Voices, a Podcast from the Seneca Valley School District

Episode 66: Where is CIRC Today with Ms. Kelly Del Greco and Mr. Eric Fogle?

September 29, 2022 Seneca Valley School District
Voices, a Podcast from the Seneca Valley School District
Episode 66: Where is CIRC Today with Ms. Kelly Del Greco and Mr. Eric Fogle?
Show Notes Transcript

Where is CIRC Today with Ms. Kelly Del Greco and Mr. Eric Fogle?

Mr. Eric Fogle, Haine Middle School Librarian/CIRC Teacher and  Ms. Kelly Del Greco,  Connoquenessing Valley Elementary School  K-4 Librarian/CIRC  Teacher

Eric Fogle is in his 18th year of teaching and is one of the Creativity Innovation Research Center (CIRC) teachers at Haine Middle School. Along with supporting literacy initiatives through the Haine School Library, he enjoys teaching his students the values of being creative, communicating well, collaborating with others and thinking critically to solve problems they may encounter in the future.

Kelly Del Greco is in her 20th year of teaching at Seneca Valley. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Masters of Library Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She currently serves as the Department Chair for the K-6 Librarians.    


  • What does CIRC mean
  • The types of activities students do in CIRC
  • How CIRC helps students' development
  • Favorite projects from CIRC
  • How CIRC is evolving today

Welcome to Voices.  

A national award-winning podcast brought to you by the Seneca Valley School District.  

Jeff Krakoff: This Jeff Krakoff. Today we're here to talk about CIRC, which stands for Creativity, Innovation and Research Center. I'm joined by Kelly Del Greco, K-4 Librarian and CIRC Teacher and Eric Fogle, who is the 5-6 grade librarian and CIRC Teacher. Thanks for joining us today.  

Kelly Del Greco: Thanks so much.  

Eric Fogle:  Thank you.  

Jeff Krakoff: So, Kelly, let's start with you. What is CIRC and is that just an extension of the library or something different?  

Kelly Del Greco: So as you said, CIRC is an acronym and it stands for Creativity, Innovation and Research Center. It's a place where students can research, collaborate, participate in design thinking projects, and, of course, check out books because we're in a library, too. It basically transforms the library into a place where students can get both print materials and then, of course, access electronic resources.  

Eric Fogle: We do often collaborate with other classroom teachers in the building. And so, CIRC can be an enhancement to the regular classroom learning. And also each building utilizes CIRC in a unique way that respects the staff and student needs of each building. So we do have a little bit of differences across this school district.  

Jeff Krakoff: Okay. Well, Eric, let's continue with you. Give us a snapshot. What kinds of things do students do in CIRC?    

Eric Fogle: In Haine Middle School, for example, we do a lot of group collaboration projects. We really try to focus on creative thinking through problems that are what I quote "un-Googleable". And so we give them a project that's like an assignment, and then they work in groups to solve that project. What we do here is I have a lot of technology available, such as coding robots or laser cutters. And so when we combine these this technology together, we do lots of really fun projects with the students. So I truly focus on "low floor" and "high ceiling." What that basically means is any student can feel safe to try to solve that problem, but then they can take it as far as they want.    

Jeff Krakoff: Love that. That's a great way to describe it. How about you, Kelly?   

Kelly Del Greco: Well, at the beginning of each school year, we try to kick off with a design thinking project, and this is in grades 1-4. So they're all kind of working on the same project. Design thinking is seeking understanding of our users, challenging assumptions, redefining problems, and collaborating to discover creative, innovative solutions. So last school year we started off with a project that involved creating a dog toy because I thought this would be a fun project for the kids. So they had to actually select a dog breed. They had to research the dog to find out what type of dog it is and how it would probably interact with the toy. And then they spent some time researching and thinking about what was already out there and then how could they take those ideas and turn it into something new? And so we got a wide variety of ideas, things that already existed, plus some very innovative ideas. You know what kids can come up with?  

Jeff Krakoff: I'm sure. I'm sure.    

Kelly Del Greco: But this year we're kicking it off with a lunchbox project. So we are actually right now collecting data from second, third and fourth graders on their current lunchboxes that they use, what they like about them, what they don't like about them, things like is it keeping the food cold? Is it keeping the food warm? And then we researched a little bit about the history of lunchboxes. And they're going to try to determine what would make a perfect lunchbox and see if they can come up with some unique ideas. So that's how we're kind of kicking off every school year is with just kind of a different way to think about, you know, creating new products and really thinking about doing that research portion of it. So tying in all those areas of CIRC that I mentioned, you know, the creativity, the innovation and the research all into one project. But as the year goes on, we do a lot of things, curriculum connected projects. We do basic research skills, digital citizenship, learning about new authors and genres. So we're pretty busy as the school year goes on.   

Jeff Krakoff: Okay, so Eric, are there specific ways you can point to that CIRC helps students in their personal development?  

Eric Fogle: We don't really teach students just to be students. We try to really focus them on the future. And so what we really try to do is focus on what we call the four C's: communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. This is nothing new in the education world, but it's something that we really try to focus on in the CIRC because when our students grow up and join the workforce, many of the jobs they're going to be working at probably have not even been invented yet. So if they're able to communicate well with other people, that is a skill, that's a lifelong skill that they can use. If they can collaborate with other people, that's a lifelong skill it can use. And then critical thinking is huge because we want to be able to create students that are able to solve problems that we haven't even seen yet. So that is. And so you have to be creative to think critically and solve those problems. So we really try to focus on those four C's.    

Kelly Del Greco: Another big area that I really focus on with the students is embracing failure. I say this is a place where you can come and you can totally fail on a project because engineers never get it right on the first try. It may take them hundreds of different times of testing out ideas to get it right. So we say, you know, it's okay to come here and try out something new, try out something different. And it may not turn out the, you know, the right way the first time. So taking those risk in CIRC is a very important thing that we talk about and saying it's okay to sometimes fail here because that's what happens with engineers.    

Jeff Krakoff: How striking your program is. I'm recalling my experience in school as a kid. It was all about the past and it was all about be quiet, keep your voice down. But it truly is a place to take risks. Try new things. Think about your future. So I know, Kelly, you mentioned the Lunchbox Box project, but what are some of your other favorite projects that that you can point to?    

Kelly Del Greco: Well, we try a variety of different projects every year, but I do have a few favorites that we do keep around. First grade loves their snow shovel project. Each year they're trying to use recyclable materials to build snow shovel here in the CIRC space that can hold the most snow. And it would be basically like those styrofoam peanuts. And so then they have a blast. They use all different things like cereal boxes and, you know, paper towel rolls. And they're coming up with all these great ideas and then we test the designs right in the room to see if they can lift up the snow. And they have a blast. Fourth grade has a roller coaster engineering project, kind of like a marvel run that they create. So that ties in with their curriculum with motion and design. And there they work together. It's collaborative and they're building these great coasters and thinking about how that all ties together with what they're learning in the classroom.   

Jeff Krakoff: Awesome. Eric How about fifth, sixth grade level?    

Eric Fogle: I some I try not to do the same projects too frequently because I only had two students for two years. So I like to have things a little bit more for you, which is a lot more versatile. Last year we really did. We worked with these kits called the Hummingbird Robotics Kits, and they combined a sensor and a motor and we created what we call jump scare robots where if somebody covered a light sensor, a motor would trigger and it would something with spin or pop out of a box. So that was a lot of fun. Students really enjoyed that. And last year we received a few vacuum forming machines where you melt some plastic and you stick a vacuum cleaner with it and it will create a mold. And so the students created molds. We poured soap into the molds. And so the students also learned a little bit of the science of how soap works. So we had a little kit that showed what a soap molecule looks like of an oil molecule, what water molecules look like, and how soap takes on the properties of both and keeps our hands and germs free.  

Eric Fogle: So that was a lot of fun. And so those are some of my more. Interesting projects, but we also don't always use some sort of technology. The sometimes it's just an X-Acto knife, hot glue, gun and cardboard. And so we've also created watches for people who are visually impaired. And so the students learned a little bit about Braille and how to create a watch that could tell time without being able to see it. And then my extra bonus challenge was so they couldn't hear it either. So you can't just say, Hey, Siri, what time is it? So they can't cheat their way out of it.   

Jeff Krakoff: That's quite the challenge. Let me ask Eric, how long has the CIRC program been around at Seneca Valley?   

Eric Fogle: I think about this is maybe our fifth year for CIRC.   

Kelly Del Greco: Fifth or sixth.   

Eric Fogle: Fifth or sixth, maybe it's it's kind of turning into a blur here because it's it's been a whirlwind, fun activity. Being a CIRC teacher.  

Jeff Krakoff: Well, you know the famous saying, the only constant in life is change. So let's talk about CIRC. How is it evolving today?  

Kelly Del Greco: I think much like traditional libraries, you know, this space has had quite an overhaul. We have a big castle in the middle of our CVE room, so each space kind of has their own theme to it, plus the library surrounding it. But, you know, we're working towards the goals of innovation, as we said, making those connections, collaboration, creativity. And we want to give all of our students these opportunities and we mix that in with new technology and also just discovering new authors and ways of thinking like an engineer. So I feel like over the years we just keep building on it and giving the students more and more opportunities to think.    

Jeff Krakoff: Yeah, great.  

Eric Fogle: And also, like so much of the students, are learning something. I've been learning this entire process, so I have been evolving as well. So I've had to learn how to use many of this technology that we use here in the CIRC department. So I use it too. So I know enough to teach my students how to use it. I'm kind of dive right in it kind of person. So if I get something on a new, I'm trying to figure out how to use it right away. Yeah. And I usually, like Kelly said earlier, we do encourage, not encourage failure. That's not the right way of saying it. But we celebrate failure just as much as we celebrate success. So many of my lessons are kind of like that way to my lessons that I design here. Either huge successes or some of them have been epic failures. And yeah, and I just kind of like, hey, we learned, we try and not everything is going to work out great. And so I am open with the students on, you know, if a lesson didn't turn out the way I expected to, I'm happy with both because we learn from both our successes and our failures.  

Jeff Krakoff: Yeah, a lot to be said there. You know, a lot of people don't realize if you're not failing, it probably means you're not trying. Right. So, yes. For both of you, Kelly, just any additional thoughts that the parents and students should know about CIRC?    

Kelly Del Greco: I just want to pass along to the families at CVE that we are so grateful for both our PTO and the families for all their help with our CIRC space. They do supply us with a lot of new and recyclable materials to support all of our creative projects. You know, we have over 750 students in this building, and if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be able to do some of the amazing things that we do in here each and every year.   

Jeff Krakoff: Great, great.    

Eric Fogle: And yeah, I could piggyback right on that with Kelly because the Haine families and PTO have also been very, very supportive of our CIRC program. The administrators here at Haine Middle School have been very, very supportive of everything I've done. And so every time I am like I'm worried, I'm like, Oh, are they going to say, no, I can't do this lesson? Can I bring a crockpot and melt soap in here? Is that okay? And they've always given me a pat on the back and said, Yes, you can, you can do it, we trust you. And so thank you to the district and to all of our families and PTO's as well.    

Jeff Krakoff: Awesome. And thank you both for all of your great work. I'm sure the students are getting a lot out of this as well as their parents are. So again, we're joined with Kelly Del Greco and Eric Fogle. Thanks for joining us and have a great rest of your day.    

Kelly Del Greco: Thank you so much.   

Eric Fogle: Thank you very much.    

Jeff Krakoff: Take care.