180 days of learning

180 days of learning

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Riverside Competes Against Hunger

April 18, 2013 1 Comment

Last week Riverside Intermediate School’s Ecology Club sponsored a week long food drive to help table the issue of hunger in our community.  Club members helped to promote the food drive, rally students to help, collect and sort the items, and most of all they helped to spread awareness of hunger in our area and worldwide.  As the club sponsor I wasn’t sure what we may be able to contribute but I knew that every little bit would help.  I was surprised and overjoyed when within five days we collected 855 items to donate to the local food banks.

Thank you to everyone who helped to make this food drive a huge success!

Ms. Walleske- Ecology Club Sponsor and Advanced Math Teacher

Here’s what we brought to the table!!Day FINAL


The Impact of One Teacher

April 17, 2013 2 Comments

Last week, a young man came into the office at Riverside Intermediate School.  He brought in the largest flower arrangement that I have seen outside flowers for a funeral.  He asked for Mrs. Dennis, I thought.  His English was a bit suspect for my understanding.  He came to Riverside to give these flowers to Mrs. Terri Dennie.  (I thought he was a flower delivery person, although I thought he looked familiar.)

Mrs. Dennie had just left for lunch and was precicted to return in approximately 15-20 minutes.  He was invited to come back or wait for her return.  He made the decision to wait for her return.  When Mrs. Dennie returned she was asked to come to the office.  The young man immediately asked her if she remembered him.  He reminded Mrs. Dennie that his name was Joel; he was a 5th grade student of hers 12 years ago at Menominee Elementary.

Mrs. Dennie did remember Joel.  Joel had come to her speaking little to no Enlgish.  He said he came to see Mrs. Dennie to bring her flowers to thank her for believing in him and helping him all those years ago.  With tears in his eyes and tears in Mrs. Dennie’s eyes he shared what he was doing now.  Many of us in the office witnessed this reunion between a teacher and a former student.  What a moment!

Joel shared with Mrs. Dennie…

Joel had left Plymouth when he was a Lincoln Jr. High student as his family moved to Florida.  He recently graduated from Berkley.  He is now 22 years old and teaches Salsa and teaches young people to dance.  He encourages young students to work hard and reach their fullest potential.  Joel has danced with famous people such as Jenifer Lopez.  He shared with Mrs. Dennie that when he first came to the United States he really wanted to know what they were saying on the American TV.  This motivated him to the English language.  His commitment and the encouragement from others has driven him to accomplish quite a bit.  He explained that his mother believed in him.  He brought the flowers to Mrs. Dennie to THANK her for also believing in him.


I met with Mrs. Dennie after school.  This event made her day.  As an educator as well as on a personal level, this was a beautiful moment.  This, and others like it, is why we continue to do what we do.  What a GREAT day!

Jeni Hirschy Principal of Riverside Intermediate School

Make A Difference

April 16, 2013 3 Comments

Our project in the Weidner School of Inquiry @PHS 21st Century Communications class was called “ Make A Difference”. We thought that this project would be our chance to actually make a difference. We chose Autism Awareness because we saw the struggle in some of the autistic kids here at our school, and we thought we could learn a little bit more about why autistic kids act the way they do, and why people make fun of them. Even though they look no different than you and me. We never thought our project would actually turn into something, but it did, and we sure are glad we made it this far. The road to get here was so fun, and it’s been so great meeting all these new people involved in trying to make a difference with  Autism Awareness. It’s been amazing having these new experiences and we both enjoy it very much. We’re so glad we chose what we did and that we have actually come this far. We feel like we’ve already made a difference, but we can go so much further.

Krysta Cantero and JoAnna Mendez are freshmen learners in the Weidner School of Inquiry @PHS

Their Autism Awareness poster caught the eye of JESSE transition coordinator, Mrs. Johnna Ramer.  Mrs. Ramer then viewed their Autism PSA and invited them to present it to the JESSE board of directors at their April Meeting.

Autism Awareness: What I learned In Twelve Years at Plymouth Schools.

April 15, 2013

My name is Sara Sturtevant and I have autism.  April is autism awareness month!  I have attended Plymouth Schools since 1st grade.  I have learned many things in my twelve years at Plymouth Schools.  I have learned academics but I have also learned about myself and how to manage my autism. These are all skills I needed to learn to become an adult.

I attended Jefferson Elementary School, there my teacher taught me how to play with kids outside and inside during recess.  Kids with autism do not know how to play with other kids, they actually need to be taught how to play, they need to know to look at other kids and share by giving and taking.  I learned how to sit in class, I learned how to read and do math.  I learned how to write and do English.  I needed extra help from a teacher assistant and an autism teacher to learn academics and social skills.  I needed an occupational therapist and a speech therapist to help me learn special strategies to work in my class.  I also started learning how to work out my own issues and problem solve.  Another thing I learned at Jefferson was how to use a schedule and deal with changes in the schedule.  That is very hard for someone with autism.  People with autism get stressed or tense from a variety of things in school, so I had to learn how to ask my aide for breaks to do sensory work.

I started going to Riverside School in 5th grade. There I learned how to not talk when the teacher is talking,  at Riverside I learned how to go from classroom to classroom, there were alot changes doing that. I started to learn how to organize  my work, I used a file folder.  I had to take accuity tests for the first time, I also had to take more ISTEP tests.  I learned how to expand my writing skills.  At Riverside I started going to “Circle of Friends” a group of others with autism spectrum disorder, together we learned about autism and how to deal with it.  We also learned social skills.

I was anxious about moving to a new school when I went to Lincoln Junior High.  Once I got the hang of things it was okay.  I still worked on learning to organize my stuff.  I learned how to do homework at home and in school during learning center.  When I was in 7th grade I ran track and cross country  but I stopped because it was so hot and I had sensory issues with heat.  The heat interfers with my focus and I decided not to run track or cross country anymore at school.  I was also the rooster in Charlotte’s Web, the school play.  I was nervous performing in front of an audience but I learned it was fun.

One of the first things when I started at Plymouth High School was how to use a locker and memorize locker codes.  At high school I learned how to talk to counselors about classes.  I started using a headset and audio to read along when I didn’t understand what the reading assignments were trying tell me.  I learned how to read Shakespeare every year I have been at PHS.  I use computer audio and visuals to learn Shakespeare.  I really work hard in my academic classes sometimes I need an aide to reteach me the information I am expected to learn in my classes.  I work pretty hard and like to get my work done ahead of time.  The things I like the best in high school are “Circle of Friends” (my social skills group) and my elective classes.  I have taken cooking, ceramics, painting, 3D art and 2Dart.  I learned computer skills at Plymouth High, I had books in the  9th grade and when I was a sophmore I got my own computer assigned to me.  At the beginning it was hard to use the computer but after I used it  awhile it got easier every year.  One thing I do not like is taking tests, I had to take the ECA tests to graduate, I had to take some of my ECA tests more than one time but I made it!  It’s important to learn how to take tests because I am going to  Ivy Tech next year and I had to take some tests to get enrolled.

Because of my autism one of the hardest things for me to learn was how to deal with unexpected loud noises.  At school there are always noises, there is the fire drill, tornado drill and class bells etc.  When I was little I had to go outside with my teachers before the drills would start and now I can handle them.

Going to Plymouth School has helped me to become the best of myself!!!!!

autism pic

Autism Awareness Month

April 12, 2013 1 Comment

autism-symbol-ribbon-white-backgroundApril is autism awareness month!  It’s the one month out of the year when we focus on autism in the media, in our schools, and our communities. Let us not forget that autism awarness does not happen just in April.  For the people with autism and their families, autism awareness is everyday.

Last year during April our students at Lincoln Junior High and Plymouth High School took on a poster and bulletin board project  titled “10 plus things we want people to know about Autism”,  The idea came from a book titled “Ten Things People With Autism Want You to Know”. It was the consensus of our social skills group that there are alot more than ten things people need to know about autism.  Last year we posted our findings all over the schools.  This year we have a different theme  “Embracing Differences” .  To embrace those differences, we need to remember what our students in Plymouth, Indiana feel is important to know about Autism Spectrum Disorder, so I felt it appropriate to list those ten plus things, Plymouth students identified as important to autism awareness.

1.  “I need help building on what I can do! Not what I can’t do!”

2.  ” I am not stupid! I have a different way of learning!  I can learn!

3.  “I am a concrete thinker!”

4. “My brain becomes overloaded easily when I have more than one task to complete!  I need help organizing!”


6. ” I have trouble meeting deadlines because my brain cannot break tasks down and organize them in a sequencial order. Therefore it takes more time to complete my work.”

7 “I CAN’T HURRY!”, ” My brain shuts down when I am told to hurry.”

8. “I am a visual learner.”

9.  “My sensory perspectives are disordered!,”  ” I need sensory work to help me organize my brain to remain calm and focussed.”

10. “Triggers and meltdowns are even more horrible for me than you!”

11.  “I don’t hear with my eyes!” , “I am listening although I do not give eye contact ”

12.   “I need modifications because my brain does not process like everyone else”.

13.  “I need to role play to help me understand text and act socially appropriate!”

14. “Help me with social interactions. I don’t mean to be rude – teach me how to socialize with others.”

15.  “My brain does not process too many words at one time.  I have a limited vocabulary.”

During April some of our students will be blogging on the 180 days of learning, please return to read their blogs.  They will learn from writing the blogs and you will learn from them – that’s autism awareness.

Penny Hines, JESSE Autism Consultant

Goodreads is a Good Read

April 11, 2013

PHS English students are expanding their personal learning networks using social media tools including Google+, GoodReads, The New York Times Student Opinion Page, and KQED Do Now.

Google+ allows students and teachers to collaborate online in a variety of ways.  They can communicate with teachers and classmates through discussion posts or video discussions called “hangouts.”  They can use the same tools to reach out to students, teachers, and experts worldwide or in the classroom next door.  Here is an example of one of the many ways Google+ is used in English:

Goodreads post

Students use Goodreads to develop and maintain a lifelong love of reading. Imagine it as a large library that teens can wander through and see everyone’s bookshelves, their reviews, and their ratings. They can also post their own reviews and catalog what they have read, are currently reading, and plan to read in the future. They also participate in discussion groups, can contact authors, and even post their own writing. Senior Amber Redinger said, “I like the GoodReads, because then you can get other points of the book from other people to have a better look on the book before you check it out. Or if a book sounds interesting from someone else point of view, it might make you want to read it.”  View an example from GoodReads:

Goodreads post in MBC

Finally, students read informational texts such as The New York Times and respond to posts about current events.  This allows them to engage in conversations with teens from Boston to San Francisco about issues that matter to them.  As a result, some students have been published on the Times page, including our own Cristal Monsilbais. Senior Ramon Luna said, “It’s awesome to read other people’s opinions and points of view on different subjects.”

Teachers Still Learning

April 10, 2013

It is NEVER too late to learn!  This week a group of educators traveled after school to the Martin’s School of Cooking at Heritage Square in Granger, Indiana.  The Kellogg Institute for International Studies offered a cooking session entitled “Taste of Thailand”.  Teams were assigned different recipes to compile for the group to taste at a “Discussion Group” seating.  The menu included:

  • Sunny’s Freshest Spring Rolls
  • Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
  • Mango Salad
  • Broccoli Stir Fry with Spicy Peanut Sauce
  • Thai Green Curry
  • Fried Bananas with Nam Prik Nam Plau (Traditional Thai Sauce)
  • Han Guk Bobb (Korean Steamed Rice)

The origin and descriptions of the Thai recipes lent to the flavor of learning about the Thai and Asian cultures.  One of the lead chefs was the owner of Sunny’s Korean Restaurant in Mishawaka, so the meal discussion revolved around differences in Thai and Korean recipes.

Kellogg Institute presents...——————————————

Attendees from Plymouth High School included Mei (Angel) Guan, Chinese Teacher; Delia Gadziola, Spanish Teacher; Rebecca Ippel, ENL Interventionist; Michele Holloway, Math; Ruthie McCollough, FACS; Stephanie Wezeman, Language Arts; and Janice Curtis, Technology Curriculum.

Raising Awareness in a Simple Way

April 9, 2013

In the past few weeks, students from Mr. Scott, Mrs. Thornton and Mr. Heeren’s Class have been studying slavery and human trafficking. After hearing speaker Jon Andrews from Tiny Hands International, the students were moved to want to help. In class discussions, many of them knew they wanted to do something, but they didn’t know what.

If you are on Twitter, you may have seen the #iempower hashtag. The educational company MentorMob has partnered with the Kwagala Project to raise awareness for human trafficking. To do this, they are asking people to take a picture (like the ones below) and share it through social media. The pictures are then shared with children in Uganda who are dealing with extremely hard times. Here are just a few of the students who are making an impact by simply sharing words of encouragement.IMG_1447 IMG_1459 IMG_1462 IMG_1473 IMG_1474 IMG_1492 IMG_1494

IMG_1551 IMG_1552

8th grade Social Studies Classes, Lincoln Junior High

eQuip ‘Hit Refresh!’

April 8, 2013

For the past few weeks, our eLearning team has been knee deep in getting things together for our summer eLearning Conference July 31st, 2013! Registration is now open! We, along with districts from around the state are holding conferences sponsored by the Indiana Department of Education. We are welcoming George Couros, Alec Couros and Dean Shareski, along with many educators from around the state! If you are an educator or you know someone in education, encourage them to come to eQuip ‘Hit Refresh!’

eQuip ‘Hit Refresh’ Promo! from Allison Holland on Vimeo.

Check out our website for more information and follow #pcsceQuip13!

PCSC eLearning Team

iPads in Education

April 5, 2013

Recently educators from Plymouth visited the Apple Headquarters in Chicago for a briefing to determine the effectiveness of the next device to be used.  Four trainers from different aspects of education explained the power of an iPad in education.  Today’s student needs to consume information before being creative about the production in learning.  The iPad allows the student to consume that information in many interactive and very engaging ways.  The educators who attended this briefing were given several tasks, to create a report on their group activity, using a variety of applications.  The result was a concentration on the content of the material entered into the product rather than the actual process of the product because creating on an iPad is so much easier than on a MacBook.  Further discussion will definitely be needed.

iPads are currently being used in all kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms throughout our corporation.  Other classrooms throughout the corporation are using carts and trays of iPads to enhance their instruction.  The video above was one shown to us at Apple HQ in Chicago and features our very own Amy Gerard’s nephew.