International Creativity Month: All About Marth

International Creativity Month: All About Marth

Posted January 28th, 2015 by Kris Hurst with No Comments

If you’ve listened to the news lately, you’ve probably heard of STEM. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. This is being incorporated into classroom curriculum and after school programs around the world. Add an ‘A’ for Art to this acronym and you get STEAM. STEAM is a movement that recognizes the importance of creativity and innovation in these fields.

At School on Wheels, we added an ‘r’ to Math to create a program called MartH. MartH uses curriculum-based projects involving art to support math skills being taught in the classroom. The program is currently available to 4th grade students experiencing homelessness at Washington Irving School 14 during their lunchtime on Wednesday afternoons. Our projects review concepts including angles, lines, linear measurement, fractions, multiplication, symmetry, area and perimeter. We study artists, paint, draw and create 3-D structures – we’ve even worked with needles and thread to produce fiber art and have used candy corn as a medium to make repeating equilateral triangles.

Student art based on Mondrain's workGroup shot of all student art

For a recent project, we studied the artist Piet Mondrian whose work includes many paintings that include right angles and primary colors. Using what they learned, students then created right, acute and obtuse angles on a canvas using tape, and painted the exposed areas with primary colors. The kids added designs to their work in the form of points, angles, parallel and perpendicular lines.


In another project, the kids worked together to design a group piece using flat colored paper that fit together forming repeated straight lines that create a curve called a hyperbolic paraboloid. We studied pictures of the Sydney Opera house in Australia that incorporates these curves for its roof. The Pringles chip is also molded in this shape, and we had fun snacking on hyperbolic paraboloids.

IMG_0753 IMG_0754 IMG_0755

Hopefully, you can see by these examples that I try to make these lessons both fun and educational. Even though the projects involve math, which tends to have right and wrong answers, we find in art that there are multiple solutions to projects. We can use rules in math to create an infinite number of designs and art to generate new ways of looking at things. I am truly passionate about art and value creative ideas and expression. I also believe, as many in the STEAM movement do, that creativity is a vital part of achieving success in any field. I hope that, by participating in the MartH program, the kids I work with are able to find and value creativity in themselves.

Want to learn more about our curriculum-based programs like MartH? Click here!

Meet the Staff: Karen Routt

Posted January 21st, 2015 by Sarah with No Comments

Each month, we’ll be introducing you to a new School on Wheels staff member so you can learn more about the people who make our programs run successfully! This month, we’ll highlight Karen Routt, our Director of Programs. She has a background as an educator and has held many different positions at School on Wheels – read on to learn more about her!


What is your role at School on Wheels?
I am the Director of Programs. This has certainly changed over the past four and a half years. I started at School on Wheels as a Program Coordinator, and after a year moved into the Program Manager position before I took on this most recent role.

What did you do before you came here?
I was a math teacher! I’ve taught at both the middle school and high school level.

Why did you decide to join the School on Wheels team?
I love the mission of School on Wheels. Back in my days when I was a classroom teacher, it was very apparent to me that not all students in our community get the same educational experiences. Firsthand, I could see the differences between the kids who had a stable home life, plenty of school supplies, and parental support…and the kids who had none of this. I love having the opportunity to level the playing field for our students.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?
My favorite thing about working at School on Wheels is the positivity that every staff member has. It truly makes me feel hopeful, which is a pretty wonderful feeling.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
I rarely eat pancakes without peanut butter on them!

What does a typical week look like at School on Wheels in your position?
Typical week? What is that? I love the fact that my job takes me so many places. I get to work on curriculum to support Indiana standards, work with amazing stakeholders in our community, meet smart students and dedicated parents, and support the work of great teachers. Every week is an adventure!

Want to learn more about the programs that Karen oversees at School on Wheels? Check out more information about Tutors in Action and Ignite Learning!

Student Spotlights: Marie and Aaron

Posted January 14th, 2015 by Shalyn with No Comments

Each day at School on Wheels, we are honored to work with such fantastic, talented kids at tutoring. This week, we thought we would take the time to celebrate two students, Marie and Aaron, and the great things they have been accomplishing! One of our Program Coordinators, Ieva, was so proud of these students that she interviewed them and recommended that we share their stories with all of you!

Ieva is passionate about our youth!

Marie, a 5th grade student, was recently nominated by her school for a Carson Scholarship! Only one student may be nominated from each school, and to be considered students must have at least a 3.75 GPA and be actively involved in their community. This prestigious scholarship, which is open to students in grades four through eleven, would give Marie a $1,000 scholarship to apply towards her college education. We are so proud of her for being chosen as the nominee for her school – good luck Marie!

More about Marie

Future career: Singer

Favorite subject: Math

Fun fact: Plays the violin in the school band and wants to major in music

Aaron, an 8th grade student, recently received the “Outstanding Excellence” award in the Boys II Men mentoring program. Through the program, Aaron meets with male role models each week and they work to foster personal responsibility, academic success, good citizenship, positive relationships, respect of women, and a lifelong love for learning.

More about Aaron

Future career: Police Officer

Favorite subject: Math

Fun Fact: Plays the clarinet in both school and church bands

Congratulations to Marie, Aaron and all our students. It’s great to see students overcoming obstacles to achieve successes like these. We know that achievements like this are possible for many of our students, which is why we dedicate ourselves to tutoring, supporting and encouraging children experiencing homelessness.

Would you like to work with students like Marie and Aaron and be part of their success story? Apply to be a volunteer tutor today!

We’re Excited for 2015!

Posted January 7th, 2015 by Claire with No Comments

Did you know that School on Wheels does a lot more than simply provide tutoring to children experiencing homelessness during the school year?

staff pictureMany people only see our volunteer tutors at our partner sites and our Program Coordinators who oversee tutoring at each location. What many don’t see is our full time staff back at the office working over school breaks and summer vacation. We are building partnerships with new sites and service providers, recruiting and training volunteers, researching best practices for working with the population we serve and sharing with the community about the prevalence of childhood homelessness, compiling academic data to evaluate the impact of each program, raising funds to make sure we are able to continue providing our programs in coming years, developing new curriculum for our students and workshops for the parents of these children, and much, much more.

In fact, School on Wheels employs eight full-time staff and four part-time staff, in addition to our seven Program Coordinators. And every single one of us is so passionate about what we do. We get to work with wonderful staff members, invested partners, amazing volunteers and supporters who share our vision to help break the cycle of homelessness through education.

In 2015 we are excited about lots of new projects, including:

Evaluating the success of our first full year of our Hidden Homeless Initiative at Fox Hill and Greenbriar Elementary Schools, and expanding this program to a new school location.

Evaluating the results of our new Ignite Learning program, Parent Connections, and expanding this pilot into additional sites in order to better equip parents to be their children’s strongest educational advocate.

Offering a month long summer enrichment program at Salvation Army Barton Center. It’s a WRAP! (Writing, Reading, Art and Performance) will focus on poetry this summer. (Check out last summer’s program here).

If you are excited about School on Wheels programming in 2015, you might be interested in joining our team. We have an opening for a part-time Accounting and Business Manager and are accepting applications through January 20, 2015. Apply today!

Meet the Staff: Ieva Grundy

Posted December 23rd, 2014 by Sarah with No Comments

Each month, we’ll be introducing you to a new School on Wheels staff member so you can learn more about the people who make our programs run successfully! This month, we’ll highlight Ieva Grundy, one of our Program Coordinators who manages tutoring each night at our partner locations. She is also piloting a new parent involvement workshop series at two of our shelter locations – read on to learn more!


Where do you PC?
I am the Program Coordinator at Salvation Army Barton Center and the Salvation Army Ruth Lilly Women and Children’s Center.

What did you do before you came here?
I was a consultant with the Simon Youth Foundation, and I ran their leadership / life skills training program for teens and young adults in alternative schools.

Why did you decide to join the School on Wheels team?
I have worked with this population off and on throughout my career and when I found an organization that specifically targeted children who were experiencing homelessness, I thought it was a no-brainer. I really do believe that education is the way out of poverty and homelessness and I wanted to be a part of that.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?
My favorite thing is working with the kids. Seeing them light up when they get it – there’s just nothing like that. I also really enjoy seeing the tutors connect with kids in our program. That’s a big rush for me too.

Can you share one of your favorite tutoring stories?
There was a young lady who was struggling in school. She was smart, but embarrassed by the situation she was in. She had a hard time making friends because they moved around a lot. When she started with School on Wheels, she was very reluctant to come. As a teen, that’s pretty normal. When we started working with her, particularly in math, she connected with a tutor who was really good at math. They became friends, just through working together on math. The tutor even stayed late a few times to help her. She came in a couple of weeks later and had a B+ on her math test. We all celebrated with her, and were proud of her. She was proud of herself. Her mom said that tutoring was a huge help, and I was so glad the tutors were able to hear it. We all just got on the same page and were really able to help this girl. It was great to see.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
I really did not like school when I was a child. The only reason I wanted to go was to see my friends. I was just an average student. I didn’t try as hard as I could have.

Tell us more about the new workshop series you are leading for School on Wheels parents called Parent Connections.
I’ve always loved the training aspect of helping people work better with young people. For the last few years at School on Wheels, we have been holding parent workshops at least once a semester at each of our partner locations. I worked with staff members to develop parent workshops that covered a wide variety of topics related to academics, including:

  • How to talk to teachers
  • Discussion about discipline problems and how to address them
  • Accessing community services for their families

While holding these workshops at different locations, I heard again and again from parents, “This is great! When are you coming back?” Parents wanted more follow-up and more opportunities to talk about their child’s education.

Parent Connections is a new initiative that reflects the needs of our parents. Through this new program, we are able to offer a series of consecutive workshops on a variety of topics at one shelter location over the course of 3-4 weeks. So far we have completed one series at Coburn Place and have started our next series at Family Promise. We cover topics such as communication skills, attendance vs. achievement, positive and self-discipline, how to access students’ school records online, literacy for families and how learning can be a family activity. I try to instill in the sessions that the parents are the experts, they know their kids best.

Throughout the series, there’s an element of empowerment to give parents the confidence to lead the charge for their students. Many parents experiencing homelessness are vulnerable and disempowered. We try to help parents understand that everything they do at home has an impact.  We start every session by thanking the parents for coming and honoring their efforts to be a good parent to their kids. We focus a lot on encouraging an open dialogue between parents, schools, and School on Wheels to help create a better environment for these kids.

Interested in the other ways that we engage parents in our program? Click here to learn more about Ignite Learning.