Cyber Kids


Ft. Leavenworth


Kansas City

The LAMP April 9, 1998

Web masters — R — Us
Area students construct Web site in Cyber Kids class
by Andrew Gawrych
Lamp Contributing Writer

The information superhighway — That is the catch phrase politicians, industry leaders and other public figures like to use when talking about the growing digital network linking computers, and subsequently people, all around the world.
Unlike on real highways made of asphalt and concrete, there is no minimum age or license one must carry to drive — or surf as it is often referred to — on the information superhighway. While an individual has to be 16 years old to drive alone on the roads of Kansas, children half that age are already navigating their way around the electronic world.
In fact for the past several years, the average age of individuals using the Internet has fallen as more and more children grow up using computers.
To hop onto this ever-growing bandwagon, School-Age Services on Fort Leavenworth wanted to construct a Web page informing children about the local area as well as teach students how to work on the Internet. The program was dubbed Cyber Kids.
Interestingly enough, SAS turned to another student to help achieve its goal. His name is Matt Sheffer — the son of Maj. John and Betsy Sheffer. Maj. Sheffer is currently a student at the Command and General Staff College.

Stepping forward
Currently a junior at Leavenworth High School, Sheffer describes himself as a “self-taught” computer and Internet wizard. He is one of the growing number of kids who grew up with computers. Sheffer learned the vast majority of his knowledge in the field by simply experimenting and playing on his own.
For example, Sheffer taught himself how to construct Web pages while he built his own home page on the Internet.
It turned out, however, that it was only by pure coincidence that Sheffer found out about SAS’s desire to start the Cyber Kids program.
“I was at an SAT prep night at School-Age Services when I overheard them talking about wanting to build a Web page, but lacking an individual with the expertise to do so. I decided to step forward and volunteer since I have experience in that area,” he explained. “They took my name and called me back the next day. I was really pleased to be able to help out.”
While Sheffer was extremely happy to volunteer his time teaching something he loves to do, SAS was equally happy to have him start the program and the Web page.
“We had been interested in doing the class for awhile, and we were fortunate to have Matt come forward,” related SAS Coordinator Karen Lang. “He had the experience and expertise we were looking for. He was an especially nice fit because he is a youth himself.”

Difficult, yet rewarding
The inaugural SAS Cyber Kids class was held Feb. 13 at Harrold Youth Center. Fourteen students participated in the six-week program, which ran until March 20. Their main task was to construct the SAS Cyber Kids Web Page.
The purpose of the page was threefold: (1) To allow youth moving to Fort Leavenworth to obtain an idea about the area before they arrive. (2) To give local youth an Internet site to find out about current events. (3) To let parents keep a tab on the activities available to their children.
This task proved to be no small feat.
“I had always wondered how Web pages were made,” said 11-year-old Ricky Wilson. “Some parts of it were really easy, and some parts were hard. It took a lot of work to put the page together.”
Constructing the Web page certainly was a challenge for the 14 students, but teaching them to do it was also a test for Sheffer — a different test than the one he had experienced when he first made his own home page.
“As for learning how to design Web pages, the hardest part for me was learning what the codes stand for. I have never done anything like that before, and it was like learning a foreign language. The hardest part about teaching it, on the other hand, was simplifying it for the students. I was much older when I first learned how to do what they had to learn,” he said.
Although building the Web page took substantial time and effort, the students were rewarded with a newfound wealth of knowledge. Many are even designing their own home pages now.
“I learned a lot from the class,” stated 10-year-old Zach Burton. “I learned how to get into Windows, how to handle and clean CDs, and what the different parts of a computer are. I also learned the basics behind making a Web page and surfing the Internet.”

‘Work in progress’
Now that the inaugural Cyber Kids class has completed the Web page, it will be up to the following classes to keep the page up to date. They will be in charge of expanding the page and adding new features.
“The Web page will always be a work in progress. We plan on continually offering classes to keep the Web page current and to teach more kids the basics of constructing a Web page and working on the Internet,” said Lang.
In fact the next Cyber Kids class will begin April 16 and, like the first session, run for six weeks. In addition to maintaining and updating the Web page, Sheffer plans to teach the students the basics of how to conduct research on the Internet.
SAS has also scheduled a Cyber Kids summer camp from June 29 to July 10 at the Youth Center. The students will meet daily from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. The cost of the camp will be $50. Registration begins May 4, but preliminary information can be obtained by calling 684-5122.
Based on the enthusiastic endorsements the 14 students gave the first Cyber Kids class, that summer camp will be a fun-filled learning experience no child should miss.
“My parents signed me up for the class, but once I came, I really enjoyed it and kept coming,” said Burton. “It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. I’m glad I came.”

Gray box:
The School-Age Services Cyber Kids Web Page is scheduled to be up and running by April 20. To visit, simply log on to: