A Young Girl Working on a Big Project
She tweets, she blogs, she Skypes, she e-mails, she creates multimedia presentations on
Prezi, and she analyzes her wiki traffic
using Woopra. The wiki she maintains
won first place in her state’s computer
fair, and her blog, dedicated to her
Civil War Sallie project, earned her a
prestigious International Edublogger
Award. And Sarah Beeghley is just 12.
“Using technology is fun. You just
have to find something that you are
passionate about and have fun with it,”
says Sarah, a sixth grader at St. Patrick
School in Carlise, Pennsylvania.
In Sarah’s case, that passion is all
about the Civil War. Sarah has been
visiting Civil War sites since she was
a month old. “My dad is a big Civil
War buff,” she explains. “When I was
little, he got me interested in it, and it
became my passion.”
Her dad, Jim Beeghley, is an adjunct
professor for Wilkes University in
Pennsylvania. He also teaches gradu-
ate courses in educational technology
and maintains the blog Teaching the
Civil War with Technology.
Sarah got the idea to share her passion for the Civil War with others after
meeting Philadelphia teacher Brandon
Lutz, who started a Follow Me project
using a stuffed turtle named Morpheus Fortuna. In Follow Me projects,
teachers from all over the world can
sign up to host a stuffed animal. The
students or teachers then blog about
what the animal does during the visit.
Sarah decided to do something
similar that would also allow her to
learn about the Civil War. She created
Civil War Sallie, named after the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer
Infantry. The bear, which was made in
Twitter: Civil WarSallie
Gettysburg, travels to U.S. classrooms,
usually in locations where significant
Civil War events took place. During
the week that the bear lives with the
class, students take Sallie to battlefields, museums, and other historic
places. They collect mementos to put
in Sallie’s backpack and take photos,
which they upload to Flickr. Then the
students or teacher will write a blog
post about the visit and tweet about it,
before packing up the bear and mailing it to its next destination.
Sarah plays the role of educator,
blogger, and travel agent. She says she
spends about two to three hours a day
e-mailing teachers to make arrangements for Sallie and updating her wiki
and blog. She also is available to answer technical questions for teachers
who are not as tech savvy as she is.
“Some of the teachers don’t know
how to blog, use Flickr, or tweet, and
they have to do that to participate,”
Sallie comes with an instruction
manual explaining how to use the
technology, and most teachers figure
it out, she says. And that’s what it’s all
“This project is about helping teach-
ers use technology,” she says. “Tech-
nology allows teachers and students to
explore things that they couldn’t have
access to before, such as old photo-
graphs of Gettysburg.”
Sarah doesn’t actually see Sallie that
often. She schedules the bear to return
home only once every several months.
Sarah will clean out her mailing box
and then send her on the road again.
For that reason, Sarah had to get a
“stunt double,” an identical bear that
she takes with her when she travels to
Civil War sites with her family.
Although Sarah has her hands full
with Civil War Sallie, it doesn’t consume all her time. She has competed
in both the regional and state computer fairs in her area for the past two
years. This year she did a multimedia
project on Clara Barton. She put together a presentation using Prezi with
video and still photographs.
When she’s not immersed in technology, she enjoys cheerleading, basketball, and track and field.
Her projects have garnered lots
of attention, and she’s been asked to
present at conferences, including a
student showcase at NECC 2009.
“Sallie is well received,” Sarah says.
“To me, that means that Sallie is popular, and people like me because I am
a young girl working on a big project.”
—Diana Fingal is senior editor of L&L.