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Kids Buy Lunch With Finger Scans



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Grades 2-up

News Content

Kids in some schools are paying for lunches with their fingerprints.

Anticipation Guide

Before sharing this week's New for Kids article, learn about students' familiarity with some common uses of scanner technology. Do cashiers in the grocery stores in your area use scanners to scan items that are purchased? If so, ask students to explain how that scanner technology works. Chances are their descriptions will be fairly accurate: A product is passed over the scanner, which reads the UPC bar code on the package. That bar code contains information about the product and its price. The scanner translates the code into the product price.

You might share the How UPC Bar Codes Work from the How Stuff Works Web.

After talking about the bar code scanners, ask students to identify any other places where they have encountered scanner technology. Then introduce this week's News for Kids story about some new uses for scanner technology in schools.

News Words

Introduce the words in the News Word box on the students' printable page. Ask students to use one of the words to complete each statement below.

  • A cashier passed the bar code over the _____ to learn how much the can of peas cost. (scanner)
  • My mother went door to door to _____ money for the March of Dimes. (collect)
  • Shelby told me she has more than $100 in her bank _____. (account)
  • Roberto used his ____ to punch his PIN on the cash machine's keypad. (fingertip)
  • The banker will _____ money from my dad's account so he can buy a new car. (deduct)

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this week's news story Kids Buy Lunch With Finger Scans.

Reading the News

You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

* Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

* Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

* Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

More Facts to Share

You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.

  • Fingertip-scanner technology is being used in the Penn Cambria School District in Pennsylvania. First-grade teacher Sue Creehan told USA Today that "in the beginning, it was slow until [students] learned to do it." Now a class of 20 students can get through the lunch line in two minutes, she said.
  • Parents deposit money into their child's account ahead of time. The system provides a monthly printed record of when the child has eaten, what the child ate, and how much they were charged.
  • A fingerprint scanner is being used in the library at Eagan (Minnesota) High School. The system includes the fingerprints of more than 2,000 students. The scanner is used to issue textbooks at the start of the school year and to check out library books all year long.
  • Scanner technology also could be used as a security measure at the school's front door, to speed up the process of taking daily attendance, or to be sure students get on the right bus.
  • Teachers say most kids are very comfortable with the scanning technology. They no longer waste energy worrying what will happen if they lose their lunch or milk money. Teachers say they can spend more time teaching because they don't need to collect lunch money or take time for kids to purchase lunch tickets. (In addition, with scanner technology students are not singled out as low-income/being charged a reduced price for lunch.)
  • The scanner systems costs $4,000 to $5,000 per school. That cost includes the hardware, software, and scanner.
  • Some parents are uneasy having their children's fingerprints scanned and wonder about how well the information is secured. But scanner experts say there is no cause for concern. The scanner uses a technology called biometrics. The system doesn't keep a visual image of students' finger scans. Instead, the scanner uses six lasers to take a picture of the contours of a student's finger. It identifies about 20 unique points of the fingerprint and uses a mathematical formula to assign a number to the print. From then on the system matches the student's fingerprint to that number. In districts that use this technology, students have the option of refusing to have their fingerprints scanned.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union thinks this new technology is a troubling sign of things to come. "The same authentication can be done with much lower-tech models, and without risking making a database for other purposes," ACLU director Barry Steinhardt told USA Today. He suggested using debit cards with bar codes or a card that can be stamped in place of the scanners.

Comprehension Check

Think About the News

Follow-up the reading of this week's News for Kids article by asking students to consider these questions:

  • What are some of the advantages of using fingerprint-scanning technology in schools? (Students don't have to worry about losing money or forgetting PINs (personal identification numbers), teachers don't waste time collecting lunch money, lunch lines move faster, etc.)
  • What are some of the drawbacks? (Accept reasoned responses. For example, some people say fingerprint scanners are an invasion of privacy, kids might spend more money than their parents want them to, etc.)

    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students' news page. You might use the think-pair-share strategy to discuss this question with students. If you use this strategy

  • First, arrange students into pairs to discuss and list responses to the question.
  • After 5-10 minutes of discussion, merge two pairs of students together to create groups of four students. Have them discuss and add to the ideas they generated in their pairs.
  • Next, merge two groups of four students to form groups of eight students. Have students create a new combined list of ideas.
  • Finally, bring all students together for a class discussion about the potential uses of fingerprint-scanning technology.

Follow-Up Activities

Root words (base words). Ask students to circle each of these words on a copy of this week's News for Kids article:

colleges deducts faster losing lunches
passes places punched remembers scanners

Then have students write down the list of words. Then challenge them to write the root word (or base word) next to each word. Root words appear here in italic type: colleges (college), deducts (deduct), faster (fast), losing (lose), lunches (lunch), passes (pass), places (place), punched (punch), remembers (remember), and scanners (scan).

Acronyms. Introduce the concept of acronyms. Point out this sentence from this week's News for Kids article:

Before the scanners were put into place, students punched a secret PIN number into a machine.

Ask students if they know what a PIN number is. In this sentence, PIN is an abbreviation, or acronym, for Personal Identification Number. Write the following acronyms on a board or chart and ask students if they are familiar with and can identify what they letters stand for in any of them.

AC (Air Conditioning), AOL (America Online), ASAP (As Soon As Possible), ATM (Automated Teller Machine), B&B (Bed and Breakfast), BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato), EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), EST (Eastern Standard Time), ET (Extra Terrestrial), FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), HBO (Home Box Office), HP (Hewlett Packard), IOU (I Owe You), KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), LOL (Laughing Out Loud), MPG (Miles Per Gallon), NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing), NFL (National Football League), NYC (New York City), PBJ (Peanut Butter and Jelly), PR (Public Relations), Q&A (Question and Answer), RN (Registered Nurse), RV (Recreational Vehicle), TD (Touchdown), UPS (United Parcel Service), VW (Volkswagen), and WWF (World Wildlife Fund or World Wrestling Federation).

If your students are more advanced, they might know some of the acronyms that follow. You might even pair up students and give them the list; see how many they can correctly identify.

4WD (Four-Wheel Drive), A&E (Arts and Entertainment), AAA (American Automobile Association), ABC (American Broadcasting Corporation), ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), AKA (Also Known As), APR (Annual Percentage Rate), ATV (All Terrain Vehicle), B2B (Business to Business), CD (Certificate of Deposit), CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), CK (Calvin Klein), CNN (Cable News Network), CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), CSI (Crime Scene Investigation), DC (District of Columbia), DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network), FCC (Federal Communications Commission), FDA (Food and Drug Administration), FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt), FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), FYI (For Your Information), GM (General Manager, General Motors, or General Mills), GNP (Gross National Product), GOP (Grand Old Party [Republican Party]), GPA (Grade Point Average), GPS (Global Positioning System), GQ (Gentleman's Quarterly), HMO (Health Maintenance Organization), HTML (Hyper Text Mark-up Language), IBM (International Business Machines Corporation), ICU (Intensive Care Unit), ISP (Internet Service Provider), JFK (John Fitzgerald Kennedy), LA (Los Angeles), NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), NBA (National Basketball Association), NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), NOW (National Organization for Women), PC (Politically Correct), PS (Post Script), PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch), PTA (Parent-Teacher Association), R&R (Rest and Relaxation), RAM (Random Access Memory), RBI (Runs Batted In [baseball]), RIP (Rest in Peace), SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus), SKU (Stock Keeping Unit), SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), TGIF (Thank God It's Friday), WWW (World Wide Web).


Have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

NS.K-4.5 Science and Technology
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.5 Science and Technology
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.5 Science and Technology

NT.K-12.2 Social, Ethical, and Human Issues

See recent news stories in Education World's News Story of the Week Archive.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World