Art with Intention

Red Sand 1

In Ali Broach’s Photography 2 class, students do more than take photos. They take photos with intention.

The purpose of art, Broach teaches her students, is about more than self-expression. It’s about making a statement, pushing the envelope. It’s about thinking beyond ourselves and more about the world.

Which is why Broach’s students were involved in the Red Sand Project. A participatory artwork created by Molly Gochman, the project uses “sidewalk interventions and earthwork installations to create opportunities for people to questions, connect and take action against vulnerabilities that can lead to human trafficking and exploitation,” according to the website,

Broach encourages her students to choose topics that are meaningful to them for their art. Students this semester put together ad campaigns that used graphics they created; topics included reproductive rights, immigration, trans rights, mental health and toxic masculinity.

“I think it’s important for kids to be able to express themselves,” Broach says. “They’re the future; their voices matter.”

And the students agree; they are excited about the ways in which art can help highlight causes they care deeply about.

“She always talks about how art can push people to feel uncomfortable,” says senior Elin Noerenberg. “But that’s important.”

The Red Sand Project shows, metaphorically, how those people who end up being trafficked can, like the sand, fall through the cracks in society. The stark red of the sand, in contrast with the pavement, makes a striking statement. And students wrote statistics about human trafficking on the sidewalk in front of Jefferson High School.

It’s a project that is meaningful and, for her photography students, photographs well.

“Things like this get the kids thinking about what goes on outside the classroom and what they can change,” Broach says. “I’ve never seen them so excited.

Red Sand Project

This is not Broach’s first foray into public art with her students. They have worked at Durkees Run Stormwater Park, across the street from Jefferson High School. And eight years ago, the students created the Inside Out Project, which featured portraits and statements about the people who work in Jefferson High School. It’s a project that helps communities highlight untold stories

These are lessons, she says, that will stay with students all their lives.

“I thought it was very inspirational,” says junior Dakota Daniels. “We’re showing off our artwork and that’s pretty cool. We're showing people what Jefferson High School can do. We care."

Students are making art with more than aesthetic value; it’s art with a social justice statement. And that is empowering, Broach says.

“The kids enjoy knowing their work makes a difference in their community.”

Purdue Students Bring Change with Positivity, Encouragement

Fab Four One

They call themselves The Fab Four.

The Purdue students looked like giants amongst the third- and fourth-graders at Edgelea. They spoke words of wisdom, sharing advice and encouragement, and had a dance party. All to help students be successful.

These four young men are students at Purdue University. Three of them play football; one studies mechanical engineering. They’re roommates, confidantes. They found each other at Purdue, by happenstance, and they’ve bonded – they’re like brothers now, they say.

But they’ve seen adversity; they’ve had struggles. They have had to work to get where they are. And they’ve persevered, come out on top.

So now, they like to take that message on the road, especially to elementary schools. They want to reassure kids that they, too, can succeed. And these four are here to help.

Malachi Preciado, Nic Caraway, Drew Buban and André Oben visited students at Edgelea Elementary School and led a pep rally – not for sports, but to get the excited about their upcoming ILEARN tests.

“Raise your hands if you like to read,” Oben said at the rally. “I would basically read all day. It’s one of my passions.” The crowd erupted with thunderous applause.

“Why be nervous?” Buban, who studies engineering, asked. “You’re all going to do great on it, right?”

The Fab Four likes to spread encouragement to kids. It’s fun, Preciado says, to visit schools and stir up some genuine enthusiasm. They pose for photos, give high-fives and sign autographs – whatever it takes to get kids excited.

“It feels good to have that impact,” he says. “It also makes us happy. It fills us with joy. It’s nice to get a break from the school life. It’s a great trade-off.”

Fab Four Two

And for these Purdue students, knowing that they could help these youngsters be successful is part of their mission. As football players, they know the power they have.

“It’s great to be impactful in somebody’s life,” Caraway says. “André and I know we look like giants to them. They can see that their dreams are possible. Whatever they want to do, they can go do that.

“I get something out of seeing kids thrive. Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t let that fire get put out by anyone. I know how much it means to a kid.”

They are modeling positivity, mentoring and encouragement. It’s a gift they are thrilled to give to the next generation, they say.

“If we could just change one life, make one person’s day better, it’s worth it.”

Reaching for the Stars

Planetarium Huston

Students in Lafayette School Corp. are encouraged to reach for the stars. And they can see them – literally – with the help of the Planetarium at Jefferson High School.

It’s a place where all LSC students, grades K through 12, can learn about the earth, the solar system, the night sky – just like the universe, the possibilities are limitless.

Planetariums were popular in schools that were redesigning their buildings in the 1960s, says Bill Huston, Jefferson High School science teacher and director of the Planetarium. Companies were sending their sales people out to school districts, touting the Space Race and the moon landings. This was also, Huston says, a time of many small rural school districts consolidating, so big building budgets were everywhere. Hence for a fraction of the entire budget, a Planetarium could be added. Though the brand-new Jefferson High School wasn't a consolidation, it was part of a growing community and may have wanted to stay one step ahead of the county schools.

“It was built to be both a classroom and a ‘show‘ room,” Huston says. “Most of the elementary schools in LSC came to the planetarium for a show once or twice a year for its first few years. I don't know of any public shows, but that's something that takes a bit more infrastructure.”

The Planetarium at JHS is somewhat unique, says Huston. There are dozens of school district planetariums in Indiana and the Midwest. Though some have fallen on hard times and are removed or neglected due to lack of qualified staff or funding; as technology changes and advances, schools often can’t find the funds to keep the facility up to date. Thus many high school planetariums gets phased out.

Yet the uses for the Planetarium are not difficult to justify, says Huston.

“Incorporating it into the curriculum is easy, really, since there are many space-related standards for nearly all grade levels,” he says. “In addition, we can reach outside the standards to related topics that might not be listed but certainly are relevant and important. The Earth/Space Science classes make a trip or two to the planetarium, as well, since that is in their curriculum, but it's difficult for me since I have to get a substitute for my classroom when the other teachers bring their students there.”

The Planetarium is used often; it is the classroom for the Astronomy class, and the Earth/Space science classes at Jeff make a few trips. Elementary school classrooms from LSC, Tippecanoe and West Lafayette school corporations, and even home-school groups and private schools come for presentations. The past two summers, LSC has had a summer session for migrant workers' children, so they have made a trip over to the Planetarium and reportedly loved it. In addition, scout troops come to work on their space badge; a couple of senior citizen groups have also come for presentations.

Huston has collaborated with Purdue groups to do some fun science activities; the local amateur astronomy club has arranged to come a few times; and he hosted the Indiana division of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association for the annual meeting in 2016. At the end of the first semester a few years ago, he presented a meditation show (that was provided for free from Ball State's planetarium) for the Jeff faculty over several days and for several periods. (“I wish I had been able to do that for every period for the staff,” he said.)

Huston came to JHS in the fall of 1987 and started teaching astronomy in the Planetarium in the spring semester. The two previous directors of the Planetarium were both still teaching at JHS, and one of them still handled elementary school shows, but those were fading away.

“I think about 1991 or ’92 I did my first elementary school show,” he recalls. “It was fun! It was loud.”

Kids in Planetarium

In 1997, former Superintendent Dr. Ed Eiler spearheaded money for new carpeting, new seats, a new sound system, and some other technology upgrades. Huston received grants of $44,000 from the Alcoa Foundation and $5,000 from Lowe's Toolbox for Teachers in 2009 to put toward some advanced Planetarium technology that included a powerful computer, LED cove lights with 10,000 levels of fade, and a "Full Dome" projection system (which didn't get installed until 2017). The lights were assisted by LSC to the tune of $10,000.

Also in 2009, the planetarium was awarded two huge, color images from NASA's "Great Observatories" series, one of only 150 sites in the country to get them. In 2004 and 2012 Huston held some free public planetarium shows about the "Transit of Venus" and followed those up with public viewings of those events with special solar filters on some telescopes. Those were lots of fun, he says, and lots of people came through.

“I've been trying to upgrade what we present through the Full Dome system,” Huston says. “But those shows are extremely expensive ($2,000 to $5,000 for a two-three-year contract). And to make the Full Dome experience the best it can be, we really need the ceiling cleaned and painted (or replaced), and we need a better projector for that system. Through these years we have gained several telescopes that have allowed the Jeff Astronomy Club and me to host outside public gatherings to view the moon, Jupiter, Saturn and other celestial objects through the telescopes. Public outreach is fun.”

The Planetarium has always been – and still is – a vital resource for learning, for exposing students to science, and for engaging our students in learning in a way not all districts can. Huston is committed to continuing these offerings if at all possible.

“I would love to have something to show as a ‘public show’ and charge admission and make money for the planetarium, but that takes some technology that we don't have, some logistics for an evening event, and it takes time,” he says.

The Planetarium is a valued resource, one LSC can be proud of. Huston has seen over and over how students react on these visits.

“Year after year, children come to this planetarium and are really excited. High school kids get excited about it. Clearly it has value to a big portion of the community, and its potential value hasn't been reached.”

Baby Steps on Infant Care


On Friday, Feb. 17, students in Mrs. Foster’s Child Development class took home some extra-complicated homework: a baby.

Not a real baby, of course – but almost. Six students took home RealCare baby infant simulators. This “smart baby” doll is programmed to need feeding, changing and burping; the tracking knows if it has been mishandled – shaken, handled roughly, or the head not held up properly.

It’s all part of a lesson on the challenges of caring for an infant. The students took the babies home for 48 hours of care. The babies needed to be fed, changed, held and cared for. And if their needs are not met, they cry until their caregiver can discern what they need – just like an actual baby.

The students returned their babies to school after their weekend of caregiving – except for one student, who forgot their baby at home. And those mistakes are a critical part of the lesson – Mrs. Foster had to remind the class that those errors, in real life, would result in a call to Child Protective Services.

The students admitted to being a bit intimidated by the prospect of caring for a newborn for an entire weekend. Ayden Conley, 15, a freshman, said it was definitely a learning experience.

“I was really excited to take it home,” he said. “But I was kind of nervous for the crying.”

His baby interrupted his video games by crying. But Conley adapted, learning how to hold the baby while he played. At one point, he got overwhelmed and just walked away, telling his mother he needed to take a walk. He returned, figured out how to hold the baby on his chest, and resumed gaming.

Sophomore Lamiah Hannon has helped out with her younger siblings, so she thought she knew what she was in for.

“I knew it was going to be some work,” she said. “But it wasn’t like that at all.”

She took the baby out to eat with her family Friday night. The baby cried right where their orders arrived, which she found embarrassing. And her baby had her up every two hours in the night.

“Saturday was terrible,” she said. “It kept waking me up in the middle of the night. That baby knew on Saturday I just wanted to relax.”

Ninth-grader Jaycie Saltsman said she, too, expected the baby to be work. And she knew the baby would cry, but she was unprepared for the reality.

“It screams!” she said. “It just gradually gets louder. It was embarrassing when I had it out in public. We had to find a bathroom.”

She had her challenges trying to get the baby to sleep and to stop crying. Along with some other real-life complications: she would have liked a girl, yet she was given a boy. 

The students all agreed that finding out what the different cries meant was challenging, and there was some satisfaction in figuring them out, then meeting the babies’ needs. Sometimes, they said, nothing would work, which was very stressful.

It was a lesson in the time commitment and sacrifice required to care for an infant. In some cases, a hard lesson. One student admitted to leaving the baby in the car while out shopping. Upon realizing what she had done, she loudly exclaimed that she had to go and get her baby out of the car. Another shopper, overhearing her, commented, “I don’t think she’s ready to have kids yet.”

Which was a sentiment shared by all the students. They learned a lot not only about baby care, but about everything that is involved. Freedom is lost when a baby comes along, one boy said. High school students have educations to finish, lives to lead. A baby does not fit into that plan. No one, it seems, was ready for that kind of responsibility.

“At least not right now,” Hannon said. “Maybe someday.”

Applied Educational Neuroscience:
Giving Students Tools to Succeed

Elementary students at Amelia Earhart Elementary gather in a circle to start their day. After some breathing exercises, they take a few minutes for a voluntary check-in, where they may share any concerns. The check-ins vary, with one boy worried about his sick dog, another girl anxious about her younger sister, who is ill. Some students prefer not to speak, listening respectfully while others give a brief update. After each student shares their story, the facilitator, Jacqui Grider, looks at them and, with empathy in her voice, says softly, “You have been heard.”
AEN Learning 1

This opening to the day is just one of the hallmarks of Applied Educational Neuroscience in the classroom. Grider is the director of the program, which is designed to help students manage emotions and cope, so that they may better succeed in their education.

These lessons and goals are not new. But with research that has been gathered over the past decades, we now know more about the developing brain, says Grider. And we know that helping students regulate these emotions can make it easier for them to be successful and learn.

Grider helps students identify the parts of the brain and which emotions correspond. She breaks them down into eight emotions; not a comprehensive list, but a number they can handle. And she helps them understand different methods of managing these emotions. It’s akin to what we know as the “fight or flight” syndrome – when put in stressful situations, even adults have difficulty knowing how to respond and are prone to simply “freak out,” terrified. By teaching children how to respond appropriately, or how to understand why they feel and respond as they do, they are then better able to process these reactions, clearing their heads in order to focus on learning.

And we now know that being proactive and teaching children in a positive way can lead to fewer disruptive behaviors down the road.

The lessons don’t end with children; they are equally suitable for adults. Just as an Apple Watch reminds its users to breathe every hour, Grider teaches adults to stop and take cleansing breaths periodically throughout the day. Taking these “brain breaks” can help us reset internally, allowing people to make better decisions in stressful situations.

Kids AEN

As part of the program, LSC secured a grant, along with Tippecanoe School Corp., that will fund Teen Cafés, giving high-school students a place to meet and talk with trained facilitators.

Grider takes these messages into classrooms; she also sends mini-lessons out to faculty and staff in the district.

Each of these steps, individually and collectively, helps students cope and deal with external stress in their lives. An act as simple as greeting students at the door each morning can aid in creating this safe learning environment. And once students know they are in a safe space, they are more likely to thrive. Grider coaches teachers on how to maintain this structure and routine.

Relationships. Brain breaks. Connections. All of these, says Grider, lead to a more positive environment, which will enhance learning. And we shouldn’t be afraid to make any changes that will benefit students.

“Student wellness equates to student success,” she says. “When we know better, we do better.”

For more about Applied Educational Neuroscience, visit the Applied Educational Neuroscience page.