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Communicating across the world

Larry McGrath, a Draper Middle School social worker, brought one of his hobbies to his students about two weeks ago. He donated and installed his old ham radio equipment the same kind of equipment that was used for communicating when emergency services communication and cell phones were down during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

We now have a fully functional ham radio station right here at school and students have been making contacts to different countries," said McGrath. "I've been a ham operator for 31 years. Ham operators are aging and we need to get some young blood in our ranks and this is the ideal setting to do that."

Besides using the ham radio for communicating during emergencies or disasters, the radio is also being used to enrich English and language arts, science, math and social studies courses.

"Whether they're reading fiction or non-fiction, he can bring whole classes in or groups of students to make contacts with different places and people," said Deborah Male, Draper Middle School building principal.

"Sixth-graders are reading a book called "21 Balloons," which is about a hot air balloon that crashes in an unknown country," said Male.

She said ham radio can also be used to study volcanoes and other natural formations that aren't found in the Northeast.

Students can use the ham radio to connect to someone in Hawaii, for example, she said, where there are lots of volcanoes, and find out what the land is like by speaking with someone who lives there.

"If they're studying tectonic plates in science then they can contact someone in a location [where there are tectonic plates] who can get back to them to make a connection," said Male.

The ham radio serves as a way for students to connect to people all over the world in a way that is different from using the Internet or the phone.

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