Doubling up


Hamilton Southeastern Schools Foundation increases its grant budget in celebration of its 10th anniversary

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HSEHS teacher Lisa Trinkle, right, used an HSSF grant to purchase robotic babies that simulate infant needs and behaviors for her child development course. HSEHS sophomore Paola Millano, left, “adopted” one of the babies last week. (Photo by Jordan Fischer)

The Hamilton Southeastern Schools Foundation celebrated its 10th anniversary on July 31. To celebrate the occasion, HSSF doubled its grant budget this year and started promoting district-wide programs in order to affect even more students.

HSSF gave its first grant in thespring 2003. Now, grants are awarded in both the fall and spring each year to teachers and staff members who hope to improve their teaching methods through the acquisition of new technology and application of fresh ideas to the classroom.

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HSEHS senior Mitchell Shoemaker uses the high school’s laser cutter to engrave a sign for Current in Fishers.

“We want it to be creative and innovative, but also apply a new way of teaching things. We want to find new ways to apply the standards that have to be taught,” saidLisa Allen, HSSF executive director.

The newest change to the grant process came this year through the foundation’s first district-wide grant. Due to contributions from the Geist Half Marathon, more funding has become available for health-related grants in particular, including the Fitnessgram that will eventually be used at every elementary, intermediate and junior high school in the school district.

HSJH physical education teacherKaren Boyd received an HSSF grant two years ago to initiate a new program to evaluate wellness of the students at her school. This program, called the Fitnessgram, tracks each child’s progress in areas like body composition, flexibility, upper body strength and cardiorespiratory endurance from fourth grade through freshman year of high school. Each nine weeks, the child receives a report, similar to a telegram, of where he/she has done well and needs improvement.

“The reports are friendly. It’s not a statement about you; it’s a statement about your fitness level,” Boyd said. “The ranges are really big, so instead of a number, like a pass or fail, it’s like a zone, and the zone that’s like the F scale that “needs improvement” is very small, and the middle zone’s big.”

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The finished product. (Photos by Jordan Fischer)

The Fitnessgram not only changed the way fitness is measured, but also how it is taught. Now, the physical activities are more related to fitness, such as a new type of dodgeball that involves push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks, and the curriculum focuses more on realistic progress for each individual rather than the achievement of a specific body type.

“We go through a whole goal-setting thing at the beginning of the year: how to set goals, what are realistic goals. One of the things you worry about in testing body composition is it is a very sensitive subject. You have to change their (students’) mindsets so it’s not sensitive anymore. This would be a good place to start that since eating disorders start at this age,” Boyd said.

Due to the success at the junior high school, donations from the Geist Half Marathon will be used to increase the scope of this program on a district-wide scale during the course of the next few years. Students in all of the elementary, intermediate and junior high schools will eventually carry their Fitnessgram with them between schools in order to see their progress during the years.

Another HSSF grant enabled developmentally-disabled students to participate in physical activity as well, but in a way more comfortable for them.

“I teach students who have mild disabilities, and for a lot of those kids, going to gym class or P.E. is way overstimulating,”said Chrissie Sturgill, Fishers High School teacher for developmentally-disabled students. “They (students) really need the physical part of P.E., but they can’t do it in a room with 100 other people where the noise is echoing off the walls.”

To solve this problem, Sturgill requested a grant for some Wiis to be used in the classroom so the students could use them on their own schedule. Games like Wii Sports and Dance Party can be shared by the students and the peer tutors who come in throughout the day to work with them in areas in which they struggle.

“We use those Wiis every day, almost all day. The children are all on them at different times and it’s just fantastic,” Sturgill said.

In addition to various health grants, the HSSF grant committee has also been able to facilitate the integration of new technology into the classroom. One grant helped cover the cost of a laser cutter atHamiltonSoutheasternHigh Schoolfor use by the engineering classes and robotics club members for their various projects. This machine allows students to create a design on the computer and send it to the laser cutter to be cut out of wood or any number of other materials.

“It’s just a different approach. Instead of using woodshop equipment to create parts, you’re using the latest technology and your parts are precise and reproducible,” engineering teacher Jeff Wilkins said.

Last year, Wilkins and his students created and sold name plates for teachers to hang outside their rooms at the high school, but the laser cutter has many other fundraising possibilities. It can engrave glass and coated metal, bleach fabric and even melt designs onto fleece. Most importantly, it is safer than most woodshop equipment and even helps students understand the class easier.

“It allows students to take concepts that might be visually abstract and have a 3-D model in their hands, and allows us to prototype in an instant,” Wilkins said.

In addition to investing in new technology, the HSSF grants have helped teachers with improving the way they teach. For HSEHS teacher Elizabeth Trinkle, this grant enabled her to expand an assignment for her child development class that allows students to experience the difficulties of raising an infant firsthand by taking home a RealCare infant, which is a baby doll that behaves like a human child.

“It wakes up in the middle of the night, it needs fed, it needs burped, it needs rocked and this particular model is programmed by the computer. It records what happens to it (the doll) and lets me know if it’s been abused, if it’s been neglected, if it’s been shaken,” Trinkle said.

Although there is an alternate assignment for students who do not have time in their schedules to take care of a young child, most students look forward to taking home one of the infants as the highlight of the class, which led to difficulties when Trinkle taught three sections of the class last fall. Because of the HSSF grant, she was able to purchase four additional RealCare infants in order to speed up the assignment.

“Most students want to do at least two days or a weekend rather than just overnight, so it allows a lot more students to be able to do that,” Trinkle said.

Whether the need lies in a new vein of technology or in changing the way P.E. is taught, the HSSF grants have been offering teachers the opportunity to get their hands on materials above and beyond what is used in the average classroom.

“There are a lot of teachers that don’t know about the grant process, and you have to get the word out there’s money there,” Boyd said.

Although the yearlong celebration of the 10-year anniversary of HSSF will come to a close in July, the grant program will continue to develop in the future.

“We’re growing and changing as time goes on. We’ll continue growing our budget and we’d love to do other district-wide projects that would affect a lot of students,” Allen said.

HSE Schools Foundation announces spring grant recipients

The Hamilton Southeastern Schools Foundation recently announced recipients of its spring grants totaling close to $11,000. Each recipient, amount and project are listed below:


  • Abbey Browning and Lisa Brown, Fishers High School – $1,800 for Bringing Fine Art to the 21st Century. Purchase three DSLR cameras for a new digital photography class that teaches more than point and shoot so the students will learn to have control by using the manual functions.
  • Daniel Moosbrugger, Hamilton Southeastern High School – $970 for Ceramic Coiling Success for Beginners.  Purchase two clay extruders for the Three Dimensional Art and Ceramics class.  The extruders give the students much more success in creating and executing their projects.
  • Kayla Holcomb, Durbin Elementary – $1,763 for Empowering Students with the iPad2.  Purchase 3 iPad2’s, cases and iTunes gift cards for the Special Education students.  This will allow students with reading disabilities to independently study and complete assignments.
  • Mary Beth Riley, Durbin Elementary – $1,122 for Engineering is Elementary!  Purchase engineering based curriculum kits for each grade level.  The storybooks in the kits integrate cultural understanding with different countries and nationalities represented within them.
  • Kara Hiatt and Leslie Hopper, Thorpe Creek Elementary – $2,190 for iPads for Publishing at Thorpe Creek Elementary.  Purchase 2 iPads and iTunes to aid students’ in publishing, which is the final step in the writing process.
  • Stacy Cook and Tanya Cooper, New Britton Elementary – $1,974 for LEARNS (Let Everyone Acquire Resources to support our Needs with Sensory input).  Purchase a Sensory Motor Kit and other equipment that has been proven to aid students with moderate disabilities and help them with their academic learning.
  • Kevin Johnson and Jeff Johnson, Riverside Intermediate and Junior High – $1,970 for Riverside Natural Property Trails Development.  Purchase materials to make signs, distance markers and visual aids for the trails and boundaries of their adjacent 76 –acre wooded property.  All classes will be able to use this property for educational purposes.

For more information, contact HSSF Executive Director Lisa Allen at 317-594-4100.