Eighth grade senator Erik Lundquest makes a surfboard decoration to prepare for Student Council's Hawaiian dance on Aug. 28. (Photo by Amber Reidy)

Eighth grade senator Erik Lundquest makes a surfboard decoration to prepare for Student Council’s Hawaiian dance on Aug. 28. (Photo by Amber Reidy)

By Jessica Conrad
Cougar News Blog

The best way to end your summer is to hang out at the beach, it’s also the best way to kick off the school year. This year’s theme for the welcome back dance is a Hawaiian luau.
This year’s first dance will be hosted by Student Council on Aug. 28, from 5:15-7 p.m. It’s one of the many changes happening in this dance.
Last year, all of the dances started at 6:15 p.m. and ended at 8 p.m. Administration decided to start it an hour earlier because of how a lot of students and staff didn’t leave until 9. It will also help students be more rested on Friday.
“We decided to have dances earlier so it is easier for students and staff,” said assistant principal, Joyce Gingrich. “We noticed an increased number of absences on the day after dances.”
In addition to having the times changed, StuCo adviser Jason Davis booked a new DJ and and MC. The master of ceremonies will lead the dances and games throughout the whole dance.
“It’s a little bit of an experiment for us and we hope the MC will help get and keep people involved and have a great time,” said Davis. “If it works out, we’ll continue it for other dances.”
StuCo has also been working very hard preparing for the dance. It’s been a little challenging for them since there is only 10 students.
“The students have been making as many of the decorations as they can, from fish and turtles for an ocean scene to surfboards and postcards for other areas,” said Davis.
At the dance, StuCo will be selling ”island pudding cups” and soda bottles with hula skirts on them. They will also be selling leis and other concessions.
Many seventh graders are excited since it is their first dance. Most elementary schools don’t have school dances.
“This is my first dance,” said seventh grader Olivia Baxter. “I’m really excited to go and meet new people.”

By Angel Meeks
Cougar News Blog

Seventh grade science students in Ms. Wilbur’s class recently did a biomes project. The students had to pick a biome, research it, and create a presentation on the biome they chose. This project took six weeks with the presentations.
Biomes are different regions of land in which organisms live such as, tundra, desert, forest, ocean, and so on.
“I learned that there is a big variety of biomes,” said Savannah Castillo.
Ms. Wilbur’s students learned more about biomes then they did before. Their knowledge on biomes grew bigger as they learned there are more biomes than what they thought.
“I expected my student to learn very, detailed information on their biome,” Wilbur said.
Students worked hard and really enjoyed working on the project. Although they had six weeks to work on the project, they worked on it as hard as they could, as they wanted to get a good grade on it.
“Some of the students worked really hard and did projects with their presentations,” said Wilbur.
Some of her students would have changed things about their own project or the whole project itself. Some wanted it to be more of a challenge, and others would have liked to go back and fix the mistakes they made in the project.
“I would have went back on the project and put more effort into it if I could,” said Castillo.
When the all the students were finished with their projects, they went in front of the class, individually and presented their projects.
Students made monster bookmarks like these during I Love to Read Week.

Students made monster bookmarks like these during I Love to Read Week.

By Mariahrose Manell
Cougar News Blog

The week of March 31 through April 4 was “booked” all week long for the annual I Love to Read Week. I Love to Read Week is a school program that has different activities involving reading. Mrs. Lisa Smith was preparing for a long time to dedicate the week to reading.
Each day offered a different reading-related activity during students’ ZAP class. For example, teachers read children’s books to their classes one day and on others students made monster bookmarks and wrote stories.
Many student particularly enjoyed making the monster bookmarks.
“I did enjoy doing the bookmark(s),” said Language Arts teacher Tammy Howard. “I even made some with my grandson and daughter at home.”
They also liked the Wacky Tales, a Mad Libs style game that allowed them to write silly stories.
“I thought the Wacky Tales were very creative,” said eighth-grader Joellynn Reza. “It turned out very funny.”
On Thursday each student wrote the beginning line of a story and passed it to the next person to add one line. At the end, teachers read some of the stories out loud.
“It was interesting to see how the students’ story came together,” says Howard. “It was actually pretty funny.”
It took a total of two weeks to decide and come up with the activities. Many students enjoyed the activities because they were either cute or creative. Some of the activities were even Pinterest ideas.
“I believe the student really enjoyed the activities created for them,” said Smith.
I Love to Read Week was a huge success this year. Students thought the Wacky Tales was hilarious and creative, and the Monster Bookmarks adorable and cute.


By Kathy G.
Cougar News Blog

The Phoenix Suns and APS teamed up and put together a “Green Team,” for grades 7 through 12 who want to be friendlier to the environment.
Cactus Canyon’s Life Skills class, which started a program to recycle bottles and cans at the school was recognized for their accomplishment and invited to attend a Suns game. The group received 30 lower-level tickets to to the March 4 game and Green Team T – shirts. At halftime, everyone who went got to be honored on the court for the accomplishment of how much recycling was done.
Even though the Suns lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, students enjoyed the game and were glad they had the opportunity to go.
“The Phoenix Suns big entrance was my favorite part,” said eighth grader Richard Medina.
During the outing, Mrs. Davis’ students were able to practice the skills they learn in class, by hanging out with each other, being quiet when needed, and being loud and cheering for their favorite team when appropriate.
“My students learned community skills, “ said Ms. Davis.

By Mario Duran
Cougar News Blog

The sound of music is echoing in Cactus Canyon Junior High, probably because of all the shiny new plaques in the music room.
Cougars in different band groups took a trip to Anaheim on March 21 to participate in the Heritage Festival, a music competition for band and orchestra members.
“Heritage festival is a festival where bands, orchestras, and choirs can come from all over the country to perform in front of judges to receive a rating,” said Kailtyn Shafer. “After you perform, a judge comes to the stage to give tips or teach us how to do something.”
Three band groups attended the festival, each leaving with an award. Both wind ensemble and symphony received a bronze plaque, and jazz band received a silver.
Also among these students was Catherine Roberts, an eighth grader at Cactus Canyon, who was presented with the Maestro Award for being an outstanding musician. Roberts, 13, has been playing the violin since she was seven, taking private lessons outside of school and learning new things in class. The award was only given to 11 students at the festival.
“In orchestra class, the students and I practiced playing together as a group. We had worked hard for the festival for months,” said Roberts. “I did not expect this award because there were many other band students that played at the music festival, too.”
The Cougars also brought home the Spirit of Anaheim award, an award given to only one of the 37 schools in attendance that commemorates outstanding character dedication. Cactus Canyon hasn’t received the award before this occasion.
“I think [the award] was a nice addition to our regular award plaques, in that it recognized their hard work and dedication,” said Vining. “It was such an honor to be noticed for our positive attitudes and hard work.”

By Jessica Conrad
Cougar News Blog

Students at Cactus Canyon got to take a splash into reading, literally. On Thursday, some students were able to participate at the Book Wars pool party.
Students who went to the party had to have at least 90 points on their AR goal, about 160 students were eligible to go. The party took place during fourth hour and until the end of the day.
“Having the chance to hang out and swim with my friends instead of sitting in class and working was probably the sweetest part of the reward,” said eighth grader Holly Stillman.
Students were able to swim, use the slides, wave pool, and even the diving boards. Some students even got to play volleyball.
Book Wars began at the beginning of the year to increase reading on campus. With every 15 AR points, students would get a prize. Prizes included candy bars, buttons, passes to get to lunch early, and even shirts. Right after spring break, students had the opportunity to participate in the Book Wars party held in the cafeteria.
Lisa Smith, who designed the program, said the program had a successful first year and should be even better in 2014-15.
“There were some misunderstanding at the beginning of the year, but I think with all the teachers on board next year we will see improvement in the program,” said Smith. “I think this reward was really effective in getting students to read more.”

By Hannah Wolfe
Cougar News Blog

It’s that time of year again, Cactus Canyon Junior High’s eighth graders are promoting. On May 21, CCJH’s older eighth grade students will be moving on to ninth grade. Promotion will take place on Wednesday, May 21, at 8 a.m.
CCJH’s teachers and staff members are both excited for the students and sad that the eighth graders are moving on to bigger and better things.
“I don’t think I am ever completely ready for ‘my’ kids to move on,” said the eighth grade assistant principal Joyce Gingrich. “It is a bittersweet moment, much as parents feel about their own children. It is both a proud and a sad moment for me.”
The ceremony includes the introduction of the Students of the Year, speeches by NJHS and Student Council officers, and the presentation of the class to AJHS principal Larry LaPrise.
After the ceremony is over, students are allowed to go home and begin their summer vacation.
“I am going to miss all the seventh graders moving up, and the teachers,” said Janelle Digos. ”Actually, I’m going to miss everything.”
The eighth grade students were required to fill out a registration packet for high school. The biggest struggle for most students was picking the electives. Most students claimed that the packet was difficult and “stressful,” and they felt like they were “planning their whole life out” in the eighth grade. While others found filling out the packet fun and exciting.
“I hated filling out the registration packet, it took way too long,” said Christian Meraz.
The majority of Cactus Canyon’s eighth grade students are promoting to Apache Junction High School, while others are going to other high schools such as Skyline or Desert Ridge.
Most students are ready to move on from middle school, and find new opportunities.
“It has been a good year and I’m sad it’s ending,” said Jessica Sigler. “But I have a new school full of opportunities ahead of me.”

By Cassidy Hoxeng
Cougar News Blog

Gail McFarland’s art classes have built their own pinatas for the “Salsa Pinata Festival of Culture and Wellness” that was hosted on May 3. At the event there were many pinatas. From a cactus to a taco, but they weren’t that easy to make.
They made the pinatas by covering a balloon or a box, with about four layers of paper mache and then let it dry. Once it was dry, they painted the balloon or box and added the decorations. Decorations included: tissue paper, string, cotton balls, feathers, etc.
“Ally and I were the last people to finish because when we were making our pinata and it popped, so we had to do it again and it popped again. We had to redo it three times till it finally didn’t pop,” said eighth grade student, Jade Orrantia.
Not only did McFarland’s students attend this event, they also won the event! Cactus Canyon students won all the way up to fifth place. Those who did not win received a certificate, for their hard work. First place went to Bailey Kelly and Diamond Kirk, for their donkey, second place went to Latrell Coyle and Dylan Zimmerman for their yellow sombrero and third place went to Rita Duarte and Maritza Avila for their cactus with a hat and taco.
“It makes me feel proud. I enjoy knowing that the community will see how creative the CCJH students are,” said McFarland.

By Kathy G.
Cougar News Blog

Jonathan Stroud, author of fantasy books, came to Cactus Canyon on April 3, and talked to 30 students about his books, career, and answered any questions the students had.
For students to be able to participate, there was a drawing for the aspiring readers in the millionaires and half-millionaires club. Students could also get invited by purchasing a signed copy of his most recent book.
One of the things the students enjoyed the most was the storyboard Stroud showed them. A storyboard is something an author usually makes to identify the main events that will happen in the story before he or she starts writing. It help the author keep track of ideas during writing process and why he or she chooses the characters to be the way they were and if the meaning of parts of the plot.
“He began by telling a little about himself and his history. As he began discussing his book he employed not only a slide show presentation, but with the audience’s participation and their suggestions he sketched out a visual storyboard,” librarian Jennifer Cameron said.
Stroud’s newest book is about three children that are part of a psychic agency that fights ghosts in London.
“He proceed with the help of a volunteer to demonstrate the equipment that ghost hunters would likely find necessary in pursuit of their quarry,” Cameron said. “He concluded his presentation with a question and answer session about not only his newest book ‘The Screaming Staircase’ but happily fielded questions about his many other books.”
Students thought his presentation was laid out very well and ended up loving it and learning a lot.
“The outcome was a good one, one I will probably never forget (since) he was the first author I ever met,” said eighth grader Kayla Mix. “I learned many things that I didn’t before and it was a great experience I was happy to be apart of.”

By Alysa Rippee
Cougar News Blog

Cactus Canyon is drawing in a new resource to help enhance the learning experience in the classrooms. A way where multiple students can use the wall as a lesson. With this technology, writing on the wall is not only acceptable, but encouraged.
CCJH has just given a home to a new use of technology that will be used in multiple classes to help students enjoy learning. Thanks to fundraising efforts by the Cactus Canyon PTO, SMART Tech projectors have been put into the science and language art classrooms around the school. Seventh grade teacher Candice Wyatt was one of the first teachers to try out the SMART projectors before they began putting them into other classrooms at CCJH.
The SMART projectors allow teachers to project images on any flat surface and use the interactive pen to write on the surface. The high definition projector also has speakers and a microphone for listening to videos or doing voice recordings.
“I’m excited about having the new technology. Hopefully my students will help me find new and fun ways to learn science using the SMART projector,” eighth grade teacher Candice Wyatt said.
So far, the only challenges with the projectors include the teachers having to use and figuring out how to integrate them into the students’ learning.
“My challenge is having enough time to learn the new programs and implementing them into my classroom,” Wyatt said.
Eighth grader Jessica Sigler explained how it is entertaining to watch the teachers try to figure out how to use the SMART projectors.
“The adjustment to having SMART (projectors) in classrooms is going to be hard for the teachers,” she said. “This is new technology to them and trying to teach and learn at the same time must be challenging.”
The projectors were funded by the Parent Teacher Organization. Wyatt said that the SMART projectors will provide more student centered work that helps student be more comfortable with sharing their work with the class.
“SMART projectors are less expensive than SMART Boards but just as interactive,” eighth grade teacher Tammy Howard said. “They are an excellent way of integrating technology into curriculum and are a great way to engage students.”
Some students have expressed that they have previously worked with SMART boards, another technology by SMART Tech company. For most, this is their first time experiencing the technology.
“It’s very interactive which is fun and will have more kids paying attention,” eighth grader Evan Quiroz said, “It’s good because I’m a visual learner; it keeps me focused.”