DeKalb New Tech

Professional, Authentic, Relevant

And the Winner Is…

All 9th Grade Project incorporating Consumer Communications and World Bio content, while focusing on communication, collaboration, and agency.

Facilitators:  Mrs. Evans, Mrs. Lapham, Ms. Pierce, and Ms. Van Straten

For a second year, DeKalb New Tech’s incoming freshmen explored the labels attached to their generation, Generation Z, and presented 4 year collaborative action plans to help them maximize their time at Dekalb High School and break free from the stereotype, “Generation La-Z”.  Community business partners such as Jeremiah Otis of Jeremiah’s Brewed Awakenings, Chris Straw of Team Quality Services, Nicole Heffelfinger of the Indiana Small Business Development Center and Anton King of DeKalb County Economic Development helped kick off the project by promoting the importance of acquiring and mastering 21st century skills like collaboration, work ethic, and written and oral communication.

A preliminary panel of judges comprised of DeKalb Middle School and DeKalb High School administrators listened to the student presentations and chose four of the twelve student groups to move on to the final presentation panel consisting of community partners, Jeremiah Otis and Anton King, as well as DeKalb High School New Tech Director, Kelly Renier.  The winning team included Matthias Rowe, Ian Heimann, Haley Henderson, Samantha Bertsch, and Isaiah Littrell.  The students are eligible for a $100 scholarship cash prize sponsored by the Community Foundation of DeKalb County payable upon graduation from DeKalb High School so long as they carry out and put into action the plan.  

2nd Annual GenDIY Project Winners 2017

Pictured from left to right: Jeremiah Otis of Jeremiah’s Brewed Awakenings, Ian Heimann, Isaiah Littrell, Samantha Bertsch, Haley Henderson, Matthias Rowe, Anton King Executive Director of DeKalb County Economic Development, Kelly Renier Director of DeKalb New Tech

Generation DIY – Project Launch

August 1, 2017, marked the first day of the new school year.  The DNT freshmen facilitators rolled out a project on the first day of school called Generation DIY.  Four community partners participated in the project rollout, speaking to the students about the importance of the choices you make now and how they impact your future.


Driving Question: How do we maximize our time at DHS to break free from the stereotype, ‘Generation La-Z’?

Goal:  Student groups develop an action plan for the next four years to make Generation Z successful and prepared upon graduation at DeKalb High School.  Students must incorporate collaboration, agency, oral communication, and project based learning in the plan.  Students must make the action plan memorable, applicable, and unique!


Final Product:  Student groups create an action plan consisting of 4 proposals that any Generation Z’er can apply to their life in order to maximize time at DHS as well as prepare for future endeavors.  Preliminary action plan presentations take place to DHS teams.  Finalists present to the DeKalb County Economic Development Team.

Community Partners:  Nicole Heffelfinger, Anton King, Jeremiah Otis, and Chris Straw


Outcome:  The winning students will receive a $100 cash scholarship prize per person to use after graduation so long as the student can prove application of the action plan during 4 years at DeKalb High School.

Culminating Event:  Individually, students will create a written piece, encompassing the action plan, that serves as a time capsule to be opened during senior year of high school.

DeKalb History Day: Taking a Stand in History

9th Grade World Bio, facilitators: Christina Lapham & Kelsey Pierce

11th Grade American Studies, facilitators:  Andy Comfort & Tim Murdock

Historically, how have people taken risks to change the world we live in today?  That was the question that provided the driving force for DeKalb New Tech’s first annual history day event.  On Friday, February 17, 2017 DeKalb High School New Tech hosted 30 community members, historians, librarians, administrators, and university professors as judges to critique all of the projects as students finalize entries for the National History Day Regional Competition on Saturday, February 25th at St. Mary’s College in South Bend.  National History Day is an academic competition with a focus on history and aims at engaging young people in the art of historical inquiry. Students that place in the top 25% of the project category are eligible for State competition in May in Indianapolis.  From there, he/she may qualify for the National History Day competition in Maryland.  Students create project entries in the form of exhibits, research papers, documentaries, websites, and performances.  DeKalb High School will be entering students in all categories of the competition with entry titles such as, “Puttin on the Ritz with Elizabeth Arden”, “E.L. Cord’s Economic Empire”, and “Aldofo Kaminsky: A Free Forger”.  DeKalb History Day consisted of a total of 52 projects and 102 students.  A special thanks to all the judges: Dr. Tony Kline, Joan Eardly, Tarah Brennan, Samuel  Miller,  Jordan Blank,  Riley Larkin, Cathy Vick, Jerry Zonker, Sharon Zonker, Megan Moss, Roy Martin, Jean Wells, Pam Reynolds, Matt Toth, Marcus Wagner, Lisa Conrad,  Kevin Allison, Jan Hewitt, Jamie Briley, Andrew Bigelow, Amy Neal, Steve Teders, Carol Fike, Lori Vaughn, Julia Tipton, Wade Buchs, Kelly Renier, Matt Vince, Matt Whonsetler,  and Sherry Crisp-Ridge.  Please stay tuned for the results from Saturday’s Regional Competition in South Bend.


Freshman World Bio student Caitlynn Shipe prepares her exhibit Nixing Nixon for DeKalb History Day Judging.


Freshmen World Bio students Koral Alvord and Rachel Ramon receive feedback regarding their National History Day website entry from Dr. Anthony Kline, Dean of the Franks School of Education at Trine University, and Tara Brennen, Student of the Franks School of Education at Trine University.

Freshman World Bio student Madison Camp receives feedback regarding her National History Day paper entry from DeKalb Teacher Carol Fike, DeKalb New Tech Director Kelly Renier, and Jan Hewitt of the Eckhart Public Library.

Special thank you to all DeKalb History Day judges! Back row Left to Right: Andrew Bigelow, Wade Buchs, Matt Vince, Steve Teders, Lori Vaughn, Sherry Crisp-Ridge, Matt Whonsetler, Carol Fike, Roy Martin, Sam Miller, Jordan Blank. Front Row Left to Right: Julia Tipton, Jan Hewitt, Amy Neal, Lisa Conrad, Joan Eardly, Riley Larkin, Tara Brennan, Pam Reynolds, Cathy Vick, Megan Moss, Dr. Anthony Kline, and Kelly Renier.

Considering My Career Path Because of the Case of Baron Bank

Student Blogger:  Madison Camp, 9th grader

Consumer Communications Facilitators:  Mrs. Evans and Ms. Van Straten

As New Tech Barons, we go to different places in the community and present the projectimg_6332 that we have been researching. We do this to interact with people of the community and show the people of DeKalb county what we have been working on. In my Consumer Communications class, a mix between Business and English, we have been working on a mock trial. This trial is called The Baron Bank Trial. As we began this new project, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it until halfway through. Using my opinion and finding evidence that it was, in fact, true and persuading the jury that my client was not being paid fairly, was difficult yet fun.

The day of the trial, as I walked into the courtroom, I felt excitement, a kind of excitement that I had never felt before. I was so intrigued about the designs on the walls, the intensity of the trial that was going to happen, not knowing who was going to win, the history of past cases that were held in this exact courtroom, and the passion for wanting to learn more. Later that night, I thought about the trial and how happy I was when we won.

Being mixed in many different career choices, I still didn’t know if this was what I wanted to do until the next day. The day after our mock trial we toured the courthouse. I walked into the huge, stunning building and felt the same excitement. Listening to the lawyer who was giving us the tour and talking about the cases he has done made me want to learn more. I realized then that this is what I want to do. I want to be a part of the criminal career track. When the lawyer said he was willing to do a job shadow, my heart jumped. I was extremely excited and wanted to get right to work on finding out how I could. This experience that DeKalb New Tech gave me has been exciting, and I can’t wait to learn more.

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Reflections: Start Primary, Become Extraordinary

Special Guest Blogger, Andrew Bigelow – Instructional Coach

How do you start primary and become extraordinary?  This is the project title and driving question that DeKalb New Tech WorldBio students have been addressing for the past four weeks.  In order to attack this question students were tasked with two key benchmarks during the project.  The first included an impressive integration of Biology and World Geography content as students first identified a megacity (over 10 million in population) from around the world.  With their megacity chosen, students were then challenged to create analogies relating 17 organelles and parts of a cell to various parts of their megacity.  Did you know that the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro is the mitochondria of the cell in that it acts as the cell powerhouse involved in all things energy?  How about in London where the Queen acts as the cytoskeleton that provides a shape and structure for the cell?  What about Buckingham Palace serving as the nucleus of London as a monument to government recognized around the world?  These are just a few of the many analogies created by students as they fused both Biology and Geography content into an engaging opening benchmark.  As a student who loved Social Studies but not so much Science, I could not help but think that I would have enjoyed my experience much more through an engaging content integration such as this during my own high school experience!  

As if students were not busy enough with their cell megacities, benchmark two challenged students to participate in the creation of a DeKalb County placebook focused on “trends” and “tributes.”  Students were first invited to a think tank attended by 14 community members  with extensive insight into the history and people that molded DeKalb County.  Using GIS software, students created presentations ranging from music venues, places to eat, wifi hotspots, and even Poke stops throughout DeKalb County.  Tributes to DeKalb County highlighted the contributions and lives of Gordon Buehrig and EL Cord.  The GIS maps created by WorldBio students will become a placebook for DeKalb County that can be housed for future individuals to learn more about the history of and what DeKalb County has to offer on the journey to “Starting Primary and Becoming Extraordinary.”

The final presentations were made at Eckhart Public Library before community members and representatives from the original project think tank.  Throughout the presentations students referenced the project title and driving question to “Start Primary and Become Extraordinary” multiple times as they showcased their learning of megacities, GIS software, and DeKalb County.   Some students hinted at a new interest into possible future work with GIS and career options while others appreciated the challenge of relating cell organelles to parts of a megacity.  These takeaways for students will undoubtedly provide enduring understandings for years to come made possible through this authentic and unique project based learning experience.  As one community partner mentioned at the final presentations “Geography offers a way to tell a story.”  This time that story included the history of DeKalb County, megacities around the world, and cell structure in a way that will be useful far beyond the last four weeks of study.

My Growth through my DNT Experience

Guest blogger:  Vanessa Garcia, former student at DeKalb New Tech

I was a student at DeKalb High School during my Freshman year through the beginning of my Junior year. Being a student in DeKalb New Tech was so much fun and a great learning experience. My teachers helped me become who I am now. I loved everything about DNT; from the class environment, learning techniques, gatherings we had in the gymnasium, projects, and the great opportunities you can experience in DNT.

Freshman year was so much fun and an exciting year to begin New Tech! Our first project, Zombie 5k Run/Walk, was a fun experience for those of us involved. During that project my weaknesses became my strengths, such as talking to strangers on the phone. I used to be afraid to order a pizza on the phone and now I’m not. I was a shy person around people, but as we continued to worked in groups, I wasn’t shy any more. I wasn’t afraid to take charge when the group went off task and wasted work time. After we finished that project, I changed into a new person. New opportunities came and I took them. My first opportunity was to represent DeKalb New Tech with other students at the New Tech IPFW Project Showcase. Four of us presented the Zombie 5k to other New Tech schools and community members who attended the showcase. Other students showed different projects. We had the opportunity to meet other students.  Also, we had a tour around the campus of what studies we might do after high school.

Another project that helped me grow was the Café project. We spent time researching the right foods and equipment for the café to happen. Mrs. Irwin and Mrs. Evans believed I was the right person in the group of students to present to the school board the proposal of building a café inside the school. Presenting to them was a big deal for us. The following morning, we received the news we were approved. We practiced hard and worked to get the right information to get approved again for the next meeting. We were told the next meeting would be held at the middle school in front of a larger crowd and we would have to speak into a microphone. We were nervous to speak to a larger audience compared to the last time we presented. As we finished presenting, I felt relief and pride.

I was also lucky to be on a student panel who spoke to parents of incoming freshman.  The student panel shared information about New Tech and why we felt New Tech is the right direction for a student who wants to be successful and confident.

Presenting is what we did many times during my sophomore year at DeKalb New Tech. I was very confident in myself after my first year in high school. Presenting to business people was exciting!  We were able to present our vinaigrette salad dressing recipes to state representative, Ben Smaltz and local businesswoman, Natalie DeWitt-Taylor.

New Tech didn’t only change me completely but made me more confident about myself. All of my teachers have helped me in so many ways. I can trust them all and truly wish they could be my teachers now. They are not there just to teach you, but lead you to be successful now and in the future. I truly miss everyone at DeKalb High School.  The future may lead you in difficult directions, but into something amazing in the end!

DeKalb Placebook: Trends & Tributes

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World Bio Facilitators:  Mrs. Lapham and Ms. Pierce

On Friday, October 28th DeKalb New Tech World Bio students met with area professionals exploring potential topics for their current project titled “Start Primary…Become Extraordinary”. Students are creating a DeKalb County Placebook, highlighting the trends and tributes of DeKalb county, and answering the driving question “People & Places: How do you start primary and become extraordinary?” DeKalb County Placebook:Trends will feature places of interest to teens, while DeKalb County Placebook:Tributes will feature historical notable people of DeKalb County. The World Bio Class has partnered with Matt Bechdol, GeoSilos President, and Dawn Mason, DeKalb County GIS Coordinator, to create the DeKalb County Placebook. Students will be learning and implementing GIS software to create a digital story map of their chosen trends and tributes in DeKalb county.

DeKalb community members recently played a very crucial role, in helping students generate ideas for the DeKalb Placebook by participating in a classroom think tank.  Students rotated around and met with multiple community historians, attorneys, educators, entrepreneurs,  librarians, and county officials to brainstorm ideas for the DeKalb Placebook . Those who participated in the 2016 DeKalb County Placebook Think Tank include: Darcy Armstrong, Matt Bechdol, Andrew Bigelow, Lisa Conrad, Chelsea Dant, Joan Eardly, Galen Eberhart, Chad Gramling, Zach Lightner, Dawn Mason, Dotty Miller, Megan Moss, Jeremiah Otis, Becky Pfeffer, Terry Rayle, Thom Smith, and Cathy Vick. The World Bio class would like to thank and recognize these community experts for donating their time to help explore potential topics for the students’ 2016 DeKalb County Placebook.

In Geography and History of the World students are examining the physical and human geographic factors associated with the origin and growth of towns and cities, while in Biology, students are exploring cellular structure and function as it relates to cities. In addition to the DeKalb Placebook, students are currently creating analogies between cellular structure and function to their chosen megacity that will be displayed through GIS story mapping software. Students will then demonstrate mastery of these standards and skills through the DeKalb County Placebook presentation to be presented to many of our DeKalb county community partners on November 21st at the Eckhart Public Library.


New Doors Revealed at Shelter Ministries

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Visual Verbal Communications Facilitators:  Mrs. Buchs and Ms. Van Straten

On Saturday, October 29th, Shelter Ministries held an open house to showcase their new facility located at 1103 West Auburn Drive.  Their new facility includes four outside doors.

DeKalb New Tech students from our Visual Verbal Communications class designed the inside and outside of the doors to the four ministries. The doors are wrapped with digital images printed on a thick permanent vinyl coating.   A Financial Assistance door, Christmas Bureau door, Food Pantry door and Clothing bank door were unveiled by the students at the openhouse in front of a cheering crowd on Saturday.
Renee Florin from Shelter ministries planned the event which included raffles and refreshments …   and a good turnout.

Capturing Memories

Thank you to our student bloggers, Delaney Finderson and Shawn Knapp.

DigiComm Facilitators:  Mrs. Boyd and Ms. McNulty


The first project in our sophomore Digital Communications class was to write memoir poems with corresponding portraits. The memoir was based upon an important moment in each student’s life or in someone else’s life who was close to them. The memoir was written in first person, and the portrait was taken by each student to showcase the emotion and meaning carried in each memorized poem. The process began with writing memoirs in the form of a picture with a six-word memoir placed on the picture. “My contemporary family unlocked my melody” would be an example.  This six-word memoir

Shawn Knapp’s Six-Word Memoir

was imprinted on a stylized connected picture or photo. Once every student created a set consisting of a six-word memoir and a photo, he or she began to work on a rough draft of the personal memoir.  If students were enrolled in Honors DigiComm, they partnered up, were assigned a faculty member to write a memoir about, and were required to conduct a deep interview with their memoir subject. After completing the personal rough draft and the interview, the students collaborated to peer review and complete edits together and began to work on memorizing their personal poem; in addition, they started a rough draft of their honors subject poem. After continuing to peer edit and utilize memorization skills, the memoir poems were practiced in a presentation format in the classroom, although the final presentation was held at Jeremiah’s Brewed Awakenings coffee shop in downtown Auburn. After teacher review, each of the student’s memoir poems was set up with their edited, stylized, and connected photograph and readied for presentations at Jeremiah’s. The presentations went very well. Jeremiah was very happy to have us and both Digital Communications classes were very thankful. The overall turnout was great!  In addition, the administrative team received a private reading of several of the best poems and portraits at the high school later in the next week.

Below is an example of a personal memoir and portrait.


Why Don’t You Understand?

By Delaney Finderson

My sister and I

Very similar and so different

Constantly asked if we are twins

And yet, how can they not see

What I see?

I am starry-eyed – she is stormy

Two sides of the same coin

But one side has lost its luster and grown older

The other has a newly minted sheen

Claims, accusations, fights

Screams, tears, and now I can smell my own fear

I am afraid.

Why am I afraid?

Why don’t you understand?

An angry slam of a door

After a confrontation

The same door, reopened not long after

All that’s left is an empty room and an open window

Wind whistling by

A search, a fight, and acceptance

Why am I afraid?

Why don’t you understand?

A slow build

Apologies, forgiveness, forgetfulness

Quiet, excitement, happiness

Several months go by

The coin is flat

A sudden meltdown

A blast of anger

Screaming, crying, storm clouds

Why am I afraid?

Why don’t you understand?

Another day

Another week

Too many days to count

It’s been over a year, my sister.

Why don’t you understand?

A face-to-face

A heart-to-heart

The first in months

And the truth comes out

There is nothing left to lose

And she wants….

To leave.

To leave me.

To leave us.

Why didn’t I understand?

Too many times-

It happened too fast

I couldn’t follow

The thought pattern behind

The way you acted

The way you spoke

Or even the way you looked at me.

Now my sister says she wanted to meet God

She said I never loved her

How was she so stormy?

Was I truly that starry-eyed

That she could not see…

The love for her

In me?

Why don’t I understand?

I’m so lost and sad

I plead

I beg

I scream

Don’t leave me

I will lose my sister

And I still won’t understand why

Please don’t leave me…

My sister and I

We are two sides of the same coin

One is scarred and sad

And the other has lost its luster and holds the edges of rust

What can I do?

Again forgiveness

This time from the other side

An understanding

Promises exchanged

She isn’t leaving

Progress is made

Now we both understand

We are stepping into the light now

It’s slow steps

But we are holding hands

I can see the light in her eyes

And I know it’s shining in mine too

My sister and I

We are two sides of the same coin

But the coin is broken

We are sisters

I am me.

She is her.

We are sisters, same blood, same thoughts

My sister is always there for me

And now I promise

I will always fight to keep that light alive in her eyes

I will make sure she sees and feels how much I care for her

I will always ensure her happiness

And I will protect her.

I love her.

My baby sister


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