Archives for March 2015

Skinner Families – the Skinner Yearbook Deadline is April 16!

Skinner Families – the Skinner Yearbook Deadline is April 16!!!

April 16 is the last day to GUARANTEE your child’s copy of this year’s yearbook! This year’s book includes countless photos of Skinner sports, community events, goofy teacher photos and other great memories as well as a fantastic cover design from some of our own Skinner students.

In addition, we have a new opportunity for you and your child to create two personalized pages with all of your own pictures that will only be in your book.

If you have any questions, please contact the main office. Click here to buy online today! Cost is $35.

Understanding More About the Teenage Brain

We as parents and teachers of middle school aged children are frequently frustrated by our child’s seemingly poor impulse control.  It seems irrational and can be both physically and or emotionally harmful to themselves or those around them.  But why is it that we as adults are able to recognize this so clearly and avoid the traps and temptations of poor decision making?  The answer lies in what the authors attribute to the developmental stages of our brains in what the author labels “Spock vs. Captain Kirk”.

The story below starts by discussing results of a recent study about comparing decision making ability between teens and adults.  Results suggest that children as early as 12 years old are significantly influenced to make poorer decisions than their adult counterparts simply by being in the presence of peers.  Meanwhile, adults showed no effect on their decision making process when faced with identical decision making situations.  Continuing to explain the why behind this, the authors detail the changes in chemical and physical processing of the adolescent brain as the underlying cause of poor decision making in adolescents.  

So while the impulsivity of our children may at times boggle our mind and frustrate us to no end, to some extent this is beyond their control.  We will need to forgive them, we will need to give them 2nd and 3rd chances. Above all we will need to provide them with the tools they need to make safe and healthy choices despite the state of their brain’s development so they may navigate and find success in school and life.  

We encourage finding connections and trying to extend the great character education that happens in Skinner’s “Respect” and “Risky Business” programs.

The audio story is well worth the 4 minutes of your time to listen to or perhaps even share with your family.  You will find it by clicking the link below.  It was written for the series, “Being 12: The Year Everything Changes,” from NPR member station WNYC.

Below is the transcript:

If adolescence has a poster child, it’s a teenager. In a car. Smoking, drinking, and driving badly while also, somehow, having sex in the back seat.

But changes in the brain that lead to the famously bad choices of adolescence don’t start at 16 or 17 years old. They start around 11 or 12 and the beginning of puberty.

This is the dirty little secret of adolescence: The cloudy judgment and risky behavior may not last a year or two. Try a decade.

To understand why, let’s start with an experiment. At Temple University, psychology professor Laurence Steinberg and his team put a bunch of adolescents into an FMRI machine — a brain scanner — and asked them to play a driving game.

“Your perspective is that of a person behind the wheel,” Steinberg says, describing the set-up. “And you come to a series of intersections, and the lights turn yellow. And you have to decide whether to put the brakes on or not.”

Now, what do you think the adolescents did in this situation?

Wrong.  They did not blow through the yellow every time.  “When adolescents are playing this game by themselves, they don’t take any more chances than adults do when they’re playing it by themselves,” Steinberg says.

And that’s a big deal. Because the adolescent brain gets a bad rep for being consistently impulsive. Steinberg hopes his latest book, Age of Opportunity, will help set the record straight: Being 12 (or 17) doesn’t mean a kid’s hard-wired to always make bad choices.

Why, then, do adolescents still make so many bad choices? To find out, Steinberg added a twist to his experiment.  He gave his subjects an adolescent crowd.  “This doubles the number of chances that adolescents take,” Steinberg says, “but has no effect on the number of chances adults take.”

In short, an adolescent’s weakness is other adolescents. And we’re not just talking about peer pressure. The mere presence of peers makes them less cautious.

One reason, says B.J. Casey, a neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College, is that “the brain is being marinated in gonadal hormones” during adolescence. Another big reason: The prefrontal cortex is still a work-in-progress. And it serves a vital role in our decision-making.

The prefrontal cortex “helps to link past experiences to the current situation,” Casey says, “and, at the same time, consider what the future consequences are of choices and actions that are made.”

The prefrontal cortex is our voice of reason. Steinberg calls it the brain’s CEO. Casey likens it to Mr. Spock from Star Trek, coldly calculating a life’s worth of cost-benefit analyses.

Casey’s analogy doesn’t stop there. To her, Captain Kirk is the limbic system — the emotional center of the brain that’s always on the lookout for threats and rewards. When it spots either, it sends a message to the prefrontal cortex. Because the limbic system can’t make sense of these things on its own. It needs the prefrontal cortex.

Kirk needs Spock.

Here’s the problem. For kids in adolescence, the prefrontal cortex is still developing, and it can’t keep up with the limbic system as it goes into reward-seeking warp speed.

“It’s as if these emotional regions hijack the prefrontal systems,” Casey says, “and it leads to a choice that they make that’s a bad one. And they even know it’s a bad one.”

Which brings us full-circle to Steinberg’s driving experiment. The limbic system doesn’t just flag rewards in things like alcohol and sex. A 12-year-old gets a kind of high simply by being around other adolescents. They’re wired to seek each other out and develop the skills they’ll need to leave their parents, feed and protect themselves, and raise children.

In the short-term, that means cloudy judgment and risky behavior.

But adolescence is all about the long view.

Brand new Skinner Video!

Click here to view a video about Skinner’s offerings – Skinner Middle School – – Our Traditions, Opportunities and Supports

Thank you to DPS for producing this fantastic, in-depth video about Skinner Middle School!

Skinner Wins 2015 Foundations for Great Schools Award!

Skinner is so proud to announce that we have won a 2015 Foundations for Great Schools Award!
In 2015, Foundations for Great Schools recognized a total of 29 Denver metro-area public schools and awarded a total of $500,000 in grants.

The award recipients were selected based on a variety of factors, including academic performance and growth, high percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, school leadership, culture and instructional effectiveness. Elementary, middle, high school, public district, and public charter were all considered.

Skinner was awarded a $25,000 prize. The funds will help pay for professional development for Skinner’s incredible teaching staff. Skinner’s teachers will return to school a couple of days early for training.  Additionally, the award funds will allow Skinner to continue our long-standing relationship with PEBC to help our teachers continually strengthen their practice.  Another professional development tool we use at Skinner is Teach Like a Champion.  Skinner’s teachers are continually sharpening their skills using these and many other tools.

Click here for more information about the award and click here to visit the Foundations for Great Schools website.

Neighborhood Center’s Community Connects Program Update

It has been a busy few months with our Community Connects students.  When they are not on trips learning about potential career pathways, our scholars are busy researching and putting together their blog (soon to come on the website).  Below is a recap of their latest excursions.

January 23: Metro State School of Hospitality

Chef Lamb showed Skinner students what it’s like to have a career in the kitchen.  Students worked with state-of-the-art commercial equipment like vacuum sealed freezers and pizza ovens in Metro State’s brand new facility.  Students learned about the world of eggs, including boiling temperatures, different methods of preperation, and how to find out the freshness of an egg by cracking it open. Of course eating was a big part of this visit.  Look out for the next generation of Skinner chefs at high-end restaurants to come.

February 6: State Capitol

Students took a tour of the Capitol Building, visiting the old Colorado Supreme Court, as well as the Senate and House meeting rooms. Escorted by former representative, Kathy Williams, who helped bring professional baseball to Colorado, we met the Speaker pro Tempore and Skinner’s District Representative, Dan Pabon.  Students learned about the benefits, obstacles, and the steps to become a representativeand obstacles that you might have to overcome.  Overall, it was a wonderful trip that allowed students to learn about their State government and the many things that happen on Denver’s own Capitol Hill.

February 20: Regis University Broadcast Careers & Magis Week Mentorship

26 Skinner students teamed with 25 Regis students during Regis’ Magis Week of Service for a fun, busy evening.  Students toured and learned about media careers in the new radio station and created an anti-bullying commercial that was broadcasted (and will continue to be) on Ranger Radio.  Paired with a mentor, Skinner students ate dinner and discussed a range of social issues before heading to the ndoor practice field for a game of dodgeball and soccer.  Thanks to all who made this special day possible.

Upcoming Schedule:

March 6: FBI Special Agent Justin Ferrell visits Skinner to discuss his work with terror cells ISIS, Al Quaeda, Islamic Jihad Union, and Taliban

March 20: Construction Careers @ CEC Middle College

April 17 & 18: Denver Digs presentations and planting of 3 trees at Skinner

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CONGRATULATIONS to Skinner Scientists and our Science Teachers!

CONGRATULATIONS and THANK YOU to the Skinner Science Team who worked diligently with our Skinner scientists to prepare for the Denver Metro Regional Science and Engineering Fair.  The Science Fair took place on February 25, 2015 at the Museum of Science and Industry.  We are absolutely thrilled with the results for our students who were recognized for their work and thinking:

6th Grade – Josh Miller took 3rd place in Earth and Environmental Sciences

7th Grade – Isla Anderson took 1st place in Biomedical and Health Sciences

Lilli Gregg and Aspen Coates earned honorable mention in the category of Behavioral Sciences

Lindsay Pratt earned honorable mention in Junior Plant Sciences

Click here for a complete list of awards.  This is the first time Skinner scientists have placed at the Denver Metro Regional Science and Engineering Fair!

Click here for a fantastic article and lots of great photos from the North Denver Tribune.

Please congratulate the teachers and Josh and Isla, who will be competing now at the State level in April!

Next up for our scientists, the Colorado Science Olympiad!  Thanks to the Denver Public Schools Foundation for their grant allowing us to participate in Colorado Science Olympiad this coming weekend.  We will be attending the Northern Regional Tournament, March 7, 2015 at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins.  Good Luck scientists, and have fun!

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Denver Public Schools Foundation

Click here to read the North Denver Tribune article about Skinner’s domination of the Jan. 24 DPS Science Fair.

Metro science fair winners

2015 Metro science fair vert

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