Students from Atlanta Autism School Cumberland Academy of Georgia Participate in International Collaboration Project

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Atlanta Autism school Cumberland Academy of Georgia is teaming up with special needs schools from around the world in a collaborative project to gain global awareness and provide valuable learning experiences.

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The SMARTee Project and our SMARTee Bear help our students gain global understanding and see how different, and yet similar, we all are.

SMART Technologies hosts an event each year to bring together “Exemplary Educators” from around the world to discuss the latest technology and research in the education field. During the event this past summer in Calgary, Canada, five special education teachers from different countries came up with the idea to utilize technology to allow their classes to learn from and get to know each other. Through this international collaborative project, dubbed the SMARTee Project, these students will gain global awareness and learn valuable information about different cultures and countries.

Cumberland Academy of Georgia teacher Staci Gelbaum is one of a select group of teachers chosen to be a SMART Technologies Exemplary Educators. This group is chosen from teachers all over the world. Gelbaum was chosen from this prestigious group to join the five other international classes participating in the SMARTee project. This unique endeavor will allow her students to learn firsthand about different countries and cultures around the world. Currently, classes in Finland, Sweden, Germany, South Africa and New Mexico are participating in the project with Gelbaum’s class in Atlanta, Georgia.

All of the students participating are between the ages of eight and twelve. To kick off the project, each class made a video to introduce the students and school, which they shared on World Global Collaboration Day, September 17, 2015. “When we watched the videos from the other schools, our class was amazed at just how different they all were,” remarked Gelbaum. “Afterwards the students were excited to locate those countries on a map and see how far away they are from the United States.”

Cumberland Academy of Georgia emphasizes the development of their students’ social skills, which will be reinforced and further enriched through their participation with international students in the SMARTee Project. Students will gain social studies skills as they learn about international societies and cultures. They will learn about geography as they locate and map the countries and cities where the other schools are located. By measuring and calculating the distance between the different schools, students will also strengthen their math skills.

All of the schools participating in this project use SMART Technology to enhance the education experience for their students. “Using SMART Technology in the classroom encourages active learning and interaction among students,” stated Gelbaum. “Especially for students with Autism or other learning disabilities, using this technology helps keep our students engaged and excited, making learning fun.”

During the SMART Technologies event in Calgary, the five teachers who started the SMARTee Project came up with the idea to add a special member, a small teddy bear who will travel around the world to visit each classroom. The SMARTee Bear’s travels are being documented on a blog for students and families in each country to follow. “This little teddy bear has become our mascot,” said Gelbaum. “By following the blog about the bear’s adventures, our students get to see things that are unique to every country and connect with the students from around the world.”

The SMARTee Bear is currently on his way to visit the school in New Mexico, and will then visit Gelbaum’s class in Atlanta. “When he gets to Atlanta, we will show him around our school and the city,” explained Gelbaum. “The SMARTee Project and our SMARTee Bear help our students gain global understanding and see how different, and yet similar, we all are.”

The SMARTee Project will run throughout the school year, during which the six participating schools will continue to collaborate on projects and share information with one another. The following year, the teachers plan to evolve and expand the project to further benefit their students and embrace the unique opportunities this international collaboration provides. To follow the SMARTee Project and keep up with the SMARTee Bear’s adventures, visit

About Cumberland Academy of Georgia:
Cumberland Academy of Georgia specializes in the needs of students in grades 4 through 12 who have high-functioning Autism, Asperger’s, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities. Cumberland was founded in 2007 by Debbi and Matthew Scarborough, and is a fully-accredited, independent, non-profit school that seeks to provide a safe and supportive academic atmosphere for its students. Cumberland accepts applications year-round. To schedule a family tour, please contact Terri Brooks, Director of Admissions at 404-835-9000 or email admissions(at)cumberlandacademy(dot)org.

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Deedra Hughes
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