Monday, May 5, 2014

Steger2Hixson Drawn By Matthew Klein

Friday, April 25, 2014

Reflective Interview with the Blog Authors

We were interviewed by our Content Mentor, Michele Munson, for this assignment.  She asked us each of these questions, used follow up questions and encouraged each of us to answer them.  She then sent us a draft of our responses and we edited them.  

Matthew, Isaac and Elijah

What is the story behind the project? What motivated you to choose this topic?

Matthew:  You should start with Isaac because he thought of it.

Isaac:  When Mr. Eckert introduced the idea of a 20% Time Project, I decided I wanted to focus mine on something that would be helpful to other people… especially kids.  I also wanted to do something productive.  By this I mean I wanted it to meaningful to other people and not just to me -- like getting a good grade or increasing my own knowledge about some subject.  I wanted it to matter to other people in a real way.  So I started thinking about how hard and scary it was to switch from Steger to Hixson.  I didn’t have anyone who could help me with the transition that understood it from a kid’s point of view.  I wanted to be the one to help new students coming in to Hixson from Steger and I thought I could do that with a website or something.

Matthew:  Yeah, and I like computers.  I am always trying to learn everything  I can about them.  Isaac came to me and Elijah with this idea.  He knows I’m good with computers and he wanted us to help make this project idea happen.  I really wanted to learn more about websites and how to develop one so I was wanting to be a part of this.

Elijah:  I thought it was a cool idea for a project.  I also liked the idea of working together with my two friends.  
What were the problems you encountered along the way?

Matthew:   Well, the Pitch Committee was a big problem for us.  We didn’t feel prepared for it and we didn’t feel real clear on what we were doing.  

Isaac:  We could have done a lot better if we had been more prepared.  We were just coming back from winter break. We knew what our goal was -- make a website that provides tips and info to Steger students coming to Hixson -- but we didn’t have a clear outline of the steps to do that.  In the end, we thought it would be easier than it was to explain our project to the committee, but it was hard.

Matthew:  Yes, that Pitch Committee meeting taught us that we had to be more serious about this work and what we needed to do to make it happen.  Like we knew we wanted to do blogs but we didn’t know what the topics should be.  We never really had time to sit down together and talk the whole thing through so we could plan together.  It started to feel -- stress isn’t the right word -- it was hard.  Hard to get the work done and hard to know what we were suppose to be doing.

Elijah:  It was hard to get this project work done and hard to do all the other work for our classes, too.  And it was hard to figure out how to get the help we need from mentors and teachers.  Like trying to set up a meeting with Dr. Miller and Mrs. Peterson.  We’ve tried 4 times and still don’t have a meeting.

Matthew:  And we need help with our blog design so it looks like we want it to look.  I talked to the guy in my dad’s office and he wants us to draw him a picture of how we want our blog to be special and attractive to other viewers.

Isaac:  Sometimes it feels hard to get adults to listen to us.  It seems like they don’t think what a 7th Grader wants or needs is important.  Like at the front office if it was a school district person asking for help, they would help.  I guess that’s why I wanted to do this project -- we understand what it is really like for new kids coming into middle school.  I’d rather work on this project more than any other subject at school.

Matthew:  Me, too!  I wish I had more time to work on this.
What problem-solving occurred to deal with the project problems?

Matthew:  The best thing we did was to have a team planning meeting (meeting was on 3/16/14 - mtm).  At the meeting, we finally figured out together what we wanted to do and what steps we needed to take to get there.  We set up due dates for everything and decided who would write each blog.  It felt like we were organized and things have gone pretty smoothly ever since.

Elijah:  I think the meeting was really helpful, too.
What did you learn during the course of the project?

Matthew:  I am learning some skills that I will need when I get a job -- like setting up meetings, make plans with a team, talking to a group. . .

Isaac:  . . . trying to manage several different assignments at the same time.

Matthew:  And Mrs. Burkett was helpful.  After meeting with her, we decided to stick with Blogger instead of making a website..  I’m learning a lot about Blogger.

Elijah:  And we learned that it is a lot of work to put together and maintain a blog site.

How did the group function?

Elijah:  I don’t think we have functioned very well.  We don’t have enough time to talk with one another.  But my favorite part about being in this group is hanging out and having fun working on this project.

Matthew:  I think we’ve worked well together.  It helps that we were already friends.  My favorite part about being in this group is that we can help each other.  Like when one of us has a brain fart and can’t think of what to write in a blog.  Or when Isaac helps me come up with titles for my blogs -- he is the creative writer.  Elijah helps keep track of the due dates.

Isaac:  And Matthew is our tech expert!  He is good at design and layout for our blog.  He is best with computers and likes to figure out how to make them do what we need.  We’ve had our problems, but I think we do a good job brainstorming together.  I’ve felt good about our group especially since the group planning meeting.  And I’m glad I am in this group because there is no way I could have done this project all on my own!

Elijah:  That is true.  I couldn’t either.

Why did your project succeed or fail?

All three agree that, up to this point in time, the project has been a success.

Matthew:  Like we said, since the team planning meeting everything has been running pretty smoothly.  I feel that we are successful because our blog site has the most views.  That is what we want. . . people reading our blogs.  And I am proud of what I’ve written.  I think it will be helpful to new students and it feels really good when I finished one and publish it.

Isaac:  I feel like we are successful so far because I can look at our planning document and see that we are on target with most of the dates we’ve set.  I also know exactly what I have to do next on the project.  That feels good.  But we aren’t done yet and I don’t know if we will know if the project is successful by the end of the year.  We’ll have to see what the new 7th Graders say.

What did the project accomplish?

(This was a difficult question to answer.  The project isn’t done yet and, as Isaac says above, the boys may not see tangible results until after they have left the 7th Grade.  The accomplishments they mentioned were personal ones and so I put them in the next section. mtm)

What did you learn about yourself while working on this project?

Elijah:  I learned more about team cooperation.  We have to stay connected in order to make this project successful.  This is a long-term thing and we need to figure out how to maintain it.  I think our writing is improving by writing the blogs.

Isaac:  I learned that I enjoy writing these blogs.  This project is important to me and I’m proud to have thought of it.  I hope it really helps other students.

Matthew:  I’ve learned a lot about Blogger and about how to develop a successful blog site.  I look forward to learning even more before this year is over.  I really want to make the blog site professional-looking.  It is not as easy as it looks!

What Is After School At Hixson?

There are many after school activities at Hixson Middle School. While they may not offer the exact same ones every year, I will tell you all about the activities that are being offered this semester and who leads each one. This will give you an idea about the types and variety of activities that will be available to you when you come to school here. I am also going to share my experiences with some of my favorites in this blog.
This semester, students at Hixson can participate in any of the following activities after school from 3:15 pm to 4:00 pm:

On Thursdays, there is Ultimate Frisbee with Mr. Ramback on the blacktop where we go out to recess. Also on Thursdays, you can go to Boys2Men with Dr. Roddy in his room on Unity team wing (you probably have to be a boy to go to this one.).

Fridays, they have Jazz Band for students who take band as an elective.  You have to try out for the after school Jazz Band and, if you make it, you will meet in the band room.

Tuesdays, there is GSA (Gay-Straight-Alliance) and Basketball in the gym.

The rest of the after school activities this year were: 

I-reporting with Mrs. Gavin

Hixson Seranders

Model UN with Mr. McGinnis

iProduction with Mr. Heisel

Yearbook with Mr. Anderson

Cards and Board Games with Mrs. Propst

Stock Market Games with Mrs. Slaughter

Hixson Symphony with Mr. Dunsmoor

Tardis Anyone? with Mrs. Evans

Student Council with Mrs. Vogt

Equations Math Club with Ms. Slaughter

Library Club with Mrs. Williams

Tech Yes with Mr. Heisel

Robotics with Mr. Dempsey

Those are all of the Hixson After School activities. Below is the hand out you will receive each semester that will list what is available to you:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

ELECTIVES: It’s Your Choice… Sort Of

So what are “electives” anyhow?  What makes them different from the “core” classes at Hixson which everyone is required to take (Math, Science, Social Studies, English, Discovery and PE)?   Electives are classes that 7th Graders sign up for if they are interested in the topic.

Hixson Middle School offers some electives that you’ve never had before along with some that you’ve seen before.  The ones you’ve already been offered at Steger are Art, Band, Orchestra, and Choir.  The new electives are Foreign Languages (German, French, and Spanish), Drama, Family and Consumer Science (FACS), and Shop.

The formula for determining your electives is confusing for non-band, non-orchestra, and non-year long language students -- and that would be me!  I had to select 3 courses for every semester.  That was 6 electives total for the year.  First of all, there aren’t that many electives to choose from.  And, second, you don’t always get the electives you request -- which is why they have you rank all the electives in order of preference, even if you really are only interested in a few of them.  

I’d like to tell you about Shop, but I never did get that class even though I signed up for it as my number one choice.  I also didn’t get Spanish, but that is OK because I’ve enjoyed exploring the other two languages.  I did get Drama, German Exploration, French Exploration, Art, and FACS.  My personal favorites were Drama with Mr. Conners, FACS with Mrs. Burton or Mrs. Tucker, and German with Mrs. Hudson.  

I was a little nervous about Drama at first. I didn’t know if I would be comfortable on a “stage” and if it would be fun, but you get to play tons of games and you learn a lot about public speaking and communication. In FACS you get to cook and eat, and what's better than eating? Am I right? German Exploration is fun because you get to play language games including dodgeball and you get to learn some of the language and a lot about the culture.

In conclusion, while the choice of electives is limited at Hixson, I got to explore new areas and interests in these classes.  I appreciate that and I will likely continue with Drama and German.  Now if only they would offer Blogger and Website Design, Time and Stress Management and Robotics, we’d be set! 

Core Classes and Team

If you are like most students at Hixson, your daily schedule will have four core classes and two electives. Also, you will have either gym or Discovery each day depending on if it’s an A day or a B day. For example, Harmony Team has gym on a B day. If you are on the Dynamic team, you would have Discovery on a B day.

Your four core classes are English, Science, Social Studies and Math.  Your two electives will depend on what you pick and Isaac will talk more about electives in our next blog.  Depending on the team you are on, you might have your electives in the morning and your cores in the afternoon or the other way around.

Core classes are taught by the teachers on the team you are assigned to.  There are four 7th Grade teams -- Dynamic, Synthesis, Unity and Harmony.  We all have the same learning goals, but those goals are taught in different ways depending on the team approach and your teachers’ styles.  My team is Harmony. I personally think it is the best team because it has fun teachers who are nice and understanding. I have heard things about other teams and they all seem ok, but I think Harmony is where I belong. Unfortunately, you do not get to pick your team but I think the principal and assistant principals try to match you with the right team.

Overall, I think the core classes at Hixson are a little harder than they were at Steger. The due dates on in-class and homework assignments are closer together and the projects assigned by the teachers may be harder. That means that in order to avoid feeling stressed out, you have to work harder and smarter in 7th Grade!  Here are some tips to do that:

1.  Get Organized:  Over the summer, work on improving your organization and study skills. Find a good binder for you that will have sections for every subject and keep all assignments and notes in it.  That way, you can carry it from class to class knowing you have everything you need.  Make sure it has room for pens, pencils, calculator, and any other supplies you need for your classes.  Learn to use your planner which Hixson provides. Write in everything you need to do that day and mark it off as you get it done. Also write in details about homework assignments and projects and when something is due.

2.  Get Techie:  Hixson is great about letting kids bring their own electronics to help them in school.  You can bring your own tablet, iPad or laptop.  That way, you have class notes, papers and projects you worked on at school with you when you get home and need to finish them. On my team, we also use apps and programs everyday like Edmodo to track all your assignments and Google Drive and Docs to store and share our work.  Our teachers encourage us to find course books and research sources online and use them along with the study helps that they provide; and to keep track of our own  progress by viewing our grades on the Student Portal.  If we don’t have our own laptop or tablet, they also have a lot of mini computers available for us to use for writing papers and researching topics while we are at school.  

3.  Get Help:  Don’t be afraid to ask for help from one of your teachers when you are confused about a concept or assignment.  Do it before you start to fall behind.  If you aren’t willing to talk to a teacher at first, talk to your parents when you feel like you are needing help in a specific area.  They can approach the teacher with you -- and you can always go in for before or after school help.

So those are some tips that have helped us work harder and smarter in 7th Grade.  I hope they help you, too.  And on the days when you really feel stressed out, then just look for us -- Elijah, Matthew and Isaac -- because if we can make it, you can make it!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lunch Time in Hixson

Welcome to the Hixson cafeteria! Things that are different include foods on the à la carte and the daily lunch menus. Let’s talk about the à la carte menu first.

The phrase "à la carte" is French and means a menu item that is priced individually, rather than as part of a full meal.  At Hixson, à la carte items include Nachos, Mozzarella sticks, Bosco sticks, Curly fries, Chicken Nuggets, pretzels and chicken bites. I like Bosco sticks the most.

Then there are the regular school lunches that every school has, but with some changes at Hixson. Instead of pizza every Friday, they have pizza every day. They also have sandwiches and chicken sandwiches every day. There is still a random food choice each week like the regular lunch meal at every school.

In my opinion, there is more variety and better options for lunch at Hixson than at the elementary schools. So this is something to look forward to! But, if you are buying school lunch you need to be focused and fast. Our lunch periods are only 1 hour and the lines at the lunch counter can be long. Of course you can bring your lunch from home and go right to a table.  You can sit anywhere you want to in middle school at lunch time, which is also new.  There are A, B, C, and D lunch periods. A and B are for the 8th grade. C is Unity and Dynamic teams. D is the last lunch of the day and is for Harmony and Synthesis teams.

Here is why you want to buy and eat your food quick! Recess, of course!! During the last 15 minutes of the lunch period, you get to relax and hang out with friends. There isn’t kickball at Hixson. The sports you can play are basketball, which has four hoops; football on the blacktop; Ultimate Frisbee; or Wiffleball. Also, you can just walk and talk with your buddies.

Seating Arrangement

Check out our video that will show you around the cafeteria:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

PE: The Good, The Bad, And The Sweaty

     As with most things in life, gym has some bad and good qualities. Bad news first. This is the year you have to change clothes in a group. They assign each gender a changing room and you have to wear a grey or white shirt (no writing on it) and black or dark blue shorts with gym shoes. It is not optional if you want a good grade. On the first day it will be very awkward and everyone will try to change in a stall. The best thing, though, is to just change quickly.  Don’t worry about it; no one will look at you. They are too busy worrying about themselves.  

     Now to the good news. Gym has lots of fun and interesting units like volleyball, tennis, flag football, soccer, badminton, basketball, softball, track and ice skating. Yes, ice skating!  We get to go over to the Webster Groves Recreation Center for this unit. Also there are tournaments for volleyball (7th and 8th) and badminton (8th Grade). There is more physical fitness testing in 7th grade and more conditioning. For me, this is great because it helps to get me ready for baseball season.

     PS: Don't forget to bring deodorant and don't forget to take your clothes home once a week to be washed.

For more information about Physical Education at Hixson, check out the webpages by Ms. Bennett and Mrs. Mitchell on the school website.

This is a clip of the Hixson gym:

Questions? Tell us in the Comment section what you need to know.