Archive for the ‘Beyond Texbooks’ Category

Decorating a poster with positive comments about themselves, Kallie Mastin, Paige Labadie, and Seleste Roman-Garcia, 7, color with green markers in Mrs. McQuilkin’s “classy ladies” enrichment class.

By Daisy Gonzales
Cougar News Blog

     Wendy McQuilkin, the science teacher for seventh grade, has brought back an enrichment class for girls that teaches them how to overcome their struggles and learn about themselves.
     Due to the new reteach and enrich schedule, the “classy ladies” course is now six-weeks. During the class, Mrs. McQuilkin wants girls to learn how to become better friends, daughters, and students.
     “I know that girls this age have self-esteem issues and might feel weird about all sorts of situations,” McQuilkin said. “I wanted to help my students become more confident, have fun, and spread love around them.”
     Confidence is not a trait that is easy to acquire for many young girls. They often think they need to look or act a certain way based on what they see on TV, magazines, or social media. Sometimes girls get sidetracked by these “expectations” instead of focusing on their real self and doing what they love.
     “Today in the world, many girls would compare themselves to models, actresses, and other famous women that don’t look like us. Us girls need to accept the fact that we are all unique,” eighth grader Maria Alamillo said. “The class itself has helped me in a way where I learned to be myself and not compare myself to others.”
     One of the main standards of learning is sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings. McQuilkin said she feels honored when students share their feelings with her and feel open to ask anything they want.
     “I enjoyed how she let the girls talk about their issues and let out our feelings,” Alamillo said. “I feel stressed about something we could talk about it in the class.”

Eighth grader Ariana Foxx examines a seedling during her gardening elective. (Photo by SeAnna Brennan)

Eighth grader Ariana Foxx examines a seedling during her gardening elective. (Photo by SeAnna Brennan)

By Kristine Funke
Cougar News Blog

     There is a new enrichment class for eighth graders. The class is gardening, and the students are growing produce on campus.
     Carol Dolle, a teacher and counselor, hopes to inspire students about the fun of gardening. She wants to share her hobby with students.
     “I want my student to learn the basics of gardening and have a sense of accomplishment when they harvest their veggies,” said Dolle.
     The class is going to plant vegetables and maybe edible flowers. The idea is for the produce to be something that can be eaten. Dolle also wants students to see how much better things taste when it is fresh from a garden.
     One problem they could face is that the quarter is in winter. However, they plan on planting produce that grows well in the cold weather.
     “Some of the very best time for gardening in desert climates is the winter,” said Dolle. “The days are still relatively warm and the nights usually stay above freezing so many varieties thrive in those conditions.”
     Some students have had experience with gardening before, and Mrs. Dolle enjoyed vegetable gardening before she became a teacher.
     “When I was little, I lived on a farm for about 6 years,” said eighth grader Laila Brady. “My mother’s and (my) favorite thing to do was garden. We would go outside in our big      The class plans on doing a particular type of gardening that involves straw bales, which students may have seen in the courtyard. They also plan on building raised beds to garden, and students will be keeping track of progress.
     “We also might need to fence them in case the rabbits find us,” said Dolle.

Isabella Vasquez, 7, and Emely Zepeda, 7, tape their bridge together. (Photo by Carissa LaFrance)

Isabella Vasquez, 7, and Emely Zepeda, 7, tape their bridge together. (Photo by Carissa LaFrance)

By Bronte Pappas
Cougar News Blog

     Building bridges is the step to creating good relationships. Only this time, it’s literal. Cactus Canyon now offers a new enrichment class, where students build bridges.
     In this study skills class, students will be building real model bridges, but also learn about civil engineering. Students research different types of bridges and construct one using popsicle sticks with the goal of building one that can withstand 100 pounds.
     “I am excited to see the creative solutions that students will come up with for everyday problems,” said science teacher Diana Kidde. “Students will also have to explain their design and process. I am excited to see the different designs and which ones will support the most weight.”
     Students will be learning about engineering design. This is the engineering design process that will guide the students. It will help them solve problems, and it will help them make improvements to their designs.
     Many of them are excited for the experience because they are looking forward to making something with their hands.
     “I am excited and the reason is because we get to construct something small but if made big it can hold a lot,” said eighth grader Krysta Espinoza.
     In the future this will help students who one day might want to take up a career in engineering.
     Not only will students be building bridges, but they will also be constructing a spaghetti tower. They will even be making an egg engineering project which will be a ton of fun. The spaghetti tower is a tower made of uncooked spaghetti noodles, and the egg engineering project is where the students must create a safe incubation for an egg. It will have to be safe enough for the egg not to break.

By Savannah Barr
Cougar News Blog

     A new art class is drawing in new students from around the Cactus Canyon campus for the fourth quarter of the school year.
     Ms. Reesor, an art teacher, has begun a new fifth hour Study Skills class for seventh graders that are looking to expand their drawing skills.
     “They will be learning basic drawing skills like how to shade with a pencil and creating the value scale,” says Ms. Reesor.
     They’ll then move on to a still life, which is a set up of random objects for them to draw. Students in the class will also learn how to draw with a grid system.
     Ms. Reesor’s regular art classes cover a variety of topics in art, but she wanted to offer an enrichment class that goes in-depth on one skill.
     “Our art classes go over everything from drawing, painting, ceramics, and mixed media, but I thought (I should) start an enrichment class only focusing on drawing,” Ms. Reesor said.
     The goal in this art class is for students to have skills that they can put to use in the future. Once they master realistic shading for shapes, they’ll move on to drawing from life, meaning they’ll draw real-life, real-scale objects. Students might use these skills either when they’re casually drawing in class, or will take it to a whole new level, creating art for a living.
     “I look forward to becoming a better artist and being able to draw a face completely,” says Alondra Urias.

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By Abraham Viscardi
Cougar News Blog

     Social studies teacher Sheryl Anderson is a quilter and fabric-worker in her free time and has now started a new study skills class on sewing.
     The enrichment class will last for 50 minutes per day, and will be held at the 500 building during study skill which is fifth hour. Students will be making rag quilts, which are made from materials such as denim, flannel, and fleece.
     “They will be small ones that kids can use when watching TV, playing video games, or reading their favorite book,” said Ms. Anderson.
     In this class, the students will be learning how to thread a sewing machine, fill a bobbin, and properly install it in the machine. They will also sew a straight line, measure and cut fabric accurately, and use the simple tools of fabric construction.
     “If you don’t cut off one of your fingers with the razor sharp rotary cutters, and if you don’t stab anyone (including yourself) with the sharp pins and needles, and if you manage to put together something that resembles a warm, fuzzy blanket, you pass with flying colors,” said Ms. Anderson.
     In addition to sewing, students will be learning typing during the class.
     By learning to sew at a young age, students will be able to stitch up clothes when they get ripped or lose buttons.
     “I want to know how to do life skills like this,” said Willoughby Cobb.

Students in Mrs. Gail McFarland's enrichment class make aquariums from soda bottles, soil, and seeds. The students' objective was to create a livable habitat for a goldfish. From left are seventh graders Frank Sanches, Maya Lindstrom, and Kendra Friederich. (Photo by SeAnna Brennan)

Students in Mrs. Gail McFarland’s enrichment class make aquariums from soda bottles, soil, and seeds. The students’ objective was to create a livable habitat for a goldfish. From left are seventh graders Frank Sanches, Maya Lindstrom, and Kendra Friederich. (Photo by SeAnna Brennan)

By Michael Penge
Cougar News Blog

     Fish are generally considered to be one of the most boring pets on the planet.
     The truth is they can be very exciting, especially when students get to make their own aquarium to house the fish. That’s exactly what Mrs. McFarland’s art class has done.      They’ve created habitats for feeder fish, such as goldfish and guppies, but these fish aren’t going to be fed to anything though, they will be housed in the two-liter soda bottles used as their aquarium.
     “Our bottle biology lab is a very hands on activity that teach my students the exciting world of life science and how ecosystems work together,” said Mrs. McFarland. “We learned about things such as producers, consumers, and how all of them create the environment they live in.”
     Every student had to create their own aquarium and care for each individual feeder fish. The aquarium contained an aquatic plant, so the fish could have oxygen when the plant goes through photosynthesis, which they need to survive. The plants get the nutrients they need from insect eggs, larvae, and minerals. That provides food for the fish as well.
     The fish that were placed in the aquariums were bought at 11 cents each. Students are expected to learn how important biodiversity is in an ecosystem and how energy flows through every being in an ecosystem.
     “My students should be able to understand how a closed system could work on a hostile environment like Mars or Antarctica,” said Mrs. McFarland.
     Mrs. McFarland wants to continue special projects like these because they provide hands-on opportunities and help with problem solving skills.
     “Most of my projects revolve around analyzing and observing instead of the memorization of correct responses,” said Mrs. McFarland. “This encourages cause and effect thinking and to question events that happen during experiments.”

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.

By Chris Munro
Cougar News Blog

     Students at CCJH recently received all-new enrichment classes as part of the Study Skills mission. A couple of these classes include Kim Grant’s PE class and Lin Andresen’s current events class.
     The Study Skills hour provides in-school re-teach opportunities for students who need more time to meet objectives. A variety of enrichment classes have been offered to those who don’t need the tutoring, such as Advertising 101, keyboarding, or forensic science. This year, several classes have been added to this roster.
     “I was asked to offer a PE class,” said Coach Grant. “I like that most of the kids want to be there and usually get into the activity.”
     In Coach Grant’s class, the kids play a variety of sports, as well as have friendly tournaments without needing to dress out. In Mr. Andresen’s class, the kids learn geography and current events as well as have discussions and conversations.
     “I have learned the different kinds of culture there is around the world and how many other countries are different and similar to ours,” said Daniel Garibay Zuniga.
     Mr. Andresen also added that, while technology is an often-used medium to teach children, books and physical text are also good ways to educate children as well.
     “Technology is a very important tool, but reading is still very important and fun,” said Mr. Andresen.

By Stella DeVargas
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon has started a new chapter in education by adding a reteach class for language arts.
     Reteach, which is part of the Beyond Textbooks program, is when students have the opportunity to improve their skills and get extra help with time to be successful with mastering objectives. CCJH has had a similar program for math since the 2014-15 school year.
     Students have many different learning curves, meaning teaching in a larger group is not always effective for everyone. Reteach classes help by incorporating different strategies and styles of teaching to include different types of learners. These classes are for students to develop deeper understanding in reading comprehension.
     “When data showed that there were many students not meeting standards on formatives who could use the extra time, we knew it was the right thing to do,” Meaghan Davis, the dean of students.
     The effort of language arts teachers and Title 1 support teams helped put the classes together. Objectives are chosen based on data from benchmarks and formative assessments. Every two weeks objectives may change. Seventh and eighth graders work on individual topics to benefit the grade level, so they won’t always have the same objective.
     “It takes a lot of work behind the scenes by many people,” said Mrs. Davis.
A big purpose of reteach classes is using different techniques to reach students with different teaching styles. Teachers incorporate new strategies to engage students and present information in different types so learners can learn the material in more than one way.
     “The class helped me by showing me what I missed on the test and the work sheets helped me develop what I need to know,” says seventh grader Trinity Hakenewerth.
     Reteach classes impact students by developing reading comprehension that will benefit them throughout the rest of their educational lives. To make sure this is working, staff routinely goes to professional development to create stronger teachers.
     “We are always looking for ways to improve. If we find we need to make a change we adjust accordingly,” says Mrs. Davis.


By Bailey Tower
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon is kicking off the new school year with shorter weeks and longer classes as all schools in the Apache Junction Unified School District reduced their week to four days.
     While there is no longer school on Fridays, classes have been extended by about five minutes.
     The Monday through Thursday week makes it a bit difficult for teachers to get all grading done, but teachers are learning to find new methods, including using Fridays.
     “I grade differently now. Most of the time I wait until Friday to grade certain things and put the grades into gradebook,” said seventh-grade math teacher Cindy Wilson. “I still grade all the things I used to grade and there is the same amount of grading to be done and one less day to get it in.”
     Some teachers like having their classes a couple more minutes than last year because they cover more content each day.
     “I like having the extra time with my classes each day, and I feel like I can go into more detail about things,” said eighth-grade science teacher Candace Wyatt.
     Teachers also feel like they have a better understanding of Beyond Textbooks, which means students are doing better academically, despite the shorter week.
     “Last year Cactus Canyon started using beyond Textbooks and I feel like I know the curriculum better,” said Mrs. Wilson.
     The Monday through Thursday school week is impacting some students positively. The extra minutes is so far helping eighth Olivia Baxter get work done.
     “I have seen a difference in my academic performance since last year and I understand more information this year,” said Baxter. “The extra 30 minutes of school this year is actually better because I have more time to work on things.”