Archives for February 2012

Introducing the Skinner Grands

A new group is forming to support the ongoing work of students and teachers at Skinner Middle School — The Grands. We are retired people who feel a connection with Skinner either because we live in the Skinner neighborhood or have grandchildren or grand-friends/relatives who attend Skinner. We want to support the work that the Skinner community has done and is doing to make this school a model neighborhood school for all children. We feel that “older” people need to be involved with children and schools and this is a way to do it. If indeed Skinner is a neighborhood school, then all segments of the community need to be involved.

The PTA has put together a list of possible volunteer projects. Projects include working with students directly and also helping with administrative tasks. We are looking into projects that fit the needs of the school and complement the skills of the Grands. We’ve already started on some projects, volunteering with the music program, the athletic program, and the office administration. Together we can figure out how to share the talents and skills of our generation with middle school children and their teachers.

Please call Marilyn or Larry Leff at 303-777-5790 to join the Grands and give us your ideas on how you would like to be involved at Skinner. You can also reach us at We will continue to update you on our progress.

Beyond Effectiveness, Skinner Pursues Teacher Effectiveness

If you’ve read the newspaper recently, you inevitably came across an article that discusses the issue of teacher effectiveness. While there is a lot of debate about what teacher effectiveness means, Skinner is a shining example of what commitment to excellence in teaching looks like through its ongoing commitment to the ongoing education and professional development of its teaching staff.

Teachers meet weekly and spend 10 days a school year discussing what happens in their classrooms, learning from each other, and analyzing student work to learn what works and what skill-sets need to be addressed. In addition, Skinner has spent additional funds to bring in outside staff developers to keep teachers up-to-date with research-based best practices.

Staff developers not only assist individual academic departments with content specific development, but they also help teachers develop practices to ensure success in other content areas. This year teachers and staff developers are focusing on persuasive writing and how they can infuse writing across all subject areas taught at Skinner.

One of Skinner’s staff developers is Annie Patterson. Annie has worked at Skinner for 7 years. She has been a staff developer for 10 years and was a classroom teacher for 13 years before that. Annie works for the Public Education & Business Coalition (, a nonprofit partnership of Colorado education and business leaders dedicated to developing the intellectual and scholarly practices of educators.

Annie is the 2012 winner of the O’Rourke Prize Recognition for Outstanding Staff Development Professionals. The O’Rourke Prize is sponsored by Learning Forward Colorado and Mrs. Anne O’Rourke and honors an exemplary staff developer in the state of Colorado. Click for more information –

Annie noted that, “[t]he teachers at Skinner are incredibly reflective, dedicated to student achievement, furthering their own teaching practices, and what works the best in teaching their kids. It’s an honor to help them achieve their goals.”

Science Fuels Passion

I am passionate about helping the environment, so for my science project I tested the amount of bio-gas that different types of biomass produce. In other words, I built several bio-gas generators and tested which of the following types of biomass or potential energy sources: chicken manure, cow manure, potato peelings and apple chunks.

After placing in my school’s science fair, I went to the Denver Public Schools Science Fair on January 28. The science fair was at the Denver Zoo and I had a lot of fun. The judges all had science backgrounds, so they understood the projects and were able to ask good questions. After presenting my project, I was able to walk around the zoo, which was much more fun than waiting in a conference room. The awards ceremony was filled with anticipation as zoo staff announced the top three projects in the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 10th grade competitions.

I ended up placing in the DPS Science Fair, and now I am preparing for the Metro Science Fair in February. This next competition includes students out of Denver Public Schools, so I will get a taste for some new projects. Needless to say, I am very excited to move on in the competition. Even if I don’t end up moving into the next round, I had a great time participating in the science fair.

By Ellyn, 8th grader

Free food and fun at Skinner Family Night – February 9

Skinner Middle School staff, students, families and community members will get together for a pasta pot luck, salsa contest and family dance on Thursday, February 9th from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria and west gym. The event is free – just bring a pasta dish to share and some homemade salsa to enter in our Best Salsa contest.

Northwest Denver’s school board member Arturo Jimenez, Senator Lucia Guzman and Representative Dan Pabon will be on hand to judge the salsa making contest. Contestants will also vote on their favorite salsa and prizes will be awarded.

There will be a great family-friendly D.J. on hand to keep everyone moving to the beat.
So come visit Skinner for a fun, free pasta dinner, salsa contest and family dance. You’ll be able to see for yourself the welcoming community we have in Northwest Denver’s great middle school.
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