Friday, May 3, 2013

Class turns Earth Day project into school improvement!

If you've visited Myers Elementary School, or taken a walk or drive past it recently, you've probably witnessed the work of some energetic youngsters who attend school there.

Mrs. Tavener-Radiger's fifth-grade class spent Earth Day making the entrance to the school more beautiful than ever. They also picked up the trash littering the school yard.

Hats off to these pupils for taking the idea of Earth Day down to its grassroots level!

TALKING TAYLOR SCHOOLS SPECIAL: Robotics program Q&A with Joe Horth

This year's team (pictured above at the district championships in Livonia) was made up of (first row, left) Erin Strausser, Loralyn Peeler, Daniel Achin, Kaitlyn Liveoak, Katie Hutter, Brent Nester, (second row, left) Kayla Wheeler, Haley Mortensen, Charles Maida, Dalton Adkins, Patrick Wetzel, Grant Okdie, Shelby Nester, Justin Adkins, Zachary Wilkes, Russell Kahler, James Mulcahy, (back row, left) Alex Holt, Joseph Horth, Robert Montes, Christian Hutter, Harsimiranjit Sekhon, Jared Rexford, Jason Farris, Tyler Drapczyk and Adam Vick.

The TNT280 Robotics Team recently completed its regular season schedule by finishing up in the state championships. I caught up with Joe Horth, team leader and one of four mentors in the program, via email for a special “Talking Taylor Schools Q&A” on the team and the program.

Question: How long has the district had this program?  

Horth: We have had a high school F.I.R.S.T. robotics program for 15 years.

How did you become involved with robotics?  How long have you been involved with the Taylor program?     

I became involved after staying after school and watching the team during its first year and was approached by a couple of the teachers involved to help out. I have been involved now for 14 years. The second year I was with the team I was asked by the director of the Career Center  (then Dr. Terry Turner) to head up the team and have been doing so for the past 13 years.

When it started, how many students participated?  

I believe there were 30 students the first year.  
How many participate now? And how does that compare with other districts?  

We have 24 students involved this year and that is around our usual number. We typically have between 24 and 34 students. Most teams are around 24, there are teams with well over 50 and teams with four or five.

What skills do robotics' club members need to possess? What do they need to bring to the table to begin and what do they learn?  

We prefer the word “team” to club. The students can earn their varsity letter, and new students just need to bring a willingness to learn new things and a decent work ethic. We have all types of students from the student that can take apart your car and put it back together to the advanced-placement-everything student who has study skills that are off of the charts.

We have found that by coupling the different types of students together, they learn from each other. As far as what they will learn (as part of the program), that is a vast subject. They learn everything from basic tools to complex programming, as well as interpersonal skills required to work as a team.

How much time is required to participate per week?

During the build season (six weeks prior to competition), the students start at 3 p.m. and 3-4 p.m. is homework hour, where they do homework.  If they do not have any homework, they peer tutor their fellow teammates.

Then we get to work on the various tasks of the day and break for dinner (which is supplied by the parents) at 6 p.m. and then continue with robot-related tasks about 9 p.m. During the offseason we typically meet one or two days a week from 3-6 p.m.

Your team won an award recently during a competition. What other awards have you won in the past?  
We won three awards this year: The Gracious Professionalism Award at the Detroit/Centerline District Competition, The Industrial Safety Award at the Livonia district competition and the same award at the Michigan state competition. We have won many awards in the past.

(The industrial safety awards are sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories and celebrate the team that progresses beyond safety fundamentals by using innovative ways to eliminate or protect against hazards. The winning team consistently demonstrates excellence in industrial safety performance that shines throughout the competition from opening equipment to repacking. The gracious professionalism award is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, and celebrates outstanding sportsmanship and continuous “gracious professionalism” in the heat of competition, both on and off the playing field.)

The team made it into the quarterfinals at Detroit/Centerline; and into the district semifinals, which ranked 51st in the state out of 207 teams, with the top 64 going to the state championships. We suffered with bandwidth issues (the robots operate on Wi-Fi). Despite the help of four amazing experts, we were unable too identify the issue, but we continued to compete. However, the wins were not coming and we finished 64th in the state.

Do you have some Taylor robotics team success stories? Do you have former students in college or in business because of their experiences in the program?

We have had numerous students go on to college or the workforce. In fact, I’m currently working on a list of all of our alumni and where they are now. We have had numerous scholarship winners over the years, ranging from full tuition grants down to $500 awards. The last time I checked, I believe the total number was about $350,000 worth.

What would you say to anyone out there who is reading this and is now interested in the program?

Don’t hesitate to get involved. Contact the team, myself, any team member at either Kennedy or Truman high school. Don’t ever think that you don’t have anything to offer. It takes all kinds of “experts” that the program offers activities for any type of student.

During the Q & A process, Horth was able to get in touch with a pair of former robotics team members. Here is what they had to say about the Taylor program:

From Kristi Patanella, product support engineer, North American Support Line, Micro Focus:

“I was on the TNT Robotics team from 1998-2001. I have a Bachelors of Science in Software Engineering, a Masters in Information Systems and I am a Product Support Engineer for a software development team.  

“Being on the robotics team was the greatest experience of my life and helped prepare me for many challenges that I had faced in the future. This was especially in college and during my current career as an engineer in software.   

“The (leaders in the program offered) guidance and support that was what kept me off the path of trouble and to the path of success. To work in engineering, you need to have a logical, ambitious, solution-oriented mind with a strong ability to work as part of a team. TNT Robotics and the team of mentors guided us to have the mindset that is required in the work environment, but still motivated by teaching us to be prideful in our hard work.

“I will always have TNT Robotics and Mr. Joe Horth to thank for my success today.”

From Nicole Milkovic, University of Nebraska:

“Being on a robotics team changed my life. Originally, I went to a different high school where my chemistry teacher, Mr. Jones, recruited me on a robotics team. My role on the team wasn’t as a builder, but as part of the media team, where I was in charge of getting our team noticed on and off the field.  

“In a strange turn of events, I ended up at Truman High School, a   robotics-free environment, and I felt empty.  Due to the training I received at my first school, I started pitching the idea to everyone who would listen to me. I needed Truman to have a robotics program.

“Mr. Vandette, my chemistry teacher, listened and responded. Although I fell into the same type of role on the new team, I never forgot my chemistry teachers, and in particular Mr. Vandette, who inspired me along the way.  

“It was because of them, and their support, that I felt comfortable proposing ideas to Dean Kamen and Woody Flowers, which would involve more chemistry in the game plays. It was because of them that I went on to study Chemistry and Biochemistry at Michigan Technological University. It was because of them that I am now getting my Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“It isn’t about what you do on the team, it’s about the positive influence you receive, the teamwork you participate in, the friendships that you develop and the confidence that you build along the way.”

For more information on the Taylor robotics program, contact Joe Horth at or click on the TNT280 Web site here.

Holland keeps up the fight against cancer!

The Holland Elementary School community continues its yearlong campaign to raise money to support cancer research.

Staff and teachers at the school say that the effort has been in full swing and continuously raises attention for cancer prevention and community service in the building.

Every year, Holland participates in the Taylor Relay for Life and all Holland staff and families are welcome to hang out in the school's tent and aid with the fundraising efforts. This year's relay is scheduled for Saturday, May 18, at Heritage Park.

As part of the fight against cancer, Holland recently hosted "Tattoo Day." Pupils were able to purchase temporary tattoos. The tattoos were donated by the staff and all the money raised went to the American Cancer Society.

Remember to mark May 18 on your calendars! Attend the Relay for Life and help out in Holland's fight for a cure!

Taylor Parks' PBiS keeps pupils engaged in the learning process

Pupils at the Taylor Parks Elementary School celebrated their most recent "Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports" day with a T-shirt signing and extra recess.

The school has a PBiS Reward Day each month. PBiS goes to pupils who are safe, respectful and responsible. If they consistently show those traits, they earn the month's honors and incentives. In the past, these have included arts and scraps crafts, dance parties, popcorn, movies and video-electronic game days.

For the month of April, winning pupils received some unique offerings. They were able to bring a T-shirt in from house and have classmates and teachers -- past and present -- autograph it for them. It was a great keepsake for the school year. They also received extra recess times. 

It marked a great time for everyone involved!

NHS very active in school, city, world activities

The National Honor Society at Kennedy High School has been a busy group this year. They sent along the following list of their achievements during the 2012-13 school year:

HELPING OUR SCHOOL: The KHS NHS cleaned school grounds, the JFK Garden, tutored, cleaned every student's desk, and presented appreciation baskets to the school's counselors.

HELPING OUR COMMUNITY: They participated in the Heritage Park Petting Farm, served Thanksgiving Day dinners at Leon's restaurant, created Halloween and Christmas hallways, sent holiday cards to Heritage Hospital, participated in the Mom 2 Mom Sale, helped the Taylor Reading Corps, participated in the Literacy Luau and Community Service fair.

They also helped the Penrickton School for the Blind, aided various churches in the city, helped with the Taylor South Little League, participated in the Fish and Loaves program, worked with Gleaners Food Bank and helped at Kinyon, McDowell and the Sixth Grade Academy elementary schools.

HELPING OUR WORLD: The NHS supported the Heart Association of American, Muscular Dystrophy, Parkinson's disease research, American Red Cross, Relay for Life, Soles for Souls, Historic Fort Wayne, Wayne County Family Center, English Language Learners Department, Ronald McDonald House, ChristNet, Rivergate Health Care Center, animal shelters, Coupons for Soldiers and Stockings for Soldiers.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Blog numbers continue to grow!

"Talking Taylor Schools" continues to attract attention.

Over the past three days, we've had 710 visitors to the blog. That has pushed our monthly visit total to nearly 4,200 and our total visitor total this spring to nearly 7,500!

And the numbers keep climbing.

Blair Moody students find some new friends at the Wayne County Fairgrounds

Yesterday pupils from Blair Moody Elementary School participated in Project R.E.D. -- or Rural Education Day -- sponsored by the Farm Bureau.

The children were excited to tour the Wayne County Fairgrounds and learn about farm animals and farming. Some of the exhibits included llamas, cows, horses, bees, ghosts, corn, plants and chickens.

Not only were the pupils able to learn important facts, but they were able able to interact with the animals.

Taylor students earn honors at Michigan HOSA Leadership Conference

For the 32nd year, Taylor’s Career and Technical Center Health Science students earned honors for their school district and community at the Michigan HOSA Leadership Conference. 

Students and advisors of the Taylor Health Occupations Students of America attended the conference April 11-13 at the Grand Traverse Resort in Acme.

The following students participated at the regional competition held at Eastern Michigan University on Feb. 5 for the right to attend the state conference:
  • HOSA BOWL - (Second place) Crystal Roberts, Alexis Locklear, Luis Arredondo, and Austin Ressler
  • HOSA BOWL – Third place Dynette Baldwin, Brikena Ibrahimi, Breelyn Banks, and Brittany Ray
  • FINALISTS - Lorenae Browner (Extemporaneous Speaking), Khalia Anderson (Extemporaneous Poster) and Emily Holden (Knowledge Test, Human Growth and Development).

At the state conference, the team of Roberts, Locklear, Arredondo and substitute Sara Cupp placed fourth in HOSA Bowl.  The students participated in teams and were tested on their knowledge of various topics and situations in Health Science Education, HOSA and parliamentary procedure.

Playing a large role in the success of these students were their advisors, Ms. Kathy Calka, Mrs. Cathy Kevra and Mrs. Curtin-Smith.

Hoover honors NJHS inductees

Hoover Middle School held its National Junior Honor Society ceremonies for 2013 recently.

The school's jazz band, led by Mr. James Bergler, the Hoover band teacher, opened the event and entertained the NJHS induction proceedings. The band is an elite group of eighth-grade musicians that meet every day for a 20-minute rehearsal and perform throughout the year at concerts and other community activities.

NJHS is an organization which requires students to earn at least a 3.5 GPA for two marking periods. They must also show excellent citizenship to be invited to join the group. Once a part of the NJHS, members must keep both their GPA and citizenship at that level to remain a part of the group. There were a large number of inductees this year from the seventh and eighth grade classes.

In addition, the NJHS families recently attended a Detroit Tigers' game. The tickets were donated to the NJHS by the Tigers, with thanks going to Teaching Assistant Heather Betke and Teacher Kathy Miller.

Hoover gets ready to support cancer research

Hoover Middle School has long been an active supporter of many causes, including the Relay for Life, the ongoing campaign for cancer research. 

On Thursday, May 9, the school is planning a "Pinked Out Day" during which students will wear pink clothes and donated $1 to the cause.

Ms. Tracy Henderson is the organizer.

The following day, the school will host the Hoover Mini Relay for Life outside on the track. All families are welcome to attend and games, activities and food will be available.

For more about the Relay for Life campaign, click here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sixth Grade Academy's Career Day is a big success!

The Sixth Grade Academy's first Career Day was a very big success.

Pupils at the school were able to learn about three different careers -- and, according to staff and teachers, were only disappointed that they couldn't attend even more!

A total of 24 guest speakers attended the event. Most said that they not only enjoyed themselves, but would love to come back next year.

Pupils were fully engaged during each presentation and guest speakers helped the cause with a variety of hands-on experiences and visual demonstrations. As a result, children has plenty of questions for the speakers.

Afterward, pupils filled out reflection sheets, expressing what they came away with and how valuable the day was to them. The presenters were honored with a lunch and a certificate of appreciation from the school.

Pupils at Holland take 'Tuck Everlasting' to their own stage!

Mrs. Alef's fifth-grade class at Holland Elementary School recently finished reading "Tuck Everlasting," a popular story. To wrap up the story, pupils were given several choices for a small group project.

"Tuck Everlasting" is a fantasy novel by Natalie Babbitt that was published in 1975. The book explores the concepts of immorality and the reasons why it might not be as desirable as it appears. 

They had these choices: Create a news report from a scene in the book; act out a part of the book; hold a trial for one of the characters in the book; or to create any other idea that they had to present part of the book to their classmates.

The pupils were very creative in preparing scripts, making props and planning the performances.

According to everyone who looked on, Holland may have some future Hollywood stars in its midst.