The seventh grade band won Rutgers’ Battle of the Bands Competition. This fall, the students – as part of MOMS eighth grade band – will attend a Rutgers football game and play the Rutgers fight song with the university’s own marching band.
“The students and school community are thrilled for this opportunity,” said Melany McQueeny, the district’s music department chair for grades 6–12. “I am incredibly proud of the work that our music students have been able to accomplish since the pandemic. Winning the Rutgers’ Battle of the Bands will allow us to showcase their hard work, perseverance, and dedication.”
This winter, Rutgers invited all middle school bands throughout the state of New Jersey to participate and submit a video performance of “The Bells Must Ring”, the university’s fight song. According to Rutgers, the video submissions all displayed technical skill, a joy to resume playing together [post COVID], and pride in New Jersey’s flagship institution.
The date of the performance has not been determined as yet.
A new trimester elective at Mount Olive Middle School created a buzz this year. Podcasting gave seventh-graders the opportunity to learn storytelling techniques and professional audio production skills.
“It’s really so many skills combined,” said teacher Sasha Freger. “It’s researching, presenting, speaking, interviewing, and collaboration.”
The classes completed pieces in a variety of genres including true crime stories, personal narratives, and short dramas. The most poignant, however, were the investigative projects that brought the podcasters into the halls to speak with their peers about issues specific to MOMS. The podcasts gave students on both sides of the microphone a voice. For the interviewees, the process sent the message that their thoughts and opinions were valued.
Dispelled was the notion that teens think about and discuss only the superficial – social media influencers, pop singers, sports teams, and heartthrob actors; the investigative podcasts revealed ideas and emotions on issues far wider than boy bands and the best PlayStation 5 games. Students spoke openly about topics such as dress codes, queer representation, dealing with stress, and the social and emotional impact of COVID.
“When kids have the microphone in their faces, they would open up and talk on a really personal level,” said Chloe Cline. “It was almost a heart to heart.”
The projects also provided the podcasters an opportunity to discuss important school and social matters with faculty members and administrators.
By learning the art of telling an interesting story through audio, the seventh-graders discovered a newfound appreciation for sound in podcasts, radio, video games, film and television. Music, sound effects, volume, and vocal intonation all combine to create emotion and a sense of time and place. Everything heard is a creative decision made by someone.
Most of the podcasters had never experienced a course that melds creativity, technology, and student choice quite like this. Through their work, many learned lessons about themselves.
“Podcasting encouraged me to be a little more outgoing, to share a little bit about myself more often,” said Brynn Davis, who has a YouTube channel with her brother.
For Emma Sweeney, who had decidedly low expectations for the new course, podcasting ignited a fire for storytelling and the communication arts.
“I thought we wouldn’t be doing anything interesting,” she said Emma. “It turned out to be the highlight of my day, every day. If I could record or edit or even just look up sounds, I would be so excited.”
She hopes to further explore her interest in communication, perhaps by learning video production at the high school. When the storytelling bug bites, the fever never breaks.
Podcasting is big business and it’s expected to keep growing. Recent research showed that 73% of the U.S. population aged 12 and older have listened to online audio in the last month; more than one-third of Americans listen to podcasts regularly.
MOMS students recently learned about the Red Planet – not through books or websites, but by speaking to scientists who are on the front lines of Mars exploration.
Eighth grade science students, Innovation & Design classes, and sixth-graders in the Surviving Natural Disasters class connected via video call in the library with Emily Judd, an aerospace engineer at NASA Langley Research Center. Judd specializes in research on Martian climate, atmosphere, minerals, and the search for signs of life. The students asked questions about the construction of rovers, the impact of dust storms, astronaut training, and the obstacles to human habitation on the fourth planet from the sun.
Mohammed Basheer Mohiuddin, a Ph.D. candidate working on machine learning for Mars rovers, also spoke to students.
BMX riders recently came to MOMS, combining their anti-bullying message with bicycle tricks which kept students entertained and engaged. The stunt cyclists – from the Dialed Action Sports Team in Lincoln Park, New Jersey – based their program on three Rs:
Recognize – which teaches students how to identify bullying whether it is physical, verbal or online.
Refuse – which explains being the impact of being a bully and the impact of bullying itself.
React – which emphasizes the importance of telling a trusted adult (such as a teacher or parent) about the bullying behavior.
Three presentations were conducted, one for each grade level. In each, the highlight was a cyclist’s jump across five staff members lying flat on the ground. The Dialed Action Sports Team also wove into their presentations various tips about bicycle safety and leading healthy lifestyles.
This is the team’s first visit to MOMS, though the group has performed similar presentations at several of the district’s elementary schools. Megan Troup, student assistance counselor, arranged the visit.
MOMS sixth-graders recently put their ingenuity and science knowledge to the test by constructing the strongest bridges they could using just toothpicks and gumdrops. The structural challenge, conducted in the library throughout the day also helped the kids develop their critical thinking skills and ability to collaborate with their peers.”
Gabrielle Czernik, a civil engineer with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, guided the students through the hands-on STEAM activity. Each bridge had to span stacks of books set approximately eight inches apart.
"The level of excitement and enthusiasm was incredible," said David Eisenberg, MOMS' library media specialist who organized Ms. Czernik's visit. "The students saw how the science that they're learning in school is used in real life. Showing the relevance between what is taught in the classroom and how that knowledge is applied in the real world makes learning powerful and long-lasting."
The activity had another benefit, says Rebecca Kreider, Ed.D., supervisor of information technology and STEAM. “Statistically, only 25% of professionals in STEAM are women so being exposed to successful female role models may inspire our middle school students to take more classes in the sciences. Girls need to believe they can be successful and carry that confidence into these classes and eventually into the traditionally male-dominated STEAM field.”
Before the hands-on science, Ms. Czernik discussed civil engineering careers and the most common specializations (transportation, geotechnical, environmental, coastal, water resources, and construction). She also discussed the role of the Parks Department in managing New York City’s 5,000 parks and 160 miles of waterfront.
Sandshore Elementary School
498 Sandshore Rd
Budd Lake, NJ 07828
Mountain View Elementary School
118 Cloverhill Drive
Flanders, NJ 07836
Chester M. Stephens Elementary School
99 Sunset Drive
Budd Lake, NJ 07828
Mt. Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road
Budd Lake, NJ 07828