Eric Halvorson’s Blog

IPS in China

June 14th, 2013 at 3:05 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

Today, I will start something new.  It’s inspired by Ann Mennonno, the new IPS Teacher of the Year.  When I learned that she would spend time in China, I asked for blog posts to help us learn more about what she and colleagues are doing so far from home.  The following is a blog post from Chris Collier, the head of Center for Inquiry [CFI] Schools.  She is part of the IPS delegation:

IPS logoDay 1 was spent preparing for the first Elementary Education International Conference that begins in Beijing on June 14, 2013.  Teachers Amy Wackerly and Ann Mennonno will model inquiry-based lessons in YuYing Elementary School, Beijing, China. 

A classroom was designed at the school to replicate the inquiry based learning environment found within the Center for Inquiry schools. Students from Ann’s and Amy’s classrooms designed displays for the walls that illustrate the elements found in an International Baccalaureate school. Third and fifth grade students, all dressed in their uniform of red workout pants and matching red and white shirts, came to the newly designed classroom to meet with the CFI teachers and to explore the learning environment. They especially loved the skeleton and the collection of literature provided for them. Nasco partnered with our teachers to provide the science equipment and literature that was requested for the lessons. Our classroom is quite different from their classrooms, where we observed students in rows facing front with the teacher leading all instruction and students reciting in unison. 

Later in the day, our team visited an English teacher’s classroom to observe the methodology used to teach our language to Chinese students. There was much singing, the use of pictures as prompts to storytelling, whole group instruction followed by practice work in groups of 4. The students were very happy to have English speaking visitors to try out their conversational skills. 

After lunch, we were escorted to a private dorm-type room for a 30-minute nap time.  Amy and Ann loved this feature of the school. These rooms are available to teachers but the teachers told us they rarely have time to go for the rest.  The students were engaged in their “Happy Noon” time, which is like our recess period. 

We then fine tuned our presentations for the conference and viewed the conference area located within the stand-alone library. We then toured the campus. The high school, middle school, and primary school consisting of grades 3-5 were located on the same campus in 3 separate buildings.  The primary school has 2000 students and the entire school campus has over 5000 students. There is a head principal that oversees the campus and each building has a building level principal. We then watched 3rd graders engaged in a swimming lesson in the Physical Education complex.  

Our day concluded by meeting with the teachers of English to discuss educational practice and answer questions regarding instruction in state schools and particularly in our school. We taught the teachers some board games and showed them how to use some of the Nasco provided materials. 

Our day ended by dining with the principal of the elementary school and two visiting teachers from Hong Kong. The sampling of Chinese delicacies was an enjoyable learning experience.

Chris Collier says internet service is spotty. 

I will provide posts and pictures from China as often as possible during their visit.


Fighting An Indy-feriority Complex

April 26th, 2013 at 10:40 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

circleBob Schultz says, sometimes, we have an “Indy-feriority complex.”

That condition appears when people wonder why a family — or a company – would move to Indianapolis from places such as Denver or Chicago or New York. Those afflicted with this complex see only the advantages of the other cities and none of our own. When that happens, they ignore “a pretty amazing story,” Schultz said.

Telling that story is part of Schultz’s job. He’s a vice president at Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. This week, from a studio at My1079-FM, we talked about “Velocity,” a new project to put another chapter in that story.

“Velocity is simply the name we’re putting toward a five year strategic action plan for downtown Indianapolis,” Schultz told me.

This study celebrates the work by those who built Indianapolis around amateur sports and, ultimately, attracted a Super Bowl. But, Schultz noted, in past decades, the ideas for Indianapolis often came from a small group of corporate, civic and philanthropic leaders.

Now, to continue the success of downtown, he said we should expand the discussion “because there are so many different directions we could go.”

For the next five weeks, Velocity will conduct an online survey. As it highlights downtown strengths, it may also find flaws.  If the latter is true, Schultz said Velocity aims to refresh Indianapolis.

But, where the city already has momentum, the study aims to keep it going.

Whenever one group calls for change, another will ask “Why?”

Schultz answers that question by saying ”we believe in something more bold and transformative” to make sure downtown is “a great place to live, to work, to play and stay.”

Click here to hear the entire interview.

Bloomington: Sparked by Parking

March 21st, 2013 at 3:48 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

bloomington parkingBloomington’s parking meter debate gave me a lesson about that city’s growth. 

Mayor Mark Kruzan said “we’re a victim of our own success.”  At Wednesday night’s council meeting, he explained why downtown Bloomington needs parking meters.

Costs are part of it.  “We are slowly seeing our ability to provide services eroding,” Kruzan said.  “We are continuing to tighten our belts at the same time we are looking to alternative revenue.”

Growth is the other part of it, the success part.

Kruzan said a big demographic shift is underway in Bloomington. He sees more demand for downtown housing — and not just from I.U. students. With more people, you have more cars and an “incredible increase in parking demand” downtown.

It’s the numbers he offered next that inspired me to write this.

Kruzan recalled, when he was an I.U. student, Bloomington was a smaller city. Now, 80,000 people call it home. He anticipates steady growth in the decade ahead — 1.1% a year. That’s about 1,000 people moving to Bloomington every year — or 10,000 new residents over a decade.

The parking plan has plenty of critics. One after another described fear that new meters will be bad for local business. 

For Kruzan, this is a case study about ”growing pains” as Bloomington strives to provide what he called big city amenities while preserving its small town charm. “It’s completely manageable, if we do it properly.”

The critics will hope he’s right.

Cutting Costs & Chemicals

March 15th, 2013 at 11:41 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp has a refreshing idea about lawn and garden care. “I try not to worry too much about what’s going on — unless it’s really bad.”

But, if it is really bad, Jo Ellen knows how to react. She has skills most of us don’t.  Jo Ellen is a Master Gardener.  “Mother Nature is not perfect. So, a few holes in the leaves or a little insect damage is not very worrisome to me.”

lawnThe rest of us are conditioned to demand lush, green, weed-free lawns. So, we spread bags of chemicals all over our yards or we hire someone to do the treatments for us. This year, I’ve started to question that approach. Maybe it’s because we’ve been told not to let our dogs walk in the yard when chemicals have just been spread or sprayed.

Maybe my interest comes from the notoriety given to the “Green” movement and organic products.

Maybe I’m just cheap.

Whatever the explanation, this approach is a specialty of Jo Ellen. “Sort of a natural landscaping philosophy for her yard,” she told me.

That means fewer chemicals and more natural products than most of us use. This requires some adjustment “because you don’t get that instant green-up” that you might find with other, more well-known products.

It might start, though, with how you mow your lawn. Jo Ellen will tell you to mow high. Longer blades of grass create an element of shade that can keep weed seeds from germinating.

On your other plants, you might need nothing more than a hose.

If you see bugs on your plants, you can spray them off with water. If that doesn’t work, Jo Ellen admits the next option is not so appealing. You can pick them off by hand. But, if you see problems, it’s important to know whether your plants are infested with insects or are afflicted by fungus. You can’t expect that spraying for bugs will kill the fungus.

It can all be a little confusing for those of us with limited gardening knowledge.  That’s where Jo Ellen comes in.  Her talents allow her to work as a “garden coach.”

We get to see — or rather hear — more of that, this weekend.  I interviewed her about whether those of us who aren’t master gardeners can have success in our yards without the usual chemical approach. She describes some of the alternatives to the traditional chemicals.  You can hear our discussion, this weekend on:

10:30 Saturday morning on 1430 WXNT.  (They’re taking a break from the sports talk.)

6:00am Sunday on My1079


7:30 Sunday morning on WZPL


A Magnificent Obsession — A Family Tradition.

March 2nd, 2013 at 12:23 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

Anne Graham Lotz has a “magnificent obsession.” It’s probably what you’d expect, knowing who her dad is.  But, following in his footsteps came as a surprise to her.

Anne Graham Lotz is the daughter of world-famous evangelist Billy Graham. She’s getting ready to lead one of her revivals in Indianapolis, next month.

“It never crossed my mind I would do this,” she told me, this week. “I was a shy mother of three children. Just a housewife and actually had a longing for God in my heart. I knew him in a personal relationship. But just the busyness of motherhood had put Him on the back burner of my life.”

Gradually, she started studying scripture for herself. That inspired an interest in teaching. Eventually, Anne Graham Lotz became a world-traveling evangelist in her own right. It followed her conclusion that, if she had “needed a fresh touch from Heaven, then I bet there are a lot of other people out there who need that, too.”

That was the genesis of her “Just Give Me Jesus” gatherings.


Anyone is welcome. But, these revivals are targeted at women.

“Women have enormous influence,” Mrs. Lotz said. “Much more influence than, sometimes, they give themselves credit for. They can reach their children and their neighbors, their schools and their places of business, their friends.”

Anne Graham Lotz

In 2009, research done by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicated women are more devout than men. The study found women to be more likely to believe in God, more likely to spend time in prayer and more likely to say religion is important in their lives.

That doesn’t surprise Anne Lotz. She recalled several examples from the Gospels in which women were disciples or church leaders. “It was the women who seemed to understand Jesus was going to the cross. And, it was the women who were first there the morning of the resurrection.” She said, at the tomb, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene not to John or Peter.


The Pew researchers have also studied the country, state-by-state, to see how we gauge the role of religion in our lives. Sixty percent of Hoosiers said religion is “very important.”  But, Anne Lotz said, to some people, churches “seem irrelevant.” They don’t worship regularly because they don’t see how church helps them in their daily lives.

Mrs. Lotz said she goes to church to help her faith grow. But, she also said, “God is not inviting anybody to a church, a denomination, an organization. He’s inviting us into a personal relationship with Himself.”

That’s what she hopes people take from her revival at the Convention Center in April.   “We just want each person to meet Jesus in a fresh way.”


Billy Graham is “doing well,” Anne said. “He’s 95 years old. So, he has some aches and pains and some issues. He has a hard time hearing and a hard time walking and a hard time seeing. But his mind is clear.” He still loves apple pie and loves the people he met on visits to Indiana.

Her mission in Indianapolis, April 5th and 6th, won’t be much different than what her dad used to do. The Gospel message “doesn’t fade and doesn’t grow old.”

You can hear the entire interview, this weekend.   It will be broadcast, Sunday, at 7 am on My 1079, at 7:30 on WZPL and at 9am on WXNT.

INTransit: They “Have Our Number”

January 28th, 2013 at 4:26 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

Tonight, the Indianapolis City-County Council will vote on whether to raise the tax on tickets for events such as Colts and Pacers games. 

The council will also vote on a proposal to raise the tax on car rentals.

As I discussed those concepts with council member Ben Hunter, another tax idea came up: about the mass transit proposal at the Statehouse. 

“We would, hopefully, get the ability to pass a referendum as an advisory role,” Hunter said, “and then look at whether we’re going to raise taxes more in a diverse way.  There should be several revenue sources coming in for Indy Connect.”

Ben Hunter, (R) City-County Council

Hunter noted that other cities “have our number.  They’re looking at what Indianapolis is doing and they’re starting to replicate it.  One thing Charlotte has done well is mass transit and they’ve done it around transit-oriented development.”

“For those that say, well, mass transit needs to pay for itself, there’s no road or highway that actually pays for itself unless it’s a toll road,” Hunter added.

 Will the General Assembly approve it, this year?  Hunter said he hopes so – “to at least look at it  — because I think mass transit is not the best here in central Indiana.”  So, improving our transit options “would keep individuals here in the region and would allow companies and tourism to thrive.”


Gun Control or Game Control

December 17th, 2012 at 10:51 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

Tonight, we heard from a future Congressman who said gun bans aren’t the answer to the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.  But, Luke Messer said: thought should be given to banning violent video games.

That discussion reminded me of a comment, last week, from a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. 

Kimble Richardson of the St. Vincent Stress Center told us: ”We want to be careful because there are some kids who — with certain video games and exposure to that kind of violence — they do get a little desensitized to it.”

“We don’t know that there’s a correlation or a one-to-one correlation between playing those kind of games and later violence.” 

“But, we definitely want to be looking at that, as researchers in the Behavioral Health field, to be sure that we’re limiting that, if at all possible.”

EV Indy: “Now Is The Time”

December 12th, 2012 at 9:51 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

I talked with Mayor Greg Ballard today about making national news. An executive order he signed put him — and Indianapolis — in the Wall Street Journal. It follows his call to switch the city from a fleet of gas-powered cars to electric vehicles.

Ballard said “we didn’t have to shop it” to the newspaper. “They took it right away.”

As the mayor sees it, the national appeal of his order comes from its devotion to national security and energy security.

Ballard said he didn’t sign the order as a casual observer of electric vehicle technology. “I’ve been studying this for years. I’ve driven a lot of the cars.” And, through the city’s commitment, he wants the rest of us to see that “these are good, solid transportation vehicles. You can use them. And they’ll save you a ton of money,” in the long run.

Beyond that, “we certainly have to reduce our dependence on the foreign oil. There’s no question about it,” he said.

When he talks about energy dependence, he recalls his days “as a guy who’s been in the Gulf War … That war was completely about oil.”

“Military folks don’t mind going to war for national security,” he told me. “But, when the technology’s at a certain point that maybe we don’t have to go down that road any more, then that’s when you have to act — and I believe that now is the time.”

Ballard hopes the U.S. Council of Mayors will follow the lead of Indianapolis. “Then, we can have an impact and we can spread this throughout the country.”


Robo Hoosiers

November 22nd, 2012 at 11:19 am by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

A meeting with mayor Greg Ballard reminded me about the two pins in the picture here. They’re mementoes of some impressive competition, a few years ago.

The participants gathered in a gymnasium — at Southport High School, if I remember correctly. I was there as a judge. But this was not an athletic event. Instead, it was academic — to display mental and technical prowess.

Students from several Hoosier high schools wanted to win a robotics competition. The pins came from two of the competing teams.

The participants were remarkably creative — and I left the gym thinking they deserved more recognition than they received that weekend.

Mayor Ballard apparently sensed the same thing, this week, as he announced a new citywide robotics competition. He’ll tell you the news conference deserved better coverage because “it’s all about the workforce of the future.”

Not long ago, I heard a teacher say “the way to a kid’s brain is through their hands.” Ultimately, that’s the goal of this robotics competition.

Mayor Ballard wants the event to inspire students to study STEM subjects — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. “It just generates a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, for those sort of subjects,” he told me. Building robots “really motivates them and gets them going in the right direction” — toward STEM careers.

It must be working.

Ballard said only 8 local schools had been in such robotics competition before. Now, suddenly, 30 more high schools will create robotics teams. He says the experience will serve more than the students. It “will help Indianapolis and central Indiana for a long time.”

The competition will be held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on January 19 and 20.

Buddy, Can You Spare $3.3 Million?

November 15th, 2012 at 8:28 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

The Salvation Army says what it wants and what it needs are two different things. It needs $3.3 million during this year’s holiday fund drive, the Tree of Lights campaign.  That’s just to fulfill its basic commitments. The Salvation Army will happily accept more money, if people are more generous.

I came across some new research that suggests generosity is in our genes. We want to give. We want to help. But, the researchers found a problem. They concluded: the more we think about charity, the less we give.

The Salvation Army launched its 2012 fundraising campaign today — hoping the bells and the red kettles inspire some spontaneous giving.

This season is crucial to the Salvation Army. The money it raises between now and January will have to go a long way.

“A lot of people trust the Salvation Army,” said Major John Turner, the divisional commander for the Salvation Army in Indiana, even though people aren’t always aware of the services provided by his organization.

Most people know the Salvation Army responds in times of tragedy. Early this year, its staff and volunteers scrambled to Henryville after tornadoes hit southern Indiana. Today, Salvation Army representatives are still down there – helping victims build new homes.

The every day duties are, maybe, less-familiar. The Salvation Army feeds the hungry and the homeless. It provides shelter to victims of domestic violence. And, it helps restore the lives of people with addictions.

“We still see record numbers of people coming to us for assistance,” Major Turner told me. That’s why this year’s goal — that $3.3 million — is even bigger than last year’s campaign target.

At the same time, economic conditions make fundraising more difficult. “It has been a struggle out there,” the Major said. So, the people on his staff “have to be creative” to get donations.  

One thing never changes, though: “we are there to help people in their time of need.”