By Harrison Talbott
Cougar News Blog

     The Raging Readers Book Club is on its way to a science adventure on May 1. The club will be holding a field trip for its members that will take them to Phoenix.
     Book Club advisers Sheryl Anderson and Lisa Smith want to show their students how important science is in their lives. Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Anderson decided that the Arizona Science Center would be the best place to take them.
     “This field trip is to provide a rich learning experience, support science standards, and create excitement for learning science through the hands-on exhibits and activities provided by the science center,” said Mrs. Smith.
     The science center trip will be free to attend for book club members who have completed reading “I, Q Independence Hall” by Roland Smith. Members are also required to participate in Book Club fundraisers in order to attend the trip.
     “All the money comes from the literacy fair held and the generous money from our leaders,” said Book Club member Nathaniel Candelas.
     The field trip has been planned since the beginning of the 2015. There have been several Book Club trips that have occurred throughout the year. The group has gone to the Renaissance Festival.
     “I have been looking forward to this trip since I found out about it at the beginning of the year,” said Candelas.
     The Book Club students will be representing CCJH at the science center and are expected to be on their best behavior.
     “I hope the students reading the novel and going to the science center will see that science is a very important part of our everyday lives, even when we don’t always realize it,” said Mrs. Anderson.

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By Jessica Conrad
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon’s Journalism II class recently won Best Group Blog in the Edublog Awards. This is the Cougar News Blog’s second year of winning an Edublog award.
     The award was announced on the Edublog Awards website in December. The blog was one of the 24 finalists and one of the hundreds of contestants who were nominated.
     Instructor Jason Davis strongly believes that his class earned the award. The Journalism II students have been working hard at gathering facts, doing interviews, and writing the best stories they could write.
     “Our staff has most definitely earned the awards. In four years, we’ve written over 400 stories and the overwhelming majority are better than what would typically be expected from junior high writers,” explains Davis. “We take pride in doing good work and I think it’s nice that the work is recognized.”
     The blog has won one additional Edublog award last school year. It was for being the Best Class Blog. The J2 class was also a runner-up for Best Group Blog. According to Davis, the blog was nominated by several people.
     “It feels great to win two school years in row. It’s always an achievement to win something that you work really hard on,” said eighth grader, Alaya Walton.
     Davis said by winning the awards it builds a culture of high expectations. Many students have been in his Journalism classes since the start of their seventh grade year. These students take a leadership role in the class and try to train the newer students. They try to build the program and do as well, or better than the groups before, all according to Davis.
     “I think knowing that we have been recognized for our work helps build a culture of excellence and positivity. Students come into to J2 and they know that I not only expect good work, I’m used to getting it,” explains Davis. “Students that have been around for a while take on a leadership role and train the next group. It’s pretty cool.”
     All because of their hard work, Davis and his students believe that they will continually be recognized for their work. The blog, as well as Davis and his students, have been mentioned on several education-related blogs because of the work they do.
     “I think if we continue to produce high-quality writing and telling interesting stories, we will continue to be recognized for our work,” said Davis.

By Abigail Vidana
Cougar News Blog

     Alaya Walton was recently recognized by the city of Apache Junction for representing Apache Junction at the Pinal County Spelling Bee.
     Walton, an eighth grader at CCJH, received the award, which was signed and presented by Mayor John Insalaco, on Tuesday, April 7.
     It took Walton lots of hard work and studying to get up to the county spelling bee. She had gone through a school spelling bee, district spelling bee, county spelling bee, and then the state spelling bee where it resulted in her loss.
     “During this experience, I learned that if you work hard to do something and successfully make it happen, then you will be awarded for your achievement,” says Walton.
     Walton stated that the people that attended her awarding at the Apache Junction City Hall were graduates from local schools and the people of the city council. Everyone else that attended were just people that live in Apache Junction.
     “When they called me up to claim my award, they were asking me things like what word I had won on, how many rounds I had gone through, and the origin of the word I had won on,” said Walton. “I also got a picture with the mayor, the vice mayor, and the manager of the city council, as well as with my parents.”
     Walton was guided throughout this experience with the help of many people motivating her. She took some time to thank many of the people who helped and guided her through her spelling bee competitions.
     Walton explained, “I just want to thank everyone for guiding me through this experience. I want to especially thank my teachers, peers, and my family.”

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By Alyssa Flores
Cougar News Blog

     Book club has a week full of plans to get students and CCJH staff to read. “I Love to Read” week is April 28-May 1 and is a week for CCJH to show their love for reading, not just in language arts class.
     Lisa Smith, the book club advisor, wants encourage students to read because she believes reading can help students learn new things and can take them to different journeys through the books they read.
     “Reading can be fun and exciting. I want students to learn different books that are out there to read. I want all teachers to share their love of reading, not just language arts teachers,” said Smith.
     There is going to be different activities each day of the week during Study Skills and the materials will be given to the teachers.
     On Monday, classes will be playing “book charades,” where the teacher will be given a box of 25 book titles. One student will act out a book title and the others will guess what book it is. On Tuesday, the students will be playing an activity called “who’s reading the book.” There will be a Google presentation that the Study Skills teacher will show. On each slide, a teacher be shown holding a book they like to read and students will try to guess who the teacher is.
     Wednesday is “worms for bookworms” day and each student will get a bag of gummy worms to eat when they are reading. Thursday is poetry day and teachers will receive paper so the students can write a four-line poem and the winner will get a treat. Friday will be “read with a buddy” day where students will bring a stuffed animal to read with.
     “Reading should be a life time activity that people enjoy. It helps you learn new things and can take you on many different journeys through the stories you read,” said Smith. “Each CCJH (student) gets to enjoy reading with a fun week to show their love. In the same week there is going to be a book fair in the library.
     “I want them to learn how to find a book that suits them,” said book club member and seventh Phillip Baker.

By Haley M.
Cougar News Blog

     Desirae Davis, Life Skills teacher at Cactus Canyon, took her Life Skills class to the Phoenix Zoo in November.
     Ms. Davis teaches a class with seven seventh- and eighth-grade special needs students to educate them on different ways to have fun while also learning new objectives.
     “My students learned community skills,” said Davis.
     Ms. Davis and her students decided to take a trip to the zoo to where they learned about animals, got to touch some of them, and also learned about what the animals classifications are.
     “We finished up our science unit about animals with a trip to the zoo,” told Davis.
     Davis wanted her students to go to the zoo so that they could have fun while also gaining community experiences. The students said that they enjoyed the trip and the experiences they got to have.
     “I was excited to go there for the zebras,” said Katherine Wood, seventh-grade student. “I love their black and white stripe designs, they are so cute and I had a lot of fun spending a day at the zoo.”

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By Shea W.
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon’s cheer team dropped their poms when they were announced first place and a fifth consecutive win because of their hard work and dedication. The Desert Middle Schools Athletic League cheer competition was held on Saturday, March 28 at Apache Junction High School.
     This was Cathryn Messenger’s last year coaching and her team wanted to make her proud.
     “In all honesty, the most important factors for me were that all the teams were able to showcase all their hard work and that everyone walked away with great memories,” said Messenger.
     Before the event, all the girls stayed for late night practices to get the team ready for competition. Messenger wanted the girls to learn that without just one person everything you worked very hard for will fall without any warning.
     “I learned that even when there’s drama, stick through it. Even if you want to quit, keep going because obviously it got us somewhere,” said Kara O’Connor.
     Messenger has created a legacy at Cactus Canyon and doesn’t want that to disappear. She will probably not be coaching for a while and will spend more time with her husband and children. and She will probably be the one to select a new coach for next year.
     “I want to thank CCJH, Mrs. Castelhano, Mr. Cantrell, and Mrs. Gingrich for allowing me to be part of this fantastic school for the past 5 years,” said Messenger. “I will truly miss being part of CCJH, but I am so thankful for everything and everyone I have encountered over the years.”
     The amount of money used for the competition between three schools was about $500. All the girls and their parents helped to set up from 8:30 to 10 p.m. and they also helped sell program ads for the public to grab on their way in, but they ran out of copies.
     “Since we wanted the event to be spectacular, we went above and beyond as much as we could,” said Messenger, “I would say, all in all, the cost to host the competition was probably close to $500.”

By Pauline Harner
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon Junior High’s student council and the life skills class went to the Renaissance Festival on Tuesday, March 3.
     Life Skills teacher Desirae Davis wanted her students to learn about how to act at a public event, how to socialize with others, how to pay for things, and how to use a map to find things.
     “I expected my students to learn about history and community skills,” said Miss Davis. “This trip was to involve the students into a life experience and to make friends with student council students.”
     StuCo went on this trip as a reminder that they are all a Student Council family and that they do a lot of fun activities with each other and the Life Skills students.
     “It was a fun bonding experience for StuCo,” said Matthew Martinez.
     Students between Student Council and Life Skills had lots of fun getting henna tattoos, going to the fairy shop, riding elephants and one student even got a coffee mug. All the students learned lots about helping others, bonding with each other, and the culture from the Renaissance era. Those lessons will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
     “I learned the culture of the Renaissance era,” said Martinez.
     “I learned it is important to help others,” said seventh grader Haley Loftis.
     The planning process for this trip took a couple of months due to paperwork being sent to the Renaissance Festival and the school district.
     Student Council and Life Skills were gone for about five hours in all. They left during second hour and came back around seventh hour.

By Natalie D.
Cougar News Blog

     Students at Cactus Canyon have a pool party to look forward to if they love to read and can show it.
     On May 15, students have the possibility of going to the Superstition Shadows Aquatic Center if they get 90 Accelerated Reader points by reading books and taking tests on them.
     “I’m doing my best,” said seventh grader Kyo Steward. “I can read half of a book in one day if I put my mind to it.”
     Since the party comes one week before school ends, it is almost a release for students who can’t wait for summer vacation to roll around.
     “The pool party is a great reward because it comes at the end of the year when many students are feeling restless,” said seventh grade language arts teacher Mallory Stradling. “It will be a great experience for those students to be able to have a break for all their effort.”
     For some students, the party is a motivation to keep reading and taking tests so they can reach a much wanted award.
     “If there wasn’t a reward I don’t think I would try as hard because it’s hard for me to read if I don’t really want to,” said Steward.
     Most teachers also agree that if there wasn’t a reward most of their students wouldn’t make the effort to read or take tests just for the fun of it.
     “I believe students who love to read will read for the enjoyment of reading,” said principal Courtney Castelhano. “Students who do not like to read as much may be motivated more to read by the reward party. My hope is that once students begin to read, that they will enjoy it and continue reading.”
     Students have until May 14 to get 90 points on AR and earn the pool reward.

By Maddie Chilson
Cougar News Blog

     Teachers at Cactus Canyon Junior High have learned that this year the state testing will be an online format and have been preparing students for that change.
     The state has made the decision that students will be taking the standardized test on the computer. To get students ready, teachers began using more online assignments with their students. There was an all-staff meeting where there were sources presented such as Pear Deck and Google Classroom. Jason Davis even taught a class on how to use Google Classroom.
     “Some of my teachers have recently started using Google Classroom,” said Wyatt Bradford, eighth grade student. “We’ve been using other online sources, though.”
     The AZMerit is a state test and is different from the AIMS. This year, students will be taking the AZMerit, where they have to choose an answer, and be able to give their reasoning on why they chose that answer by citing their information, whereas on the AIMS, it’s just a multiple choice test.
     “I think students will struggle with an online format more than they do when it’s just a pencil and booklet,” said Bradford. “Especially since the answers will need to be explained.”
     Cactus Canyon students and all the other students in the Apache Junction Unified School District will be using the computer-based format, except for Peralta Trail Elementary School.
     “We sort of assumed all along it would be at least partly on the computer,” tells Davis. “As soon as we found out for sure we were asked to have students start typing as many things as possible.”
     Out of the 23 teachers who were surveyed at Cactus Canyon, 14 of them use Google Classroom with their students. The teachers who don’t use Google Classroom use other sources such as Galileo, Socrative, Insight 360, and there were some teachers who don’t use anything. There are also teachers who have been using typing programs with their students all year so that they know how to use the keyboard more effectively.
     Leading up to the actual test days, teachers are having students take sample tests on the AZMerit Portal so they can see all the features and know how to use them so that the students are prepared. The testing for the eighth-grade students will be Apr. 14-16. Seventh graders will test Apr. 21-23.
     “While taking the practice tests, I’ve began thinking the math will be hard,” said Hermance Luff, eighth grade student. “The way the questions are worded is confusing.”

By Kenzie Serratt
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon students will be taking off for a trip this June to Washington D.C. and New York City.
     Wendy McQuilkin is planning a trip for 2014-15 eighth grade students to go to the East Coast early June. They will spend four days in Washington and the other four in New York. Students will get to visit places like the Arlington National Cemetery and the Empire State Building.
     “I hope to have fun with my friends,” said Calista Smith. “Traveling across the country with them will be a trip we won’t forget.”
     Many students have never been to Washington or New York City. The trip will be led by a tour director, so students will be able to have a full experience in the cities. There are many chances to be educated about the area and how the United States government works.
     “Traveling with students is a lot more fun than some people might think,” said teacher Bethany Ligon. “It helps students make connections between what they learn in the classroom and what is beyond the wall of the classroom.”
     The trip is currently set for June 3-10 and students will have busy schedules while on the trip, starting almost immediately after they get off the plane.
     “This trip is twice as long as the two previous years, so we will doing twice as much and traveling between (Washington) and (New York) so we will get to see more of our country,” said Mrs. McQuilkin.
     Students already signed up have sold candles and gotten tax credits from friends, family, and neighbors to help pay for the trip, which costs about $2,500.
     “I’m most excited about going to (New York) because I’ve never visited there before,” said Ligon.