One to One

Portage Township Schools District Newsletter


'What did you learn at school today?' Writing 'I CAN' statements and High Reliability Schools

A natural conversation-starter at the dinner table is the question "What did you learn at school today?" It's a great question; it's a way for parents to check for learning in both academic and social skills. However, parents too often receive the same response.

"What did you learn at school today?"


Does this sound familiar? It sounded familiar to us with our own children, and we know that learning is taking place at school. This brought us to High Reliability Schools, a program developed by leading education researcher and innovator Robert Marzano. Becoming a High Reliability School involves meeting five performance levels:

1) Safe and collaborative culture

2) Effective teaching in every classroom

3) Guaranteed and viable curriculum

4) Standards-referenced reporting

5) Competency-based education

Many of these actions have been in place in Portage Township Schools, but the standard we will focus on now is the final: competency-based education. Our goal is for our students to understand what they are going to learn during each lesson and be able to state what they can do as a result of learning the materials.

Teachers will create and post I CAN statement while teaching their lessons. Doing so at the beginning of a lesson communicates the purpose of learning the material and shows the students exactly what they will learn as a result. Reinforcing the I CAN statement at the end of the lesson gives the students the ability to share what they have just learned.

Our current focus in becoming a High Reliability School District is "unpacking" the Indiana State Standards. While these standards are important, as they give us an outline and focus for our curriculum," the language is not student-friendly. By turning our indicators into I CAN statements, we are ensuring we meet the state standards while setting reasonable goals for our students.

Now, re-imagine that earlier scenario.

"What did you learn in school today?"

"I can tell you what makes a sand dune move!"

This is a much more productive and enjoyable conversation to have with your child. We are excited to implement this new initiative and bring these conversations to your home.

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Students 'Jump with Jill'

Central, Jones, and Aylesworth Elementary Schools hosted a worldwide interactive live show about healthy eating and living.

Jump with Jill, which is sponsored by Meijer, visited the schools the last week of August.

The program is centered around health and uses music, humor, and interactive dance moves to get kids both involved in the show and interested in healthy behavior.

The goal of the program is to get children excited about eating healthy. According to the Jump with Jill website, everyone knows to drink water and eat vegetables, “but the gap between knowledge and action is widened by the cues to unhealthy behavior that inundate us every day. Today’s generation of kids needs to develop brand loyalty to healthy habits.”

Jump with Jill hopes to not only teach healthy behaviors, but get the parents involved in eating healthy as well. Students take home a pamphlet about eating healthy in an effort to encourage the entire family to practice healthy behaviors.

The program began as a masters’ project by a registered dietitian and professional musician. It began as a street show in Central Park in New York City, then steadily grew larger to the size it is today. Now, the show is on tour from August until June every year, and has performed in six different countries. There are multiple tour groups, each with their own Jill and DJ. Each member of the Jump with Jill show is a registered teacher.

The students at Central participated in the program, singing and dancing along with Jill and DJ Slick Nick and expressing how much they enjoyed it.

Serving up unlimited fruits and vegetables

Students at Portage Township Schools will now have access to unlimited fruits and vegetables at lunch.

Students have always been able to take more than one serving of fruit or vegetables, but Food Services Director James Ooms is working to emphasize the program this year.

“We look at it as an opportunity to focus on healthier options, and by allowing the students to get more fruits and vegetables we are ensuring they are filling up on things [that] are better for them,” Ooms said. “Hopefully that will help them learn better and be in better shape to exercise and be active.”

Ooms hopes that students take advantage of the unlimited side choices, and hopes to see changes within the students.

The only side item not included are the starches.

The program is being funded through the PTS Food Services Department. Each school is in charge of monitoring and advertising the unlimited fruits and vegetables to the students.

Makerspaces provide inspiration for creativity and problem-solving

Portage Township School Corporation has recently started to implement Makerspaces into schools throughout the district. Director of Innovative Learning Michael Depasquale says the Makerspaces are currently in every elementary school along with four in the high school.

Depasquale said that the Makerspaces are “open labs where teachers, students, and staff can have open work space to create projects that extend the learning in their classroom.”

Depasquale said the Makerspaces focus on higher level thinking, problem solving, and project-based learning.

In future years, Depasquale hopes to include new resources and tools, such as paper goods, building materials, innovative technology, laser cutters, and more. 3D printers are already included in certain locations, and he wants to add more.

Depasquale says the idea for these Makerspaces comes from allowing students and teachers to be able to take a concept or certain idea and make it hands-on.

“After studying the calculation of the volume of a cube, they now can go and build a cube and physically understand that relationship,” Depasquale said.

Depasquale sees himself as a teacher who has always taught lab-based classes. He has always wanted his students to be able understand a concept, and to be able to see that through their own eyes. For him, that was music.

Depasquale says the Makerspaces have been more focused towards the elementary schools, and they have received positive feedback.

“The quantity of projects and activities that have taken place is amazing,” he said.

The two middle schools are currently exploring the options of including Makerspaces in the future.

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Digital Citizenship: Teaching our students to be responsible consumers in a technology-driven world

With Portage Township Schools being named a Common Sense Digital Citizenship District for the second year in a row, it has now become more important than ever that families practice digital citizenship at home with their students.

Many families may be practicing Digital Citizenship every day and are not even realizing it because it is simply utilizing technology in the safest, most responsible way possible.

Technology has quickly become one of the main resources for instant information that can be very helpful for students, as long as that resource is being used for the proper reasons.

According to PTS Director of Innovative Learning Michael Depasquale, many teachers at Portage High School incorporate Digital Citizenship lessons into their Tribe Time activities every Thursday. However, it is still important that students practice that behavior every chance they get, including at home.

As many teachers are using technology more and more in the classroom, it is crucial that students have proper behavior when using their devices. To ensure that the devices are are secure and safe for students to use, knowledge of Digital Citizenship is necessary for both parents and students to have.

The growth of students needs to be accompanied by growth of understanding what devices are to be used for and what behaviors online are acceptable. Digital Citizenship begins at home.

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Meet the PTS School Resource Officers

Portage Township Schools would like to welcome Porter County officers Mike Steege and Mike Kurz! Officer Steege is the full-time SRO at Portage High School, and Officer Kurz is the full-time SRO at Willowcreek Middle School. Next month, we will feature the rotational officers who provide coverage at Portage High School West and Fegely Middle School.
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PTS Secret Garden Project

Portage Township Schools is looking to implement Secret Gardens at the eight elementary schools in the district. The mission with these Secret Gardens is to provide more educational opportunities for these students that they will enjoy, along with encouraging students to choose the beauty of nature instead of watching television or playing on electronics.

These Secret Gardens will include seating, shelter, shrubs, and flowers, which will allow for quiet reading time, small group discussions, and more.

Along with the educational purposes, students can learn about nature or enjoy a book.

With these secret gardens, the staff at Portage Township Schools hope to give students the enjoyment of reading, if they do not have the time or necessary supplies they need to do it at home.

The staff believes it is their responsibility to provide these opportunities for students and work hard to give Portage students the love for independent reading, and the Secret Gardens will encourage that through the experience of going to a safe, comfortable, magical place and taking time to enjoy a story.

By encouraging students to love independent reading, it will inspire their search for similar opportunities for their future.

The schools are looking for donations of benches, flowers, grass seed, mulch, gazebos, shrubs and plants, fountains, tables and chairs, garden fabric, PVC pipe, hog wire, and landscape timbers from the community.

If you are interested in donating or have any questions, please contact the Custodial Director DeWayne Ellis at 764-6309.

'GenEon' machines sanitize surfaces

Portage Township Schools has purchased three GenEon machines to help sanitize the classrooms and maintain a clean environment for all students and staff.

The Geneon Mist machine is ideal for cleaning large, spacious areas. The machine is filled with Trio Rx cleaning liquid, which is then misted into the air to disinfect and deodorize the surfaces it comes in contact with.

Trio Rx is an EPA Registered Broad Spectrum Disinfectant and can be used to disinfect hard non-porous surfaces to create healthier spaces.

The cleaning solution is used with the Geneon Mist to clean large, open areas without directly contacting any surfaces or using any harmful chemicals.

The transportation, custodial and athletic departments will each be receiving one of these machines. Periodically, transportation will use the machines to sanitize the busses, custodial will use them to mist all of the classrooms, and the athletic department will use them to disinfect all of their athletic equipment.

The GenEon machines will help increase student attendance due to lack of illness circulating through the classrooms, and will enhance the learning environment for our students.

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PHS senior earns internship spot with biomedical engineer

Portage High School senior Justine Hewitt has been selected to job shadow a biomedical engineer at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Hobart.

Hewitt was referred to the program by her guidance counselor, who helped her get in touch with the director she will be volunteering with, Sekani Williams.

Since it is difficult for Hewitt to find time to volunteer outside of school and work, she is still working with the hospital to schedule days to go in and shadow.

While she shadows Williams, who serves as St. Mary’s Director of Engineering Services, she will learn how a variety of machines at the hospital work, how to improve them and how to fix them if they break.

In order to start shadowing, Hewitt had to undergo a series of tests after meeting with Williams.

“[I’m hoping to] get some hands-on experience and see what my day-to -day is going to be like when I get a job,” Hewitt said.

Homecoming 2018: Attack the Pack!

Festivities for Homecoming Week will take place the week of Sep. 24, leading up to the Homecoming football game on Sep. 28 against Michigan City.

Join us for the many events will take place throughout the week to increase school spirit before Friday’s football game. During each school day, there will be a theme for the students to dress up, and you can check with your child's school to view their dress-up days.

Our high school students who want to help decorate their class floats should join us in the bus barn on Tuesday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Check with your class sponsor for more information.

Come our and cheer on our junior and senior classes at the annual Powder Puff game, which begins at 7:00 p.m. at the high school's football field. Tickets are $5.00 and can be purchased at the gate. Proceeds from the event benefit the sophomore class.

The annual Homecoming Parade will be held Thursday starting at 5:30 p.m. Participants will line up in the parking lot between Aylesworth and Willowcreek, and the parade will end at Founders’ Square Park.

Portage High School's Pep Rally will take place immediately after school on Friday in the main gym. Get ready for the Indians to take on the Michigan City Wolves at 7:00 p.m. at the Warpath. During halftime, enjoy performances from our PHS Cheerleaders, Dance Team, and Pride of Portage Marching Band, as well as the crowning of the 2018-2019 Homecoming Queen.

Mobile Marketplace

Thursday, Oct. 18th, 5-7pm

5962 Central Avenue

Portage, IN

Join us for our next Mobile Marketplace at Willowcreek Middle School! Remember: all you need is something to carry your food and proof of Indiana residency.
Free and Reduced Lunch Applications

Click here to apply for Free and Reduced Lunch for the 2018-2019 school year. If you qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch, your child also receives breakfast every day for free! Contact Food Services at 763-8008 for more information.