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The Latest Summitville Elementary News

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Summitville Elementary Reintroduces Cursive Writing

Article by Rebecca R. Bibbs with The Herald Bulletin. Photos by John P. Cleary

In Samantha Smith’s kindergarten classroom at Summitville Elementary School, an artist in a video instructs the dozen students to draw two long lines, then go out about an inch and draw a dot before connecting each line to the dot.

“Pinch it. Pick it up. Make the slide. Rest it on the next finger,” the voice instructs the students as they pick up a pencil to draw.

It may not seem the pencil that students are drawing and coloring in has anything to do with their ability to write in cursive, but the teachers and school leadership hope it will revive in Madison-Grant United School Corp. an increasingly lost art.

“There’s some science behind that that’s helping them with their grip,” said the school’s principal, Jackie Samuels.

As schools and districts have turned to computers over the past decades, students spend more time at keyboards and less time simply writing things down. Additionally, changes to Common Core standards that did not require handwriting further decreased students’ access to this once-important skill.

A 2017 survey by the Indiana Department of Education of school teachers and administrators concluded 70% supported a cursive writing requirement, but only about 20% of schools teach it.

Anne Trubek, author of “The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting,” said initially the demands for a return to instruction in cursive writing in popular culture were rooted more to an idea that someone who is unable to do so is less civilized, cultured or educated. More recently, however, the idea of being able to write in cursive has been part of a patriotic rallying cry closely allied with the call for school uniforms and the Pledge of Allegiance, she said.

But education experts are also increasingly calling for a better balance between keyboarding and writing because some studies demonstrate a brain-to-hand link that shows handwriting improves academic achievement in all disciplines. For instance, officials for the College Board, which develops and oversees the SAT test, reported students who wrote the essay portion of the exam in cursive scored higher than those who wrote in print.

Summitville Elementary School has partnered with DrawntoDiscover to help students master the fine motor skills necessary for good penmanship. DrawntoDiscover also helps students strengthen their socio-emotional skills as the presenters talk about peace and tolerance while they guide the students through their tasks, Samuels said.

“The kids love it because they don’t realize how they’re growing because they’re drawing,” she said. “It’s really a lost art, cursive writing.”

Allison Gill, who teaches sixth grade at Summitville, said she has seen a decline in students’ abilities to write in cursive and has to spend more time teaching them something they used to learn in earlier grades. That’s why she is happy to see the DrawntoDiscover curriculum come to her school and become implemented starting in kindergarten.

“We’re very lacking in fine motor skills these days. These are just muscles that don’t develop as early as they used to,” she said. “They have trouble reading what they wrote and what other people do, as well.”

Though most contemporary books and documents are printed with uniform type, there are instances in which knowing cursive comes in handy, Gill said. For instance, people need to develop their unique signatures to ward off fraud.

Knowing cursive is equally important for literacy, Gill said. Students may be required to read an older document, such as the U.S. Constitution in its original form, she said.

“Even some novels have sections that are written cursive,” she said.

Bringing It Back

The issue of writing in cursive remains intensely political.

Cursive writing has not been part of Indiana’s education standards for more than a decade, but some lawmakers are pushing for its return. Some Hoosier lawmakers would like to join the two dozen other states that have reintroduced cursive writing to their curriculums.

In 2018, state Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, for a seventh time authored a bill that would have required all traditional public, charter, and accredited nonpublic elementary schools to introduce cursive writing into their curriculum. It would have been considered a part of the English language arts standards.

In 2019, state Rep. Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette, authored House Bill 1162, seeking the same.

Neither bill got very far in the process. Each year, Leising’s bill was killed by the House Education Committee chairman after passing the Senate.

How Cursive Is Making a Comeback at Madison-Grant

Summitville, IN- (September 12, 2019) – In this increasingly digital world, cursive handwriting has not been a part of required curriculum for Hoosier students for over a decade. Schools across the state are being challenged to provide handwriting curriculum after new state legislation House Bill 1640. Research clearly links handwriting and academic achievement. Because of this, students will now be required to learn cursive. Madison-Grant United School Corporation is bridging this knowledge gap by being the first in the state to implement cutting-edge curriculum in partnership with Drawn To Discover. Summitville Elementary, also home of STEM focused Argyll Adventure Academy, is launching the program this school year to boost kids’ learning and achievement. Summitville Principal Jackie Samuels says, “Drawn To Discover offers a proactive solution for students and teachers. This program supports our educators in addressing skills that are often overlooked and can be integrated into our curriculum instead of piling on one more thing. It supports our students by developing fine motor skills across subject areas through visual literacy. Kids don’t even realize they are developing fine motor skills or ‘practicing’ handwriting, it just feels like fun.” 

Cursive is only one aspect of learning in the Drawn To Discover program. With guided lessons, students will use brain-hand connectivity to develop critical thinking, problem solving, and observational skills. The program behind their success was developed 15 years ago by Wendy Anderson Halperin, a renowned children’s illustrator, and is pioneering the visual literacy and learning solution for children on the Drawn To Discover website. The company won the 2017 International Visual Literacy Association Educator of the Year Award for their video lessons built to develop fine motor skills into cognitive growth. Co-founder Brian Goodman talks of his own experience, “Watching my own kids make such drastic improvements after going through the program has really been amazing. We knew after seeing Wendy Anderson Halperin teach her program, it needed to be developed into a format kids everywhere could access. The improvements in understanding and skill development I see are just amazing. Kids needed to get their hands on this.”

People all around the globe are currently utilizing DrawnToDiscover, from India to San Diego, and now Hoosier students at Summitville Elementary School. 

Pre-K Students Learning STEM, Coding Skills

Article by Samantha Oyler of the Chronicle Tribune. 

students working on a STEM projectWith no knowledge of a similar program anywhere else in the surrounding area, Madison-Grant’s Summitville Elementary School is pioneering a program called Argyll Adventure Academy that will expose pre-kindergarten students to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“If they’re exposed to it early enough, it’ll be like second nature,” Summitville Principal Jackie Samuels said. The preschool STEM program was first announced back in May.

Students utilize tools like Dash, an interactive robot, to draw connections between technology and the coding that goes into it.

Dash responds to voices, sounds, and commands given through students utilizing tablets.

While Dash is technically designed for children ages six and up, officials at Summitville have adapted his abilities to suit four-year-olds too.

The little robot has a variety of accessories that he can interact with, like a colorful xylophone.

As students tap a key on an image of a xylophone on a tablet, Dash follows along, tapping the same key.

Jenna Langel, an innovative learning specialist with Five Star Solutions, said that while there is a specific STEM preschool program at Summitville, the focus doesn’t stop at a particular grade level.

“We’re trying to create 21st-century ready students,” Langel said.

The older grade levels take on both “plugged” and “unplugged” coding activities.

“Kids love these hands-on experiences. They don’t even know they’re getting exposed to science,” Mallory Raichel, a Summitville fifth- and sixth-grade science and social studies teacher, said.

She said that this program has been a learning experience for not only the students but the teachers and administrators too.

Those involved in the program spent time going to information sessions and doing research on age-appropriate coding activities they could implement.

In an effort to keep kids in line with technology advancements, Raichel said some staff will be training to work with a 3-D printer soon.

Raichel also has an aquaponics system set up in her classroom, which creates a sustainable environment by combining aquaculture and hydroponics systems.

All these tools will help students gain skills they can use in the future.