No Extra Credit If You Nuke!

WIth our K-4 1:1 roll out on deck for August 2016, HSE21 Shorts has devoted much of this school year to sharing HSE21 snapshots from elementary classrooms. Today, though, we’d like to highlight HSE21 in action at HSE High School. Read on!


Mr. Follis, AP Social Studies teacher at HSE High School, exemplified HSE21 before there ever was an HSE21. Mr. Follis is a natural communicator whose classes are student-centered, engaging, and relevant. He has found ways to create learning opportunities for his students that combine depth of content (AP exams are this month!) and meaningful experiences connecting the past to issues in our world today. His recent Cold War simulation is a perfect example.

IMG_3707Mr. Follis ran HSE’s Cold War as an in-school field trip for his AP European History classes.  Students represented the East (the Warsaw Pact), the West (NATO) or the United Nations.  All day, teams were confronted with real problems which they could choose to solve diplomatically or… Throughout the game, wars broke out, territories changed hands, and treaties were signed.  Newscasts, propaganda campaigns and the Olympic Games heightened excitement throughout the day. Nineteen-fifties technology meant no computers – files and books were the only sources of information available! Communication? Only through ambassadors, the red phone and one’s defcon status. (I had to Google ‘defcon‘.)

IMG_3711Of course, no Cold War simulation would be complete without spies and the threat of nuclear war. KGB and CIA leaders recruited spies, who could steal launch codes, locations of bases, troop numbers, and game stats.  Spies could be caught and tried…or flipped to become double agents. Each side had the potential to ‘nuke’ the other (Translation: force the other side to take the unit test); but nuclear war has consequences for all – a retaliatory strike could lead to mutually assured destruction! A ‘box’ (with electronics, sound effects, a red button, and two launch keys) made by HSE engineering students  sat ready throughout the day, an ominous reminder of what could be.

In ten years, these AP European History alums might not remember how to spell Romania. What they will still remember (really, what they will still deeply understand), though, is far more important. Why is it difficult for nations with conflicting values and visions to work together? What potential solutions exist, and what are their costs? What does that mean for us today?

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“The simulation was a smash.  The paranoia at times got the kids so worked up they were literally yelling – they were actually fatigued at the end of the day by the whole experience.  The whole game came down to a dice roll and it was possibly the most exciting moment of my teaching career.  No one asked for “the case”; the students realized the benefits of working together.”      – Jamie Follis

Those HSE21 Shoes!

IMG_1721In traditional classrooms, character trait study likely consisted of a teacher lesson (read: lecture) to explain the term ‘character trait’, followed by individual seat work. Students would sit quietly at their desks, read a story alone, and then write a paragraph about the story’s characters and their traits. Students’ written work would be graded and sent home in a folder. The end.

Take a peek into HSE21 classrooms, though, and what you’ll see is completely different! HSE21 means that character study – indeed all academic content – is presented in active, student-centered ways that lead to deeper learning. What does does HSE21 look like in the classroom? Consider this recent HSE21 example of character trait study:

At Thorpe Creek Elementary, third grade teacher Mrs. Muegge introduced character traits to her students through  an HSE21 lens. Following her interactive mini-lesson, Muegge asked student pairs to choose books for their own character studies. Partners considered the characters in their stories and, with Muegge’s guidance and help, decided on traits that best exemplified each. Students then created, shared, and discussed presentations and what they’d learned. Here’s a final product, created and shared by Aariyah and Gabrielle:

While staying true to the academic standards, HSE21 teaching and learning turns the traditional quiet classroom into a vibrant learning lab.

  • Student Choice – Which book would you like to use for this project?
  • Collaboration – Let’s work with partners to analyze the characters; we can learn from each other!
  • Engagement and Creativity – Design a presentation to teach us what you learned!
  • Extension of Learning – We’ll post our presentations and share our learning with each other and those beyond our classroom walls!

In which type of classroom would you rather learn?


The Future of Fishers: Students Visit With the Mayor

unnamedHamilton Southeastern High School students in Katie Gelhar’s government and current issues classes made some real world connections when Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness recently visited to talk with the teens about the growth of Fishers and what’s in store for the future.

Mayor Fadness gave a basic overview of how our town–now city–has developed, and described his own journey to become very first mayor of the City of Fishers.  The students asked great questions of Mayor Fadness. Students queried the Mayor on topics current issues like mass transit, jobs, and their future as Fishers residents.

The students were also curious for details of new innovations and changes that are on the horizon here in Hamilton County and Fishers in particular. The Mayor explained some of the new traffic patterns and roundabouts added to I-69 at 106th Street.  He shared his vision to create a unique community, with features such as  farm-to-table restaurants and community art.  He also spoke about a new sports complex announced recently that will house a hockey rink and thirty-two basketball courts.  The city will be leasing 12 courts for the community to use.

Thank you, Mayor Fadness, for sharing your expertise–allowing young adults in our Fishers community to connect their in-class learning to real world processes, experiences, and challenges!

Shark Tank…with Heart

IMG_0771This week’s Shark Tank at HSE High School was not a literal pool of Great Whites, but a lecture hall filled with peers and several sharks, community members who volunteered their time to listen to students pitch Genius Hour projects-in-development. Teachers Kelsey Habig and Jill McGrath have spent the last several months helping their eleventh-grade English students design and conduct research for individual projects based on each student’s individual interests and passions.

IMG_0791The next step in this learning process has been for students to offer up their plans to an authentic audience for comments and suggestions. School board members, business owners, and others have made up the HSEHS Shark Tank. Unlike ABC’s Shark Tank, though, these Sharks weren’t invited to invest in entrepreneur wannabes. The local Sharks were in the audience to listen–to ask probing questions and to provide helpful feedback: “Have you thought about what might happen if you…?” “What about contacting ___? Their office might have some resources to get you started.” “I love your energy and passion–now what might your action steps be?”

IMG_0803By the time most students reach high school, they are used to being called upon to answer questions in class and to present projects to classmates. To stand on a stage before an audience of peers and adults, however, in order to present individual work based on personal interests and passions–this is very new. Students shared from their hearts, backing up their project designs with data and research. Whether a project sprung out of a need connected to a personal past time, an issue observed in the school community, or a cultural concern with global ramifications, students revealed their ability to analyze and come up with creative solutions to real-world problems. HSE21 Shorts can’t wait to see the follow-through!

Learning in Community: BSE Math & Science Night!

11021102_10206030606269406_1659028471392239613_nIt’s a powerful thing when an entire learning community comes together to promote exploration and discovery! This was exactly the case recently at Brooks School Elementary. BSE’s annual Math & Science Night has grown in several years from a few exhibits in the gym to an extensive, not-to-be-missed evening for teachers, students, and families.

Planned and sponsored by the BSE PTO, Math & Science Night is not a fundraiser, but  a community learning event-an opportunity for parents and children, teachers and students to explore math- and science-related exhibits together! The evening is structured as an open house, with tables set up all around the school hallways and gym. Exhibitors come from within and outside the school community; all provide fun and interactive learning experiences. This year, both the HSE Robotics club and FHS First Robotics teams brought robotics exhibits including robots driven with video game controllers (HSE) and a robot that throws a large ball (FHS).  Several FHS AP Biology students ran tables with exhibits as well. Kristin Patrick, BSE’s media specialist, spent the evening in the computer lab showing how technology-rich learning experiences happen in classrooms every day and answering any questions parents had.

BSEManthandScienceNightOutside presenters included Chemistry is a Blast! from Eli Lilly, Star Lab’s mobile planetarium, IUPUI Forensics, Indiana Astronomical Society, National Weather Service, Anderson University School of Nursing, Anderson University Engineering, Stryker surgical instruments, Purdue Entomology (hold live bugs!), Ball State Archaeology, Purdue Food Science, and others too numerous to mention!

When asked what made Math & Science Night such a powerful success, PTO Chair Amy Pollak responded, “It put math and science in such a fun, positive light. I even heard a little girl say, ‘I want to be a scientist when I grow up!’ Perfect.”

BYOD Countdown: Learning From Other Schools

In a few short months, both district high schools, Hamilton Southeastern HS and Fishers HS, will begin a new adventure. It’s called BYOD–that’s short for Bring Your Own Device. When school begins in August of this year (2015), each student in grades 9-12 will bring a tablet or laptop to school on a daily basis. The access and connection made possible through one-to-one digital tools will allow teachers to deepen and extend learning beyond classroom walls. Schools throughout the state and nation have made this move from print to digital, understanding the power that digital access gives students–through the world wide web, our children have the opportunity to connect with experts around the globe, help tackle real-world problems, and much more. Learning becomes authentic.

IMG_0509HSE’s August 2015 BYOD roll out is the culmination of several years of research, strategic planning, and practical preparation. For our school district, part of this preparation has included visiting other schools and districts throughout Indiana, especially those that have gone before us in this major curricular shift. The image here is of a recent visit to Brebeuf, a nearby high school already in its third year of a BYOD program. The group of HSE and Brebeuf teachers and educators spent half a day relating experiences, discussing concerns, and learning from one another. Just as collaboration among students deepens learning, so it is with teachers. Our teachers hope to continue the relationships that have begun with Brebeuf’s educators, and with today’s digital tools, continuing conversations are just a mouse click away.

Who’s Your Hero?

IMG_7897[1]HSE Freshman Campus English teacher Jen Torres’ class has focused on heroes this fall. Throughout the semester, Torres’ students read books of their choice about persons who could be classified as heroes. The freshmen also researched in depth to learn more about the lives of their heroes, in order to answer the driving question, What makes a hero? Are heroes born? Did something in a hero’s childhood build heroic character? Or…do heroes just make wise choices at pivotal times?

This weIMG_7900ek, the ninth graders’ hero study culminated with a Hero Fair in the school media center. Students used a variety of presentation tools and methods to share their learning with peers, school administrators, and other teachers. Many discoveries about heroes were shared; among others, students realized that heroes can definitely reside close to home! Local war veteran Josh Bleill‘s response to adversity definitely revealed his “hero-ness’, shared Kennedy, a student, in her presentation. Kennedy read Josh Bleill’s autobiography, One Step at a Time: A Young Marine’s Story of Courage, Hope and a New Life in the NFL and shared his story of triumph over adversity.

IMG_7898IMG_7896[1]The theme of ‘heroes’ clearly had an impact on Ms. Torres’ students. Through reading, writing, speaking, listening, designing, and pondering, the ninth graders all took away a deeper understanding of what heroism really means.


Authentic Assessment: The Power of Words Narrative

dalton1At Riverside Junior High, Stephanie Dalton’s 8th grade language arts classes just finished their study of Markus Zusak’s acclaimed novel, The Book Thief. In order to leave a lasting impression, Miss Dalton decided to replace her traditional assessment with something more authentic and relevant. Thus was born the power of words narrative. Believing that assessment should be meaningful, transferable, and engaging, Miss Dalton challenged her students to prove that words are powerful through narrative writing with a twist.

dalton2The first step for students was to find a group of words that had had some impact on their life, such as a quote, lyric, or piece of wisdom. The second step was to tell the story that surrounded that quote. Students shared the moment they heard the quote, or the moment they have seen the quote play out in their own lives. Step three was to record their narratives. Students recorded their narratives in their own voices on iPads. Then, presentation day! Students sat comfortably throughout the classroom, listening to each other’s stories.

The transformation that happened from a writing piece for a one-person audience to a verbal piece for a multi-person audience made all the difference. Students longed to create something that their peers appreciated. Students reflected and re-recorded when their writing was not excellent. And students left the room proud, as their classmates praised their stories and made connections to their own struggles.  In this authentic, meaningful assessment, Miss Dalton’s students demonstrated their understanding of the most important message from Zusak’s novel: words are powerful.

Day 54 – First Grade Inquiry Impacts Families

IMG_0445Students in Mrs. Beck’s first grade class at Geist Elementary recently completed personal inquiry projects around the topic of fire safety. With help from experts at the Fishers Fire Department, the students first learned important lessons about what to do in the event of a fire. With this base knowledge, inquiry and application of learning began! The first-graders went home to survey their own homes and develop fire escape plans with their families.

The plans shown here (graphics on the left and a short film below, are prime examples of 21st century learning at its finest, where learning is personal, connected to the real world, and internalized so that it can be transferred to new situations. Through inquiry projects like this, students (even our youngest students) can take ownership of their learning to explore real issues.


Day 53 – Goodbye Book Report, Hello Blog

In many HSE classrooms, traditional written book reports have evolved into 21st-century literacy experiences. Reading self-selected books and sharing reading experiences is still essential in literacy instruction–but today’s students have new avenues and methods through which to communicate about their reading. One such avenue is the blog.

Blogging, whether to reflect on a book or for another educational purpose, offers a published venue through which students can express their unique voices as writers. Blogs provide a forum for open reflection and collaborative communication; blog posts become part of each student’s digital portfolio/archive of learning, as well as a beneficial addition to their individual digital footprints.

Students of all ages and in a variety of subject areas are experienced bloggers. Today’s blog examples come from ninth-graders at Hamilton Southeastern High School. Click on the image to be directed to Blogger, where you can read about the project and get new ideas for your reading pleasure!

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