Kiwanis event raises nearly $18K for Midtown IPS schools

Young coders benefit from proximity to experienced mentors at CoderDojo from 1 to 3 p.m. the 4th Sunday of each month at The Speak Easy in SoBro. Photo courtesy of TechPoint Foundation for Youth.

by Marion Simon Garmel

You wouldn’t think kids and beer would mix. But they do—in a powerful brew crafted by the Broad Ripple Kiwanis Club called Pints for Half-Pints (PFHP). Now in its 5th year, this adults-only party featuring Indiana craft beer, food trucks, live music, and raffle prizes raises money for STEAM projects in Midtown’s IPS schools.

You know, STEM—science, technology, engineering and math, the major focus of American education today, plus an A for arts, those visual and performing arts programs that have been taken out of elementary schools for economic reasons. Pints for Half-Pints funds supplemental STEAM programs for Midtown IPS kids—the kind of afterschool programs that kids in private schools take advantage of all the time, but kids from lower-income families might not be able to afford.

“It’s all about accessibility,” says Marianne Beck, the Broad Ripple Kiwanis Club volunteer who has chaired PFHP for four years. She is a nurse practitioner who moved to Indianapolis about five years ago from western Kentucky and was looking for a volunteer organization to join as a path into the community. Broad Ripple Kiwanis fit the bill, and she became part of a group of volunteers who were looking for ways to improve their community.

“We figured good schools make a good community,” Beck explained. “We had been doing a dinner, a big fundraiser, and were looking for something else to augment it. We realized a lot of people in our club enjoy craft beer, so we scheduled a craft beer fundraiser at Bier Brewery on 65th Street, and raised $3,500,” she reported.

“It was a lot of fun, and we decided to make it our major fundraiser,” Beck said. For the past four years it has been at The Speak Easy in DeveloperTown, 5255 N. Winthrop Ave..

The first year three breweries participated. This year the Oct. 7 event had nine. Three hundred people participated. Kiwanis raised $17,800—15 percent more than the year before—and all of the proceeds go to STEAM projects in Midtown IPS schools. Breweries and sponsors pick up the costs of the fundraiser. “We are always looking for more Midtown companies to support and sponsor the event,” Beck said.


The Kiwanis program targets Midtown public schools. “We decided to focus on IPS,” said Beck. “The private schools already had a lot more resources and money, and the better your schools are, the better your neighborhood is.”

Kiwanis-funded STEAM programs range from coding for 7-year-olds to lessons in puppetry for high schoolers. Though most of the programs are in elementary schools, Broad Ripple High School also is included because it had some reasonable requests, Beck said.

Coding for kids? “Yes,” said Laura Dodds, executive director of TechPoint Foundation for Youth, one of PFHP’s Midtown partners. The foundation’s mission, according to their website, is to make sure “Indiana’s underserved K–12 students have access to experiential learning opportunities that inspire the pursuit of STEM careers.”

“Think if of it as a language, like French or Spanish or German,” Dodds said. “You can think of computer coding as a language, too,” Dodds said. “The younger you expose kids to languages the easier it will be for them to retain the information. Coding is a language all kids will need as they get older and we want to make sure they have a place to learn it that is free and, of course, fun.”

One of TechPoint Foundation’s programs is CoderDojo, for kids ages 7 through 17. Midtown students can attend CoderDojo from 1 to 3 p.m. the 4th Sunday of each month at The Speak Easy. Dojo is a term borrowed from the martial art karate and means place. A CoderDojo is a place for coding. Although the CoderDojo is a BYOT (bring your own technology) program, Kiwanis provided 12 computers for club members who need them this year.


The Math Pentathlon program, for which Kiwanis provides kits at numerous Midtown IPS schools, involves kindergarten through grade 7 in competitions featuring math-based board games. Heather Hofmann, a parent at Sidener Academy for High Ability Students (also known as IPS School 59, 2424 E. Kessler Blvd.) became the 6th and 7th grades coach because she had a son in the school and wanted him to be part of a math team.

“It is important that schools like Sidener have sports for kids who are not sporty,” Hofmann said. “They teach you team work, they teach you leadership, and how to be a good loser and a good winner. These are not traits you acquire sitting at your desk.” She coaches as a volunteer and said she had no prior experience. Now she has gone back to school to earn a degree in math education and plans to teach math when she graduates.

Among the many math-related activities Broad Ripple Kiwanis supports are the Robotics Club for 2nd through 6th graders at Sidener, Eliza Blaker School 55, 1349 E. 54th St., and Rousseau McLellan School 91, 5111 Evanston Ave.; and a Girls First Lego League at several Midtown schools. In Robotics, kids build robots to complete tasks alongside robots from other teams and schools. Winners compete with students from around the world.


Heather Boelke is the art teacher at School 55, the only traditional IPS school in the PFHP program. It is a true neighborhood school, Boelke said. All the others are special interest or magnet schools. Kiwanis has funded several projects done in the art room at School 55. “They have very positive effects,” Boelke said. She also noted that the school just started a Robotics Program to teach basic engineering concepts to children in kindergarten through grade 3.

Kindergarten? “It helps to get into this very early,” Boelke said. “It springboards students and propels them to better futures. Kiwanis is the primary resource for this program and we would not be able to fund it without them.” Hoffman compared engineering to coding: “They may not understand it yet,” she said, “but it keeps the pathways to the problem-solving parts of the brain open until they can get to the meat of it.”

“We have high-needs students,” the Kiwanis Club’s Beck said. Kiwanis provides them with the kind of activities they would not otherwise be able to afford. “These programs give students extra life skills and also make the schools more attractive to residents living in or moving into Midtown, so they won’t move to other school districts when their kids get old enough to go to school. That is the bottom line,” she said. “Good schools make good neighborhoods.”  J

Longtime Midtown resident Marion Simon Garmel is a retired arts journalist and serves as secretary of the Woman’s Press Club of Indiana.

More info about Pints for Half-Pints and CoderDojo.

A version of this article appeared in the December ’16/January ’17 issue of the magazine.