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  • Building a Robotics Club at Your School: How Students Can Get Move Involved with STEM

    Posted by PVSchools at 3/28/2017

    Team Paradise 1165

    Since careers in the science and engineering fields are expected to grow at a faster-projected rate than all other U.S. jobs, it makes sense to incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) into all subjects to prepare students for the future. One way schools can get students more involved in STEM is to establish For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST®) robotics clubs and teams.

    FIRST offers several levels of student participation, including:

    • FIRST® Lego® League JR. uses Lego® to introduce STEM concepts to children ages 6-10.
    • FIRST® League challenges students in 4th-8th grade to develop solutions to real-world problems such as recycling, and food safety.  
    • FIRST® Tech Challenge team members in 7th-12th grades design, build, program and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge.
    • FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC) combines sport with the rigors of science and technology.

    Each year, FRC develops a new competition/game for teams across the world. Teams are given six weeks to design, build and program their robot. Along with the robot, there are also competitions that teams and individuals can compete in based on their work in the community involved in FIRST.

    Paradise Valley High School has had proven success with its FIRST Robotics team, Team Paradise 1165, which was established in 2003. FIRST Robotics was created by Dean Kamen in 1992 with 28 teams. Today, there nearly 400,00 participants and four levels of competition for students in elementary school through high school.

    “Robotics programs offer students of all ages the chance to learn and participate in different STEM projects. The programs gives the students hands-on opportunities to design, build and program different level robots depending on their grade level,” said Robert Kabrich, a math teacher at Paradise Valley High School and robotics club mentor.

    In addition to the FRC - Team Paradise 1165, PVSchools has a FIRST Lego League Team at North Ranch Elementary School and two FIRST Tech Challenge teams at Sunrise Middle School. Team Paradise has been instrumental in creating and mentoring the younger teams.

    Types of Robots
    The FIRST Lego League teams build robots from a Lego kit. These are small robots that roughly measure 8” by 8” by 8”. The FIRST Tech Challenge teams built from a kit of parts and are larger robots with a finished size of 18” by 18” by 18”. FRC teams robots are built from aluminum, wood, motors, controllers and other electrical and pneumatic components. This is a larger sized robot and can measure 2’ by 3’ by 4’.

    Programming Robots
    These robots can be programmed to move in multiple directions and to catapult objects. “Programming involves using JAVA and WPI FIRST libraries to get the robot to accomplish the tasks it’s designed for such as driving. We have several mentors who are experienced with programming and teaching the students how to do it. It’s best if the student already has familiarity with programming in the JAVA language,” added Mr. Kabrich.

    How to Form a Team
    At any grade level, students can form a team.

    1. Find support resources - Familiarize yourself with the FIRST Robotic Competition.  The Regional Director or the FIRST Senior Mentor.
    2. Enlist coaches and mentors - Each team will need at least one adult mentor with technical expertise willing and motivated to “coach” the team through the build and the competition season. It also recommended having two or more adults to help with administration, fundraising, community outreach and other tasks.
    3. Register and play - By registering your team, you’ll be part of the huge FIRST Robotics Competition community. You’ll receive communications from FIRST, along with a temporary team number in preparation for event registration in the fall. Create a team roster to submit with your registration. It’s important to note that registering includes event registration and ordering the kit of parts. Completing the registration process does not commit you to becoming a team.
    4. Build your team - Find and invite at least 10 students who want to be a part if a robotics team. Be sure to emphasize that technical skills are not required just enthusiasm and the willingness to learn. Be sure to recruit all kinds of talents, not just engineering and electronics.
    5. Raise funds - You’ll team will need a steady supply of funds. Recruit local businesses to sponsor your team. There are also many fundraising opportunities team can explore. Grants are available for both rookie and underserved teams.
    6. Safety first - At FIRST student safety is always paramount. Every adult must be familiar with the FIRST Youth Protection Program (YPP). It’s important to take the time to watch the FIRST videos and read the youth protection materials.
    7. Build robots - Part of the fun is designing and building robots. FIRST provides a wealth of information in their Resource Library. Here you’ll find everything from technical guides to fundraising ideas or fun activities for your team.

    There are numerous resources available for teams.

    Team Paradise will compete in the Arizona West Regional Competition April 5th-8th.

    Related article

    Surprise teen gives back with robotics team


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  • Highlights of the Fine Arts Festival: The Sights & Sounds of PVSchools

    Posted by PVSchools at 3/27/2017

     Student artwork at the Fine Arts Festival

    Hundreds of PVSchools families and community members attended the 2017 Fine Arts Festival: The Sight & Sounds of PVSchools held on March 25th and March 26th at Paradise Valley Mall. There were thousands of original student artwork on display and more than 70 musical performances.

    In case you missed it, you can watch the highlight videos below.



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  • Top Tips for Taking Tests - Before, During and After

    Posted by PVSchools at 3/27/2017

    Scantron test As students prepare to take the AzMERIT and other tests throughout the school year, it’s important for them to be well prepared.

    The AzMERIT measures what students have learned and evaluates if they are on track and prepared for the next step in their education. The AzMERIT assessment will be administered to all students in 3rd through 12th grades, while the AIMS Science test will be given to students in 4th-8th grades and to 9th-10th graders at the end of a biology course. Please note that your child’s school will provide you with the exact dates.

    We have compiled some helpful tips that students can use before, during and after the test.

    Before the test:

    1. Ask questions if you have trouble with a concept. Your teachers and parents are your best resource.
    2. A good night’s sleep is linked to higher tests scores. Students who increased the number of hours they slept from six to seven hours received a higher test score.
    3. Wake up a little early to ensure you have enough time to get ready. Layout your clothes the night before and have your backpack packed and ready to go.
    4. Eat a nutritious breakfast such as oatmeal with fresh fruit, scrambled eggs or low-fat dairy products such as cheese or yogurt. Try to avoid sugary cereals and fatty breakfast items like sausage and bacon.
    5. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Try to avoid sugary drinks such as soda.

    During the test:

    1. Be prepared and make sure you have all the supplies you may need for your test.
    2. Carefully read all the directions and questions before answering the questions.
    3. Pace yourself throughout the test.
    4. Stay focused on the stuff you know, and don’t get distracted by what is happening around you.
    5. Review your answers and double check your work before you turn it in.

    After the test:

    1. Stay positive and don’t worry about the test.
    2. Do something fun; you’ve earned it!

    Related article:

    State Tests: Just One Piece of the Puzzle


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  • Two Paradise Valley High School Students Selected as Finalists for Helios Scholar Internship at TGen

    Posted by PVSchools at 3/22/2017

     Ryan O'Hara and Hannah Butler Robbins

    Hannah Butler Robbins and Ryan O'Hara, students in the Center for Research, Engineering, Science and Technology program at Paradise Valley High School, have been selected as Finalists for Helios Scholar Internship at TGen.

    For eight weeks, students in the paid internship program will work full-time on a biomedical research project under the guidance and mentorship of a TGen scientist. Some of the research projects interns may work on include the genetic components of diabetes, neurological disease and cancer. The internship is open to Arizona high school seniors, undergraduate, graduate and medical students.

    Students selected for the internship are notified in April.

    Learn more about this internship opportunity.


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  • Bagels with PVSchools Governing Board

    Posted by PVSchools at 3/22/2017

    PVSchools Governing Board with Superintendent Dr. James P. Lee As part of an ongoing effort to foster collegiality and promote transparency, the PVSchools Governing Board is pleased to announce the Bagels with the Board events. These events occur quarterly and are held at various schools throughout the district.

    The next Bagels with the Board is on Wednesday, April 12th from 10-11 a.m. at Campo Bello Elementary School.

    All members of the community are invited to attend this event to have an opportunity to talk with Governing Board Members. Bagels and coffee will be provided.


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  • Our Top 8 Tips on How to Select a College or University

    Posted by PVSchools at 3/21/2017

    MIT University

    Are you a high school sophomore or junior? If so, you’re probably already thinking about which colleges or universities you wish to attend. You may want to attend the same university that your family has attended for generations—or you may choose to embark on an entirely new path.

    Whichever the path, here are a few tips to help you on the way:

    1. Make a list of colleges and universities.
      By making a long list of the schools you are interested in attending, you can narrow down your selection to a short list of your most desired places of study.

    2. Do your homework.
      Search the school’s web site and request collateral from the school, including brochures and financial aid information.

    3. Schedule a visit.
      Visiting a college is a great way of getting a feel for the campus, the academic and athletic facilities, and extra-curricular activities.

    4. The size of the campus.
      Don’t overlook the size of the college campuses vary in size. If you think a larger campus will be overwhelming to maneuver, then choose a campus that has a smaller student population.

    5. Compare the financial aid packages from your top schools.
      Compare the out-of-pocket costs of the schools you are considering. Your net cost of attendance will be tuition and fees minus grants and/or scholarships you may receive. Don’t forget to subtract any savings you have that can be used for tuition. If you are taking out student loans, this is a good time to calculate the amount of debt you will be taking on.

    6. Pay attention to deadlines.
      Very important! You must submit your college and scholarship applications and other important paperwork and documents before the deadlines. Create a calendar so you can set aside time to research and apply. Make sure you review your applications before you submit them. Get help from parents or teachers in proofing your applications.

    7. Don’t take rejection personally.
      If you don’t get accepted into your first choice, maybe the school wasn’t the right fit for you! Inquire to see the school has a wait list and look at your alternatives.

    8. Don’t know where to start.
      Visit your school’s College and Career Center, which has valuable resources available to you. College and Career Center Specialists can answer any questions you may have and guide you along the way.


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  • PVSchools Hosts 9th Annual Empty Bowls Sale

    Posted by PVSchools at 3/21/2017

    student painting ceramic bowl PVSchools will host its 9th Annual Empty Bowls in Paradise Bowl Sale from 4-6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 6th in the East/West Conference Rooms at the District Administrative Center.

    Empty Bowls is a charitable event that uses art as a means for social change. Student and faculty bowls will be on sale, and all proceeds are donated to the Paradise Valley Emergency Food Bank, an emergency food pantry that serves the families who reside within the PVSchools boundaries.

    Empty Bowls is an international event that draws attention to the plight of the hungry and raises money to feed the hungry through a community-based Arts project.


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  • State Tests: Just One Piece of the Puzzle

    Posted by Steven Jeras at 3/20/2017

    scantron and pencil

    A child’s developmental growth is a lot like a puzzle.  There can be hundreds of pieces, and you need to start putting them together in order to see what is happening.  One piece of this puzzle that tends to get more attention than others is standardized testing.

    Toward the end of March, Arizona students in grades 3-11 will start taking Arizona’s Measurement of Education Readiness to Inform Teaching (AzMERIT) tests, and students in grades 4, 8, and 10 will also take the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) Science exams.  Parents often ask about the value of these tests and why their children need to take them.

    AzMERIT is aligned to the Arizona math and English Language Arts (ELA) standards, and the cut scores are designed to reflect the rigor of the ACT college readiness benchmarks.  Parents can use the results as an opportunity to identify their student’s progress toward mastering state standards at a level that will eventually lead to successful completion of Algebra 3-4 and junior-year English.  This can provide context and perspective to your child’s academic progress as he/she is taking the same test as other students across the state.

    Educators can also gain valuable insight from state test results.  Teachers use the test results to identify strengths and needs of individual students, which can lead to interventions and personalized learning plans. Teachers, principals, and district administrators use aggregate results to identify strengths and weaknesses in teaching, programs, and resources. The rigor of the AzMERIT tests, for example, has started to transform expectations and instructional practice in the classroom. In PVSchools, this has led to improved professional development opportunities and curriculum alignment across the district.

    Are these state tests perfect?  Of course not; no single test is.  AzMERIT and AIMS Science performance levels reflect just one perspective on expectations for student achievement, and the AzMERIT reports lack some details that can lead to a more meaningful analysis of performance.  For these reasons, it is important for parents and teachers to work together to support their students.  State tests are just one piece of the puzzle, and teachers and parents both hold many other pieces of the picture that represent different parts of a child’s development.  Other tests scores, classwork, and parent observations can complement state tests to provide a clearer picture of a student’s academic growth. It is also important to pay attention to all of the non-academic puzzle pieces like behavior, character, talent, creativity, and interests that help complete the whole picture of our amazing children.

    How can parents support their children on state exams?  Most importantly, minimize their stress.  Don’t over-emphasize the importance of AzMERIT and AIMS Science (presently, state tests scores play no role in graduation requirements). Instead, explain that the tests are just one measurement to help teachers and parents know how to help students. While we all want our students to do their best, we don’t want them to feel like they have to be the best.

    In addition to maintaining a healthy perspective about state tests, here are some suggestions for helping students perform their best:

    • Provide your child with regular, healthy meals and snacks, especially breakfast on the morning of testing.
    • Ensure your child has plenty of rest by instilling consistent bedtimes.
    • Coordinate doctors appointments to avoid conflicts with school test schedules.
    • Talk to your child to gauge anxiety and confidence levels. Communicate any concerns with your child’s teacher.
    • Play educational games to engage your child and increase learning capacity.
    • Support good study habits by developing a schedule and consistent routines at home.
    • Keep results in perspective by discussing other measurements of success in your child’s life.

    About the author:

    Steve Jeras Steven Jeras is the Director of Assessment for the Paradise Valley Unified School District. He began his educational career as a high school English and Journalism teacher and then served as the Assistant Principal at Desert Shadows Middle School.  Most recently, he was the Principal of Sandpiper Elementary School, where he helped develop the district’s first dual language immersion program. In 2002, he received his Masters in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University, and he is currently pursuing his doctorate in Educational Leadership.  


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  • Pinnacle High School Students Shine at DECA State Conference

    Posted by PVSchools at 3/14/2017

    Pinnacle High School DECA students

    Pinnacle High School Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) students attended the State Career Development Conference that was held February 26th-28th in Tucson. This state conference is a 3-day grueling competition that began with a 100 question comprehensive exam. Once again, Pinnacle High School had several first place winners.

    1st Place
    Jacob Frankson -Financial Operations Research Project 30 pg (KPMG)
    Layla Riazati - Fashion Promotion Plan (American Apparel)
    Jack Kapps - Entrepreneurship Start-Up Plan 11 pg (Innovative Arts)

    2nd  Place
    Tiffani Hamilton - Entrepreneurship (30 pg) Plan ('Lucious Liberty)
    Joseph Angel - Advertising Campaign (Expedia Travel)
    Sutter Jones - Entrepreneurship Start-Up Plan (Orthodontics practice)
    Armando Zires - Sports and Entertainment Operations Research Project 30 pg. (DBacks)

    3rd Place
    Taylor Sapero - International Business Plan 30 pg (PetSmart to Chile)

    4th Place
    Alexander Malvick - Buying and Merchandising Operations Research  30 pg (NIKE)
    Umta Younadim - Business Operations Research  30 pg (Lifetime Fitness)
    Ansh Rao - Sports and Entertainment Operations Research 30 pg (SUNS)
    Allen Allison - Sports and Entertainment Promotional Plan (Middlelands Music Fest)

    Role Play (Case Study) Competitions:
    1st  Place          
    William Bowers - Business Finance Services
    Ansh Rao - Sports and Entertainment Marketing
    Ella Gallagher  and Haley Richardson - Business Law and Ethics Team  
    Aria Saisslin - Principles of Business Management

    2nd Place
    David Fang - Business Services Management
    Maria Wagner - Principles of Business Management

    3rd Place
    Emily Distler - Business Finance Services
    Jacob Frankson - Marketing Communications Services
    Alex Fisher -  and Jacob Kaller - Marketing Management Team
    Aayush Shah - Business Services Management  
    Zachary Sonkin - Principles of Business Management
    Akshat Rathi - Principles of Marketing

    4th Place           
    Taylor Sapero - Hotel and Lodging Management

    5th Place
    Elena Landers - Human Resources Management
    Ryan Davitt - Principles of Marketing

    Once again, Pinnacle also had the largest number of finalists for the second day of competition than any other chapter -25. Additionally, three advanced students double qualified for the International Competition.  Only one other student in the state earned such an honor!

    The following students received ribbons for the test competition score or for their role plays in their chosen event. They are:

    Test Medal
    Joseph Angel
    Jacob Frankson
    Trey Keyes
    Katharine Ebeyer
    William Bowers
    Elena Landers
    Zachary Hanson
    Taylor Sapero
    Aayush Shah
    Marcin Zalinski
    Layla Riazati
    Alex Fisher
    Zachary Sonkin
    David Fang
    Maria Wagner
    Ryan Davitt
    Maria DeVictor
    Jacob Marczak
    Akshat Rathi

    Max Mashal
    Zachary Sonkin
    Justin Rudick
    Maria Wagner
    Aayush Shah
    Jacob Weller
    Jacob Frankson
    Akshat Rathi
    Elena Landers
    Molly Mashal
    Aria Saisslin
    Sultan Stipho

    Congratulations to Katrina Santos on becoming a member of the AZDECA 10-member State officer team. Pinnacle has had seven state officers in nine years.

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  • PVSchools Hosts NVAA Open House

    Posted by PVSchools at 3/13/2017

    NVAA graphic There's a fine art to crafting successful talent.

    If your child is passionate about dance, theater, music technology or visual arts, PVSchools offers an outlet for your child to express his or her creative passions with the North Valley Arts Academies (NVAA) at PVSchools. PVSchools offers the fully integrated arts education programs in the Northeast Valley at Desert Cove Elementary School, Shea Middle School and Shadow Mountain High School.

    Learn more about the NVAA program at our Open House from 6-7 p.m. on Monday, April 3rd in the Gymnasium at Shea Middle School.

    During the event, there will be presentations by the Norm Pratt, director of the Fine Arts; Stacey Orest, principal at Desert Cove Elementary School; Dan Knak, principal at Shea Middle School; David Appleman, principal at Shadow Mountain High School; and NVAA teachers. Additionally, the teachers will share examples of student work and video performances. The application process will be explained.

    RSVP is required to attend, and the event is open to parents in-district and out of the district.

    Register now for the NVAA Open House.


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