By Stella deVargas
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon Junior High students in Tammy Howard’s third-hour class are making dioramas using individual creativity to help them visualize and better understand their project.
     Mrs. Howard’s eighth-grade students in advanced language arts are recreating scenes from the book All Fall Down by Alli Carter. Ms. Howard hopes the project will stimulate long-term learning and get students engaged in higher-level thinking..
     “I hope my students are being challenged as well as learning to think critically and take pride in doing well,” says Mrs. Howard.
     This project will help students focus on central idea of text and how it is developed. Students will learn how dialogue and incidents in a story influence plot, characters and character decisions. It will help students show strong evidence to support understanding of text.
     “I learned that books were way more entertaining when you have something to visualize it better and this project certainly did that,” said Jaden Erchen, eighth grader.
     Mrs. Howard planned to read the book as a class and have students do their projects as individual assignments. Students can choose their own scene from the book and will have two weeks to complete it. Howard hopes students can connect and become part of the story.
     “This project helped me get more into what I was reading and it helped me visualize the text a lot better than just reading,” says Erchen.
     This project is so students can connect to their favorite part, visualize and create a scene and share it with others. This project is a way to think and recreate the story. Howard hopes to do the project again.
     “I hope these projects become visual aids for students and pique the interest of those who have not read the book,” says Howard.

Girls basketball players prepare for the new season. (Photo by Brooke Wine)

Girls basketball players prepare for the new season. (Photo by Brooke Wine)

By Jessica M.
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon’s girls basketball team is kicking off the 2016 season with the need to win.
     These students are working very hard to improve from last year. This year’s captains are eighth graders Lola Knotts and Maya Richardson, who played on the team last year. The game itself matters a lot to these students and has been a very important part of their lives.
     “Basketball means everything to me, my dad always played and I always wanted to be just like him. He’s the one that got me started in basketball and I thank him because it’s been the greatest experience of my life,” said Richardson.
     These students are working hard to practice and prepare for this season, in all ways possible. After winning the league title last year, they want to achieve another championship this year. They plan on working hard as a team and individually to become the best players they can become. With only four days a week to practice, they are practicing hard to continue their improvement as a player and a team.
     “I think some of the team strengths are working hard together. A lot of us played together last year so we are used to playing with each other and we know each others strengths and weaknesses so we can work together to make the team amazing,” Knotts said.
     All the players are working hard and practicing a lot. They want to win, but more importantly they want to learn to work as a team.
     “Our goals are to improve every day, have a better understanding of the game of basketball, and to win the championship,” said Coach Kim Grant.
     The goal is for them to improve everyday and fully understand the game of basketball. Coach Grant believes the girls are strongest as a team and are amazing defense players.
     “They will learn how to work hard, that to be successful you have to work as a team, and they will understand basic concepts of basketball,” said Coach Grant.
     The Cougars opened their season with a win over Mountain Vista and continue their season at home on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

By Jenevieve Saidi
Cougar News Blog

     George Frost started a new study skills music class at Cactus Canyon Junior High. He created it before the second semester started after he was asked to “do something with music.”
     Mr. Frost started this enrichment class for students that are meeting the standards for grade-level math and language arts. His class will teach students about pop culture and show them how music affects the world around them.
     “I want my students to learn about themselves and how the world affects their life,” said Mr. Frost.
     He hopes the class can be student driven and can help students discover new music or hobbies. He wants the class can help students communicate on a different level. He expects the class to be fun and engage students in upper-level critical thinking.
     “The class is meant to teach about some of the aspects of pop culture, even though I am far from an expert,” said Frost.
     If students want something more than just reading and writing, Mr. Frost hopes the class will appeal to them and expand their knowledge on music and poetry.
     “I hope I discover a new artist that I have never heard of and love,” said Siu Lan Waugh, a student in the class.
     The project currently being worked on in class is a 30-day song challenge. Students are given a topic and have to find a song that relates to the topic. The projects he has planned for the future will involve TV shows and movies. He wants students in the class to learn that they all have something valuable to contribute to the world.

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This week’s yearbook photo assignment was determined by need within each department.

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We return from the break with a variety of photos from around campus this week, including the eighth-grade science fishing trip.

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This week’s yearbook photos show students dressing up for the CCJH holiday spirit week.

By Chris Munro
Cougar News Blog

     A fierce competition took place at Cactus Canyon’s spelling bee. Dozens of students competed on Dec. 10 to determine who would advance to the district bee on Jan. 20.
     As with any competition, some of the competitors were nervous if competing for the first time or returning into their roots for even the third time. Such was the case for many students, including first-place winner, Janice Roque. Hailey Neaman finished in second place, James Armstrong third, and Bronte Pappas was the alternate.
     “I felt excited, anxious, and quite a bit nervous,” said Roque.
     Cactus Canyon’s annual spelling bee, set up by teachers John Leal and Sheryl Anderson saw around 40 students compete.
     “Mr. Leal and I were asked by Mrs. Castelhano to work on the school bee,” said Mrs. Anderson. “We got some of the other staff and teachers to help pronounce and judge for the bee.”
     The teachers had about two months to plan the bee and to nominate students for the contest. The students were nominated by their language arts teachers. The aim of the bee was to find competitors for the district bee as well as teach the students how to study.
     “I was asked about three weeks before the spelling bee to be in it,” said seventh grader Hailey Neaman.
     This was a friendly and non-aggressive competition, but some students still enjoyed rivalries with their friends.
     “I hope that they have fun competing academically, learn to perform under pressure and maybe learn some new vocabulary words while they are studying the spelling lists,” said Mrs. Anderson.
     The winners advanced to the district bee. The winner of the district bee will advance to the Pinal County bee.
     “We want to support academic as well as athletic competition. It’s a great way to show off our student population,” said Mrs. Anderson.

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This week’s set of yearbook photos features images from the music concert and winter social.

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By Jessica Martinez
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon’s Yearbook began crowdfunding August, for new yearbook equipment. Crowdfunding is a way to use the Internet to raise money for different projects.
     The goal is to purchase more high quality cameras, so the yearbook students would be able to take better quality photographs. They are aiming to raise $2,000, so far they have raised over $350. They want to give the students the opportunity to have regular access to a DSLR camera.
     “I think better equipment will be useful because someone like me for example who doesn’t have a nice $500 camera, or someone else with not that good of quality camera could get a better camera so they could get better quality photos for the yearbook,” said eighth grader Emily Lewis.
     Adviser Jason Davis said over half of the students in class don’t have access a quality camera on a regular basis.
     “It’s expensive,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that equipment matters and those with good cameras tend to be better photographers. Giving everyone access to a good camera every week would boost confidence and allow students to show off their talent.
     The students and the yearbook will be helped out greatly, since the students can take more high-quality pictures, which will improve the book. Having better equipment would allow the students to fulfill their full picture taking potential.
     “If we have more people with the ability to take better photos, our book is going to be better,” said Mr. Davis.
     The students also believe everyone can take more amazing pictures with higher level cameras.
     “Some people in yearbook don’t have the opportunity to have a nice camera that takes good pictures,” said seventh grader SeAnna Brennan. “Students in yearbook could take a really good photo, but because of the type of camera they have, it doesn’t turn out very good. With this fundraising, I hope that more students can be excellent photographers.”
     If they can raise enough money, they want to buy two entry-level DSLR cameras and two additional lenses. IIf crowdfunding works out, they may try again, because more equipment is always useful.
     Mr. Davis said, “If we get this project funded, we will certainly try again. I don’t want to be greedy, so maybe we’d wait a year or two, but we can always use more equipment. Next time, maybe we’d try to get some nice lenses that could be shared among all students.”

Click here for more information about the yearbook class crowdfunding campaign on Go Fund Me.

By Gracie Lentz
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon Junior High held a coin drive with Scholastic to earn books and donate to a charity of their choice.
     The drive lasted two weeks in October. Scholastic matched the amount of money in books for the library and then donated an equal amount to a children’s charity. The coin drive made $82 and the two charities that were donated to are Toys for Tots and Kids in Distress.
     “Whatever money was donated during the Book Fair coin drive Scholastic matches that amount in books to the school and then donates an equal amount to a children’s charity in CCJH’s name,” says librarian Jennifer Cameron.
     The motivation to get the students to donate was the prize. The winning class received a pizza party. The class that raised the most money was seventh grade teacher Mrs. Fallon’s first hour.
     Some kids claim that the motivation of the pizza party did encourage them to donate to the coin drive. Even though only one class could win, everyone that donated still got to help the school and charities.
     “The fact that I could have a pizza party with my class sounded fun, so it encouraged me to donate,” says eighth grader Ashley Wood.
     The money not only helped the charities it was donated to, but helped the CCJH library get a bigger selection of books for the students. It could potentially get some more readers at CCJH and help the teachers by having their students always have a book.
     “I can’t wait until the new books come in as it will give me something better to do in class, because it feels like I have already read all the books in the library,” says Wood.