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What are HOT Schools?

HOT Schools logoJohn Lyman School is a Higher Order Thinking (HOT) School through the state of Connecticut. That means that the arts are an integral part of the character and instructional practices in all subject areas at our school. The HOT School program is sponsored by the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and is key to the unique school climate that exists here at John Lyman.  Because we are a HOT School, the entire staff is mindful of creating instructional tasks that require deep, critical thinking. Daily lessons are presented in ways that inspire creativity, independent and collaborative problem solving, and high levels of thought in the learner.  We pride ourselves on having students who learn to "think outside of the box," which in the changing world of technology and information, is a great asset.

There are three main components to the HOT Schools approach: Strong Arts, Arts Integration, and Democratic Practice.  The following descriptions of each are quoted from the state of Connecticut's HOT Schools website:

Strong Arts:  Education, in, about and through the arts helps students develop critical thinking abilities, independent judgment and creative problem solving skills.  The arts, as rigorous academic subjects, each with their own sequential comprehensive curricula, convey knowledge not learned through studying other academic disciplines and provide stimulating vehicles for children to communicate their ideas.

Arts Integration:  Developing basic skills is central to the HOT Approach to school renewal.  An interdisciplinary approach to teaching reinforces learning in all disciplines; encourages students to seek, establish and test connections; and all allows them to synthesize relationships between ideas.  Integrating the arts into all subject and creating arts-rich environments enhances and reinforces the power of the arts in learning in each school community.

Democratic Practice:  The arts provide avenues for expression in an authentic democracy.  HOT Schools cultivate a school culture in which purposeful activities support choice, participation, connection and contribution to celebrate the unique voice of each member of the school community.  HOT School educators plan and work collaboratively and invite parent partnerships, input and participation.

At John Lyman, you will find all three of these components in action.  We aim to create a learning environment where the arts help to facilitate learning and student choice and voice is valued and appreciated.  This is true inside and outside of the classroom.  Examples include our Weekly Assemblies, Teacher Artist Residencies, and our Inter-disciplinary Planning Team, a group of teachers and parents who meet regularly to plan intra- and extra-curricular opportunities for our students as they relate to the HOT Schools philosophy. 

Our staff works very hard to ensure that our practices our consistent with the HOT School approach.  There are professional development opportunities throughout the year to support our efforts. The most notable is the annual HOT Schools Summer Institute, a week-long conference that provides information and training for teachers, parents, and administrators who are part of the HOT Schools network. The main topic this summer was to understand the strong connection between the arts and the Common Core State Standards.  There is also a weekend "Mini Institute" each year that serves to reinforce what was learned at the Summer Institute.  In addition, HOT Schools facilitate "Leadershops" throughout the school year.  Leadershops are hosted by individual schools and provide other educators with the chance to observe aspects of the HOT School approach in action.  John Lyman will host a Leadershop in the spring.

Ms. Sharon Berndt and Mr. Michael Meurs are John Lyman School's HOT Schools Site Coordinators for 2016-2017.  Please contact them with any questions that you may have about HOT Schools.

Please click on the link to view the State of Connecticut's HOT Schools Program webpage.

HOT Schools - Student Groups and Organizations

The following are student groups or organizations at John Lyman School that exemplify HOT Schools in action outside of the classroom.

Art Board

The Art Board consists of students who have applied by letter to our art teachers and told why they want to be on the board. The Art Board's main job is to illustrate writing for the Writers' Wall. The writing comes to us after the Literary Board has completed its work and our parent helpers have printed the writing and mounted it for illustration. The Art Board also puts up displays of student work that they have solicited through assembly shares and announcements.

Hello Chorus

As you walk into our building, you may be greeted by a group of smiling students sharing a song that welcomes you to our school.  This our Hello Chorus!  The Hello Chorus is comprised of first, second, third, and fourth graders.  With the support and guidance of a faculty advisor, the students compose the song itself.  The process begins with students voluntarily coming together with lyrics in hand or melodies on their minds.  The first step is to create a melody.  The kids then put their own lyrics to the new tune.  This wonderful process brings about a new and unique song each year.  Once the song is composed, the chorus is ready to practice and present the song to you.  The purpose of the chorus is to welcome our visitors in a special way.  It also reflects John Lyman's strong commitment to the arts.

Literary Board

The Literary Board is a group of students that meets regularly with faculty advisors to review writings by students throughout the school. Any writer in the school may submit a piece of writing that he/she considers his/her best for review. The Literary Board then reads and critiques the writings. The writings that are accepted are exhibited on the Writers' Wall and the author is presented with a special pencil at an upcoming Assembly. Members of the Art Board mount the writings and design artwork to go along with the writing.  An outstanding piece of writing may be selected as the "Piece of the Week."  These writings are read aloud at Assembly each week.  All of the writing that is accepted by the Literary Board is published at the end of the year in Off the Wall, John Lyman School's literary journal.  A copy of the journal is given to each family in the school.

Student Senate

Senators are school leaders who help to make John Lyman School be the best it can be. They bring ideas and information from their classes to senate meetings and then bring information from the senate meetings back to their classes. Senators do the morning announcements, give tours to people who visit the school, and plan community service projects for the school to complete. They also plan spirit days, such as Durham Fair Day, Opposites Day, Hat Day, to name a few.

Senators are students who follow our school rules and demonstrate Region 13's Core Ethical Values of Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, Kindness and Courage. They have to be good role models because other students look up to them.  There are two senators from every grades 3/4 class (one boy and one girl) who are elected by their classes during the month of October. In December, grades 1/2 classes hold their senate elections.  One second grade student from each class is elected by his or her peers.

Third and fourth grade senators  have an opportunity to attend two different leadership conferences each year. The HOT Schools Senate/Student Council Day is held each December at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Two representatives from the Lyman Senate attend. In January, a team of six senators attends the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) Elementary Student Leadership Conference.

Senators can really make a difference at the school. For example, it was senators who suggested to our previous principal that we should have a salad bar so that kids could choose their favorite vegetables and not waste food! Senators usually meet once or twice a month during recess, which speaks to their willingness to give up their own time on behalf of John Lyman.

The Tech Crew

Each week at John Lyman School, we have assemblies where students are able to share their learning and discovering in unique and exciting ways with the whole school community.  Did you know that students also operate the lights, curtains, and other audio/visual devices?  That's right!  Every year, students are given the opportunity to join the John Lyman Tech Crew.  These students are in charge of operating the lights, curtains, music, overhead screen and  machine, and many other operations during all of our assemblies.  They work closely with the faculty advisor throughout the year, working together as a team and making each show run smoothly.  They are a very talented group of students who make each Assembly possible.

Trail Committee

John Lyman created a nature trail and outdoor classroom so students could experience the joy and beauty of nature and learn about the natural world all around them. Through observation, exploration, and hands-on activities, children develop an appreciation and respect for their environment.  Students who understand the connection to the natural world will grow up to appreciate, protect, and preserve the environment. At John Lyman School, we fully embrace DEP commissioner Gina McCarthy's initiative, "No Child Left Inside!"

The Trail Committee is a group of students who work with a faculty advisor to maintain John Lyman's nature trail throughout the school year.


WJLS consists of fourth grade students who write, report, and film a news program that is broadcast to the entire school every Friday morning.  The broadcast airs through our school video system and exemplifies the kind of authentic, hand-on learning experiences that we try to provide for all children at John Lyman.