Language Arts and Life Skills

Jenison Junior High students are combining key components of Language Arts studies with a journalism focus to sharpen powerful life skills. The 8th grade students invited community members to help them hone their listening, speaking and writing proficiency.

Packed with students and friendly interviewees, the JJHS media center was abuzz with conversation. Students were prepared to practice natural speaking and active listening but it also required them to do some quick thinking on their feet. Taking quick, succinct notes was also a challenge.

Inter-2
Inter-3

Dawn Dykstra shares her perspectives on Jenison as a former student, a current parent, and a current teacher.

Mr. Dustin Morley, 8th grade Language Arts teacher, is excited for this new kind of learning experience, citing that this is pushing kids into an area they may not be overly comfortable with, but gives them valuable practice for these crucial skills. Students rotated stations in the media center conducting multiple interviews. After the class hour concluded, the students worked to complete the project with a feature story about one of their special guests.

I was honored to be among the group sharing my experiences through natural conversation. The students asked some really great questions, taking the discussion in interesting directions. I’m glad our teachers are always looking for creative ways to provide authentic learning experiences. And I’m very encouraged to see the next generation embracing face to face interaction and learning to be active listeners, critical thinkers and contributing citizens of the future.

Inter-7
Inter-1

Matt Kroon graduated from JHS in 2000; he shares about how the area has changed, including the addition of Rivertown Mall.

Inter-5

Jamie Scholten discusses how the cost of things such as gas has changed drastically. 

Inter-4

Doug Smith, a retired JJHS social studies teacher, uses sports props to engage students and talk about his experiences. 

Inter-6

Kara VandenBerg shares about her work with dogs, including Bernie the golden retriever. 

 

 

JJHS presents Seussical the Musical, Jr.

A few weeks ago, the Jenison Junior High Thespians traveled to our elementary schools to give students a sneak peek of what was to come in their show, Seussical the Musical, Jr. While they used limited props and were unable to travel with their amazing set, this is always a fun experience for the actors and audience alike and sparked great excitement.

Since then, the finishing touches have been finalized and the JJHS production officially opens the curtain tonight! Led by Director – Holly Florian, Music Director – Sarah Hazel and Choreography Director – Carol Johnson; this group of dedicated and passionate students (on stage and many hidden behind stage) have demonstrated amazing team work and put their talents to work creating something very special.

The story on stage begins with a small boy, with a big imagination. With assistance from the Cat in the Hat, an inspiring and peculiar story will unfold; transporting viewers into an imaginative, colorful, and playful world. At first glance, Horton is just a jolly and friendly elephant, but soon he exhibits a dedication to his beliefs with inspiring determination. Director, Holly Florian embraces this theme and says: “In a year where young people have committed to making their voices and beliefs heard on a National and International level, Horton’s story has been a reminder of the power of listening carefully, and not being afraid to speak up in the face of injustice.”

136804905aecb19948c2b14793d449147828c32a13680527681ae838fca1bfffc5d630c0f4652fd8This show will be a hit for all ages, as many of us grew up reading Dr. Seuss and his stories remain a classic for students today. Ms. Florian captures the essence of the joy behind this show for her and the students saying, “His stories allow the reader to be transported to a magical world where anything is possible and even the “smallest of smalls” can have a role in making a positive change in the world.”

Treat yourself this weekend and make time to witness this spectacular show! I promise, you will leave your seat inspired to follow in Horton’s footsteps and make the world a better place! Show times are January 24 and 25 at 7:00pm and January 26 and 27 at 2:30pm. Tickets are available here!

1368048672f2bc9bd5598d1822b734695bf257ff13680567c1343b48331e69dd75569ee7d985893013680580b2b6f16624f82d8caa4348086ee02023136805471e7bff7ac4d5575c4a38d17b20a04d0d13680513a74c79e8cbc2e1e3a5060a2170a7e2561368053278eaa3e6d2fd061da655b87c4a1f6e8a13680542e87ad385ca47eced1d70c930baf562ee1368056594bdf0318dcc98945bc77b07c9a428d1

48396501_2177144849014680_5159173526942384128_n.jpg

Jenison Robotics Recap

13879193_518502558354595_1452843078217319306_nThe Jenison High School gyms were bursting at the seams on Saturday, January 12. Although there were no basketballs bouncing or wrestling mats on the ground, the energy was undeniable as the Jenison Robotics team proudly played host to 80 teams from around the area for a Vex Robot Competition (VRC). The January Jenison Tournament wraps up the regular competition schedule for this year.

Since starting 5 years ago, the growth of the Jenison robotics program has been outstanding and we’re glad to see another successful season. The students are forging lasting friendships, and growing in confidence as they work as teammates and persevere through adversity. Together, the teams have taken home 25 awards, including an Innovate Award, multiple Design Awards, Excellence Awards, and four tournament champions.

The Jenison Robotics program is open to students in grades 4-12. And while they are busy with fun, hands-on experiments – they are really putting into practice complex concepts, like the trade off between speed and power, how friction coefficients can affect performance, or learning how to design and utilize systems with compound gearing. Students are clearly learning and practicing helpful skills they can take with them into their future. Adam Timmer, president of the Jenison Robotics Board of Directors, and the many parent volunteers, have a goal for the students and adult volunteers that join the program. They work together to allow the student to join where they are at. The robotics arena is a great place for them practice their talents and skills, and also learn new ones. Some of the robotics students have even been 3D modeling parts and then 3D printing those parts. Jenison Robotics is currently fundraising to provide the students access to a 3D printer.

This year, there are 18 elementary teams, participating in the VEX IQ program. Among these teams, they have won 16 awards so far this season and we’re proud to see 6 elementary teams qualify for the State Championship next month. The Jr. High and High School teams have had breakout success this season. Monroe Community College is hosting Michigan’s Middle School State VRC Championship in March and five of the nine Jenison Junior High teams have earned their way there. The seven Jenison High School robotics teams have worked hard throughout the year and have one team currently headed to the state championship competition at Michigan State University.

It will be a tough field of competing teams, but the Jension teams headed to the state championships have their sights set on earning an invitation to the VEX Robotics World Championship (held in Louisville, Kentucky this spring).

As an educator, it intrigues me and gives me a such pride to watch all the intricacies of this volunteer/mentor-run program. By its nature, the study of competitive robotics not only encompasses all four pillars of STEM education, but also encourages important life skills like teamwork, communication, and project-based organization.

I just know that the future of America is in great hands with these budding engineers. Stay tuned to the Jenison Robotics website or the Jenison Robotics Facebook page to follow their progress as they wrap up their season. Good Luck Wildcats!!

Meet Jenison Robotics Junior High team 457A:

49819278_939655749572605_7641667329859780608_o

They have won two tournaments, the “Innovate Award” at a third event, and with a tournament win they were the first Jenison team to qualify for the State Championship this 2018-19 season. Team members, Devon, Cora, Ethan and Peyton have pretty diverse interests with band, orchestra, football, and playing guitar. When it comes to robotics, they come together to create a solid team that gets the job done. Devon strives to keep the team improving continually. Cora keeps the team’s engineering notebook on track. Ethan programs the robot to make sure the “hunk of metal” they built is a smart hunk of metal. Besides driving the robot, Peyton scouts the competition and helps develop strategy for the team.

More exciting JPS Robotics and STEM news:

The Mechanics of Jenison Robotics – 2016 Blog Post

Jenison Receives Portion of State Grant for Robotics

Jenison High Schoolers Start “GIRLS IN STEM” Club

 

 

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [JJHS]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

English & Language Arts teacher, Jeanna Watson

I choose Jenison because of the positive environment and the amazing reputation the school has created for itself. I truly love my job! The staff, students, and administration are amazing people to be around every day. I think Jenison is a different school district because it doesn’t only feel like a school, it feels like a family. The staff, students, administration, and community truly care for one another and work together to make Jenison a welcoming, fun-filled learning environment. My building exemplifies this by always remembering we are here for the kids first. We are dedicated to supporting our students in anyway possible. Also, we know how to have fun. Jenison Junior High is a high-energy place where every day is a new adventure.

I look forward to summer because I love to travel and visit friends and family. It’s a great season to spend time with family and re-energize for the new school year. I am also looking forward to chaperoning the East Coast trip with Jenison Junior High.

I am looking forward to next year because it will be my second year teaching at Jenison. I can’t believe my first year is already here and gone. I’m also excited to build new relationships with upcoming students and get to know my current students even better.

If I wasn’t a teacher, I would want to be a geologist so I could travel the world and see amazing landmarks. I also think it would be fun to own a bookshop with a cafe because then I could be around my two favorite things: books and coffee.

Something my students would love to know about me is I once went skydiving to try to conquer my fear of heights. I’m still afraid of heights.”

Thank you, Ms Watson, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Ms Watson was chosen for this story by Junior High School Vice Principal, Heather Breen

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [JJHS]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

7th Grade Social Studies teacher, Joe Roper

“I choose Jenison because it is a student-focused school district and a supportive community. I also really appreciate Jenison’s focus on fine arts as well as athletics.

I think Jenison is a different school district because it provides all of the opportunities of larger school districts but is still small enough that students have opportunities to take part in sports, clubs, theater, and musical performances.

I also value the combination of rigorous academics with a fun and inviting learning environment. My building exemplifies this by placing focus on the well-being of students and positive relationships alongside high academic expectations.”

As you read this, Mr Roper is enjoying a productive summer! “I look forward to summer because I love to write and am able to spend lots of time writing [and reading] during the summer. I also love spending time with my family and getting outside.”

And not unlike some of our other teachers, Mr Roper would be serving the community in a different way if he wasn’t teaching. “If I wasn’t a teacher I would probably be a police officer because I have always wanted to serve the public and help people.”  [Did you know that Mr Roper is already a published author?! Check out his books here for your summer reading!]

“Something my students would love to know about me is that I love Harry Potter, coffee, and dark chocolate and secretly, Sour Patch Kids.” [It’s not a secret anymore, Mr Roper!]

Thank you, Mr Roper, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Mr Roper was chosen for this story by Junior High School Vice Principal, Heather Breen

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [JJHS]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

Math teacher, Jason Gort:

“I choose Jenison because I believe we have a great community of teachers, administrators, students, and community members!  We also have great programs in place for the fine arts, athletics, and many extracurricular activities.

I think Jenison is a different school district because we do a great job promoting and presenting all the efforts of our students within our hallways, gymnasiums, and our Fine Arts Center.  Jenison is a large school district that offers an exceptional education, along with a rigorous courses to ensure our students are ready for the next step.  

My building exemplifies this by being a tight knit community of educators that support all students that walk through our hallways!”

Of course, like all of us, Mr Gort is enjoying the break from school. “I look forward to summer because I love to…go camping, visit the beach, spend time working on house projects, hanging out with my kids, and doing electrical work!”

He is also looking forward to starting his 15th year of teaching and getting to know the new 7th graders! But, if he wasn’t teaching, he’d be your “go to guy” because of his love of the outdoors and working with power tools and trucks.  “If I wasn’t a teacher I would probably be… in the construction field, a walking mailman, or a garbage man!”

When asked what his students would be surprised to learn about him, shared some truly shocking information! “Something my students would love to know about me is that I have been shocked by electricity over 100 times in my lifetime!”

Thank you, Mr Gort, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Mr Gort was chosen for this story by Junior High School Vice Principal, Heather Breen

 

Junior High Honors Night!

Last week students from the Junior High were honored for their academic achievements! Their teachers, administrators, and parents stood by proudly as students accepted their awards.

Some awards are given based on the student meeting particular academic benchmarks, but others, like the Principal’s Outstanding Educational Improvement Award, is given to students who are nominated by their teachers for making strides in areas that includes areas outside of academics such as marked improvement in behavior. And while some awards mark one-time victories, the Exemplary Achievement Award has a two year requirement period.  In order to be chosen for this prestigious award students volunteer through community service, be on the honor roll every marking period and be involved in a club or team.  The student athletes award winners are required to participate in four seasons of a sport, maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, have zero Level Two disciplinary issues and have all ones and twos work and class conduct marks on their report cards. Phew! That’s a lot of hard work!

Honors were given to students for achievement in the following areas:

  • M-STEP Award
  • Principal’s Outstanding Educational Improvement Award
  • Perfect Attendance
  • Honor Roll
  • Presidential Academic Awards
  • Science Olympiad Team
  • Student Council
  • Reading Award
  • Spelling Bee Room Finalists
  • Above and Beyond [awards for Art, Life Skills, Tech, Music + Student Athletics]

All of the students awarded at Honors Night should be excited about their accomplishments, not only during their junior high years, but for the years that prepared them as well. Throughout their elementary and junior high years they have displayed strong character, strength, and perseverance. They’ve demonstrated time management skills and the ability to problem solve. And they’ve made the decision over and over again to never give up. All of them have worked hard, possibly working through a subject or project that wasn’t their strong suit to succeed and be recognized by the teachers that care about them so deeply.

Thank you to our creative teachers who continuously go above and beyond to make sure our Jenison students are learning in a way that works for them but is also challenging. These stellar students may not be done with their educational journeys, but they have certainly set the bar high for themselves that those around them.

We’re proud of you, Junior High Honorees! These are the life skills that will take you into high school and beyond showing the world the value of a JPS education!

 

 

Star Students: Taya Jenison, Hannah Paddock, + Christine Duch

Christine Duch, Taya Jenison, Hannah Paddock

Jenison Junior High Vice Principal couldn’t select just one star student this year. There were too many to choose from so she skirted the “rules” and nominated three: Taya Jenison, Hannah Paddock, and Christine Duch.

They are all eighth graders this year and are involved in so many activities it’s hard to image they also go to class, but of course they do!

All three of these hard-working ladies are involved in student congress, be nice, choir, they give the morning announcements every day, and all served as ambassadors for the Chinese Winter Exchange Program. Additionally, Hannah pays volleyball and participates in 4H. Christine plays basketball, softball, and is planning on joining 4H.  Taya also plays softball and basketball, plays the tuba in the band, participates in 4H, and is in theatre [most recently she played Skipper the Penguin in Madagascar!].

While they each have different connections to each other outside of school [Taya & Hannah attend the same church, Taya & Christine played basketball together], the three of them became friends last year in seventh grade.

Hannah admits to being “very, very unsure” about going into Junior High two years ago. But, with encouragement from her parents and teachers, and a helpful orientation process she felt more comfortable. Christine adds that junior high “isn’t as bad as you think it will be. You get to choose your electives which gives you more responsibility.” All three are excited about next year and heading across to the High School. “There’s more classes you can take like business and working in The Green Bean which sounds really fun”, says Taya. Christine is looking forward to the opportunities at the high school, and being prepared for college.  Taya hopes her future after high school includes a degree in Agriculture from MSU so she can own her own farm one day. She would also like to exercise her love of being social by working as a receptionist, she says, giving a nod to the amazing people who manage the Junior High office. Hannah sees a future as an athletic trainer and Christine hopes to be a teacher or coach. “I like kids and I feel like I have the personality to be a teacher who can handle the kids who need extra help.”

Mrs Breen nominated the girls because of their leadership qualities but how do the girls perceive leadership? Christine says that a leader is someone who “takes someone else under their wing and takes the lead when no one else wants to.” Taya adds that being a leader means you “be yourself and stand up for others.” Echoing that idea, Hannah says that she sees leadership as “doing what is right and standing up for what is right.” These ideas are clearly informed by their participation in the anti-bullying program, be nice. Hannah says that being part of be nice means that she seeks out someone who might be alone [especially at lunch] and invite them to join her, and Taya says that be nice is about kids helping others.

They all know their teachers have worked hard to prepare them for high school and beyond. Taya would like to acknowledge that Mr McCarty is an amazing teacher. He teaches social studies and she admits this is not her “strong suit” but Mr McCarty makes it fun and interesting. Hannah would like Mr Ohman to know that he makes math easier and clear, even though she “absolutely dislikes math”. Christine adds that Ms Gerber also makes math fun even though it’s the last hour of the day!

During their time with the Chinese Winter Exchange Program, all three girls helped individual students visiting from China for two weeks. They were together during the entire school day, introducing them to their friends and trying to get to know them. They were able to learn about the differences in Chinese and American schools, the impact of China’s One Child Law, and what it’s like to live with heavy pollution in China’s major cities. They all learned about Chinese culture and different ways to communicate when there was no common language.

It’s clear that these students are leading the way as they head into their freshman year! They are looking toward their futures, learning to value differences in others, and working hard to take advantage of all JPS has to offer.

Congratulations Taya, Christine, and Hannah! You are definitely all superstars with bright futures! Your hard work and commitment to learning all you can is inspiring! We’re proud to call you Wildcats!

Bee I-M-P-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!

Champion Emily Price and Runner-Up Owen Ballor

Last week, 33 Jenison Junior High students participated in the school wide spelling bee!

Students who took to the stage at the Jenison Center for the Arts, were the winners of their in-class spelling bees in each of the Language Arts classes. Teacher, Deb VanDuinen says, “We encourage all our students to participate and we try to keep it a fun, non-threatening atmosphere. We recognize that students do feel some anxiety, so we talk about that and the fact that it’s a “national competition” and we’re proud of them for being a part of it.”

But the anxiety and spelling does stop in Jenison! “The winner and the runner-up are invited to the next competition at the regional level in February. There are other levels—Greater Grand Rapids and State, with the national competition that most people are familiar with in Washington DC at the end of the year.”

Words are chosen by the Scripps National Spelling Bee organization and students prepare by participating in word studies and vocabulary lessons in class. They also have access to study websites and printed lists to study on their own.

Standing in front of your peers and teachers can be nerve-wracking and elimination is inevitable for most. However, Ms VanDuinen sees the support and encouragement offered by Jenison students as an important factor for participation. “Students generally take elimination quite well—I’d say they are resilient and encourage each other.  In fact, if you walk the halls on the day of the spelling bee, whether it’s the classroom level or school wide competition, you will overhear students talking about the words and sometime laughing together at their mistakes. We do take the competition seriously, but everyone knows that spelling—especially in the English language, can be challenging! We work hard to make sure all students feel encouraged and comfortable, even when they make mistakes.”

In a modern world where we all rely on the benefits of spellcheck, Ms VanDuinen knows that valuing the spelling bee continues to be an essential aspect to education. “[The spelling bee] allows an opportunity for some students to shine when they might not otherwise get a chance, it demonstrates the fact that we value academics as much as any other competition and it celebrates language.” The longstanding tradition of the Scripps Spelling Bee is also an important part of this event; “something that can easily get lost in the technology of today’s society.”

Congratulations to all of our participants and especially Champion Emily Price and Runner-Up Owen Ballor! We think you are F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C!

PS If you think you have what it takes to compete on the national level, you can take the test here! Good luck!

Junior High Theatre Gets Wild in Madagascar!

What happens when a lion, a zebra, a giraffe, a hippo, and a handful of penguins dance their way onto the Jenison stage this weekend? Adventure, of course! [With a side of silliness.]

Based on the animated motion picture, Madagascar – A Musical Adventure JR. follows all your favorite animal friends as they escape from their home in New York’s Central Park Zoo and find themselves on an unexpected journey to Madagascar.

Muscial Director, Holly Florian says she is excited to bring this family-friendly story to Jenison audiences. When she was looking for this year’s musical, she was looking for a story that would incorporate a large cast and feature less separation between the leads and the ensemble. “It tells the students and audiences that everyone is important.”

And while the story is filled with music and fun, Ms Florian says the real story is the fact that the entire show is student-led. The stage managers are junior high students with high school students serving as coaches [a high school freshman “calls” the show with junior high students as her assistants]. The lighting crew and sound board are run by students with a faculty adviser present as a back up, but the students are responsible for what you see happening during the show. The set design and building is also done by students and Ms Florian says they usually have the best ideas for solving tricky problems with set design.

Last night parents of cast and crew members were invited to dress rehearsal and Ms Florian lets them know that, if they return for a show over the weekend, they won’t believe the amount of changes they’ll see between the different performances. Students are always looking for ways to improve, she says. “Students see the journey they’ve been on, how far they’ve come, and they see how they make each other better over time.”

Ms Florian says that she is intentional about giving students more opportunities to take ownership of the production.  In one instance, students were split up into small groups and one student was given responsibility to coach the others based on the directors ideas and critiques. They all came back having done exactly what she asked and was looking for. “They are capable, why not give them these opportunities? An important part of JPS Theatre is that kids are given the chance to take on leadership roles.”

And just like their counterparts in the High School, junior high thespians report that being part of the theatre community is a safe place to find belonging, make mistakes, learn together, and encourage one another. “Students always feel uncomfortable in the beginning so we only do team building exercises the first week. It creates an atmosphere of support, students feel safe, and relationships are built.”

We hope you will take time this weekend to witness their hard work on stage! If you’d like to see the show, you can get your tickets here!

Thank you, Ms Florian, for your dedication and leadership! Our students are stronger and more confident because of your belief in them and their abilities! Thank you, Jr High Musical cast and crew! We are inspired and encouraged by your willingness to be challenged and, because of that, shine on stage! Break a leg!