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Life-skills students from different South Hills schools connect through Internet

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Zach Dingfelder, 18, a Baldwin High School senior, watches his peers at Elizabeth Forward and Bethel Park during a video conference between the schools.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Baldwin High School seniors Summer Givens (left) and Tyler Mummert dance along to songs during a video chat with students at Elizabeth Forward and Bethel Park high schools.
Life skills students at Baldwin High School interact with students at Elizabeth Forward and Bethel Park via a live video conference hookup.
Life skills students at Baldwin High School interact with students at Elizabeth Forward and Bethel Park via a live video conference hookup.

They shared their likes, laughed at each other's jokes and danced along to popular songs with their newly found friends across the South Hills — all over the Internet.

A live-stream video connected life-skills students, or students with disabilities, from Baldwin, Bethel Park and Elizabeth Forward who shared stories, jokes and “Roses are Red” poems they had written on Valentine's Day — the first of what teachers said they hope evolves into many online interactions between the students in upcoming months.

“It was super neat,” said Danny Hall, 18, a Baldwin High School senior, who read a poem for his peers at nearby schools. “I liked everything about it.”

The life-skills program at Baldwin High School is focused on teaching the students daily activities to prepare them for real-world living, teacher Josh Stahl said. That often means going out into the community, visiting the library, stopping by the post office or taking a trip to the grocery store.

Incorporating all parts of society into the classroom, including innovative technology — such as video conferencing — is important.

“We look to include the advances that are going on in society,” Stahl said.

“We want them to have a chance to practice those skills.”

The video conferencing and “51 Love” program was coordinated through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and three schools. Life-skills teachers from numerous schools across the region — such as Baldwin, Elizabeth Forward, Bethel Park, South Allegheny, Chartiers Valley and Keystone Oaks — often work together on programs, including Olympics-style events, Stahl said.

The live video conferencing also gave the students an opportunity to practice their public-speaking skills.

“We want to break that anxiety or nervousness about doing something like this,” Stahl said.

The “Roses are red” poems and jokes about dating brought an uproar of laughter in the classroom.

“Roses are red, violets are blue. I need some money, can I get it from you?” Hall said to the delight of his classmates.

Baldwin senior Zach Dingfelder, 18, said he was nervous about sharing his likes — and love for hockey — with his peers over the Internet.

It was his teacher, he said, who helped him get over the fears.

“You guys are doing a fantastic job,” Stahl encouraged the students and reminded them it took courage to speak in public.

Parents were able to get on their computers at home and watch along, and a link to the video was sent out later in case they missed it.

The students said they enjoyed the experience.

“I liked the whole part,” Dingfelder said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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