News from Mountain Brook Jr. High


In This Edition

"Tech Talk" by Coke M.

"Super Scholars" by Angela F.

"Behind the Scenes in the Classroom" by Frances H.

"The British Invade the Brook" by Frances H.

"Art Talk with Mrs. Townsend" An interview by Katie W.

"Fishing Frenzy" by Natalie W.

"Pickles and Pimento Cheese" A restaurant review by Caroline P.

"Sweets with a Twist" A bakery review by Caroline P.

"The Maze Runner Trilogy" A book series review by Caroline L.

Tech Talk

This year, students at MBJH are taking part in an experiment with technology. A new Apple iPad has been provided to each student in Ms. Nelson’s 4th period 9th Grade Advanced Geometry class as part of an experimental program. The students are using iPads to see if they are effective in helping students work, study, and learn.

On the positive side, iPads reduce the amount of books and papers students have to carry back and forth from class and home. The iPad also makes certain calculations and even research into problems easier and faster. They are helpful in organizing material, and countless apps are available that are helpful tools in teaching and learning. For example, apps like Paperport Notes and DocAS allow students to take notes in class the same way that students normally use pencil and paper, only more efficiently. Because of this increase in efficiency, class gets done more quickly, allowing students time to do other work. In Ms. Nelson’s class, we start each day by pulling up notes from her Moodle Page, and we use Paperport Notes to draw on the notes. Because it’s easier to take notes on the iPad, it usually only takes us 40 minutes to finish our notes, and we get to use the rest of the class to do our homework. When asked about the class’s distribution of the iPads, Jake S. said, “Having an iPad does make carrying around notes a lot easier, and they get class done quicker. However, they are a distraction considering there isn’t a restriction on the games you can get. If the school could regulate the apps you could buy, I would be more productive using it.”

On the negative side, the iPad has games and other distractions that can affect a student’s focus on his schoolwork. “Being given an iPad has been a negative experience for me. Though I do enjoy the iPad, it is a big distraction. Lately I have had problems paying attention in class because of it” said John Lloyd R., one of the students given the iPad. Some students are simply better at using computer technology than others. Certain students find that sometimes using the iPad is just not as fast as solving a problem with pencil and paper.

iPad use in schools is growing. Other area schools, such as Hoover, have issued iPads to seniors and plan to phase in issuing iPads to all high school students. Instead of getting textbooks, students access all they need on the iPad. Teachers can record themselves teaching to see how effective they think a class is going to be. Also, in the future, those recordings could be used to access materials by a student who has missed class. It would be a great e-learning opportunity to be able to pull up a class lecture that has been posted to a virtual library. This would be helpful to both students and teachers.

iPads, smart phones, Kindles, PCs and the use of the Internet are all having a big effect on how students study and learn. All of this technology opens up tremendous possibilities and a world of information. It also creates new and interesting issues. In this frontier, teachers and students will need to work together to learn how best to use this technology. It will be interesting to see how MBJH’s current limited experience with iPads will translate to future

Super Scholars

By Angela F.

What does victory sound like? Well, for the Mountain Brook Junior High Scholar's Bowl team, it might sound a little like, "Bzzzz!"

And it's a sound they are quite familiar with. Currently, the Scholar's Bowl team is doing well. It has won nearly every game with a 4-1 record, making it well on its way to success at the district tournament, and quite possibly, the state tournament.

Although Scholar's Bowl may seem like a rather strange or dull activity to most, it is quite the opposite. Matches consist of two teams of four competing to answer the most trivia questions. However, for the most part, team members are expected to work by themselves, Jeopardy-style. Buzzers line the desks, lighting up almost immediately after the moderator starts asking the question. The tension is almost palpable as one of the players attempts to answer the question. However, whether the answer is right or wrong, the moment is soon forgotten as players dive in once again, hoping the get the next question.

The questions asked range from straightforward to impossible as the topics include current events, literature, art history, pop culture, math, science, sports, mythology, and music, just to name a few. For example, past questions have included “What French explorer founded Detroit, Michigan?” and “What instrument is a pocket-sized reed organ?” Give up? The answers are Antoine de la Mathe Cadillac and the harmonica.

However, the teams are very prepared for the wide variety of questions. Ms. Smith, one of the coaches, explains, “One of our greatest strengths is the diversity of knowledge among the players. The seventh grade team in particular is very strong in math.” In addition, the team spends much of their Tuesday afternoons practicing in an effort to prepare for weekly matches against schools from around the area. These after-school practices also prepare them for the district tournament, which is January 26th. If the team does well at district, they will advance to the State tournament, which is February 23rd at Hoover High School and compete for the title of State Champions.

While answering questions correctly is one of the teams’ top priorities, they make sure it’s not their only goal. According to Ms. Smith, one of their goals this year is to have fun while competing. She adds, “I can easily say we accomplish this at every match!” So while the path to the title “Scholar’s Bowl: State Champions” may be difficult, you can rest assured that these extraordinary students will be enjoying every minute of it.

Members of the 7th grade Scholar's Bowl team are Will F., Haskins J., Robby K., Avin N., and Freddie N.. Members of the 8th grade team are Franklin L., Nicole Lee R., John Martin W., and Jake W.. The coaches are Karen Long and Pearle Smith. Mr. Skip Coulter, former teacher and debate coach at Mountain Brook, acts as moderator during matches.

Behind the Scenes in the Classroom

By Frances H.

Many classrooms in the Junior High are decorated with colorful and unique items that may attract our attention on the first day, but we gradually take them for granted as the year goes on. The teachers’ decorations can make the walls of a classroom come to life with color and pictures that make the learning experience more interesting.

Mrs. Phillips, who teaches English, has displayed her collection of Peanuts comics in her classroom since she began teaching 27 years ago. Her collection began when she was four years old when her older brother gave her a stuffed Snoopy. Today, she has well over 300 items, many of which have been given to her by students, colleagues, friends, and family. According to Mrs. Phillips, each item has its own story, and someday she would like to write a book about each memory.

Mrs. Phillips has many different kinds of Peanuts items, such as stickers, posters, artwork, figurines, stuffed animals, videos, and books. Many of her items are related to holidays, so a lot of her collection gets stored seasonally.

When asked what her favorite comic strip was, Mrs. Phillips said:

“There isn’t one comic strip that stands out above the others. I like them all because they all demonstrate Charles Schultz’s philosophy on life. Whether it’s Snoopy chasing the Red Baron, or Lucy acting as a counselor, or Linus holding tight to his blue blanket, or Schroeder playing his piano, or Peppermint Patty and Marcie discussing school, or the whole gang playing baseball, each one is a unique glimpse into life. When Schultz created them, he wanted to show a kid’s view of the world keeping the simple innocence and wonder of each day. I think he got it right.”

The British Invade the Brook

By Frances H.

About 60 students in matching white t-shirts lined up at the back of the Junior High auditorium. Friends and family were packed into the rows of seats and overflowed into the isles, squeezing against the walls. After a brief introduction from the Queen of England and the two princes Harry and William, who had no problem fighting with each other on our stage, the show began. The choir stormed the stage and left it smoking. Singing songs by famous British artists, the choir students invaded and dominated our school.

The choir show, entitled “The British Invasion” and directed by Mrs. Loden, had brilliant choreography and amazing song choices that gave every student the chance to be on stage. There was obviously a lot of work put into this performance, and even though there were a few interruptions, mainly consisting of a loud “the British are coming!”, the amount of detail put into the show was astounding. The show had everything from a cardboard telephone box to a mock One Direction band who sang a wonderful cover of "What Makes You Beautiful". There were solos, duets, guitars, and even dance numbers that included the entire cast.

This flawless performance displayed many amazing vocal and instrumental talents that should have a larger audience. Even though the auditorium was overflowing with eager spectators, most of them were family. There were only a few students, which not what I expected. The price for a ticket to a choir show is $5, and only $3 for students. The show was around two hours long, but the time passed by quickly. Plus, there was a table of snacks available during the intermission. The performance of “The British Invasion” was filled from beginning to end with humor and incredible talent that should have a larger student audience. People should see more than just the clips shown on the weekly show.

The choir’s next performance will be the musical Guys and Dolls. I highly recommend that everyone go to see it and as many choir performances as possible. You will not regret it.

Art Talk with Ms. Townsend

An Interview by Katie W.

Katie: Do you repeat projects each semester, or do you just use the same ones the whole year?

Mrs. Townsend: Generally, I repeat the projects that I feel are most important and work well. I also like to try new things and mix things up.

Katie: Do you teach the techniques the same way that your teachers taught you?

Mrs. Townsend: It depends on the class. Sometimes, the people in the class are more advanced than those in other classes. It varies.

Katie: If your son was in your art class, would you single him out?

Mrs. Townsend: I would have to expect him to make a good example, but I would try to treat him like any other kid.

Katie: Why do you choose certain artists and their pieces to base your projects off of?

Mrs. Townsend: The curriculum requires that I teach the principles and elements, so I find a good piece that has the perfect example of one, and make a project out of it.

Fishing Frenzy

by Natalie W.

It is a windy day on the Tennessee River. The wind nibbles at your skin as the boat slowly rocks in the water. You finally feel what you have been waiting for, a tug. First a small bite, but suddenly a tug so strong pulls you off balance. Then you’re pulling, pulling with all your might, knowing this was going to be the winning fish. Just as you feel like your arms are about to fall off, the fish catapults out of the surface and flops on the boat. You stare in wonder at the miracle you’ve just caught. Your biggest catch yet lies on the rocky boat gasping for air. Want to know how you can be a part of this?

There have been rumors going around that a brand new fishing team has been started, but really, it has been going on for quite a while. This year, 7th grade Geography and Civics teacher, Mr. Jones has decided to publicize the fishing team and open it out to any 9th- 12th grader interested in joining. Their season is in May and even though tryouts have not been scheduled yet, people are looking forward to it.

The team was first created when six guys asked Mr. Jones if he could help them start a fishing team. He had always had passion for the outdoors, so he agreed to it. Right now, only the group who created the team are the people who are currently on it.

Ever since their first tournament in Wheeler on the Tennessee River, they have been very successful and have traveled all across the state including on the Tennessee River and Demopolis. This May, they are hoping to snag a victory in their upcoming championship.

Get ready for some fishing frenzy!

Pickles and Pimento Cheese

A Review of Saw's Juke Joint by Caroline P.

Saw’s Juke Joint is a restaurant located on 1115 Dunston Ave, where Ore used to be. Saw’s Juke Joint is a local, casual joint started by the owner of Saw’s, Mike Wilson, and American Idol winner, Taylor Hicks. This is a very casual restaurant with many unusual, great-tasting foods that you can rarely find anywhere else. For example, the fried pickle and pimento cheese sandwich might sound disgusting, but any curious costumer who is willing to try this will be happy with their decision. On the lightly toasted bread is about a half inch of pimento cheese along with a few fried pickles. You cannot taste the pickles, but they add a nice crunch to the sandwich. The fried green BLT is one of the most popular sandwiches. Not only are the fried green tomatoes to die for, but the bacon has a nice crunch and the lettuce provide a refreshing aspect to the sandwich. The sweet potato fries are also something you should try. They’re a very reasonable price and a very big serving. The deviled eggs are delicious with a homemade filling; however, they are very overpriced. They’re about $1.50 per egg, and the dish only comes with two eggs. Overall, the service was fast; the staff was kind and welcoming, and it was definitely a place I would go to again.

Sweets With a Twist

A review of Gia's Cakes by Caroline P.

Gia’s Cakes is a bakery that was established June 2012, but Gia has been baking for more than thirty years. She and her staff make everything from scratch in their kitchen. The atmosphere of her bakery is very cozy, but there are no tables. When I went there, I had to go out beside another restaurant to eat my food. The service is very kind and they have a nice display of their baked goods. Her bakery has many different mouth-watering treats to choose from. I chose to taste the Chocolate Crunch Cake, which is a chocolate cake with nuts and colored marshmallows. It is crunchy at first, but once you get to the marshmallows it is gooey and really tasty. The blondies didn’t have any new flavors to them; the whole time you’re chewing there are no new pops of flavor. However, they did add a nice twist by adding pretzels. Another treat that I indulged myself into was the Pumpkin Spice Cupcake. It was amazing! The icing was a tasty, creamy ginger snap-flavored treat. The cake tasted like you were eating a pumpkin pie. Overall, Gia’s Cakes was a delicious bakery that everyone should go try.

The Maze Runner Trilogy

A book series review by Caroline L

All of the regular 9th grade English classes read The Maze Runner by James Dashner for required summer reading. Those same 9th graders are reading the rest of the series which include The Scorch Trials and the Death Cure. These books have even been popular in 8th grade as well. What makes these books so popular?

First of all, the fast paced plot in all three books is exciting for most readers and keeps them guessing what is going to happen next. The first book, The Maze Runner, is about a group of boys who find themselves in a mysterious Glade with very little memory of how they got there. It begins with a boy named Thomas in a box. He has no memory of how he got there and of his past life. Thomas soon meets some of the Gladers including Newt, Alby, Minho, Gally, Frypan, and Chuck. And soon after Thomas arrives in the Glade, a girl named Teresa arrives a few days later having a mysterious connection to him.

As the boys try to solve the maze outside the walls of the Glade and attempt to escape, the reader is introduced to more and more dangers awaiting them. In The Maze Runner Dashner creates a futuristic world of Grievers and introduces WICKED, the organization who made the maze. In his next two books, the world becomes even scarier, as the boys have to cross the scorched earth in The Scorch Trials and are constantly running from Cranks, people infected with the disease called the flare in both The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. The biggest threat of all might be WICKED because Thomas can't decide if they are good or evil.

If you love books with twists and turns and unexpected plot developments, these three books are great reads. You will be shocked and surprised over and over again. You might even be sad at times.

The main reason that I loved these books, though, is because of the characters. Newt, Alby, Minho, and Thomas are my favorites, and I felt as I read that I came to know and care about each of these characters individually.

Dashner has also written a prequel to the trilogy, The Kill Order, and I just started reading it. It takes place 13 years before the action in The Maze Runner and explains what happened to turn the world into a burned out wasteland full of Cranks. I must admit that I am having trouble getting into the book because I miss my favorite characters from the other three books. I like Dashner, though, and will give it a chance.