Family shares their Skinner experience

After attending Brown International Academy, Skinner was our first middle school choice for our son, Mason. What a relief it was to learn he was accepted last spring! Now Mason is halfway through his 6th grade year at Skinner and we could not be more thrilled because he is flourishing, both academically and socially.

For our family, the importance of Mason continuing on to our neighborhood school was important to us. We were at Brown from the beginning and moving on to Skinner was an opportunity to continue on the same path because neighborhood schools provide a strong foundation for our kids. We feel so fortunate to be part of such a vibrant community of active families all working towards a common goal – to provide and build a healthy middle school for ourselves, as well as for our friends and neighborhood families.

As parents we are continually amazed and so appreciative of the emphasis placed on the academics at Skinner.  The teachers are supportive and encouraging, they really know their students. This is so important!  I find the accountability that has been instilled and is expected daily is so molding for the students and parents alike.  There are many after school activities as well, something for everyone.  I especially like College 4 You – what a fantastic opportunity to start leading our children towards the goal of higher education through introduction to campus life and exciting hands on experiences.  Mason loves it!

We were relieved that our transition into middle school life was smooth and welcoming; I really attribute that to the above and beyond efforts of Principal Koyama and her amazing team of staff and teachers.

– Kathleen Ham, mom of 6th grader Mason


Skinner Girl To Shave Head for Childhood Cancer Research

Logan, a Skinner 6th grader, is one courageous and committed girl. Not only has she decided to shave her long hair to raise money for childhood cancer research, she has recruited schoolmates and friends to start “Team Skinner” for the cause!

“I’m shaving my head in March to support kids with cancer because my mom had cancer when she was my age and because one of my elementary school friends was diagnosed with cancer during 1st grade,” said Logan. “It’s lucky they made it but some kids still die. I want kids with cancer to keep fighting and hope they get to see that light at the end of the tunnel.”

Logan’s mom, Kelley, survived three years of chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments in her teens. To celebrate her past 25 years of life, the family organized a hair shaving fundraiser on March 9th at the Oriental Theater to benefit St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest non-governmental funder of childhood research grants. The Foundation has granted over $100 million to hundreds of childhood cancer research projects since 2005.

Logan has set up her own webpage at and has asked friends, teachers and family members to attend, volunteer and donate. Her family hopes that the Skinner community will support the fundraiser, which is open to the public to watch, volunteer or donate hair or funds. There will be face paining and other kid-friendly activities.

“My husband and I were extremely surprised when Logan told us in January that she would shave her hair to raise money for the event because she loves wearing her longhair in headbands and ponytails,” said Kelley. “We are incredibly proud of her for doing this unselfish act, something almost unthinkable for a girl of her age.”

Every three minutes, a child somewhere is diagnosed with cancer.  In the U.S., one in five children diagnosed will not survive; of those who do, two out of three will suffer long-term effects from treatment.

WHAT: St. Baldrick’s Fundraiser for Childhood Cancer Research

WHEN: March 9th from 9:00 a.m. to noon

WHERE: Oriental Theater, 4335 W. 44th Ave.

WHY: Raise money for childhood cancer, support Skinner cancer survivors and families


Volunteering at Skinner

Are you a Skinner parent, grandparent, community member or business partner who would like to volunteer at our school but don’t know how? If so, we have great news for you – Skinner is now part of a pilot partnership with the Denver Public School Volunteer Office and Metro Volunteers to build a structure that makes volunteering easy!

Skinner Neighborhood Center director Sandy Baca-Sandoval, Skinner “Grands” chair Marilyn Leff and parents Sarah Kreider, Ray McAlisster and Virginia Sarapura are our leadership team members looking at ways to connect supporters’ skills and talents go benefit Skinner and our students. You’re invited to their first meeting on Thursday, Feb. 28th at 6 p.m. in Skinner’s Neighborhood Center inside the north entrance/41st Ave. side of the school. We’ll not only discuss upcoming ongoing and one-time volunteer projects but maybe most important, we’d like to hear your ideas for volunteering at Skinner. Projects underway that need volunteers include:

The Skinner History Project. We need volunteers to help  teachers Jamie Kitchen and Janice Sullivan review and preserve materials that date back to Skinner’s opening in 1922. The teachers are using the archives for a service-learning class to make the history of Skinner come alive for our students. We have partnered with Shawn Snow of the Colorado History Museum to help us with the materials and give us guidance. If you are interested in this project, please contact Marilyn Leff at or 303-777-5790.

The Mile High Five. The Mile High Five is a run that will take place on Sat., May 4th. It is a fundraiser for Northwest Denver schools, including Skinner.  We’ll need 20 volunteers to help with this race.  If you are interested in volunteering for this run, please contact Sarah Kreider at

And don’t forget to attend our volunteer meeting:
WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 28th from 6 :00 – 7:00 p.m

WHERE: Skinner Neighborhood Center, enter on the north/41st Ave. side of Skinner

WHY: Learn about how you can be involved in Skinner Middle School on either an ongoing or one-time basis

For more information, please contact  Sarah Kreider at

Dorian: “My Science Fair Project”

I love science. Nearly every day I am theorizing a solution for a modern problem. But, one of the things I love the most is alternative fuels. Hydrogen is an area of interest, especially since I aspire to design and build a hydrogen powered car.

My science fair project started simply and humbly as an idea; how can I produce a usable amount of hydrogen? And after doing a little more research, the question became; The Effects of Sodium on Hydrogen Production in Water.

Simply put, I performed three simple tests, one in a jar, one in a tube and one with a car. All three tests were inconclusive in terms of results. I felt my presentation is what got me this far because I am able to very well describe my project.

The best part so far is placing in both fairs. I placed first in the school fair and third in the district fair, so I was definitely pleased! Making it all the way to metro was quite a challenge but, my ribbons were earned, that is what I enjoyed. And the biggest challenge yet the Metro Science Fair, and no matter what happens, I’ve earned my way here!

– Dorian, 6th grade Skinner student

7th Grade Students Delve into Classic Novel, The Hobbit

Skinner’s 7th grade English students read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and then delved deeper into comparing and contrasting different versions of this timeless story.

“At first, I thought it might be a tough sell just because the movie was coming out,” said Mr. Dennis, 7th grade English teacher. “However, I was really pleased about what I was seeing and hearing in class throughout the small and whole-group discussions – students were actively engaged with the reading, and it seemed like the pacing kept students wanting to read on to figure out what was happening in the book.”

After finishing the novel, students compared and contrasted The Hobbit book with two movie versions, several parodies and a comic book and formulated a comprehensive project based on the different presentations of the story.

“What was really cool was that we got to pick what we wanted to do,” said 7th grade student Emma Weaver. “I compared the book and with both the 1997 movie and the current 2012 movie.”

“The overall unit was something that was an experiment for me. I saw the potential for students to dive deeply into a text that not only was at times challenging and engaging but set the tone for a lot of the adventure novels that students read today, said Mr. Dennis. “This project allowed me as a teacher to do two things I’ve wanted to try – one, giving students a real sense of choice by having options on how they demonstrate their mastery of standards and understanding of the content, and two, accounting for multiple standards bundled together in a rich, complex task that is more than just ‘an essay.’”

Like Bilbo and his companions, Skinner students gained valuable academic treasure through their Hobbit adventure. Hats off to Mr. Dennis and Skinner’s 7th grade English students!


Skinner Students Scope Out CU Medical School

Forty Skinner’s College 4 Y.O.U. Pre-Collegiate Program students visited the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (CU-AMC) in Aurora as part of their fourth Saturday College Visitation Academy.  The students boarded the bus at Skinner early to travel the students to CU-AMC.  Upon arrival to the Anschutz Medical campus the students were treated to a filling continental breakfast, provided by the staff of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

During the morning hours, the students participated in various “hands-on” scientific and research-based experiments led by CU-AMC staff and faculty in the ultra-modern lab facilities.   After their research experiences, all the students were treated to a scrumptious pizza lunch provided by CU-AMC’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  During their lunch various pre-med minority students sat and ate lunch with Skinner students and shared their experiences as a middle school and high school student and what lessons they have learned and how they prepared themselves to make them a better and successful pre-med student.

Part of the Neighborhood Center’s commitment to our students encouraging STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), the students had a productive and enjoyable daylong visitation.  The College 4 Y.O.U. Pre-Collegiate Program student’s next regularly scheduled visitation will be February 18th as they travel to visit Red Rocks Community College in Golden.

Recruiting for Skinner’s Wellness Team

Interested in improving school health?  Do you have ideas for new health initiatives for Skinner Middle School?  If yes, we’d like to invite you to be a part of the new Skinner Wellness Team!

Our first meeting will be Tuesday, February 5th from 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. at the Neighborhood Center@Skinner. DPS is partnering with Action for Healthy Kids to engage parents, teachers, administrators and community members in school health. Come let your voice be heard!

For more information, please contact Lynne Feingold at or 303-253-4302.


Don’t miss Skinner community potluck party on February 7th

Come one, come all, to the Skinner community annual potluck party on February 7th at 6 pm. With pasta to share, a salsa tasting contest and a family dance party, it’s an event you won’t want to miss!

Do you make an incredible salsa?  Mix it up, bring it promptly at 5 p.m. and enter it into our salsa tasting contest, to be judged by Skinner leaders.

A DJ will play hits from yesterday and today – wear your dancing shoes so you can show off your cool moves on the dance floor.

Skinner 6th grade families should bring a pasta dish; 7th grade families will provide salads and sides; 8th grade families are on the hook for desserts. The school will provide beverages and everything else.

Looking forward to seeing you at this popular and fun event for Skinner Families – see you on the 7th at 6 p.m.

Paying it Forward

Ian Spetnagel, a 7th grade Skinner student, just received the “Nugget For a Day” award for exemplary sportsmanship while playing on Skinner’s football team this past season. Nominated by Mr. Dehning (Skinner’s 8th grade social studies teacher and football coach), Ian will:

  • Attend a Nugget’s practice, meet all of the players and take photos with them
  • Take a tour of the Pepsi Center
  • Receive a Nugget’s jersey
  • Receive eight tickets, in a catered suite, for that evening’s game

As it turns out, Ian recently changed my life – and the lives of others I don’t even know. An outstanding student, Ian went the movies about a month ago and was inspired to purchase tickets for people behind him in line. “Paying it forward,” he said.

Ian’s act of random kindness motivated me to pay it forward at a CU Buffs basketball game the following weekend – I paid for drinks for the couple behind me in the concession line. The gentleman at the game was really surprised and happy when I told him I was only following one of our student’s lead by paying it forward.  A few minutes later, his wife found me and assured me, “I’ll pay it forward, too.”

Doing an unprompted good deed for another is something all of us can do – young or old, rich or poor, outgoing or shy. If you have an elderly neighbor, why not shovel his sidewalk in the morning after finishing your own?  You could pick up trash you see on the ground so our kids grow up in a clean neighborhood.  When you see a young mother struggling to carry babies and package, lend her a hand.  Anyone can pay it forward – it’s just a matter of thinking about it and doing it!

Thanks to Ian’s example, I know paying it forward has become part of my everyday life. I hope it spreads like wildfire across the Skinner community. Way to go, Ian!

-Mr. James Duran, Skinner Student Advisor & Athletic Director


Skinner scholars to go to D.C. in 2014

Skinner 6th and 7th grade students have a remarkable opportunity next year – the Spring of 2014 – to participate in a week long field trip to Washington D.C., Gettysburg and Philadelphia to experience the 8th grade social studies curriculum by seeing the history, geography, economics and civics of the United States first hand..  This field trip is open to all Skinner scholars and is an unbelievable opportunity for this year’s 6th and 7th graders (next year’s 7th and 8th graders).

Students are eligible to register up to 90 days before the trip but are encouraged to get involved now so they can participate in school wide fundraising for the next two years to help defray some of the trip’s costs.  Currently there are 28 students signed up.

If people in the community would like to help Skinner scholars afford the 2014 trip, they should watch for our fundraising activities, make a direct donation and/or hire a middle school student for yard work, babysitting, housecleaning or other odd job, paying with a tax deductible donation to Skinner Middle School.

For more information, please contact Mr. Dehning at


Skinner Scholars go to Keystone Science School

Riding is style this year, Skinner 6th graders embarked on yet another annual visit to Keystone Science School.  The trip was mentally and physically draining but in a positive way!

Rarely do teachers and students receive an opportunity to leave the walls of the school behind and bond with one another while engaging in scientific field work.  This year’s experience brought us together to investigate the effects of the mountain pine beetle on forest ecology.  Together we delved deep into the issue to understand the seriousness of the challenges faced by stakeholders and members of the ecosystem.

Returning to Skinner we bring an understanding of everyone’s perspectives, some ideas about logical steps for local government and a stronger sense of community among our Skinner Scholars.

– Mr. Martin, 6th grade Science teacher

Celebrating 60 years of Skinner teachers

On Friday, December 14th, Skinner Middle School hosted staff and teachers from the past and present at the 60th Annual Staff Alumni Holiday Luncheon.  The event was coordinated by Skinner secretary, Joanna Alvarez and current staff contributed both money and an assortment of scrumptious dishes to the lovely buffet luncheon.

The event is something that is looked forward to by past Skinner staff and faculty all year as an opportunity to connect with colleagues and friends from years’ past.  The guests passed around yearbooks and many hugs and greetings were exchanged as over 75 alumni and family members chatted and reminisced while they enjoyed the delicious meal.

Skinner Scholars also had a table set up with old photos and documents for the Skinner staff alumni to enjoy and also help identify faces in photos which weren’t labeled.

Renae Levin taught English at Skinner from 1965 until 1971, at which time she transferred to North High.  About the Luncheon she said, “I have a chance to connect with people I taught with.  I think it’s a tribute to Skinner that they manage this through thick and thin.  The (current) faculty, administration and staff go all out for us and we aren’t asked to contribute anything.  It’s quite a significant tradition.”

Gary Goodnight taught Science and Technology classes at Skinner from 1976 until 1986.  He installed Skinner’s first computer lab, now that number has grown to four.  Said Mr. Goodnight, “I’ve missed very few luncheons.  I enjoy sitting down with all the old colleagues.  Skinner was probably the best teacher incubator that I have seen in all of DPS.  That camaraderie and warmth is still very much here.  I taught at six DPS schools and this was, by far, the best group of people I ever worked with.  Back when I came to this luncheon when I taught here, a teacher came who had taught my dad.  That is a link from all the way back until now.”

Berniece Huber began teaching Latin and English at Skinner in 1958.  By 1964 she was also a part time counselor.  She retired from Skinner in 1982.  “I used to host the luncheon when I worked here.  We had a lady, Ruth Wheeler, who taught Biology, who used to come every year, until she was almost 100!  The Home Ec teachers and students used to prepare the food for the luncheon.”  Ms. Huber went on to reminisce about the teachers’ experience, “the staff had separate lounges until the mid-70s.  The ‘Hen House’ and the ‘Men’s Roost’, where women weren’t welcomed.  However the pop machine was in the men’s lounge and it (the men’s lounge) was absolutely full of cigarette smoke.”

Jon Baier taught Tech. Arts (wood, metal, plastic and leather shop and computer tech) at Skinner for his entire 40 year teaching career, from 1963 until 2003.  “I enjoy coming to see all of the people I taught with.  I also like seeing Dehning (current Skinner 8th grade History teacher) and watching his hair recede every year.”  That comment was met with a burst of laughter from Mr. Dehning.

Philip Ricciardi taught Tech. Arts at Skinner from 1972 until 2000.  While he was a student at Skinner in the early 60s, Ms. Berniece Huber was his Latin teacher.  Says Mr. Ricciardi, “Quite honestly, we were a family here at Skinner more than any other Denver Public School.  We all kind of grew up together.  I was 21 when I started teaching here, most of us were single, and no one ever had any desire to leave.  To me, this age level is the most important.  At this age level, you can either make them feel good about themselves and succeed, or fail.  That’s a huge responsibility and opportunity for a teacher.”

Skinner Middle School is proud and honored to host the school’s incredible staff from the present as well as years past at this annual event and looks forward to hosting many more Staff Alumni Holiday Luncheons in the years to come

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