An Eagle’s Nest is HOW big???

How does a first grade class come to understand literally how big a bald eagle’s nest really is? Build a nest in the classroom, of course!

If you’ve been following HSE21 Shorts, you’ll know that Mrs. Vogel’s first grade class at Sand Creek Elementary began watching the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam in December 2016, right as eaglet E-9 was making his/her entry to the world. Watching the Eagle Cam led to lots of eagle questions – which led to research, the creation of some very authentic projects, and the sharing of learning!

How did the project unfold?  The class spent several days observing and monitoring the nest – as questions arose, the students wrote them on post-it notes. With Mrs. Vogel’s help, the class categorized their post-its and created four research groups.  Each student joined a group and became an expert on one area of eagle life. The students consulted library books, digital resources (like World Book Online), and even visited with experts from the Indianapolis Zoo via Skype to find reliable answers to their research questions.

HSE21 Shorts was thrilled to receive this invitation recently from Mrs. Vogel:

We have been researching and creating and are ready to share our learning.  We
have a life sized nest, 3D models, a video, and much more!  On Friday we are hosting
an open house for classes to come and see our project and learn about eagles. 

Check out the image gallery and video below of eagle projects and scenes from this awesome open house of learning. Mrs. Vogel’s students shared with kindergarteners and fourth graders, with administrators, parents, and teachers. All the while, of course, E-9 was on the big screen. As of this writing, E-9 has gone from a fuzz ball to feathered bird and is growing fast! He’s testing out his wings often, and should be fledging very soon. You, too, can live stream the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam here.

Thanks to the students who have taught HSE21 Shorts a great deal about bald eagles! First graders CAN, and DO!

Reinventing School Libraries – Makerspace!

Makerspaces are a natural evolution for libraries. We need to make the resources available to our students that will help guide their inquiry and exploration. Who can predict what our students will create when given the space and tools necessary?

– Phil Goerner in School Library Journal

What is a makerspace? Essentially, a makerspace is a physical area, often in a library, that is set aside and laden with diverse materials for student exploration. Students are encouraged to create,  design, imagine and problem solve as they choose. Makerspaces provide a natural environment where creativity and critical thinking happen naturally.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Many HSE school media centers are developing makerspaces. At Fishers Elementary, media specialist Cristie Ondrejack has designed a makerspace around three verbs: Create. Solve. Design.

In the Create area, students use a variety of art supplies to create whatever they can imagine. Solve challenges students to use their critical thinking skills to tackle puzzles, riddles, and logic problems. Perseverance is a goal here! Design encourages students to explore with Legos, K’Nex, Magnetix, Marble Maze and other building supplies. Students collaborate as they envision, plan and build.

Later in the year, HSE21 Shorts will bring you stories of makerspaces at other building levels in the district. Who knows what future inventions or discoveries will be found to have originated in an HSE makerspace!


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.


Sixth Grade Science…for a New Generation!

alig3Indiana’s sixth grade science standards state that students will “understand that there are different forms of energy with unique characteristics.” In generations past, a lesson on this topic might have included reading a textbook section and filling in a worksheet, not a method conducive to deep learning. Today’s HSE21 Short, from Stephanie Alig’s classroom at Riverside Intermediate, provides a compelling example of 21st century learning, where student inquiry and collaboration, powered-up by 21st century digital learning tools, foster enduring understandings of important scientific concepts.

alig1“I placed students in groups of two or three, so that they might collaborate and learn from each other. Each group investigated a form of energy (sound, light, heat, electrical, chemical, or elastic), by researching in their textbooks and online with their iPads. Each group’s responsibility was to create a one-minute presentation representing their form of energy. Groups used a variety of digital presentation tools to share their findings: iMovie, Haiku Deck, and Adobe Voice were three popular tools.”

alig2“Next, groups created Auras (using Aurasma) or QR codes as vehicles for presentation sharing. I placed the Auras and QR codes at ‘energy stations’ where the students a) watched the presentations; b) completed a mini-lab (made a circuit, energy sticks, measured heat, vinegar/baking soda, poppers, and diffraction grating glasses); and, c) submitted responses through Blackboard to demonstrate their understanding.”

If you are over thirty, does that sound like YOUR sixth grade science instruction?

Catapults, Collaboration and Creative Design

Youngimage004 children are naturals when it comes to creation and design. Catapults, rockets, roller coasters…just mention these words, and creative constructions are not far behind! Sand Creek Elementary recently provided a wonderful opportunity for   budding engineers and designers to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The event, known as Family Engineering Night, brought together over two-hundred-and-fifty members of the SCE community.  

Family Engineering Night came about through the vision of SCE third-grade teacher Holly Miller, who was awarded a grant for the project from the Hamilton Southeastern Schools Foundation. Attendees of the event witnessed a packed gymnasium where students and their families visited their choice of thirty hands-on engineering stations. Side-by-side, children and adults practiced creative design, critical thinking, and problem-solving. What type of boat will hold the most pennies? Can we design a roller coaster that will keep a marble moving for 5 seconds? Which materials make the most powerful catapult? Inquiry, design, and family interaction were highlights of the smashingly-successful evening…the photos shown here tell the story best.

FullSizeRender FullSizeRender[1]FullSizeRender[1] IMG_1671 IMG_1647 IMG_1651IMG_1658

Day 61 – Google Hangout with A Martian?

weir 5

Twenty-first century technology has given students new ways to connect–with each other, their teachers, and with experts from around the world. But with Mars? Not quite… However, Megan Ewing’s Astronomy students came close on school Day 61, when they experienced a Google Hangout with Andy Weir. Weir is author of The Martian, the NewBook-Review-The-Martian York Times best-selling science-fiction novel, slated to be released as a major motion picture in November 2015.

Ewing, Astronomy teacher at Hamilton Southeastern High School, originally connected with Weir through Facebook. Says Megan, “I was just playing around one night on the Internet and found his web page. I followed him on Facebook from there and took a chance by messaging him. He replied within five minutes asking me to email him the details; he was immediately on board for the Google Hangout from there.”

weir 3The multi-class Skype was held in one of the HSE High School’s small auditoriums. Weir shared his background with the students, including how his career has evolved from computer programming to full-time writing. Weir began with a blog. One thing led to another and, several years later, The Martian was born.

weir 2Weir also took questions form the students. To the question, “What advice to do have for aspiring authors?” he responded, “It sounds simple, but just write. Don’t give away the ending or share your work. Most writers want to have an audience or someone to share their work with. If you hold off on sharing, this will act as motivation to finish your work.” Students also wanted to know who inspired the book’s main character, Mark Watney. To this, Weir replied, “Mark is very similar to me. A nerd, sarcastic and a smart-alec. I guess he has all of my good qualities and none of my bad qualities.”

Mrs. Ewing hopes that her students will have found some inspiration from this experience. “If space, or even science, are not their “things”, perhaps contact with an author will inspire them in reading and writing.”

Day 46 – Fourth Graders Learn with NASA

murchnasaNASA might not have a flight center in Indiana, but that didn’t stop BSE fourth graders from interacting with a NASA scientist! Through NASA’s Digital Learning Network, Brooks School Elementary fourth graders spent two hours this week with David Alexander, STEM Scientist at NASA’s Neil Armstrong (formerly Dryden) Flight Research Center. Alexander’s lessons focused on physics and aeronautic principles (flight, force and motion) and on NASA’s historical and current work.

Throughout each hour-long session, Alexander interacted with students, asking for their questions and perspectives on aeronautics, space science, and desired careers. Said fourth grade teacher Amy Murch, who spear-headed and organized the NASA lessons, “Students were engaged and intrigued by our Stem Scientist, David.  He was very funny, playful and knowledgeable about his work. He encouraged students in the areas of math, science, and the arts.  He shared personal stories of his journey to NASA and how much he loves doing what he does.  He left students wanting to discover their own passions and helped them to think now about how can they achieve their goals in life.”

IMG_2463The connection that Mrs. Murch’s students have established with NASA isn’t over. “My students are in the midst of their first Genius Hour Projects,” said Mrs. Murch. “They’ll be connecting with STEM Scientist Alexander again later in the year to share their learning. I have students experimenting with robotics, exploring dry ice, creating volcanoes and building video games… all of which David covered in his presentations. The boys and girls were thrilled to discover that the personal interests they are pursuing  during Genius Hour have ‘real world’ applications.” Who knows? Perhaps one of these BSE students will take part in a 2035 mission to Mars!

Day 44 – “R2-D2, Meet Your New Droid Friend!”

imageHis name is Rusty (the droid, that is). Kneeling next to Rusty is Mr. Alex King, a fifth-grade science teacher at Sand Creek Intermediate School. It all started one day last winter, when Mr. King learned that he’d been awarded a Lilly Teacher Creativity Grant to build an Astromech droid, better known to Star Wars fans as ‘R2-D2’!

HSE21 Shorts caught up with Mr. King and Rusty today to find out exactly how Rusty came to be, and to learn how Rusty will extend learning for Mr. King’s students and the wider community.

HSE21 Shorts: How in the world did you know where to start with building Rusty? Are there ‘directions’ somewhere for things like this?

Mr. King: There is a builder’s club for Astromech droids (which is what R2-D2 is in the movies); you can find the club at www.astromech.netI had to buy parts from guys in the club that would do a “run” of a specific part, like the dome, and start organizing them, cutting pieces out, painting and assembling, all without a master plan.  They have blueprints and the like, but I generally used reference pictures form the movies or asked for advice from the Astromech forums.

HSE21 Shorts: When was Rusty completed?

Mr. King: Rusty is not complete yet, but the majority of the building was completed the week before school started this year.  I have still been working on him and have had a couple of build days with other central Indiana droid builders.  Rusty started driving the week of September 8th.  I am hoping to get the lights and servos placed in the dome in the next couple of months.

HSE21 Shorts: I assume that your goal was not just to build Rusty, but to build him for the benefit of kids somehow. Was the purpose to get kids interested in robotics…or what?

Mr. King: My initial goal was simply to build the droid and take him to conventions and such.  Then I met some folks from the 501st Legion, a national Star Wars costuming group.  They support loads of charities and are a non-for profit organization.  They are simply requested to show up and they do.  They were very excited to meet someone that was building an R2 unit.  I will take R2 to children’s hospitals and charity events in addition to comic and gaming conventions.

droidcon_15smallHSE21 Shorts: How have and will you continue to partner with Rusty in your teaching and in the community?

Mr. King: In addition to the above, I will be available for character appearances for schools and other organizations. I went to the Brownsburg YMCA for a health fair two weeks ago.  I am also starting a robotics club at SCI, for which Rusty will be our mascot.  I will also probably show up at different sporting, events since Rusty just happens to be red & white…the colors of Fishers High School!

If you’d like to read more about Mr. King’s project and the creation of Rusty, visit Mr. King’s R2M5 blog!

Day 38 – 2nd Graders Report: Fishers HAS Changed!

On Day 19, HSE21 Shorts reported on Mrs. Hillman’s second-grade class and this driving question: “How has Fishers changed?” The query grew out of the second graders’ study of communities, and became a true inquiry project for the students. The students became investigators– researching, consulting experts, making comparisons, looking for connections, and drawing conclusions.

Several weeks later, the conclusions are drawn: Fishers HAS changed. It is a much different place for seven-years-olds than it was in the past! In business and employment, in education, and in size, Fishers has gone from small farming and railroad town to a bustling, busy (nearly) city. But don’t take my word for it. One key of problem-based learning is the authentic presentation of findings. Mrs. Hillman’s students created video presentations of their research that have been shared with families and friends. They even shared a couple with HSE21 Shorts. Enjoy!

Day 36 – You Are a Genius, Part 2

In You Are a Genius, Part 1, we saw ways in which Genius Hour fosters creativity and student-centered inquiry in our youngest students. (If you missed it, visit HSE21 Shorts Day 35!) Today’s Genius Hour post–presented as a conversation with FHS English teacher Kyle Goodwin–illustrates the depth of student engagement, personalized learning, and 21st century skill development that exist when high school students are allowed to investigate their own curiosities in the context of English class.

HSE21: Start by describing the parameters of Genius Hour in your class.

Mr. Goodwin: Students begin by understanding the building blocks of Genius Hour to be autonomy, mastery, and purpose. From there, they follow five steps:

STEP 1: Choose something you’re passionate about…and pursue it.


As a Genius Hour session begins, Mr. Goodwin reminds his students of their goals for the day.

STEP 2: Pitch Your Project. The Pitch is a “three-slide” or presentation, followed by a Q & A from the class.

STEP 3: Blog Your Process. Students set up a blog and update readers on their progress. The first post should answer, “What are your goals for this project?” and “How will you measure your progress?” From there, other blog posts discuss progress, discoveries, and setbacks. Students should be able to answer, “What have you learned about your topic? What have you learned about yourself? Where do you go from here / what’s the next step?”

STEP 4: Vlog an Insight. Students are asked to create a video blog answering “What / who inspired you in relation to your specific project? How have your readings and resources informed your approach?”

IMG_2314STEP 5: Share Your Learning. Students write, design, and perform a meaningful TED talk. I give students a suggested organizational pattern for their talk (hook, transitions, logical order to your main points, effective conclusion), and suggest content (inspire your audience with your passion for your pursued activity; explain the process and show the products of your project; talk about your purpose or what the audience should learn from your product; include a meaningful take-away). Classes vote on the best couple of presentations, and the winners will be asked to deliver their TED talks in the FHS auditorium on a Saturday in May, where we invite an authentic audience: teachers, friends, parents / families, administrators, experts from the field, etc.

HSE21: Wow. The potential for creative invention seems huge! And what an opportunity to practice 21st century career skills: locating, evaluating and synthesizing information, managing time, reflecting on learning, and presenting to an audience in a variety of formats. Have there been any challenges in establishing Genius Hour for your students?

Mr. Goodwin: The greatest challenge we’ve seen so far with Genius Hour has been students feeling comfortable thinking for themselves and creating. I don’t say that to bash our students, by any means, but in the past, the overwhelming majority of their educational careers has been spent through a series of acts of compliance. They listen to teachers teach, they receive an assignment, and they complete the assignment. It’s like a gigantic factory. Genius Hour lets them be in control of their own learning.

IMG_0071HSE21: Absolutely! Through Genius Hour, learning becomes active instead of passive. What has been the greatest benefit of Genius Hour for your students thus far?

Mr. Goodwin: The greatest benefit to students has certainly been an opportunity for students to think for themselves. The students have already surpassed my expectations, and we’re only six weeks in! Their creativity has been “unlocked” in some sense, and every week I’m surprised with what some of my students are capable of. It’s been a challenge for me, as a teacher, to let go a little bit, but when I see what students are doing, creating, and walking away with, I know it’s for the best. My role has changed from “sage on the stage” to “instructional coach” on Genius Hour days, and it’s been a wonderful experience, to say the least.

In a later post, HSE21 Shorts will explore some of the individual Genius Hour projects that Mr. Goodwin’s students have undertaken this year. We’ll also check on students’ progress throughout the year. Stay tuned!