CUE is you, the educators. CUE is big ideas and steps forward and risk-taking. CUE is always looking for ways to not only acknowledge those efforts, but to support them. To support you. We want to help you bring your ideas to life, and in that way help your students to grow and succeed. To that end we established the LeRoy Finkel Fellowship in 1995 and launched LeRoy’s Big Idea lesson design contest on its 20th anniversary. We asked for a one minute video and a pitch- What’s your Big Idea for your school? If you had the money, what would you do with it to help your kids?

You stepped up to the challenge and we received many incredible and inspiring Big Ideas. It was a challenging process, but in the end our selection panel managed to choose five Big Ideas to be represented at the CUE 2017 National Conference. These finalists will present their Big Ideas in a Saturday (3/18/17) morning session called LeRoy’s Big Idea: Innovative Lesson Design Competition. These teachers have already be awarded $500 for each idea. The audience (you!) and a eduawesome panel will watch each presentation and vote on which finalist will be awarded an additional $2000 and full rock star ISTE 2017 treatment including flight, hotel, transportation, and registration.

Let’s meet the five finalists and see what the Big Idea is.


Kim Calderon– 8th and K-2, Fowler Unified School District- Central Valley CUE

Big Idea:

STEM Buddies is designed to bring together 8th grade students with K-2 students to do STEM projects together. We (my 8th grade STEM class and I) want to create a mobile STEM Lab that we can bring to classes. Teachers would choose from a list of STEM activities, depending on the standard they want to cover, and we would take the STEM lab to them and do the activity with their students. Each STEM Buddy will pair up with a younger student and work with them to complete the project. The big Buddies will share what they have learned about different science concepts with their little Buddy while they work on the STEM project. At the end of the activity the STEM Buddies will present their solution to the project and discuss possible changes. The Buddies will also talk about how their project applies to the science standard that it is tied to. Each activity will cover different Science, Math and ELA standards where applicable. The lab needs to be mobile so we would purchase 2 Stanley rolling tool carts. We would also purchase supplies to go in our carts: small motors, scissors, duct tape, straws, wiring, cardboard safety cutters, and other materials as needed to different activities. We also pLAN to purchase 1-2 Spheros. We realize that coding can be difficult with only 1-2 Spheros but students can write it out and then test with their Big Buddy. We will reuse as many of our supplies as possible in order to maximize the amount of activities that can be done.



Amy Downs and Julie Cates– 6th grade, Annie R Mitchell Elementary- Central Valley CUE

Big Idea-

Our big idea is aligning the sweet spot of learning, the dynamic Ah Ha moment, the engagement provided utilizing Breakout EDU, & NGSS standards focusing on Ag in the Classroom. Our first Breakout topic is invasive pest species Asian Citrus Psyllid and its devastating effect on California’s citrus industry. The possible connections are endless. Local/global issues addressed: MSLS21 Ecosystems Interactions, Energy and Dynamics, LS2C Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning and Resilience. Driving question: What happens to ecosystems when the environment changes? Our students’ local region has a global impact as the Central Valley produces $6.1 billion in ag sales. Bringing our world impact into the classroom with Breakout EDU will keep us in that sweet spot of learning. Budget Plan 4 Breakout EDU Kits at $125.00 = $500 Initial student impact 250 students, District impact 2,300.


Jesus Huerta5th grade, Brawley Elementary School District- Inland Area CUE

Big Idea-

My plan is to use the money to buy 13 used amazon fire tablets, 1 set of Bloxel blocks, Bloxel app, 8 packs of (4) perler bead peg boards and 2 (22,000) perler bead buckets for a grand total of $498. This would align with art, writing and technology. First the students would use the tablet to find examples of pixel art and make their own. These bead art works are then ironed by the teacher (me) and fuse together to create 8-bit art. This will allow them to understand how to create their own characters for when I introduce the Bloxel blocks pack and the app. Before the students create their own games, they will need to write a narrative about their game. This backstory will follow them as they finally create their own game. The Bloxel board itself allows for the students to create more complex stages, enemies into bosses and much more.


Kimberly Johnston6th grade, DMUSD- San Diego CUE

Big Idea-

This project could be applied to any topic, but I will use it with a 6th gr Lit unit. Students will read the novel Hatchet and research survival, then write a realistic fiction narrative. Students will use the coding software Scratch to bring their story to life. They will create the sprites and backdrops for their story, and record sounds to set the mood. They will code an animation that blends together all these elements into a dynamic representation of their narrative.

I want students to create and express themselves. I want research to influence and ignite their creative process. I want them to see how their choices of words, sounds, and images can make others feel something. I want them to see coding as a way to allow them freedom of expression.

This project encompasses ELA, Engineering/Design, ISTE, VPA, Music & Math Practice standards.

4 USB Microphone for recording; 4 Portable Recording Box for improved sound quality in close quarters; Total: $450


Adam Juarez6-12th grade, El Monte Middle School- Central Valley CUE

Big Idea-

Student success in college and career requires creativity and innovation. We no longer live in an industrial economy. Rather, students must collaboratively problem solve to design creative, innovative solutions. It is vital our learning spaces empower students to produce rather than consume content, aligned to ISTE Standard 1: Empowered Learner. The Cardinal Innovation Center correlates to ISTE standards, impacting all departments and subject areas with solid pedagogical focus.

Classroom spaces need to be overhauled. The Cardinal Innovation Center is a student-centered, flexible learning environment. The space is designed to encourage students to innovate and find their voice, to construct knowledge (ISTE Standard 3: Knowledge Constructor). The Cardinal Innovation Center serves as a blank canvas encouraging students to design and ideate (ISTE Standard 4: Innovative Designer, ISTE Standard 5: Computational Thinker). This learning space is fluid and flexible. It has a lounge atmosphere as opposed to a traditional classroom of rows and desks. Whiteboards as well as flexible table set-ups and fluid seating fosters collaboration and increases student communication (ISTE Standard 6: Creative Communicator). This student centered learning environment makes students feel comfortable and fosters innovation and creativity.

The Cardinal Innovation Center serves as a model for teachers to see an innovative, student-centered learning environment in action. Teachers can replicate this learning space in their classroom, multiplying the impact. The space increases collaboration as teachers work with me to design differentiated lessons. Students needing enrichment activities visit the Cardinal Innovation Center under my guidance, while teachers benefit from smaller class sizes for personalized, needs-based pedagogy.

The Cardinal Innovation Center serves students throughout the school day and is also available before and after school to provide free WiFi and a safe place to collaborate, create, and innovate. As students collaborate globally (ISTE Standard 7), the center provides a safe space for students to learn and demonstrate digital citizenship (ISTE Standard 2). The lounge atmosphere allows school clubs and sport teams to support extra-curriculars by fundraising through sales of refreshments to students and staff.

To effectively align the Cardinal Innovative Center to ISTE standards, funds from the LeRoy Finkel fellowship will be used for tools such as: Chromebit ($80), Chromecast ($35), Wireless Mouse and Keyboard ($30) Rolling tables ($80 x 4 = $320), and 6 USB Charging Station/Power Strips ($20 x 2) for a total cost on $495. Chromebit and chromecast are used to facilitate digital display to promote student creativity and collaboration. Rolling tables allow for flexible seating arrangements to best meet the needs of innovative learning tasks. Charging stations/power strips promote student choice of device and learning location within the space.


LeRoy himself

Saturday, 3/18, at 9am all six of these educators will take the stage in front of a panel of rock star educators and sell their Big Ideas. By a combined vote of the panel and the audience, one educator will be named the next “LeRoy Finkel Fellow.”  The Fellow will be given a mentor, provided travel and registration to the ISTE Conference and invited to write about their idea in an upcoming issue of the OnCUE Journal. We hope to see you in the audience, ready to vote and get inspired for your 2018 Big Idea.

Doug Robertson is the CUE Blog Editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), one novel, The Unforgiving Road, and is an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

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