14 Dec

Ms. Blank’s Debut Concert

After the beloved Mr. Hughens retired last year, band and chorus students were unsure what to think when they walked into class to find Ms. Blank at the teacher’s desk. Her outgoing and spunky personality and witty sense of humor, however, quickly made band or chorus the favorite class of the day. Every day since the beginning of the year, the students have been preparing for their hour of glory at the Winter Concert. There were great days, okay days, and downright terrible days when one learned to never invoke a maestro’s wrath, but the students came through at the concert.

Starting off the concert with our National Anthem, the seventh grade band (and the five eighth graders who played with them) played five songs and showed their level of skill with music of all kinds. From “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the moved to “Under the Double Eagle,” “Edelweiss,” “Dreidl Adventure,” and “Variations on a French Carol.” Each song represented not only a different genre of music, but a different instrument section.

Shout out to the five eighth graders who gave up their AP time for two weeks to help rehearse and perform with the seventh graders for their portion of the concert. Joey (Baritone Saxophone), Karisa (Percussion), Madi (Percussion), Meredith (Trombone), Oscar (Percussion).

At this point, it is chorus’ turn to perform. With their rendition of “Rose Red,” a traditional Elizabethan round, they started off strong and ended even stronger. Chorus then sang “Dodi Li,” “Non Nobis Domine,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Christmas in the Air.” They had an artful performance throughout the night, and showed off their singing skills.

Three members of chorus were also in band. Great job to Lauren Kathrins, Brianna Laube, and Carrie Lusk.

While this song may have been the start of the performance, it was played and sung as chorus’ finale and the eighth grade band’s beginning piece. Accompanied by the 63 band students left to perform (including the five eighth graders mentioned above), the 116 musicians played and sang the first three verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” then repeated the first one again to thunderous applause. Band executed an additional four songs, starting off with “Torch of Liberty,” then moving on to “Creed,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” and finishing with a rock/jazz rendition of “Up on the Housetop.” In that particular song, the band was divided in half: flutes, clarinets, and alto saxophones played the melody, then trumpets, tenor saxophones, trombones, bass clarinets, tuba, baritone saxophone, and percussion would “crash the party,” as Ms. Blank put it.

During “Creed,” there was a trumpet solo played by Lauren Kathrins, and Chris Scrivens. Well done, the solo was beautiful.

Ms. Blank has definitely earned a name for herself, and the spring concert can be expected to be at least as good as this one. Great job to all (147) musicians who played and/or sang Thursday night.

Ms. Blank

Ms. Blank with her tenor saxophone.

Image courtesy of Ms. Blank’s teacher website.


**Both the band and the chorus went to a District Assessment in earlier this year, and both emerged with high ratings. The band was ranked “Excellent” and the chorus was ranked “Superior with Distinction.”

9 Dec

Hillcrest Garden Gang

The Hillcrest Garden Gang has a new plan of action. The goal? Make our Garden extraordinary and help the community.

The first phase of this plan was enacted on Friday, October 23. Seven members of the Garden Gang and four NJHS members met after school to clear out the remains of last year’s (dead) crop. The only survivors were the basil, thyme, parsley, and chili plants. With an hour of hard work, the Garden went from a jungle to a neat, clean area. Everyone was tired and sweaty, but proud nonetheless. Now that the Garden was clean, the second phase was ready to be started.

That weekend, the head gardener sat down to plan out the new Garden layout. After many hours of research, she was able to finish the design and post it on Edmodo, where the rest of the Gang reviewed and ratified it. Now, it was time to make a timeline. What plants needed to be planted when? It was decided to have two planting days (this is not including days needed to enrich the soil), one in the winter and one in mid-spring.

The third phase, yet to be started, will be organizing funding and donations for the Gang. We need compost bins, soil, fertilizer, various garden tools, and plants. We may also contact Home Depot, as they provided us with some supplies last year. We also are in need of parts to help fix and expand our irrigation system.

Next- planting! The Gang will come out and get their hands covered in dirt. We will put all the winter plants in the ground so that they can bloom. The same will be done mid-spring when the rest of the vegetables go in the ground.

Mr. Herold and the head gardener have discussed ideas about sharing the Garden with the surrounding community. We may hold a farmer’s market when our plants are ripe, or we may open some small plots in the Garden for members of the neighborhood and nearby areas to have their own space. Whatever decision is reached, the Gang is happy to help.

When the current group of eighth graders continue to high school, the seventh graders will take over. They will continue on this plan of action and work on making the Garden even bigger, better, and more beautiful than before.

The Gang has also had some outside help. Thanks to Graeme and Jan Nicholls of Victoria, Australia, for their advice, suggestions, and expertise in gardening.

9 Dec

The Underland Chronicles ~ Part 4 ~ Out Comes the Sun

Part 4 ~ Out Comes the Sun

Dad smiles and walks over to Mom to greet her with a hug. I loved seeing Mom and Dad together. They are the picture of a perfect marriage.

Dad is usually gone on space missions to other colonies in different galaxies, but he mostly visits Earth. I honestly don’t understand why anyone would want to go there. It is polluted, cold, and dark. A wasteland to say the absolute least.

I listen to Dad talk to Mom for a while about the continuum hole and the way he will go down in history as the “Universe’s Greatest Astronomer Since Galileo!” I let out a small chuckle every time he said it in his happy voice.

“Did you find a doctor for Ashlyn yet?” Mom finally interrupts his speech. Dad stopped his ranting immediately, and looked in my direction.

“I actually heard of a doctor who is on planet Alpha 12 whom does extraordinary treatments. His name is Doctor Andrew Chan. He said he would take Ashlyn for treatment, but we must leave tonight.”

My heart did a little skip and then started to race. I have hope now. I might be able to live. I was so ecstatic I could barely keep myself still. I looked to Mom, whom was also smiling. Dad joins in with his bright white smile.

“I guess the sun has peaked out from behind the storm clouds.” Mom says after a long few seconds. Dad and I agree, and go upstairs to pack our items.

Author’s Note

Thank you for reading Part 3! I know it has been a long time since I posted, but I should be back on track with regular postings. The next part will start the magnificent journey into the great, vast space. So stay tuned for Part 4, Off We Go!

8 Dec

FLL Robotics Competition 2015, and an unexpected meeting…

Last Saturday, Hillcrest Middle School’s very own FLL (First Lego League) Robotics Team competed at Carl Hayden High School against 34 other teams in a competition that lasted from 8:00 A.M to 5:00 P.M. Every team had a Lego Mindstorms Robot that had to do certain tasks that awards points to the team that owns it. Each team also had to present a core values presentation using a tri-fold. In the end, our team achieved 10’th place out of the total 35 teams that participated in the competition!


Picture of our group. Picture Credits: https://www.edmodo.com/home#/group?id=17409165


Robots and competitions aside, I also made a discovery. For those that read my articles that talked about the 2014 field trip to a fantastic documentary called “Underwater Dreams” and a “compare and contrast” article between the documentary and the movie based of it called “Spare Parts” ( read more from article links at the end of the article) you will know what I am talking about. During the competition, I met one of the famous teachers that taught the famous Carl Hayden High School Robotics Team from the documentary known as “Freddy Lajvardi”.













A picture of me and Mr.Lajvardi.


I also met some of the guys that were from the original Carl Hayden Underwater Robotics Team. Their names were Lorenzo, Luis, and Cristian. They were there at Carl Hayden cooking food for some of the people there during the competition. As for the fourth guy named Oscar, Lorenzo said to me and I quote ” Right now, Oscar is a engineer in Houston, Texas”.



Fll Robo Comp 003







A picture of Mr. Herold, Lorenzo, Luis, and I.


If are wondering what the heck I’m talking about go to these links below, they will take you to my previous articles about the famous Carl Hayden team. If you liked those articles and this one especially, please leave a comment. See you in the next article, until then, here are the links to the previous articles…

Links:   http://thedigitalnest.com/underwater-dreams/


8 Dec

Top 10 Fears in the World (and Some Other Interesting Ones)

With our world today growing so rapidly and new discoveries being made all the time, the things we have to fear are becoming increasingly expansive as well. Some fears, like that of spiders or heights, are fairly common, while others are not so usual. Below are both common and uncommon fears, as well as a key question: What, exactly, is a phobia?

According to the dictionary, a phobia is an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a phobia is an ongoing and unreasonable fear of a certain object, animal, activity, or situation that poses little to no actual danger. There is a difference between a fear and a phobia. An example of distinguishing a fear from a phobia is that while most people get the jitters if a spider crawls on their arm, people suffering from arachnophobia — the fear of spiders — are physically and/or psychologically impaired by it.


Some Common Fears

Trypophobia- fear of holes

Aerophobia- fear of air

Mysophobia- fear of contamination and germs

Claustrophobia- fear of confined spaces

Astraphobia (brontophobia, keraunophobia, or tonitrophobia)- abnormal fear of thunder and lightning

Cynophobia- fear of dogs

Agoraphobia- fear of crowded spaces

Acrophobia- fear of heights

Ophidiophobia- fear of snakes

Arachnophobia- fear of spiders


Common Fears for Dogs

Phonophobia, (ligyrophobia or sonophobia)- fear of sounds

Monophobia- fear of being alone

Latrophobia- fear of hospitals and doctors

Amaxophobia- fear of riding in a vehicle

Bathophobia- fear of depths

Anthropophobia- fear of people

Xenophobia- fear of foreigners

Paedophobia- fear of children

Zuigerphobia- fear of vacuums

Some Interesting Fears…

Emetophobia- fear of throwing up (I’ve only met one person with this fear)

Triskaidekaphobia- extreme superstition regarding the number thirteen

Arachibutyrophobia- fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth

Clinophobia- fear of going to bed

Consecotaleophobia- fear of chopsticks

Didaskaleinophobia- fear of going to school

Epistemophobia- fear of knowledge

Hellenologophobia- fear of Greek, Latin, or complex terminology

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia- fear of long words

Novercaphobia- fear of one’s step-mother

Nyctophobia- fear of the night or darkness

Paraskavedekatriaphobia- fear of Friday the 13th

Pogonophobia- fear of beards

Xanthophobia- fear of the colour or word yellow

Zemmiphobia- fear of great mole rats

Papaphobia- fear of the pope or holy men

Nomophobia- fear of being without mobile phone coverage

Turophobia- fear of cheese

Geniophobia- fear of chins

Ablutophobia- fear of bathing

Chrometophobia- fear of money

Anatidaephobia- fear of being watched by a duck

Phobophobia- fear of having or developing a phobia

Barophobia- fear of gravity

This is not a complete list of phobias. To see an extremely extensive list of just about every phobia imaginable go to http://phobialist.com/#A-.


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