Navigating Technology and Art at a School of Contradictions

In the 19th Century, the London Bridge was a marvel of technology and an example of artistic creativity, and nearly a century later, one innovative American town dismantled the original masonry of the London Bridge and rebuilt it to handle modern traffic.

Nautilus Elementary School signToday, four miles from where the bridge now sits in Lake Havasu, Az., Nautilus Elementary is using a 21st Century technology and art to help improve teaching and student learning. For all its success, the U.S. Department of Education named Nautilus Elementary School a 2011 Blue Ribbon school.

At the school, technology is helping teachers use performance data to improve education for their students. “Nautilus stands out because from the very beginning, we took standards-based education very seriously,” said Margee Chieffo, a kindergarten teacher. “We taught…to the standards, measured student achievement…then went back and re-taught things that were not comprehensively learned by students.”

To do this, students use “electronic clickers”—small remotes, with which they can answer questions in class—and other tools that give immediate feedback on whether or not individual students and the class as a whole understand an idea or process. With this information, a teacher can focus on particular areas that students are having a hard time grasping.  The school also uses an online program to track student performance and keep teachers and parents up to date.  This management software allows teachers to post and parents to see their child’s grades online at any time.  Through this system, parents can also view video tutorials, and teachers and administrators have access to educational tools.

Teachers, school staff, parents and community leaders join Nautilus Elementary students at the National Blue Ribbon School Award ceremony

While performance measurement and its data is key to designing lessons, the faculty sees teaching as an art to reach each child as an individual person. “My philosophy is this: I don’t teach subjects. I teach children,” said Chieffo.

Carolyn Myers, a 4th grade teacher, expands on teaching as an art: “We know which teachers are better at technology, which are strong in reading strategies, phonics, math. We say, ‘Can you help me with this? I’m just not reaching this child.’ ”

Nautilus Elementary’s students are enthusiastic when giving their perspectives. Andrew, a 6th grader, said, “We have…great teachers. They encourage us to do our best.” Gabby, also a 6th grader, gave her view on why the school succeeds. “Everyone’s like a family…we’re all really close.” Laurel, a 3rd grader, agreed with her 6th grade friends and gave the bottom line on going to school at Nautilus. “We get smarter by the minute.”

Christie Olsen, who teaches a 5th and 6th grade-blended class, recognizes that a school needs the community.  A desert town with the London Bridge and a school named after a sea creature would be expected to have a school that is innovative. That’s the case with Nautilus Elementary—bringing technology and art together to win the Blue Ribbon Award.

Joe Barison

Joe Barison works in ED’s San Francisco regional office.

Cleveland Middle School Helps Put ED Tour in Motion

Michael Yudin with Solon students, retired NFL player Lomas Brown, Ohio dairy farmer Davis Denman and Chomps, the Cleveland Browns' mascot.

Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Michael Yudin (second from right) with Solon students, retired NFL player Lomas Brown, Ohio dairy farmer Davis Denman and Chomps, the Cleveland Browns' mascot.

SOLON, Ohio—For a back-to-school sprint through the Great Lakes region, it just seemed to make sense to warm up with a little physical activity. So that’s what Michael Yudin, the Department’s acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, did Tuesday morning at Solon Middle School, a 2010 National Blue Ribbon School outside of Cleveland. Secretary Duncan will visit Cleveland on Wednesday afternoon.

Yudin joined Solon City School District Superintendent Joseph Regano, Principal Eugenia Green and representatives from the dairy industry and the National Football League’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program for an assembly to motivate Solon Middle’s 400 8th graders to make smart food choices and be physically active. Lomas Brown, a retired NFL player who spent the 1999 season with the Cleveland Browns, was also on hand to encourage the students, as was Chomps, the Browns’ canine mascot.

Solon Middle School Principal Eugenia Green

Solon Middle School Principal Eugenia Green leads a 2010 National Blue Ribbon School that is now participating in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.

“We know that healthy students are better students,” Yudin said, congratulating Solon Middle on its Blue Ribbon award and its commitment to student health. Through quality school nutrition and the integration of physical activity into the day, schools are one of the key pillars of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to combat child obesity.

After the assembly in the school’s gym and a toast to the new school year—with milk, of course—Yudin, Brown and Chomps joined the students on the school’s athletic field for a football, Frisbee, running and walking break.

Solon Middle School students

Following an assembly, students took a mid-morning activity break on the school's football field.

Launched by the National Dairy Council and the NFL in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fuel Up to Play 60 empowers youth to take action to improve nutrition and physical activity at their school and for their own health.

“Just as the NFL uses their playbook…we can use Fuel Up to Play 60 playbooks to choose the activities that are best for each of us,” said Solon 8th grader Jeff Lidawer, one of several student-athletes who spoke at the assembly.

To learn more about the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, including five steps that schools can take, visit

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