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posted: Mon, Jun 22nd, 2015

For students that love animals – and reading about them

The Animal Lover’s Book Club is here. It’s an opportunity for students to read great books about animals, share summaries with other club members, and participate in an animal celebration on September 28. 

The special day will feature guests with animal-related careers and also give students an opportunity to bring their pets to the outdoor event.

Invited guests we are hoping will join us include: the handlers of rescue dogs and therapy dogs, veterinarians, police officers with K-9 units, animal shelter staff members with pets for adoption, zookeepers, and local farmers and their animals.

“The Animal Lover’s Book Club encourages kids to read and exposes them to many careers that involve animals,” said librarian and media specialist David Eisenberg, organizer of the Animal Lover’s Book Club. “So many teachers have contributed their expertise and perspectives. It will be a fun and informative afternoon for everyone.”

How it works:

To be eligible to participate, a student must read one of the books from the following reading list this summer and complete a technology-related project (e.g. short video, Prezi, Glogster, Wordle, Google Slideshow, or any other approved online project):

  • Boys Are Dogs or Girls Acting Catty by Leslie Margolis

  • A book in the Seekers or Warriors series by Erin Hunter

  • A book in the Guardians of Ga'hoole series by Kathryn Lasky

  • Framed, Zoobreak, Swindle, or Showoff  by Gordon Korman

  • Where the Red Fern Grows by William Rollings

  • A Dog’s Life: An Autobiography of a Stray by Ann Martin

  • Bannicula by Deborah Howe, or any subsequent book in the series

* This is in addition to books on the required summer reading list. 

A seventh-grader may also do a project about an animal-related profession to qualify.

A signed permission slip will also be required authorizing a student to take part in the activities. (The permission slips will be distributed in September.) 

Rules for bringing pets

• A student is not required to bring in a pet to participate in the activities.

• Pets will be outdoors at all times. No pets will be allowed in the school building or on school buses.

• A pet must be brought to the event and accompanied at all times by a parent or guardian.

• All pets must be caged or leashed at all times.

• Proof of current vaccinations will be required in advance.

Download a program flyer HERE and watch for more info!

Students have their day in court

Here’s the scenario:

Aaron, a high school student with Asperger’s Syndrome (a disorder related to autism) joins an afterschool archery club. Aaron’s parents sign a standard waiver form allowing him to participate. During a club discussion lead by the coach, Aaron shoots himself in the foot with an arrow. Now the parents are suing the school district for negligence. 

That’s the case created by MOMS students in the gifted and talented program for a recent mock trial competition sponsored by the New Jersey State Bar Foundation. For its efforts the team took home an honorable mention, one of just 12 awards out of more than 150 entries.

The G&T team had a choice between creating a case involving the 4th Amendment (i.e. search and seizures) or one involving sports in schools.

The students first compiled a written description of the case and submitted it in the fall. The case development, writing, and organization gave them an immersive crash course in civil litigation. The students researched and cited case laws that would support both the defense and plaintiff, listed witnesses and described their testimonies, and even investigated the physical effects of such a foot injury.

“It was quite a challenge,” said teacher Rebecca Hull-Clark. “The students learned about basic law, civil vs. criminal, procedures in a courtroom… They used high level critical thinking skills and had to have very polished writing.”

In the spring, the team was notified of its award. As one of the 12 honored school teams, MOMS was invited to the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick to dramatize the case in front of a real judge and jury. About 40 students took part. In preparation, the students divided up roles - some were lawyers and some were witnesses - and wrote out and memorized their lines. Actual court procedures had to be followed at all times.

When all the testimony was in and summations given, the jury ruled 7-5 in favor of the parents and against the school, ultimately deciding that the coach should have paid more attention to Aaron since the coach knew about the Asperger’s.

The scenario that the students created was incredibly well-balanced, an observation made by the judge who heard the case. It wasn’t black and white, there wasn’t a clear right or wrong. It's reflective of many real-life civil cases, which are often complex and open to interpretation. (The students threw in their own complications into the suit such as having Aaron’s good friend support the coach.)

The lack of clear culpability in their case and all the others was eye-opening for students and a window into real life where much exists in varying shades of gray. The case was so evenly presented that many of the kids themselves still can’t decide who should have won.

“At the beginning, I didn’t know about the law and how civil cases work,” said Dana Faustino, a young MOMS lawyer who argued for the plaintiff. “I didn’t know how hard it is for the judge or jury to determine who is at fault. We can’t even decide ourselves.” 

The school received a plaque and students received certificates for their efforts. 

The MOMS teams have won awards in seven of the eight years the mock trial competition has been entered.

Everything you wanted to know about 'Wheel of Fortune'

MOMS math teacher Jamie Greifenberger won a chunk of money on a "Wheel of Fortune" episode that aired in May, including winning the bonus round. Here's a Q&A with Ms. Greifenberger and everything you always wanted to know about America's favorite game show:

You were behind in winnings going into the final puzzle of the regular round. How nervous were you?

It all went by so quickly it barely registered that Pat said I was behind by a few hundred dollars. Once I realized the puzzle, it sunk in and I was just wringing my hands hoping the other two ladies didn't know it.

Did you interact with Pat and Vanna when the cameras weren't rolling? What were they like?

Vanna came into our dressing room before she went to her own to get ready. She was really sweet and encouraging, and wished us all good luck. 

We didn't meet Pat until our actual filming. He was very funny and sassy. In between puzzles, he was calming us down and encouraging me and the woman next to me since we were both having awful luck with the wheel in the beginning.

The show records a week’s worth of episodes in one day. Where were you while the other episodes were being recorded?

They set aside an area in the audience for the contestants who were not on-camera. We had the ability to go back and forth between that area and our contestant room, where they had all kinds of snacks and drinks, a restroom, and they ordered us a pizza and sandwiches.

How much time was there between recordings?

The recordings themselves ran pretty much in real time. It took maybe 20 minutes in between for Pat and Vanna to change and to get the next batch of contestants ready.

Did you get to know any other contestants?

Yes, we all talked a lot and got to know each other and shared stories about our families. Most of us are now Facebook friends and we are already plotting for our kids to compete against each other when they are old enough. 

How big is the wheel and how hard is it to spin?

The wheel was not big in diameter, but SO heavy! I think they said it was several thousand pounds. By the time I was done with our practice rounds, clapping and cheering for the shows that filmed before mine, my arms were so tired I felt like I barely moved the wheel. Watching the show after, I realized in one prize puzzle if I would have given the wheel just a little more I would have landed on the express, which would have meant another $8000 and a trip! Oh well, I am so glad Laura won the awesome trip for her and her husband! I remember how much work my son was as a one-year-old and I am sure they could use the getaway.

How far away from you was the puzzle board?

It was about 20-30 yards from where we stood. 

Where is the used letter board?

It is above the puzzle board on the left. If you watch the episode you'll see I was constantly squinting off at it. There were lots of monitors that we had to keep checking too, so you can see us turning all over the place during the show.

Did you practice the night or two before?

I've been practicing for months! Family, friends, co-workers, and students all gave me puzzles. I'd also been DVR-ing the episodes since I found out I got an audition and watching them every night, and I downloaded the Wheel app and another similar one to practice.

Did they tell you what to wear?

They gave us very specific directions for what to wear. It was a project to shop for something, No busy prints or patterns; no solid black, red white, or beige; outfits had to be two-piece (no dresses), preferably with black pants or skirt with a pocket in the back. 

Are you going to do anything special with the money?

We had already planned to go to Disney this summer, so it is helping pay for that (though I don't get the money until September so I guess it is more like paying off the credit card we are putting the Disney trip on). It is paying off some other debt too, and then going into savings toward a down payment on a house.

Where was your husband while you were playing the bonus round?

He was on camera right before I spun the wheel, and then they brought him down to the entryway to the stage, near where the contestant room was. I didn't even realize he was behind me after I solved the puzzle.

What happened on set after your show was over?

The contestant coordinators all came over and hugged and congratulated me, and asked how we were celebrating that night. Then, I went up to an office where I had to sign all the paperwork for the prizes, and then we were off.

Did you and your husband go out to celebrate? What did you do?

We planned to go out to a nice dinner anyway since we were in L.A. There is a chef who was the winner of "Top Chef," and his sous chef just won her season of "Top Chef" before we flew out, so we made reservations there. The food is very different than I would normally try, but I was still on my adrenaline kick from winning so I was way more daring. We spent the next day touring L.A. and just enjoying the mini honeymoon that we never had a chance to take.

Anything else you want to share about your experience?

People keep telling me now, "Oh it is something I've always wanted to do!" I have been saying to everyone to just try out for whatever show it is they are hoping to appear on. Send the application or video, be silly, and just have fun. It has taken a long time for me to gain the confidence I needed to portray what the contestant coordinators were looking for, and this whole experience has given me that much more of a boost. I would have been happy just with making it to the audition round, but I am so thankful my Wheel of Fortune experience was able to continue.

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Mount Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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Phone: 973.691.4006 Fax: 973.691.4029

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