We’ve Moved!

Posted: April 24, 2017 in Journalism

In an effort to continue to improve our coverage of Cactus Canyon, we’ve changed our name to the Canyon Chronicle and moved to a new website – canyonchronicle.com. We appreciate your visits and support over the last five years, but it’s time for us to move on to bigger and better things. Please continue to follow us for the stories, photos, and opinions you love about the Cougar News Blog.


The Staff of the Cougar News Blog/Canyon Chronicle


Looking at a pillow made of plastic bags, eighth graders Melanie Vannoy and Natasia Coyle learn how to make them at an NJHS meeting.

By Andrea Darnell
Cougar News Blog

      NJHS members are making mats and pillows for the homeless. The group is gathering plastic bags and getting donations from other students and staff.
      The members are crocheting strips of plastic bag together to make the mats. They take the bags and cut them into loops to get them ready to be crocheted. The mats are passed out in the Phoenix/Metro area by ministers at Savior Lutheran Church and New Season Christian Fellowship Church.
      Making the mats will give NJHS members a chance to exercise their leadership skills. It will also give them a chance to demonstrate empathy. Making the mats will help members give back to the community while at the same time work together as a team.
      “I believe that the mats will help people regain a sense of dignity as well as gain a sense of self satisfaction,” adviser Lisa Schroeder said. “(Students can take) pride in knowing that their contributions are providing people with some comforts that are much needed in difficult living and alternative living situations.”
      Mrs. Schroeder said that she got the idea from “sure luck.” While making a trip to the office, Mrs. Schroeder ran into student services receptionist Jodi Rodgers and Mary Schroeder from Savior Lutheran Church.
      “I thought it was a cool idea and a great way for the NJHS students to help the community as well as participate in helping the environment,” Schroeder said.
      Many student are working on making the mats. It takes hundreds of bags to make one mat, but in the end they feel it’s worth it.
      “I do believe that making the mats will help many in need,” Angelica Lopez said. “It will give homeless people a mat and pillow to sleep on during the night.”

Math teacher Tina Jada created a poster with positive messages to help brighten students’ day.

By Mercy Brink
Cougar News Blog

     Many students have seen and wondered about the poster in the 300 building. The poster says “Take What You Need” and was meant to inspire and spread positivity.
     Tina Jada hung the poster up on Feb. 13 to help encourage the students. The poster has multiple sticky notes with inspirational sayings written on them like “Inhale Confidence” and “Broken Crayons Can Still Color.” Some of them have little quotes as well. This helps to encourage students to get through the long school days.
     Mrs. Jada hopes the poster will help to brighten up the days of the students and staff.
     “I was really tired of seeing so much negativity around so I decided to try and create something positive,” Mrs. Jada said.
     Students who have taken sticky notes have said that it has cheered up their days.
     “Usually when I take a sticky note, it’s because I’m in a bad mood,” said eighth grader, SeAnna Brennan. “After I take the sticky notes, I always feel better because it feels like someone actually cares, or I look at it and I feel better.”
     Mrs. Jada saw the idea of the poster and variations of it on Pinterest. She was also inspired by the thankful tree that Lisa Smith put up in the building earlier this year, and said that she liked seeing what people were thankful for.
     She says that once all of the sticky notes are gone, she might put up more or she might even let students make their own.

Student Council members are teaching leadership lessons this quarter by delivering presentations that connect to the audience with personal stories.

By Sarah Hebert
Cougar News Blog

     Student Council members are designing a presentation to show other members how to improve leadership skills.
     In a keynote address, presenters are going to tell some of their life stories to help classmates and future Cougars understand how to grow as a leader.
     “What I’d like students do with this project is talk about their own success and failure and how it’s helped them become a better leader,” adviser Jason Davis said.
     One of the goals of the project is to get students to think about what is most important to them when it comes to leadership.
     “There are dozens of qualities that make up good leaders – respect, enthusiasm, responsibility, etc. – and I wanted to give students a chance to teach someone a lesson related to their own lives,” Davis said.
     The impact that this will have on other students is to make more successful people when they grow up. Davis is trying to let students inspire as many people as possible. Seventh grade representative Kashmir Baillie said that students have a lot to teach each other.
     “I know we’re at a young age and we still have a lot to learn, but these leadership presentations teach us a lot more than a few mistakes,” she said.
     The end result will be about 15 minutes. The keynote presentations will occur throughout the fourth quarter. The idea for this project came from the keynote speakers at the three leadership conferences council member attend each year. Those speakers teach lessons and offer motivation in a fun way, not a lecture.
     “They make a connection with the audience by telling stories from their lives – both successes and failures. It makes them human and makes the audience want to listen,” Davis said.

Cactus Canyon’s online newspaper was awarded a CSPA Gold Crown Award on March 17.

By Skyler Wolfe
Cougar News Blog

     The Cactus Canyon online school newspaper, the Cougar News Blog, has won a Gold Crown Award that is given by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. Winners were announced March 17 and the Cougar News Blog was one of two middle schools to earn a gold.
     The award is one of the most prestigious in student journalism. About 1,100 publications were judged from junior high, high school, and college levels. Only about 250 Crowns were awarded, including just 86 gold.
     The CSPA announced in November that the blog would earn a Crown, but adviser Jason Davis did not know if it would be a gold or silver. Davis was both pleased and shocked to learn that his blog had won the Gold Crown.
     “I was shocked and I shouted, ‘We got a gold!’ when I heard,” Davis said. “I found out while watching the presentation on Facebook. I was pretty sure we were going to get silver, so I actually watched them call our name a few times before I heard them announce the award.”
     Students were also joyed to learn that their hard work had paid off.
     “I feel like my hard work has paid off because it helped make us get recognized and get the higher crown award,” eighth grader Kylee Demauro said. “It also made me more motivated to try harder so we can win again next year.”
     Davis is proud of his students, but also said there is now more pressure to win again. He expects students to work even harder and to keep improving.
     “Students worked very hard over the last year to earn a Crown and it is so wonderful to see all that work pay off,” Davis said. “But it’s kind of like a coach who wins the Super Bowl; you enjoy it for a little bit and then start thinking about the next one.”
     Davis has been trying to strengthen the writing that is put on the blog. He only wants the best for his writers and has changed his teaching in some ways, including making new groups that include veteran and new staff members.
     “It gives the students that have been around a while a chance to take a leadership role on their team and learn more about writing by teaching it,” Davis said. “Within that format, we’ve created incentives for everyone in the group to meet their deadlines and turn in their best work.”
     The blog features photography from yearbook staff members and stories written by students in the advanced journalism course. Davis said he’s glad students choose to be staff members because he knows there are elective classes that are easier and more fun.
     “They do incredible work,” he said. “Not a lot of junior-high students are interested in putting in the time and effort it takes to be a good student journalist, but these kids put in the work and it shows.”

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.”

Helping promote FITE Nite, Brianna Bogart, 8, makes a poster to advertise the event. (Photo by Kashmir Baillie)

By Chloe Mayes
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon will host FITE Nite from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29. The event gives families an opportunity to learn what their kids has been doing in school.
      FITE Nite, which stands for Families Interacting Through Education, will be filled with games, food, music, and other events. This event will be on March 29, from 5:30 to 7:30. This is an event where families can interact, connect, and learn.
      “We will have minute games and other competitive activities that allow people to earn prizes,” language arts teacher John Leal said. “The jazz band will be there for some of the time, we will have face painting, and some other carnival activities.”
      One of the main events that will be going on at FITE Nite is the Chemistry Cookoff, where student bring either an entree, main dish, or dessert that they have made and explain the physical and chemical properties that occur while making it. These students will serve samples of their food along with a presentation.
      Mr. Leal and science teacher Regan Roach are two of the teachers that helped plan this night, which takes lots of preparation to make it successful.
      “We have been planning this event for most of third quarter off and on, when we can all meet together,” Mr. Leal said. “I help plan some of the games and I, along with Mrs. Roach have students in positions to help us setup, takedown, and cleanup the area.”
      Although there are going to be many things going on at the event, it is mostly about the families being able to interact and have a good time while learning a little bit about what is going on at school.
      “This allows us to demonstrate not just student learning, but it also allows for families to connect over the activities,” Leal said.

By Sigfrido Ibarra
Cougar News Blog

      Cactus Canyon’s Yearbook – the Cougar Chronicles – was awarded second place in the 2016 Lifetouch National Yearbook Showcase.
      Yearbook adviser Jason Davis was surprised to hear in January that his class had improved from their honorable mention in the 2015 competition.
      “I was surprised. Literally, surprised,” Mr. Davis said. “My Lifetouch representative, Julie Bales, came to school and told us we’d earned second place. Other than that, I was thrilled for my students.”
      Eighth-grade editor Brooke Wine, who worked on the winning book, said she felt awesome and accomplished just by helping her class win that award.
      “I felt excited because we were working on it for a long time and it took a lot of work,” Wine said.
      Students learned from the experience of creating an award-winning book. For example, Madonna Parker said she learned that hard work pays off.
      “I learned how to communicate with my friends with technology and make a book that everybody can look back on 20 years later,” Parker said.
      As the staff continues toward completion of this year’s book, Mr. Davis hopes that this award inspires the yearbook to make the 2016-17 book even better.
      “I hope this year’s group sees this second-place award and strives to do better,” he said. “It always has; every book we’ve made has been our best one yet.”
     This year’s edition of the Cougar Chronicles is available for pre-order at ybpay.lifetouch.com. Use school code 9910317.

By Kristine Funk
Cougar News Blog

     Some Cactus Canyon math students went on a safari to learn about numbers, decimals, and percents.
     Rachel Mangum and Tina Jada’s math classes recently had a video conference with the Saint Louis Zoo to learn about math and animals. The instructor gave many different examples relating to math, but also related to animals, and gave them problems to solve.
     “I think that because it was something they could relate to they tried really hard to figure out the math,” said Mangum.
     The learning objective was about decimals and percents, and the video instructor gave examples such as how many times a falcon would be successful capturing prey under a variety of circumstances.
     The Mathimals program is something the St. Louis Zoo offers to schools across America and it includes live animals, hands-on activities, and videos to show how math is important to the zoo and the world.
     The class plans on doing it again in January, but instead of a zoo, they will learn along with a musician. Mangum hopes that students will be able to see that math is used everywhere, and not just in school.
     “I had my students reflect on the experience and they said that they really enjoyed it,” Mangum said.
     Students say that the conference has helped them understand the subject more, and they also learned a thing or two about animals.
     “It was amazing,” said Kristen Baker. “I learned more about the animals there.”

By Alissa Baker
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon’s choir spends most of their time behind closed doors, practicing for concerts, carnivals, and other special occasions.
     Many people outside of choir might see the group as just a school elective, but it is much more than that. All the students and instructors are connected through their love of music and shared frustration of hard work. The members of the club really do feel the connection they have with each other, and they are willing to support one another all the way.
     “Choir is like a family to me, so that means we work together through the hard times and protect each other afterwards – and we don’t leave each other out,” said Katriel Hamilton.
     Mrs. Chung had been preparing her students for their Dec. 20 and has been giving them various practice methods. Many of these practices include warm ups at the beginning of class. These seem to be helping the students with their singing and even with their natural speech. Some of the singers who want to continue singing in the future even find it helpful.
     “I’m planning on singing again in the future, so I think the warm ups Mrs. Chung has been giving us are helpful,” Alondra Urias said.
     A lot of the participants were very excited during the concert in December. There are also many people who were nervous, and didn’t know how to cope with it.
     “I’m a little bit nervous because of the solos that we are doing, since we do them by our selves, but I am also excited because we get to dance and stuff.”