The Merrill Minute

January 11, 2019

Kicking off 2019

Greetings, Mustang Families,

Happy New Year!

We are celebrating the fact that students are back in our hallways and classrooms at Merrill, as things were eerily quiet over the long break. This week students picked up where they left off in December and were CARING in their actions, PRINCIPLED in their learning, and REFLECTIVE in their thinking. What an amazing group of kids!

Inquiring, Learning, and Reflecting

Faculty returned on Wednesday, January 2 to get a head start on preparing for the arrival of our students. Our professional learning and collaboration focused on disciplinary literacy. We mined the disciplinary literacy knowledge base, had rich discussions with our colleagues, engaged in demonstrations of Content Area Read Alouds and Write to Learn exemplar lessons, and collaborated with each other to plan lessons that engaged students at high levels in our IB Learning Environment already this week.

Mind, Body, & Soul

On Thursday, January 3, we held our 1st Merrill Mind, Body, & Soul Day. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to our community partners listed below for volunteering their time and sharing their expertise with our faculty.

  • Tony Wilson: Building Sanctuary and Mindfulness –Tony Wilson, retired DMPS educator, focused our attention on self-reflection and mindfulness. Thank you to Tony for helping us think about how we can continue to create spaces in our classrooms that support both social/emotional learning, as well as academic learning.

  • Ben Spellman: Good Vibes Yoga – Thank you to Ben, our community yoga guru, who led us through a relaxing and refreshing 60-minute yoga session. In addition to his expert yoga skills, we were drawn to his positive attitude and infectious enthusiasm for life!

  • Beth Turner: Teenage Vaping – Beth Turner (American Lung Association) shared with us hot off the press information and statistics about vaping and the impact this trend has on teenage health. Thank you to Beth for partnering with us to combat this epidemic in our community. Click here to read Vaping: What Parents Should Know.

  • Tracey Beveridge: Mental Health and Relationships with TeensA huge thank you to clinical therapist and Merrill parent, Tracey Beveridge, for engaging participants in learning more about the brain science behind regulation and how we can best attune to the needs of our students. Thank you, Tracey!

  • Becky Smith and Mark Busch: Iowa Safe Schools The staff at Iowa Safe Schools provided us with simple, yet significant, ideas to ensure that our students feel safe, supported, and nurtured in our classrooms and hallways. They do amazing work all across our great state. Thank you! Click here to access the IA Safe Schools website.

  • Ellen Davis: Hy-Vee DieticianFor those of you involved with Roosevelt Cross Country, Ellen Davis is no stranger. She continued to share her expertise with our community last week by helping our faculty plan healthy, and tasty, snacks and meals. Thank you for your continued investment in the health and wellness of our community, Ellen.

I have no doubt that the professional learning that we engaged in last week will support us in ensuring that all of our students at Merrill will leave here ready to change the world!

Yours in Good Vibes for 2019,


Kathryn Panek


Merrill Middle School

Orchestra News

Congratulations to both Campbell Helton and Samuel Harris for their invitation to and participation in the Iowa Junior Honors Orchestra Festival on Friday, November 16 in Ames. This event, held in conjunction with the All-State Music Festival, brings together young musicians from all across our state for a five-star music experience. Congrats you two!

Orchestra courses traveled to several local retirement communities in December to share their love of music and provide entertainment for our community. Eighth grade orchestra students traveled to Wesley Acres on Tuesday, December 4th and seventh grade orchestra students traveled to Fountain West on Friday, December 7th. Thank you to Stephanie Graham, Merrill Orchestra Director, for coordinating these community based experiences.

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Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Books!

The Earth Club will be holding a used book sale at Merrill (to promote both literacy and the 3 R's) after spring break with the help of our Dream to Teach group. All proceeds will go towards our Meals from the Heartland packaging goal. We will hold the sale for students and staff during the lunch hour and after school throughout the week of March 25.

We will accept gently used media including teen fiction and nonfiction, board books, children's books, teen magazines, graphic novels, classic literature, etc. Please drop off your donations in the office and we will get them to Liz Finn (Earth Club Sponsor) or Gabby Smithman (Dream to Teach Sponsor). Thank you for supporting literacy AND recycling in our local community.

Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP)

Beginning this spring, Iowa students in grades 3-11 will be completing the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP). This assessment replaces the previous statewide assessment, The Iowa Assessment. The test will be administered online and includes a language/writing component, a reading component, and a math component. Grade 8 students will also complete the science component.

We'll have a window of time in April/May to administer the assessment. Because this is the first year of this assessment, results from Iowa Testing are not expected to be available until October. In future years, results will be more timely. Click here for the ISASP website.

At Merrill we will continue to monitor student progress by balancing what we learn about our students from big testing events (such as MAP and ISASP) with what we learn about our students as we engage with them in the classroom on a daily basis. Both data points provide us with information that allows us to best serve each student.