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!

Snapshots of Learning: Research in First Grade

Think back to your own first grade experience. Was the term research a part of your vocabulary? Did your teacher ever refer to you as a researcher? An inquirer? For my part, I’m fairly certain that at age six I had no idea what research and/or inquiry meant. These terms…well, they just never came up in class conversation.

Not so in HSE primary classrooms today. Check out this 2-minute example from TCE teacher Courtney Gibson’s class. The first-graders’ curiosity about geodes has led to exploration, discovery, and the sharing of new knowledge. According to TCE Principal Sara Curran, these young investigators “are still sharing what they are learning, as I heard more about geodes yesterday in the hallway!”


Elementary Design: The Inquirers

In our last post, we met the 2015-16 Elementary Design Team — 23 teacher leaders who together are paving the way to discover best practices for technology integration in the primary grades. Click here to read this short introduction, if you missed it last week!

For this week, here’s another quick look at this important Team, 23 teacher-explorers on a quest of discovery!


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.”

The 21st Century Research Project: Literacy Instruction on Steroids

As an education major in the 20th century, I was schooled in four components of literacy instruction: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. These were foundational. They still are. In today’s world, though, additional literacies, sort-of ‘sub-category’ literacies, are vital as well. Depending on your source, there’s visual literacy, media literacy, and multimedia literacy. Add digital literacy, technological literacy, and (my favorite) information literacy. Clearly, these overlap; but the implication is obvious: today’s teachers have a lot of ground to cover in preparing their students to be fully-literate adults!

Sixth-grader Samie argues that smoking be banned in public places. Her great preparation and depth of research earned her a perfect score on the project!

Sixth-grader Samie argues that smoking be banned in public places. Her great preparation and depth of research earned her a perfect score on the project!

In the traditional or ‘old school’ research project, students read and write. They choose a topic, find information (remember the 100 notecards?), organize that information, and write a paper. The best research projects today, however, require students to practice both traditional and 21st century literacies–so much so that I call these projects literacy-instruction-on-steroids!  Great teachers are adept at designing projects through which students get to delve into every named aspect of literacy, and more.

Mr. Gutwein used the topic of pizza to demonstrate the mapping app Popplet for his students.

Mr. Gutwein used the topic of pizza to demonstrate the mapping app Popplet for his students.

Here’s an example: In their recent unit on persuasion, Aaron Gutwein’s sixth-graders at Riverside Intermediate first chose their own topics (all were current issues). They conferenced one-on-one with Gutwein, who guided each student to formulate a ‘big idea’ and direction for research. Students did lots of deep thinking as they sought information, mapped out arguments, gathered feedback, tweaked their plans, again sought information—over and over in a recursive process of multi-layered literacy instruction. Students used digital tools to access and organize information, and to build creative presentations. They shared their findings with peers.

Some key results of the project:

  • A deeper understanding of current issues, along with their nuances and complexities.
  • An understanding of how and where to find valid information, and what it means to make evidenced-based claims.
  • And, of course, practice in literacy skills, both the old and the new.

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.


“Calculating” Change in Math

Once upcalculators paston a time there was the abacus. Then the slide rule. By the time I entered high school, handy multi-function calculators were all the rage (pictured at left is a TI-30, circa 1976). Calculating machines, like other technological tools, have slowly become more sophisticated.

ti-nspire-cx-casSlowly, that is, until the computer age took hold. Today’s calculators are no less than specialized mini-computers, designed to assist scientists–and students–in performing complex calculations and solving mathematical and scientific problems. What’s more, these calculating ‘systems’ can easily be networked, making the once silent, straight-rowed math class an interactive, responsive mathematics lab! Take a one-minute peek into Kathleen Robeson’s room at Fishers High School to see how TI-NspireTM calculators and the CX Navigator SystemTM combined with the leadership of an excellent teacher, have transformed instruction.

*Image sources: Wikimedia Commons

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.

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