Tag Archives: middle school

International Languages Expo for Youth

The International School of Arizona (ISA)
and the ASU Preparatory Academy
are having their 6th Annual International Languages Expo for Youth on Saturday, April 14, from10am-1pm at ASU Prep at 735 E. Fillmore St. in downtown Phoenix.

ISA offers three immersion language tracks: French, Spanish, and German. ASU Preparatory Academy offers K-12 charter schools on or near ASU campuses.

At the expo students will recite poetry and rhymes in a variety of languages and children’s foreign language vendors from throughout the Valley will have booths to distribute information about their programs.

Arizona author, Stella Pope-Duarte will speak about the impact of language. She won an American Book Award, and was nominated for a Pulitzer, for her 2009 book, If I Die in Juárez (University of Arizona Press, 2008).

The expo, which is a free event, will also feature a guest speaker, children’s story time and foreign language book fair.

They are also having a canned food drive to benefit St. Mary’s Food Bank.


City of Xiwang takes first in Future City

Veritas Homeschoolers won 1st place in the regional Future City Competition at the finals on Saturday, Jan. 28.

Front row: (from left) Jesse Friedman, Cambrie Hickman, Rachel Fisher, and Timothy Graunke. Back row: (from left) Guest speaker Randii Wessen, Ken Ekstrom and Mary Ann Ekstrom.

Students Jesse Friedman, project manager, Cambrie Hickman, Rachel Fisher and Timothy Fraunke  created the City of Xiwang – City of Hope in Taiwanese – an island off the coast of Taiwan in the year 2162. Their display included a monorail-type system with light up balls that moved around the perimeter of the city, a marina complete with fish inside and an entire underground view of systems and energy sources.

The students were guided by engineer mentor Ken Ekstrom and teacher and sponsor Mary Ann Ekstrom, who said the kids learned a lot through their participation in the competition.

“At this point we will begin preparing for the national competition by rethinking some of the questions they were asked by all the judges, considering other questions that may be raised or asked and talking with several energy experts,” Mary Ann said in a press release.

For the competition, each student group was required to write a 1,000-word essay describing their use of an alternate energy source that would generate electric power for their city without depleting natural resources. They then gave a presentation to judges.

Link to full essay

Required to use an alternate energy source, these students chose to use hydrogen boron fusion or HB fuse. The students also explained how solar power is used for energy and light. Rooftop gardens are aesthetically pleasing as well as practical for absorbing heat and all extra energy is sold to China through an underwater cable. They also say the city also has “smart buildings” equipped with advanced communication systems and an extensive amount of night life and activities.

Veritas homeschoolers were asked, “Why use solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels and fusion as energy sources?” To this they replied that these were all readily available and could be used as backups if an energy source failed.

Garden Lakes Elementary won 2nd place, Canyon Breeze Elementary were 3rd, Colonel Smith Middle School received a 4th place award and Orangedale Junior High won 5th place. Pictures of the 2nd through 5th place winning groups were taken by volunteer and pro-photographer John Jacoby, and can be seen in his online gallery. — Amy Vogelsang

The Future of our cities in students’ hands

On Saturday, Jan. 28, middle school students competing in the 15th Future City Competition in Arizona will bring their finished models to be judged, hoping to move on to the national competition in Washington, D.C. during National Engineers Week.


The Navajo Generating Station is a coal-fired plant outfitted with millions of dollars of technology to clean its emissions. Future City challenges students to find solutions to our electrical needs while conserving resources and protecting the environment. Photo: Alex E. Proimos, Flickr.com.

The Future City website says the competition “encourages middle school students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by presenting a set of technical challenges over a four-month season that each three-student team must address, culminating at regional finals in January.”

The technical challenge this year is to “choose one alternative energy source and design a way to generate electric power for your city that does not deplete natural resources and has limited impact on the environment.” No easy task when our gadget-centric lifestyle demands constant, inexpensive electricity.

The three-student teams work with a volunteer engineer who guides them through the process, which includes a research paper and the city model. The competition is open all middle school students through their schools. The Future City Arizona website has resources for students and teachers as well as the volunteer engineers necessary for the project.

Tesseract launches first senior class

Back-to-school time had added meaning for the Tesseract School’s seniors, who will be the first graduating class since the school expanded in 2008 to include a middle and upper school campus.

Tesseract’s seniors will start the year with their “All Work and All Play College Prep Retreat,” hosted by Prescott College. During the retreat students will participate in events designed to strengthen their senior-class bond and guide them through some final steps in the college admissions process, such as writing college essays, refining résumés, checking the status of college applications and continuing to work toward their senior-year goals.

“Being part of the inaugural high school class has been a powerful experience, especially looking back and seeing all we have accomplished,” said Sam Anderson, a 12th grader who has attended Tesseract since preschool. “During my entire experience at Tesseract I have learned what it means to truly be a part of, and participate in, a unique and caring community with an amazing global perspective.”

“It is a wonderful experience to see the board’s vision of offering a preschool through 12th-grade program come to fruition,” said Nigel Taplin, head of school. He credited trustees, parents, donors, volunteers, faculty and staff for seeing that vision through.

Tesseract has been educating Valley students in preschool through eighth grade since 1988. The high school was part of the school’s strategic plan and a response to Tesseract families wishing the school’s innovative curriculum and student-centered approach could extend through high school.

In early 2007, the capital campaign to raise funds to build a new campus for Tesseract’s middle school and the new high school was launched and Chris LaBonte, Tesseract’s founding director of high school, was brought on board to lead the high school and develop a curriculum that was a natural extension of the school’s mission and philosophy to prepare students for the challenges of a more interconnected and complex world.

“It has been, and continues to be, an amazing experience to be involved from the ground up in developing a high school program for Tesseract,” said LaBonte. “Tesseract has such a strong curricular foundation; we all wanted to create a rich, deep program that further promoted the development of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking, as well as prepared students to excel in college and beyond, in a thoughtful and meaningful way that the students could truly connect with as individuals.”

Tesseract School is a non-profit, independent private school for students in preschool through grade 12. Campuses are located in Phoenix and Paradise Valley. 480-991-1770 or tesseractschool.org.

Opening of The International Charter School of Arizona will wait a year

The International Charter School of Arizona will postpone its opening until August 2012 because of low enrollment numbers. The middle school is forming a launch team for the 2012 opening.

ICSA announced in January that it had received a charter from the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools to open an international foreign language-focused middle school beginning in August 2011. But school officials said the shortened enrollment period made it difficult to achieve the necessary student enrollment required to open that soon.

The launch team includes ICSA Board of Directors members, parents from sister school International School of Arizona and interested members of the community, who are critical to achieving necessary enrollment levels by informing others of the advantages of a tuition-free global-focused education.

Members will support the launch effort throughout the planning, enrollment and opening period. If you are interested in supporting this effort, attend the ICSA Launch Meeting scheduled at 6pm Wednesday, Aug. 24 at International School of Arizona, 9128 E. San Salvador Dr. in Scottsdale. If you are unable to attend the meeting but still want to get involved, email icsa@icsaz.org to learn more.

The International School of Arizona is a non-profit, independent private school that serves children from age 2 to fifth grade. The planned middle school will  offer challenging academic programs with French and Spanish tracks to fifth and sixth graders in the first year, expanding after opening to offer seventh through eighth grades and eventually ninth through 12th grades.

ICSA will follow the International Baccalaureate Program and pursue IB accreditation. Students attending ICSA will be prepared for college, achieve oral and written proficiency in three languages by the 12th grade, obtain a greater understanding and acceptance of other cultures, and be international-minded, critical thinkers. For more information, contact Tracy Kenner at 480-874-2326 or tkenner@isaz.org.

Should the parent be the tutor?

Story and photos by Dan Friedman

With the school year starting up and the thicket of issues surrounding homework, academic achievement and responsibility sprouting from the lazy days of summer, parents are apt at some time to consider hiring a tutor. It might be a matter of wanting their child to score in the upper echelon of their class to better position themselves for admission to the college of choice, or just to avoid an F in math.

After I had had enough of teaching, I was a private tutor for a few years to a slew of kids whose parents hired me to help with their kids’ deficit in math, writing or study skills, or sometimes all three.

Tutoring can add a couple hundred dollars per week to the family budget, which I was all too happy to accept since I could buy food with the money. Some kids I tutored needed help, not because they couldn’t get the attention they needed in school, but because it was more convenient to rely on the tutor to pick up the slack. They knew I would be there to explain the concepts they had daydreamed through or re-explain the directions they hadn’t read.

In reality, when I was a classroom teacher in elementary and middle school, few students ever came in for extra help with lessons they clearly didn’t understand or assignments they had not a clue about how to complete. One-on-one teaching is very efficient and a lot can be accomplished in 10 minutes after school. But students had extracurricular activities that beckoned, and socializing with friends overpowered any desire to ask a question during lunch.

Parents shouldn’t have to hire long-term tutors for their kids to succeed in school. Teachers will generally make themselves available when one of their students is struggling. Parents need to talk to the teachers and find out when their student can come in for a few minutes of extra help.

Ask your kid’s teacher what they suggest. Often, the teacher will say, “If they would just ask a question in class, they wouldn’t be lost.” Really, this is a huge issue. If kids would just raise their hand and ask the question ricocheting around in their head, it would help immensely. Participating in class can save parents hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Still, there are times when a kid just needs someone to explain how to divide fractions, or how to write a paragraph one more time in the quiet of their own home, for them to get it.

Marina Koestler Ruben’s book, How to Tutor Your Own Child (Tenspeed Press, 2011) proposes that indeed parents are the ideal tutors for their kids. She provides all sorts of strategies and approaches to make it work. Koestler says in her introduction, “Parent-tutors provide holistic, low-pressure academic support, engagement and enrichment for their children.” Well, yes, they can, but it isn’t that simple is it? In theory, the book is 192 pages of advice on how to be that holistic teacher with tips and methods to organize, explain, re-teach and enrich the lessons kids need to learn.

I guarantee you there will be times when, after a long day and many frustrating attempts to explain how to factor a polynomial, both parent and child will just be butting heads. The parent tutoring effort will be acrimonious and counter-productive.

So, examine your relationship with your child and decide if being the tutor is best. I made plenty of money being the scorned tutor who insisted the student show his or her work on a math problem, and being a pain in the ass about proofreading. But I persevered, the lesson was completed, I got paid and peace in the household was maintained because mean Mr. Friedman left, and the parent could be the good guy.

For the parent who has the energy to be an effective tutor, Koestler’s book is very valuable and useful for the right situation and parent-child dynamic.

Better to get the student to ask questions in class, and get extra help in school before relying on a tutor. Students need to learn how to be more responsible for their education by seeking help. Tutors are perfect for additional teaching and a personalized, fresh approach.

Lori Babcock is Glendale district’s Teacher of the Year

News from the Glendale Elementary School District:

Lori Babcock. Photo courtesy of Glendale Elementary School District.

Lori Babcock, a fifth-year language arts teacher from Landmark School, was named the Glendale Elementary School District Teacher of the Year.

“Most people go into teaching because they had one specific teacher who influenced them, inspired them or encouraged them,” Babcock said in her Teacher of the Year application. “I had the opposite experience — I never had a teacher support me emotionally when I needed it most, and going to school every day was a chore that was never enjoyable or a safe spot in my mind, and I needed someone to reach out to me. I suffered emotionally through middle school, and I decided that I wanted to become a teacher to reverse that experience for my own students. I wanted to give my students an experience that I never got from middle school; I wanted to inspire them, allow them to feel safe and build relationships with every single child because not one teacher ever did that for me.”

After working at Avondale High School for one year, Babcock joined GESD and Landmark in 2006. She was named the school’s Rookie of the Year that same year, and was the winner of a Golden Apple Award as her school’s outstanding middle school grade level teacher.

“There have been many accomplishments I made in my classroom, and the greatest ones are not with any rewards or recognition . . .” Babcock says. “I have allowed students to celebrate each other’s growth in the classroom, feel safe at school, and actually enjoy coming to Landmark because they know I care about them personally and educationally. I have made significant gains in test scores and benchmark data, but the most important accomplishment that I can say has been that all of my students have learned to believe in themselves because they know I believe in them. That makes my job worth every ounce of hard work that I put in; the pay-off is truly unbelievable.”