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.

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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

Surgeon General

Dr. AdamsWelcome back, HSE21 Shorts readers! We begin the new school year with a timely real world connection. A member of our community, Dr. Jerome Adams, was recently confirmed as the new Surgeon General of the United States! Before Dr. Adams is sworn in next week in Washington, D.C., he graciously took time to interact with students at Geist Elementary and HSE High Schools.



At Geist, Dr. Adams spoke with second, third and fourth grade students about components of healthy living. There’s something especially powerful when the nation’s top doctor talks about turning off the TV and getting outside in the sunshine! And if the nation’s Top Doc does push ups…

In the high school setting, Dr. Adams spoke to students from Biomedical Project Lead the Way courses as well as the Black Student Union, We the People, and several government classes.  In preparation for his visit, Dr. Adams had teachers and students read this CDC article on recent public health achievements – these achievements, as well as continuing public health challenges, provided the basis for great discussion between Dr. Adams and the students.

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 2.49.26 PMHSE21 Shorts asked teachers to describe Dr. Adams’ impact. Here are responses from Biomedical Innovations teacher Ashly Heckly:

Aside from just having a ‘title’, Dr. Adams seems to speak to significant pressing issues. What will you be able to tie in to your curriculum from his talk?
In Biomedical Innovations we are currently studying public health at the local, national, and global levels. We have been discussing the top five health issues of the 21st century, what the solution would be to these issues, and what would have to happen in order to make these solutions a reality. During this unit, we will also be studying the work of epidemiologists and how they analyze patient symptoms, test results, and other clues to successfully pinpoint the specific nature of the disease and the source. Students will end the unit by writing and presenting a grant proposal outlining an intervention plan for a particular disease, illness, or injury. Dr. Adams gave students a ‘from the field’ perspective that help them see how applicable what they are studying is to real life!

What was the reaction of the students to Dr. Adams?
Dr. Adams discussed the opiod epidemic and his conversations with high school students that are addicted to heroin. It shocked the students to hear of high school students being addicted because that is not the face that comes to mind when they think of drug addicts. They also didn’t realize that they could become addicted after only doing a drug one time and that many people are becoming addicted after taking prescription medication prescribed to them by their doctor.

The students appreciated that Dr. Adams offered them multiple view points when discussing different issues. It helped them realize that these issues are very complex and that the answers aren’t always black and white.

Dr Adams GeistThe students also admired Dr. Adams’ outstanding character traits. They were so grateful that he stayed to talk and take a picture with each student that waited in line. They were also amazed at how humble he is even though he has many great achievements.

Thank you, Dr. Adams, for your generosity of time and talents in our community. We wish you much success as you lead the charge to find solutions to our nation’s most serious and pressing health issues.

Goodbye, Bulletin Board. Hello, Story Board!

bulletinboardstory2In the last several years, we’ve done a lot of rethinking about classroom environments – and that includes hallways! Why is it that school bulletin boards of the past, while cutesy and colorful, often featured thirty examples of the same pumpkin cut out, valentine heart, or spring bunny? What drew educators to purchase and hang multiple “teacher store” posters with sayings like “Attitude Matters!” and “Do Your Best!”? We began to question…Could there be a better use for hallway walls,  prime visual venues that they are?

bulletinboardstory1As a result of our reimagining, today’s hallway walls are more story board than bulletin board; these storytelling spaces visually highlight personalized learning and classroom projects. The images shown here are photos are from Brooks School Elementary, where teachers recently gathered early one morning to share ideas and learn from Mrs. Porzuczek’s redesigned hallway space. Perusing these walls, it’s easy to get a sense of what this fourth grade learning community is all about, and of what their recent topics of study have been. QR Codes point to student created videos which explain projects more in depth.


Changing Lives Through Global Connections

MURCH1Brooks School Elementary connected educator Amy Murch has always been a pioneer when it comes to bringing the world to her classroom. Last year, Murch’s fourth graders participated in the Skype 50 State Challenge – racking up a total of 45 states and 5 countries! Through forums such as Skype Education and Twitter, Mrs. Murch and her students have taught Irish students about Genius Hour, celebrated creativity on International Dot Day, learned principles of flight from a NASA researcher, and written a blog post for world explorer Justin Miles. Night Zookeeper has become the class’ portal for writing enrichment; and this week, Murch’s fourth graders are gearing up for the Global Read Aloud, in which students from over sixty nations will connect through literature.

All that to say, by becoming a global connected educator herself, Mrs. Murch has developed quite an expertise in connecting her students — and is now helping other teachers learn to connect their classrooms as well. Don’t miss Amy’s new article on using Twitter in the classroom at

Then download the Murch-inspired Twitter for Educators Infographic (shown below) here:  Twitter+for+Beginners+PDF

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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!

GES: A Marketplace of Learning

Geist Elementary School students and faculty have come together this spring to impact their community! As a school-wide project-based learning experience, classroom pairs have collaborated on products for the GES Marketplace, set to take place on March 31st. Watch this clip to learn more!




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.”

Seeing Is Believing…in a whole new way!

SometiIMG_0574mes seeing is believing. For classroom teachers, seeing other teachers in action (what we call ‘shadow visiting’) isn’t as much about ‘belief’ as it is about sharing curriculum and methodology across grade levels. It’s also about noting successful innovation–which is exactly what happened when fourth grade teachers from HPE*, HRE* and SCE* recently spent half a day visiting Sand Creek Intermediate, the building that many of their current fourth graders will attend next year.

IMG_0539Last week’s fourth-to-fifth grade shadow visits (still more visits are slated to occur this year!) were prompted by a very specific curricular innovation: blended learning with technology. iPads have been incorporated as a tool for learning for each 5th and 6th grade student this year; seeing this blended learning in action has giveIMG_0530n the elementary teachers a clearer picture of what blended learning looks and sounds like. The fourth grade teachers were even able to learn from their former students (this year’s 5th graders) — teacher and student iPad pairs quickly sprang up as the fifth graders pulled aside their former teachers to tutor them on iPad basics!

*Harrison Parkway Elementary, Hoosier Road Elementary, & Sand Creek Elementary



HSE21, Historically Speaking

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been over three years since HSE21 first got off the ground. It was the fall of 2011 when a small group of HSE educators and administrators met to research new possibilities for teaching and learning–possibilities in which classrooms would no longer be bound by four walls and static textbooks. Digital technologies and the World Wide Web were leading to major instructional shifts around the nation. Clearly, the world was moving from print to digital, from local to global, and from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy.


The original HSE21 Pilot Team in 2012.

Fast forward a year, and a pilot team composed of dynamic HSE teachers was selected to roll out classroom innovations. These twenty educators represented each school level (K-4, 5-6, 7-8, and  9-12) and a variety of subject areas. Their charge was two-fold. First, these teachers were to begin to shift their instruction from the traditional (teacher-centered, lecture-reading-homework-test model of instruction) to a 21st century best practice learning model (student-centered, inquiry-driven and problem-based). Second, they were to incorporate digital tools for learning into their daily classroom practice. Each teacher received a cart of thirty iPads with instructions to use this technology to deepen and extend learning.


The HSE21 Pilot Team reconvened recently to reconnect and share experiences. It was a time to reflect and to look forward.

Over two more years have passed. Our pilot teachers are in their third year of teaching forward–that is, preparing our students for the world they will soon inherit. Many other faculty have joined suit. This year, our fifth and sixth graders use iPads every day. Our 7th through 12th graders will add digital devices for learning next year as well. The most important thing to remember is that these devices are not an end in themselves. They are learning tools that provide for up-to-date information access, teacher-student collaboration, communication, global connections and creativity. Taking advantage of our 21st century advantages. The pilot team led the way. They have much of which to be proud.