HIGHLANDS RANCH – The students in Lori Wheeler’s sixth-grade class at Heritage Elementary spotted a problem flying high above their school and set out to fix it.
During this school year, the students often wondered why the school’s flag was at half-staff. Other times they noticed that it wasn’t at half-staff when it should have been. In partnership with a local non-profit, the students have created an app that more than 20 Douglas County School District (DCSD) schools will be using to teach students about the American flag, why it is sometimes at half-staff, as well as our national history.
The idea started during a visit from Sean Sweeney, the founder of Beacon of Honor. The organization’s beacon and website were originally designed to provide visitors to monuments with related stories and histories.
At first, the students didn’t immediately see the potential of the technology.
“When I first heard about this I wondered if this was just going to add more work to what we were doing,” Milner said.
Then, something amazing happened. The students connected the concept to their interests.
Noting that their classmates often wondered about the status of the school’s flag, they worked with Sweeney to create a new usage for the Beacon of Honor.
“They found an issue and they found a solution using this technology and wanted to take this direction,” explained Sweeney. “I stood back and said, ‘ok, let’s go.’ The next thing I know, we’ve gone from an incubator to a pilot with 22 schools.”
Now, the students keep the app updated not only with information about the flag, but also state and national events and history.
“This is an amazing project that makes you more civic-minded. It is awesome, Miler said. “We got to add our own touch to it. We got to add our own font to it. We could add in our own contents – as much as we wanted. Really, the sky is the limit.”
“I’m blown away. I am most proud of how they have taken it upon themselves to take it in a direction that I did not expect,” Sweeney added. “These kids are the ones who are programming and bringing that significance to themselves.”
By researching and writing stories it has brought history and world events to life for students and provided an authentic learning opportunity.
“It is something that their name is on, their picture is on and it is out in the real world,” Sweeney said. “People they don’t know are going to see it, so they want to step up and do it right. It has been really cool to watch and to see how they have taken that ownership and figured it out.”
Through this project Milner and other students say they’ve become passionate about flags. They often keep tabs on flagpoles around town and have even stopped in to a business to let them know their flag should be lowered.
“I am now more aware of what is going on around me, rather than staying within my little bubble. I know what is going on I the real world and am more globally aware,” Milner said.
“There is so much passion,” explained Lori Wheeler. “In 22 years, I’ve never felt the way I feel coming in everyday.”
“I get choked up. It is so powerful to me what they have done. It is really awesome,” said a parent volunteer.
LEARN MORE: The Beacon of Honor Program