Petey: Novel Innovation

169503Clyde Cothern was born in 1922, when Cerebral Palsy was not yet medically understood. Ben Mikaelsen’s novel, Petey, is based on Clyde’s (aka, Petey Corbin’s) life, decades of which were spent in what in the 1920s was known as an ‘asylum’. Largely abandoned and without therapy, Clyde (Petey) remained locked inside his body for years – unable to communicate. Thankfully, Petey rises above his circumstances – the novel is a story of hope. It’s also a novel that’s hard to forget.

Mrs. Terry’s (humanities) and Mr. Walters’ (STEM) classes at Sand Creek Intermediate couldn’t forget Petey. The book raised questions in the minds of these sixth graders – questions about special needs, therapies, and justice. Who and what held Petey back for so long? Why? How might today’s new technologies help those with special needs to reach their dreams? Contemplating these issues alongside their teachers and peers led to action.

On the day that HSE21 Shorts visited Sand Creek, the Terry/Walters team was in the midst of a Makey-Makey Open House. The SCI Media Center was filled with teachers, students, and parents, all trying their hand (or foot, or elbow) at innovations designed and created by the students to assist those with special needs. Each student team envisioned a scenario, then used digital technologies (Makey-Makeys and coding programs like Scratch) to build and power their innovations. One team created a method by which a paralyzed person could play ‘buzzer’ trivia. Another designed a music composing device.

Asked if she had seen continued innovation sparks following the project, Mrs. Terry replied, “One student went home and created a device that would help his handicapped mother play one of his favorite games with him.  A different student is now thinking about a career designing technology to help kids with disabilities.” Now that’s learning!


The Village: Cross-Age Learning in Community

img_9265.jpgWalk into a traditional elementary school in the U.S.A. and you’ll likely encounter a 1st grade hall, a 2nd grade hall, a 3rd grade hall…you get the idea. Students sorted by grades and, it follows, by age. But why? Historically, were grade level corridors more efficient?  Was there a research base that testified to the validity of this model? Or has an American educational system handed this structure down, merely because “this is the way we’ve always done things”?

In May 2017, a group of innovative-thinking 2nd grade teachers at Hoosier Road Elementary (all housed in the 2nd grade hallway, btw) wanted to build connections among students to foster caring and learning together. What new approach, these colleagues wondered, might be more conducive to the type of learning community theyIMG_9213 envisioned?

In August 2017, The Village was born. The prior second grade hall is now a multi-age learning community, composed of one classroom for each grade level. Enacting this vision meant that several of these former 2nd grade teachers are now teaching new grades – a bit challenging, but totally worth it, the colleagues say. In The Village, students still spend time primarily with their grade level teachers, but time each day is reserved for cross-classroom activities. And Village classrooms all share a common lunch/recess period.

From the teachers:


In talking with Village teachers and students recently, it was clear that this cross-age experiment has been a success. Students work together on projects, share study trips, and learn together. The children have made new friends, and look out for one another. The Village has indeed grown into the authentic learning community envisioned by the teachers.

The scrolling Sway presentation below (and linked HERE) was created by the five teachers, Mrs. Sergi (K), Mrs Gue (1), Mrs Loftus (2), Mrs. Ceglio (3), and Mrs. May (4), to highlight some of the many collaborative experiences that Village teachers and students have shared throughout the year. Enjoy!






Inclusivity Takes Many Forms

IMG_9774Some LifeSkills students at Riverside Junior High have had the opportunity recently to enjoy a new digital challenge, thanks to teacher McKenzie Davis. Modeled after the popular learning game platform, Breakout EDU, which many general education students know and love, Mrs. Davis designed a unique digital breakout challenge for her LifeSkills students covering material from the curriculum’s Revolutionary War unit.

IMG_9775The Breakout challenge was composed of four puzzles – solving each puzzle resulted in a clue needed to ‘breakout’. For example, typing in the first puzzle’s correct answer, Paul Revere, released the second puzzle,  a jigsaw puzzle of the 13 colonies. In this puzzle, the students completed a crossword and unscrambled the circled letters, revealing the last challenge step – a math equation to solve.  The students ‘broke out’ when they correctly answered the math problem.

img_9773.jpgSaid Mrs. Davis, “I created my digital breakout to show that technology is universal and can be used for anyone no matter their ability. Technology can be modified and adapted for everyone! Our students responded well to and were very engaged with the IPAD, as compared to traditional paper worksheets.”

Davis plans to create another breakout; this time, projecting it onto a large SMARTboard so that the entire class can work together to Breakout!

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 3.36.53 PM

Solar Energy for SCI


Two Sand Creek Intermediate classrooms will be solar powered soon, thanks to the 6th grade STEM classes of Jennifer Suskovich. HSE21 Shorts asked Mrs. Suskovich about the project’s origins, and about what her students are learning in the process. (Process – hmmm…that word sounds familiar from our last post…)

Q: This is a huge undertaking. What gave you the initial idea? 

A: I moved to a new classroom this school year, and wanted to utilize an area outside of school for an outdoor learning space.  I had the class brainstorm some ideas we could explore out there.  A student mentioned using the space to gather solar energy.  The students agreed that this would be an interesting activity that they hadn’t really explored before.  Coincidentally, I had spent a day this summer at the Purdue SLED training and one of the training topics was building a solar tracker prototype.   I began writing the grants to purchase solar panels with light kits and solar generators in September.  By the beginning of February, I had all of the light kits purchased for two classes.  We are waiting to have them installed by an electrician.

Q: So, how does this relate to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Academic Standards for 6th graders?

Suskovich3A: This project will challenge students to use their science based knowledge on the daily/seasonal solar movements to find the ideal location to place solar panels and increase the amount of time our class is powered by solar energy. Technology will be utilized to run the system that tracks the sun throughout the day. Students will use the engineering design process to work collaboratively to create solar tracking prototypes, test, and redesign their systems. Students will use their mathematical knowledge to analyze data and decide on the angle the solar panels should be placed throughout the day to receive the maximum amount of sunlight. Finally, students will collaborate with the art department to ensure that the designs for the solar panel tracking systems are aesthetically pleasing on our school grounds.

Q: What happens next – after the electrician installs the light kits?

A: Once the panels are installed, the project will be broken down into the following phases:

Phase 1 Focus QuestionHow does the sun move both daily and seasonally?
Students will collect data on where to place solar panels to receive the maximum amount of daily solar energy.  Students will graph this data and analyze the daily, weekly and monthly movements and energy collection to determine the optimum angles for the solar panel

Phase 2 Focus Question: How can we build a device that moves with the sun to maximize the amount of time our class is powered by solar energy vs. electricity? 
Students will create small solar tracking prototypes.  The prototypes must be capable of the movements necessary for tracking daily and seasonal solar actions.  Students will then evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to identify how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. The class will identify the best characteristics of each design that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

Phase 3 Focus Question: How can our solar tracking device move on its own?
Students will explore various systems to decide if our solar trackers should move with motors, computers, hydraulics, etc.  Our class has contacted Taylor University to discuss features of their Heliostat Atrium and how the drive system aligns the circular mirror to track the sun.  We have also contacted The Indianapolis International Airport Solar Farm and the IMPA Richmond Solar Power Park for research and informational purposes.  The classes will build and test designs to determine which tracking system gathers the maximum amount of solar energy while meeting the constraints of money and technology.

Suskovich1Phase 4 Focus Question: How can we make our solar tracking devices aesthetically pleasing on our school grounds? 
The panels will be facing the main road in front of our school building. Students will be working with the art teachers to transform the designs into interesting and creative art pieces while keeping the integrity and function of the solar tracking systems.

It’s All About the Process


When Mrs. Porzuczek volunteered her students to launch Brooks School Elementary’s new fourth grade newscast, she recognized that this was more than an opportunity for her students to be “on camera”. The real opportunity was for her students to experience process – the research, planning, revisions, execution, and, most importantly, teamwork necessary to complete a group project with a deadline.

It was this same goal – to foster learning through a student-driven, team-based, multi-layered process – that led Media Specialist Mrs. Kussy to originally envision the newscast.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 10.28.43 AMFocusing on process meant defining an end goal – What type of show did the students want to create? – and then naming the steps it would take to get there. Mrs. P.’s class viewed other student broadcasts and identified the features which made some excellent but some only so-so. The students produced group norms for their endeavor. They learned how professionals tackle the process from HSE’s director of School and Community Relations, Emily Pace-Abbotts, who stopped by to share her experiences reporting for a local TV news channel.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 10.28.57 AMWith goals in place to anchor their decisions, and background for the task ahead, the class brainstormed story ideas and narrowed the field. Student groups wrote, filmed, and edited their news stories. Mrs. Kussy led students through the actual filming and editing process. By Friday afternoon (yes, this took place in one week!), the show was ready to air.

Fast forward several months… The Fourth Grade Newscast has become a regular Friday event at BSE.  Since Mrs. P.’s students paved the way, BSE’s other fourth grade classes have also produced the show. Working with a team, through a process…then getting to share the awesome product with your school mates…that’s HSE21 in action.


Hour of Code…to the Next Level

IMG_8955Media Specialist John Hochstetler has implemented the Hour of Code at Sand Creek Intermediate School for five years running, ever since the computing event began. Last year, John noticed that some students were ready for more — they had mastered the basics of game-based block coding apps and needed a deeper challenge.

And a challenge he made! During Computer Science Education Week 2017, Mr. Hochstetler’s Media Center became a literal computing playground. Students could choose from twenty different coding-based activities –  Ozobot bowling,  Sphero basketball and miniature golf, and more! In preparation for the Winter Olympics, students could practice their curling skills with mini-Spheros, or program Dash, a code-able robot, to free Dot, Dash’s smaller ‘cousin’, from captivity.

For SCI’s musical students, there was the opportunity to code Dash to play tunes on a Dash-sized xylophone. Students interested in design could use Bloxels to create scenes that they could then embed into their very own game design on the Bloxel iPad app.

Said Hochstetler, “I received great reviews from both students and teachers, some even taking the time to share their appreciation through cards and signs. That was proof enough that I should continue with this event and continue to develop it as well.”

Mr. Hochstetler reports that his own next challenge is to leverage the enthusiasm his students have shown for coding through partnering with classroom teachers to integrate coding activities into the content areas. Connection opportunities abound, especially with the roll out of Indiana’s new computer science standards. Read more about the Hour of Code – Playground Style (and see more pictures) on Mr. Hochstetler’s blog at

Writing About Technology…Teaching It, Too!

fullsizeoutput_e8eAt HSE Schools, we are sometimes asked how it’s possible to embed ‘soft skills’ (aka, 21st century skills) into traditional academic work for our youngest learners. We’re asked how we balance the importance of our little ones using real hands-on tools – pencils, paper, printed books, for example – with the incorporation of digital tools for learning. 

Teachers are creative souls. Designing cohesive learning experiences – it’s what they love to do! Here’s one example of how Standards, content, and skill development recently came together to make school relevant, meaningful, and fun for some novice readers and writers. Thank you to Mrs. Myers at New Britton Elementary for allowing HSE21 Shorts to learn how to use an Ozobot from your first graders!

Authors write about what they know.  Mrs. Myers used STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) inquiry to foster writing. Students explored the workings of Ozobots, then used a design process to create Ozobot mazes. Fresh with new knowledge, the first graders wrote “How-to” books for setting up an Ozobot and sending it through the maze. As students described their design experience in writing, connections were drawn between the recursive, iterative nature of both the design and writing processes. The best part, said the first graders, was sharing their “How-to” books with kindergarteners, so that they could learn to use Ozobots too!

Ozobots from HSE21 Media on Vimeo.


Standards, content, and skills. Mrs. Myers built this project based on her first grade Academic Standards. She chose Ozobots as content, since they were engaging for the students and provided a STEM-rich design experience. As for ‘soft’ skills — this cross-curricular endeavor fostered critical and visual thinking, problem solving and creativity, as well as both oral and written communication.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Celebration Houses 2: Connected Community

Note: Don’t miss Celebration Houses 1: Connected Learning, as it provides background for the rich community connections described below. Thanks again to Mrs. Hudson and Mrs Keaffaber for allowing HSE21 Shorts to share their story of learning!


The inquiry and collaboration embedded into project-based learning (PBL) make PBL experiences prime opportunities to build community, both within and beyond the classroom. Notice below how the Celebration Houses project helped foster learning and sharing that extended to students’ families and even into the Fishers community!

Q: Were there any ‘aha’ moments or fun surprises that came out of this experience for you guys as teachers?

A: Students’ level of interest and engagement was powerful!  Everyone seemed to enjoy the research and effort that went into the houses.  One particular night during the project will remain as one of our most memorable teaching experiences ever.  After a long day at BizTown (our 5th grade field trip), our students stayed after school to paint their newly constructed Celebration Houses.  Families helped as well.  It was truly humbling to see fifteen adults lending a hand and asking questions about the holidays while the students painted and answered questions. The ways in which students showed pride in their creations as they shared what they had learned is definitely a moment we will cherish.

Q: What are the benefits to students of this kind of learning? What did you notice as teachers?

A: We purposely did not give a holiday to those students who celebrated it.  However, we did make those who celebrate the holiday the Experts.  Therefore, if and when students had questions, they turned to the Experts for help and clarification.  For example, a Chinese-American student wrote the Chinese character for Good Fortune for that team to include on their door.  She also taught them how to make a sturdier lantern.

We also found our Experts learning more about their own holidays.  For example, when the Christmas group discussed the three wise men, a Christian student interjected, “Huh! I had no idea THAT’S why we give gifts to each other!”   Sometimes it takes learning about others and through others to better understand ourselves. This was great to witness!

Q: How are the students sharing their learning beyond the classroom?

A: All of the Celebration Houses are on display through New Year’s – most can be found in the lobby of the Fishers City Hall. Several additional houses are located in the children’s department of the Fishers library branch and at Launch Fishers. When you visit, make sure to scan the QR code hanging by each house! Each code will take you to a short video made by that student team – you’ll learn the history of the holiday as well as the significance of each element of the Celebration House. What holiday will you learn more about this season?

Perspective-Taking Through the Global Read Aloud

The Diversity Committee at Hamilton Southeastern Intermediate & Junior High recently led their entire community (teachers & students in grades 5-8) through a common book study that became a powerful perspective-taking experience for all. A big thanks to Media Specialist JoyAnn Boudreau for sharing their story! 

220px-ALongWalkToWaterA Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, a Global Read Aloud selection for 2017, was chosen for our book study. It was the perfect fit for our students, as it is accessible to all four of our 5-8 grade levels. A Long Walk to Water would provide a forum through which to address our Diversity Committee goals of global thinking/awareness and empathy-building. The book also lended itself to other HSE21 learning goals such as collaboration and inquiry.

We wanted the whole school to be on board! Our Diversity team leader worked persistently to figure out a way to make this work! Global Read Aloud officially kicked off October 2. When students came to the library, they got the chance to collaborate and work with others around the globe, activities encouraged by the Global Read Aloud. Students participated in global Flipgrid boards, Twitter chats, and global Padlet boards. They asked and answered questions of other students from around the world and shared information. They took virtual reality field trips to refugee homes and camps. They used water calculators to see how much water they were using and considered how they  might use less!

Though the ‘official’ Global Read Aloud wrapped up on November 10th, HIJH’s journey isn’t nearly over. We’re still developing next steps, exploring options for a water walk and for a fundraiser to help build a water well in Africa. Students are passionate; they want to help and make a difference. A few students have already begun bracelet sales to raise funds to go towards a water well. They told us, “This book raised our global awareness, and now we’re trying to raise money for a well.”

By reading in community — a few chapters each week from the right book —  and with teacher support, students’ eyes are a little more open to the world around them than they were before.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here are a few other favorite quotes from student responses:

  • “It’s fun to have the whole school reading the same book and everyone in the same chapters.”
  • “I have enjoyed so far in the book that all the characters have something different about them.”
  • “People take many things for granted, but we take our everyday needs for granted the most.”
  • “Do you have any books like A Long Walk to Water in the library?”

Want To Be My Book Buddy?

One benefit of the combined Hamilton Southeastern Intermediate & Junior High campus is the opportunity for students to partner across grade levels. Many thanks to HIJ English teacher Ashli Cooper for sharing an experience in which older students are encouraged to read through leadership incentive, and younger students have the chance to read and learn along with the ‘older kids’!

Nook BUddies 2017 Matthew RandolfStudents are our future leaders, and what better way to show them that by offering them chances to BE leaders now. This year my eighth graders were challenged to write an “About Me” paragraph — something that, by eighth grade, they have done several times. The difference? This paragraph could not include their name. In these “About Me” paragraphs, the eighth graders’ aim was showcase their best qualities in an effort to appeal to a 5th/6th grade audience. Without knowing names, the younger students read and selected buddies based solely on the power of the 8th graders’ writing.  

Book Buddies 2017 Joseph HoangAfter connecting with their buddies in the library, students were asked to discuss what they like to read and select a book that would inspire all members of the partnership. Students set reading goals, exchanged e-mail communication, and discussed characterization and plot development as they worked their way through the novel. Eighth graders walked in  to every meeting with a plan, and they were met with thoughtful and engaging questions from their buddies.

In the end, students made text-to-self and text-to-work connections that were much deeper and broader than an assignment. Students posed challenges to one another, tempting each other with spoilers of the next plot twist or sharing a connection that inspired the other student to read just a little bit more. It is true that my junior high students led the charge in reading a book, but in the process we learned that the most important part of the “Book Buddies” process was most definitely the BUDDIES.

Panthers lead because we read! #HIJHpanthers #bookbuddies