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 51 – Junior High Faculty Ramps Up to Roll Out



When all junior high students (grades 7-8) walk through school doors carrying iPads next August (2015), teachers want to be prepared. Last Thursday’s professional learning day gave them an opportunity to move in that direction. as all junior high faculty participated in the HSE21 1:1 JH Kick-Off Day. Approximately 175 teachers and administrators met at Riverside Junior High and spent the day listening, assessing, collaborating, and learning.


The day began with speakers from neighboring Noblesville Schools, who discussed their shift in instruction and recent iPad roll out. A panel of HSE pilot teachers and intermediate school faculty, having already experienced 1:1 classrooms, then answered questions about what they’ve learned along the way.All junior high teachers assessed their personal and departmental professional development needs for the coming year, and each department developed a plan to ensure preparedness. In the afternoon, teachers gathered in small groups to learn more about digital tools such as Google Drive and Blackboard, HSE’s learning management system.

IMG_2493HSE21 signifies a major shift in the way teaching and learning happens–from lecture-based, teacher-centric to problem-based inquiry learning that is student-driven. HSE faculty, all life-long learners, are on an inquiry journey to a new era in education. And the primary benefactors, wonderfully, are our students.


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!

Day 35 – You Are a Genius, Part 1

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There is a genius in all of us, right? The teachers at Thorpe Creek Elementary think so too!  Many TCE classrooms from kindergarten to fourth grade dedicate instructional time to Genius Hour each week. Students inquire, explore, and expand their wonderings and passions. They are given time to wonder and ask questions about their world, research and explore, and then students share their findings with the class and community! And it looks different in every classroom!


Mrs. Eby modeled her own inquiry for her kindergarten class when she shared how she discovered that her broken air conditioner had actually been struck by lightning!  She shared how she asked questions, where she went to seek the answers, and how she shared her findings.  Her students then started asking their own questions.  Some first graders in Mrs. Potter’s class asked questions like, “Why do bees sting you?” and “Why do we have an attic in our house if we never use it.”

Mrs. Gibson’s fourth graders are finding that some of their wonderings are turning into projects!  One group wondered how gluten-free ice cream is made, and now they are making their own and sharing it with the class! Another group of students in her class is learning about robots and attempting to build their own.  Mrs. L. King’s second graders are making informative videos, including one about the dangers of poison ivy!
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What do you wonder about?  How do you find answers to your questions and share the information with others?  We all do this every day!  That’s what HSE21 instruction and Genius Hour is all about…purposely, creatively, and safely navigating our everyday inquiries!

-Submitted by Leslie Hopper, Thorpe Creek Elementary Media Specialist

Day 27 – Marble Moves



These were the instructions given recently to Riverside Junior High 8th grade science students. Supplies were provided, but the method…wide open!

Science teachers Stephanie King, Ashley Heckly and Teri Folta developed this inquiry project to introduce their students to the scientific method and the process of design. As they accomplish this task, the students are learning how to write procedures, and to collect and analyze data. The next step in the activity will be to synthesize their learning by composing their first lab report; class discussion will focus on the process of inquiry as well as the difference between precision and accuracy in data.

zip3This introductory science inquiry project gives a clear example of HSE21 learning in action. In dynamic 21st century classrooms, students think critically and creatively to find solutions to problems. In this case, teams pooled their creative ideas and scientific knowledge to design a successful marble path. Along the way, they learned the concepts of precision and accuracy, and they gained experience in collecting/analyzing data, writing lab reports, and collaboration. Heckly, Folta, and King will spend the rest of the year helping their students build on these foundational skills as classes delve deeper into chemistry and physics through the school year.

Submitted by Shawn Humphrey, RJH media specialist

Day 19 – Second Graders Ask, “How Has Fishers Changed?”


Long-time residents of Fishers have witnessed its transformation–from a rural farming community to bustling suburb. Change is evident in the land, the structures, and every other aspect of life here. Seven year olds, on the other hand, don’t have this historical context at their disposal. They’ve always known Fishers as the almost-city it is today. As part of a study of communities, though, Mrs. Hillman’s second graders at Geist Elementary have just embarked on an inquiry project to learn about FIshers and how it has changed.

Beginning with the driving question, “How has Fishers changed?” Mrs. Hillman’s students are setting off on a journey. Over the next few weeks they will research sub-questions, consult experts, make comparisons, look for connections, and draw conclusions. They will create presentations of their learning to share with their peers, families, and community. Results will be published here–stay tuned!IMG_1951

-Submitted on behalf of Susan Hillman, Geist Elementary, Second Grade