Merrill Minute

July 9, 2021

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Preparing for the '21-'22 School Year

Greetings, Mustangs!

I hope this mid-summer update finds you in full summer mode with your kids getting fresh air, reading good books, and spending some time with family and friends.

Welcoming Students to Merrill in August:

After more than a year of planning and implementing return to learn plans during the pandemic, we are delighted to be hard at work doing whatever it takes to ensure all students feel welcome back on campus at Merrill this fall.

The first few days of school in August, as well as throughout the school year, we will focus on getting to know students, building community, helping students navigate the Merrill campus (lockers, lunch, schedules, etc.), and supporting students emotionally and academically as they return to the physical space of a school.

We need your help and partnership in planning these first few days back on campus. Please click here to complete the Merrill Back to School Survey to help us plan for the '21-'22 school year. Thank you for participating in this survey! We can't wait to welcome your student back to campus!


Throughout this newsletter, as well as on our website, you will find answers to many of the questions you have been wondering about. Please don't hesitate to stop by, pick up the phone, or send us an email with any questions or ideas. We are here to help and appreciate your feedback and partnership!

Yours in popsicles, swimming pools, and playgrounds,


Kathryn Panek

Merrill Middle School, Principal

8th Grade Celebration

Day In The Life of a Merrill Student

  • 8:00 A.M. Doors Open Doors will open at Merrill at 8:00 each day. Students may grab breakfast before heading directly to their 1st period classroom. Students will eat breakfast in the classroom and prepare for the day.

  • 8:30 A.M.1st Period Begins Students will engage in six class periods throughout the day. Class periods will be approximately 56-minutes in length. At the end of each class period, students will head out the door to their next class. Most classes are located in close proximity to each other. Staff members will be available in the hallways to help students find their way.

  • Lunch and Mustang Minutes: New this year we have divided students into two, 30-minute sections of lunch per grade level. This will reduce the number of students in the cafeteria at any given time and promote a more enjoyable and relaxing lunch experience. While the first group of students in each grade level is eating lunch, the other group will be in Mustang Minutes. (Mustang Minutes is more traditionally referred to as homeroom or advisory.) Sixth grade lunch and Mustang Minutes is from approximately 10:30-11:30, followed by seventh grade lunch and Mustang Minutes from 11:30-12:30, and finishing with the eighth graders from 12:30-1:30.

  • 3:25 P.M. Dismissal We have a staggered dismissal process set-up in which we will dismiss the walkers and bikers, bus riders as each individual bus arrives, and passenger vehicle riders at 3:25.

  • 3:45 P.M. After School All students not participating in a club or activity need to exit the building by 3:45. Families who are in need of an after school option may click here to learn more about our partnership with the Boys and Girls Club.

DMPS Summer Camp Photos

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Drake STEM Camp: August 2-6

Drake is offering a FREE STEM camp from August 2-6 from 8:30-4:30. Come and experience this summer camp focusing on robotics, statistics, environmental science, and kinesiology!

This camp provides a “college-for-middle-schoolers” experience for students who are interested in learning more about these subject areas. In the morning, students will experience environmental science activities. In the afternoon, students will engage in statistics and robotics activities using real data and technology tools.

No previous experience in these areas is required. Click here to register: STEM Experience Summer 2021 Camp (

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What are you reading?

The faculty at Merrill is continuing to inquire into how we can best strengthen student learning. We are regularly reminded in our inquiry of the value of wide reading.

  • “The habit of daily reading…overwhelmingly correlates with better reading skills and high academic achievement.” The author continues, “It only makes sense that students should be reading something in every class every day related to the content, ideally something so interesting that they will want to continue reading outside of class.”

This Is Disciplinary Literacy: Reading, Writing, Thinking, and Doing…Content Area by Content Area by Lent, 2016

  • "It is estimated that students who read independently for 20 minutes per day will read over 1 million more words per year than a student who reads 10 minutes per day. In theory adolescents should spend two to four hours per day engaged in literacy-connected learning across content area classes, reading many millions of words per year."

Building Background Knowledge Through Reading: Rethinking Text Sets by Lupo, Strong, et al., 2017

To this end, we encourage students to ALWAYS be carrying a book with them to read when they have a few minutes here or there. As you can see from the chart below, time spent reading adds up to significant word exposure. Continue to encourage your middle school student to set aside a little time each day to read. They can read books, blogs, newspapers, tables, graphs, lyrics, magazines, infographics, etc. As expected, students who have some autonomy in choosing what they read, tend to be more engaged in reading.

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Popular titles recommended by students...

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Boys & Girls Club: After School Programming

The Boys & Girls Club (Drake University location) offers a wide-range of programming to support academic success, character and leadership development, and healthy lifestyles for Des Moines area youth. After school programming information will be available soon. For more information, please click here or contact:

Kristina Cox

Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa

Gregory & Suzie Glazer Burt Club

2500 Forest Ave I Des Moines, IA 50310

o. 515-271-4608 l c. 515-577-7160 l l find us on Facebook

Meet the Merrill Team!

Community Resources

Join Us for One Run in Support of Merrill

Lace up your shoes, put on your navy and white, and hit the streets of Des Moines in support of Merrill Middle School! OneRun is a district-wide fundraising event for the Des Moines Public Schools Foundation, in support of K-8 schools at DMPS...and it is free! This two-mile fun run/fundraiser is set for Saturday, September 11 and will begin and end near the Des Moines Botanical Center.

Registration will be paid by corporate sponsors directly to the schools. Each participant may designate one school. The more participants, the more money to our school, so invite your family and neighbors to register! Please be sure to designate Merrill Middle School as your home school when registering! Click here to learn more about the event and to register online.

DMPS '21-'22 School Calendar

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