• Meeting Up, Reaching Out & Working Together

    Duneland Innovators MeetupThis past Wednesday Duneland Innovators hosted it's first official Meetup at Zoseco Co-working in Valparaiso, Indiana. If you made it out to the event, we thank you for joining us for "The Open Source Way" (a tech presentationarticle coming soon) and the excellent conversations that followed.

    The aim is to gather regularly with the same type of format: learning, conversation & networking.

    Now, here's the part that gets interesting. We want you there! Not just attending but at the front of the room presenting to the folks that have come to the meeting. Do you have a topic that could fit the format?

    For Presentations:

    • Context & history
    • Topic depth & Connections
    • NW Indiana applications
    • Questions for the group

    Something you are passionate about that connects with the content focus of Duneland Innovators? Then please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let us know about your idea.

    Look for updates about the event very soon and we hope to see you there next time if you weren't able to join us this week. Together we can grow and develop great ideas to improve the area we live and work.

  • My CDP Path & "Big Picture" Learning

    Erica Hornthal

    My arrival into the senior care industry was by answering an ad that promised I could plan events, go shopping and be creative.  I thought "This is awesome!" I could do all of the things that I love to do and get paid.  I could use my time in college as a music major and do something fun.  I went to the interview and they hired me on the spot. 

    Being new to the industry my first couple months were a little challenging, to say the least. I grew to love working with seniors. However, that was over 15 years ago.

    During my time in the industry I immersed myself in the day-to-day activities and asked questions of nurses and doctors to learn more about the residents regarding their physical and mental health.  I was also determined to learn more about the Nursing Home Industry and completed the course work to become a Nursing Home Administrator. 

    I decided to take this course to better understand hot to operate a Nursing Home as well as the Nursing Home regulations and how to best serve residents.  I never went on to become an administrator.  Which is one decision that I have never regretted.  Being an administrator means being on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  However, the decision to take the course work has been critical to my success in this industry.  Having the ability to see the “Big Picture” and understand why decision are made has been priceless.

    As I spend more time in the industry, I had the opportunity to work in many roles and many different types of senior communities.  I grew to love the time spent with seniors with dementia.  I was learning something new everyday about the role of non-medical interventions when working with someone with dementia and I wanted to learn more.

    I started researching and found out about advanced dementia training through the National Council for Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP).  After looking into the training and I jumped in head first.  I have now been a Certified Dementia Practitioner for 4 years and plan to renew this certification.  This certification and it’s Continuing Professional Education (CPE) has helped me to learn and understand techniques for working with persons with dementia. It has also shown me ways to teach others these valuable skills including family members that want to be able to spend quality time with their loved ones.  This training has led me to seek out additional education opportunities and ways that I can create a sense of calm for the people I work with.  Since then I have become a Certified Virtual Dementia Tour Trainer.

    I truly believe that my passion for serving older adults, in the best way possible, is what sparked my journey in stay aware of what is happening in this industry through the certification and training opportunities that are available.  My advice is to grab those opportunity when you can.


  • Rebecca Manis & the Hammond Challenger Center

    Challenger Center Hammond Indiana

    Challenger Center Northwest Indiana Hammond

    Located at the southernmost point of the Purdue Calumet (soon to be Purdue Northwest) campus in Hammond is a building that on the outside could pass as just another university building. But the building is not affiliated with Purdue, and inside is a different kind of learning environment. An environment that offers hands-on education in the form of mission simulations, which cater to all ages but mainly serves classrooms full of tweens and young teens.

    The Challenger Learning Center is named in memory of the crew members lost in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. Founded by the crew’s families, it aimed to give younger students the opportunity to work together and solve problems in similar surroundings to a real space mission. The first Center, located in NASA’s home city of Houston, Texas, opened in 1988.

    Today, there are over 40 Centers located across four countries. Among them is Hammond’s, which has been in operation since 1999.

    At the Learning Center, participants take part in missions modeled around different areas of space exploration. Completing these missions involves working together with one’s team members toward each objective. The missions also integrate various subjects from the classroom.

    Challenger Center Director Rebecca Manis“All our programs integrate language, math and science as students are completing hands on activities that require them to communicate, calculate, observe, hypothesize, record, analyze and more,” Director Rebecca Manis said. “Social studies comes into play when we highlight the history of the space program or astronauts have contributed to the understanding we have of space travel and of our universe today.”

    The missions are all developed by the Challenger National Office, located in Washington, D.C. However, while all Learning Centers get the same missions, Manis points out that what happens on the missions is often different and exciting for every group of students.

    “A mission flown at our center might look very different from a mission flown at the center in Oakland, California,” Manis said.

    Over sixteen years, the Center has gone through some updates, and not just accounting for changes in technology over that time. The missions’ curriculum has been updated to integrate current trends in science and space exploration. For example, there has been much recent discussion on the exploration of Mars.

    “We’ve added a science activity lab that focuses on Curiosity and the work she is doing on Mars,” Manis said.

    Another major issue in science is the environment.

    “Our newest mission, Earth Odyssey, focuses completely on climate change and the effects that humans are having on the Earth,” Manis said.

    The Challenger Learning Center offers packages for birthdays, summer camps, families, and even corporate retreats. Their most frequent visitors, however, are classes of middle-school age students.

    “This is different than a field trip to say, a museum, where they might see many things, but not actually be drawn into the exhibit to participate,” Manis said. “Outside of learning the space-related content, they must be good communicators, problem solvers and teammates.”

    As for how they respond to that experience, Manis relates a few person stories.

    “We hear students walk out of here daily saying, ‘That was the best field trip ever!’" she said. “And we know of college students who are in engineering programs or aerospace programs because of their experiences here.”