Enhancing the High School Experience: College and Career Academy
Writer / Kara Reibel
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
The College and Career Academy, known as the CCA, at both Fishers and HSE high schools provides a unique learning environment for students.
The five-year process of planning the necessary expansion to accommodate the number of students at the high schools explored several possibilities, eventually settling on the CCA as the best option.
The welcome voice of the students aided in the decision to pursue this design element. A social anthropologist followed students around and realized that instructional space could be creative, such as a hallway or stairwell. These nontraditional spaces are popular and create new interactive experiences.
Another key element with the CCA is the leaning towards independent problem solving. “We are a high achieving district, but are our students prepared?” questioned FHS Principal Jason Urban. “It was found that HSE does a great job at course content but was weak with students managing their independence.” When speaking with former students at the university level, many struggled to study in a group. “We sought to increase independence, allowing less reliance on the teacher,” adds Urban.
Traditionally the teacher leads the way, so in order to increase student confidence in problem solving, the “process”-oriented learning has changed. With the layout of the new CCA additions, the shift with the learning model is facilitated.
With lots of glass walls, it’s powerful to witness students sharing in new ways. For instance, English teach Ben Beasley was writing out the gender stereotypes in Disney movies, and additional students from other classrooms added to it because they saw that on the whiteboard.
“Classes in the CCA are a lot like the other normal classes, but they are also different as well. With the sliding glass walls and the couches and tables in the hallways, students have much more freedom to move around comfortably while they are working,” says FHS Senior Claire Calvert, “Having iPads and laptops for every student makes it easier to access online databases and programs such as Microsoft Word right there in the classroom. I would say that overall, the CCA has had a positive impact on the students at FHS.”
“It has changed their lens, their environment,” shares Urban. “The energy is different within the CCA.”
“Students have a place to go to work where teachers can see them. The small collaborative spaces are working out well for the students – it’s private but still at school,” says Matt Kegley, Principal at HSE High School. “The whole layout was designed around flexibility in the classroom, and we are achieving that. The CCA is meeting our goals in terms of wanting students to become independent learners.
Students move from whole group to small groups to individual learning within a small radius.“
The collegiate offerings for dual credit curriculum have greatly expanded. Both HSE Schools have partnerships with many state universities as well as Ivy Tech, J. Everett Light CNA medical center. “Our goal is fifth year readiness, whether that’s college or a trade school,” says Urban. Through Ivy Tech, J. Everett Light CNA medical career options, students who may not want be drawn to college are able to explore workforce options.
And students can leave and attend these other learning centers as part of their high school experience.
“We wish to create a bridge to a student’s future, so part of the curriculum has been expanded and is relevant to their senior year and easing transition to their fifth year,” says Urban.
Community businesses are coming to FHS and HSE looking for interns. Through Media Fuel, students learn digital marketing skills. HSE Schools has their own health center, and for the first time ever, students are interning there. Places like Launch Fishers, Kindred Rehab, Dr. Hanna – oncologist and Shelton Machinery have reached out to hire interns.
“Working at Launch Fishers was amazing!” shares FHS grad and IU Kelley School of Business Freshman Alex Reibel. “I got to meet local entrepreneurs in many diverse fields and learned many of the stories.”
“As the community is hearing about our goals and objectives outside of our walls, they are reaching out to us in order to create new opportunities and creating a unique and new partnership,” says Kegley.