veterans names have been identified from the images taken in the previous step and a curriculum tie-in has been determined-it is time to put it all together. As an educational organization, pursue partnerships with support organizations-we have accounts for students with ancestry.comand several local VFWs and other Veteran organizations. Students also have access to book resources on the topic. In the corresponding course, build assignments encouraging students to create biographies of the Veterans. These biographies focus on the same skills biographies always have: research, citation, paraphrasing, etc...except they focus on a local Veteran rather than a famous historical personality. The goal is to make the biography relevant by establishing a personal connection to a family member or neighbor. When the biographies are complete; it is time to build the website to house the biographies.
Build Website

Once the biographies are created, the class uploads the biographies into the website originally created by Program Co-Founders but maintained by student editors. As a Google Reference District, we use a Google Site to house our Veteran stories, but there are any number of ways to obtain a website. Once the class has uploaded their biographies, the work of the Student Editors begins. The editors check for broken links, inappropriate information, and that the correct format and style was used for each biography. When any of these items are found, the student editors remove the link, incorrect information, etc...or if the biography does not stack up to the standard expected to honor a Veteran, it can be improved or removed. Our student editors also handle designing the general layout of the website, its appearance, and seek improvements to the website through in school endeavors such as Broadcast Media classes creating a video to act as an introduction to the Website.

Community Outreach
The Student Editors monitor and maintain the website to fix/remove broken links or inappropriate content. They are also responsible for the general appearance and flow of the website. The Student Editors also monitor our outreach programs through our district email and Social Media. Using Social Media and other forms of communication reach out and create avenues for communication to flow into the project from outside of the school setting. We established a way for families to submit information about a Veteran through our website through a Google Form, established a Social Media presence by our Twitter account @KiskiVeterans and our Instagram account. Additionally-we advertise on our site asking for information regarding Veterans, and use our Social Media accounts to draw attention to biographies on our site or to ask for community involvement.
Build Infrastructure for Sustained Growth

Momentum is moving forward; students are building biographies, taking pictures, and monitoring our website...but things are just getting started. We have come to realize many Veterans move out of the geographic borders of Kiski Area but remain in the local community at large. Through our regional membership in ABC Create, our district has reached out to other local districts to gauge their interest in replicating a project similar to ours with our involvement essentially shifting to a mentor role for other districts while continuing the work upon which this project has been built. In order to allow our project to scale and move forward, we are prepared for two things:

1. Expansion within our local community

2. Expansion beyond our geographic border to neighboring districts and other communities

On April 11, 2019 our Student Editors and Project Co-Founders are meeting with a neighboring school district to see how we can aid in their efforts to replicate our project. Our project has been established to be scaled; this is just the beginning! Collaborating is in our nature and we would love to help you get started towards building a similar project in your community. Please reach out to us if we can be of assistance in any way!

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