The Rocket Flame

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The Battle Between Textbooks and Technology: Who will Win?

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Back in the days when schools were different, students would use textbooks and pieces of paper from their notebook for their classwork. Some schools have started to lean toward technology, instead of using paper as classwork. At James Buchanan High School, there are many students that carry a laptop from class to class and not have to worry about carrying heavy textbooks home all the time because technology has improved over the years, the teaching style of some teachers altered.


“Most of what we do in class is online,” Ms. Nicole Myers (Faculty) said. “For most of our resources, I use Google Classroom to post assignments, I will use Actively Learn as one of our reading sources, and then Membean for all of our vocab.”


For Mr. Matthew Riegsecker (Faculty), he did not have to change his teaching style as much compared to Myers.


“We try to mix things up,” Riegsecker said. “The resources I use varies from the SmartBoard to their Chromebooks, to their textbooks, simulations, notes, projects, etc.”


Technology has improved over the years. Students use technology every single day, whether or not they are in school. Technology has been something that has adapted to everyday life, and now it has been implemented in schools.


“For one thing, technology is really quick,” Myers explained. “If I have one of those spur of the moment ideas, I do not have to run around and have it printed off and copied and stapled. I can push it out from Google Classroom through their Chromebooks.”


“I think that we have a district with a 1:1 initiative where students have Chromebooks. So we are expected to embrace that and also try to implement technology as much as we can,” Riegsecker said.

When classes are using technology, the textbooks tend to be out of sight. Some teachers like the idea of being able to find the textbooks online, while others think that having them in the classroom is still just as good.


“I have one book that I looked at my first year here. I use a couple of resources from it, but anything that’s in that book I can find online at this point,” Myers said. “I don’t like that much about textbooks at this point, but I will use the textbook if I run out of ideas.”


“The textbooks have a consistency in the information that is being presented to the students,” Riegsecker said. “We can all be on the same page as far as the content they are being delivered.”

The generation that kids are growing up in is different compared to the ways of their teachers. Students, on one hand, have a better understanding of what is going on and they have adapted to the way technology is used. Some students prefer having their classwork on paper, while others like the idea of having their classwork on their Chromebooks.


“I prefer the Chromebooks over the textbooks,” Danielle Barnhart (11) explains. “You have so much more information at your fingertips as opposed to carrying and lugging around like five textbooks.”

“I like textbooks because, especially for Math and History, whenever you are using them they are right there and you can flip the pages while you are doing your homework,” said Shaelyn Kaiser (11).  “I feel like our technology can kind of be unreliable.”


As students go from grade to grade, they will have other teachers that have either similar or different teaching styles to other teachers they have had in the past years. Because teachers don’t follow the same teaching styles, students start to adapt to the way teachers teach.


“I like most of the teaching styles,” Barnhart said. “I especially like the Ag classes because they are not exactly lecture style, but instead, they are more interactive.”


“I think that my favorite teaching style is lecturing,” Kaiser said.  “I like listening to things and I tend to listen by ear, which is the way I learn the best. I prefer everything to be physically in front of me because I always know that it [textbooks] is going to be there when I need it.”


Technology plays a role in formulating our future. In the late 1900s into early 2000s, technology was not nearly as complex as what it is now. During these years, teachers were starting to see the technology beginning to develop. When Myers was in college, she did not have the same technology students at James Buchanan have now. She was not taught how to use technology in her classes. It wasn’t until she started teaching at James Buchanan when she finally started to pick up on the idea of using technology within her classroom.


“Now I know more about technology and all that I do with it and I do not know how I would ever go backwards at this point,” Myers said. “Here, we have Chromebooks and we have this and we have that and I would eventually make it all work. I will never look back because it is way better.”

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Get Future Ready: Freshmen Career Day

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The most common question you are probably going to be asked in high school: What do you want to do when you grow up? Luckily for the freshmen, they have another three years to decide, but it’s never too soon to start thinking.

For the past five years at James Buchanan, there is a day devoted to the ninth graders to learn about their different options after high school. This day is known as Career Day and it will be taking place on Tuesday, Feb. 20 this year.

“Career Day is an opportunity for all the ninth graders to be exposed to people in our area to ask questions to them about their careers,” said Mrs.Chris Shelley (Faculty) who is in charge of planning Career Day.

Before the event, freshmen have to complete a paper telling Shelley which career clusters they are interested in. They only hear from three different clusters, so what they choose is important. Each student does a list of their top five choices because sometimes some fields are more popular than others.

This day is organized into sixteen different panels each representing one of the sixteen different career clusters. Each panel is thirty minutes long and during that time freshmen are able to ask as many questions as they would like. There are two to four different speakers in each panel that are part of the same cluster, but they do not necessarily do the same job or work at the same place.

“For example in the Health Science Cluster I would have maybe a nurse and then somebody who is a receptionist,” said Shelley.

Both of those careers are in the same career cluster but are completely different jobs with different work environments.

“This is a way to expose kids to a whole variety of different careers,” said Shelley “As well as different businesses in the area.”

Having a variety of people from different careers also lets the students see what careers are available to them with or without a college level degree. Everyone person in the panels could be from a different educational level some could be right out of high school and some could have been in college for eight years to earn their degree.

Each group of speakers will have a student ambassador with them to introduce them to the ninth graders and kick off the questions. The student ambassador will ask starter questions to give the students some ideas on other questions that they might have on the careers.

“Think of questions in advance,” said Shelley when asked what advice she might have for the students coming to Career Day.

Sometimes it is not always easy to come up with questions on the spot, if you have a question with you it will get the conversation flowing quickly. The questions you bring with you may even spark a question in someone else that you may not have thought of. Career Day is to be a day of learning and thinking about the future to get the students to be able to answer the question: What do you want to do when you grow up?

The STEM session.


Filed under On Campus

Get Knowledge About College

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Preparing to go to college can be a scary and foreign thing for some students. There are many components to take into consideration when applying. For instance: “How am I going to pay for college?” or “How do I know this college is right for me?”

Do not be worried because the College Ambassadors have your back. The College Ambassadors are students at James Buchanan who can help you answer some of these questions and inform you about any options that are available to you.


“The college process can be very complicated,” said Ms. Amy Violante (Faculty). “It’s helpful for students to be able to turn to their peers about any questions they may have about financial aid or applications.”


The College Ambassadors plan events to inform about the college process even more thoroughly. Their biggest event is Decision Day, which celebrates the seniors at the end of the year. The event focuses on their next steps in life, whether it is going into the military, college, or straight into the workforce.


“Decision Day increases the college-going culture,” said Violante. “It’s nice for everyone to see what the seniors are going to do so you can get some ideas.”


Since the school year is coming to an end and the seniors are preparing to graduate, Violante selected a new group of juniors to represent the College Ambassadors. The new ambassadors consist of Kayla Noll-Bader (11), Aria Jewel Barnett (11), Alyssa Blair (11), Amber Clark (11), Madison Dorsey (11), Ella Jones (11), Mackenzie Layton (11), Cassidy Martin (11), Harley Rife (11), Owen Stoner (11), and Madison Shupp (11).

“I looked for students who had leadership experience and communication skills,” said Violante when describing the selection process of an Ambassador.


Before school on Thursdays roughly every other week, the Ambassadors will meet to discuss what they can do to help others gain knowledge about college and plan their events. During the most recent meeting, they talked about the expectations for College Ambassadors, benefits of being one,, possible activities, and goals of the program.


“My goal as a new Ambassador is to inform my classmates about the college process as best as possible,” said Jones.


If you have any questions regarding college applications, financial aid, anything else, the college ambassadors is the place to go to gain some knowledge.

To Sail or Sink?

Though the Titanic may have sunk over 100 years ago, it will be sailing once more at James Buchanan High School.

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The school’s Drama Club will be performing the musical, Titanic that originally debuted on Broadway in 1997. The Broadway performance was nominated and then later came to win five Tony Awards, including “Best Musical” and “Best Score”.


“This is not the movie Titanic’. The musical Titanic is not going to feature a Jack or Rose,” Logan Williams (11) said. “It is going to be a more about the historical values of the Titanic. We are going to be portraying real characters that lived on the Titanic and have died.”

Nearly everyone in the cast is named and is based on a real person who sailed on the Titanic.


“I play Harold bride, wireless operator with Marconi International Marine Signal Communication Company, Limited,” Williams said.


Though knowing who their character really is may help, there can be some difficulties.


“The most challenging part of performing is trying to be this character that you’re not,” Williams said. “You have to set aside yourself and you have to put on this disguise, this facade, of someone else, and you have to be that person on stage.”


Sydney Jones
Thrilled to be on board, Logan Williams (11) and Allison Collings (11) point out seagulls on the RMS Titanic.


The Drama Club has changed course in the past couple of years.


“In the past with James Buchanan High School Drama Club, I’ve been in Is He Dead, ‘Jekyll and Hyde, and a couple of Cabarets,” Williams said.


This change in direction can be correlated with the change in directors. Mr. Luke Surgeon and Mrs. Kristin Zimmerman became the directors of the Drama Club in 2015.


“He [Luke] was actually in charge the year before that for Little Women that would have been three productions ago, four years ago,” Zimmerman said. “But then the year after that, I had the opportunity to be able to do this. I said, ‘How would you like an assistant?‘ He said, ‘I think that’ll work,’ and the rest is history.”


They have worked on two productions together, and have hosted some Cabarets as a fundraiser for the Drama Club, but haven’t attempted anything like this.


“The story is such an epic, tragic story that just is really interesting to a lot of people, so that should be at the big draw for us, which is good,” Zimmerman said.


The students have put in nearly as many hours a week as sports teams in the school.


“We get nine hours of practice a week, which is crazy for something like this,” Zimmerman said. “But I think a lot of prep work goes in on students behalf outside of rehearsal too. Clearly, people work on lines and songs, not in here, or else it would not work. So it’s important that people are prepared before they come in.”


The dedication needed for the cast and crew is what makes the show come together.


“It’s definitely an undertaking for three nights, and then it’s just over,” Zimmerman said.


Not only are emotions high for the ending of the performance, but remembering the tragedy they are performing is another dismal feature.


“Once you remember that these were real people, and that this really happened to these people, that’s like a whole other aspect of it to me,” Zimmerman said. “So it’s neat to act through something that’s real, which is new for us.”


The Titanic sets sail March 16, 17, and 18 at James Buchanan High School, with Williams, Zimmerman, and the rest of the cast and crew.

Dancing the Night Away for Valentine’s Day

At the Sadie Hawkins dance, Tia Campbell (10), Victoria Hutchison (11), Mercedes Shank (11), Kristin Embly (11), and Jade Hornbaker (11) enjoy their time together.

At the Sadie Hawkins dance, Tia Campbell (10), Victoria Hutchison (11), Mercedes Shank (11), Kristin Embly (11), and Jade Hornbaker (11) enjoy their time together.

At the Sadie Hawkins dance, Tia Campbell (10), Victoria Hutchison (11), Mercedes Shank (11), Kristin Embly (11), and Jade Hornbaker (11) enjoy their time together.

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It has always been a tradition for the boy to ask the girl to the dance. However, modern times have proved to change this tradition, now it is has become common for a girl to ask a guy. It hasn’t always been this way, but a chance could arise for a girl if there was a “Sadie Hawkins Dance.” A Sadie Hawkins Dance is designed for a girl to ask the guy to the dance, but Sadie Hawkins was not originally a dance.


According to Sporcle’s blog article, Sadie Hawkins is a character from, Li’l Abner, a comic strip during the Great Depression. Sadie Hawkins was a young adult, in a fictional town called Dogpatch. Sadie was having trouble finding a husband, so her father held a race for marriage prospects. The men would run and whoever Sadie could catch would become her future husband.


This comic interested many women who did not want to marry traditionally, and choose their own husband. The comic strip features Sadie Hawkins in 1937 and the first Sadie Hawkins dance in 1938 at the University of Tennessee.

Dancing to a slow song, Chelsea Wareham (11) and Dean King (10) smile as they talk to one another.

Since it was the final Student Council-hosted dance of the year, dance chairs Kristin Embly (11) and Shaelyn Kaiser (11) decided they wanted to do something different than past years, a Sadie Hawkins Dance.


“As a dance chair you want to make each dance different and have one aspect that makes it stand out so people will want to come,” Embly said.


Embly and Kaiser then had to choose a theme for the dance to base decorations around, as well as the time of year.


“We chose Paris as the theme, because you think of love and happiness when you think of Paris,” Embly said.


It is not easy for Student Council to have a dance; it requires months of planning, making and buying decorations, creating posters, decorating the cafeteria, as well as finding chaperones.


“My favorite part about preparing for the dance is the design concept. I love to make decorations, and place them in certain areas I think will work,” Embly said. “I’ve always loved to design layout and decorations”.


Embly and Kaiser kept other students’ suggestions in mind while they were planning the dance.

“Lots of students love the idea of a Sadie Hawkins Dance,” Embly said. “We have also gotten a lot of positive feedback for the theme, as well as having food at this dance.”

Enjoying the music Erin Copenhaver (12), Izabella Fuller (10) and Samantha Mumper (11) dance and sing to the music.

Student Council planned to make it one of the best nights ever for the students, carefully planning everything from the DJ to the decorations.


“Over all, the dance went really smooth,” Student Council member, Tia Campbell (10) said. “We had a lot more people attend than we thought we were going to have.”


The Sadie Hawkins Dance took place February 10 and the student body danced the night away under the red gossamer hung from the cafeteria ceiling, with the ladies having first choice of their dates.

Filed under On Campus, Showcase

School Lunch 101

Ashley Dukehart (9), Julia Trei (9), and Brynn Taulton (9) smile as they share a funny moment with their friends.

Ashley Dukehart (9), Julia Trei (9), and Brynn Taulton (9) smile as they share a funny moment with their friends.

Ashley Dukehart (9), Julia Trei (9), and Brynn Taulton (9) smile as they share a funny moment with their friends.

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In the cafeteria, there are students in the lunch lines and at the tables. With all of the students in the cafeteria, there are many conversations going on simultaneously. As the students get in the lunch lines, the lines get longer and longer. Finally after waiting in line, students take their lunches back to their seats, and begin to devour their tray filled with goodies. It does not take long for the trays to be completely empty, but it does take time to prepare the foods that will be served on the trays.


“We normally start making lunches around 8:30 and then we are done by 10:45,” Rhonda Lyons (Staff) explained. “The lines are split up, so in between lines, we prep food for the next line. When we are low on food, I will plot it down on a record sheet and write down how many I started with and how much I will add next time.”

Staci McCulloh (Staff), Shirley Everitts (Staff), Judy Woodward (Staff), Rhonda Lyons (Staff), Diane Crowe (Staff), Julie Keefer (Staff), and Amanda Rosenberry (Staff all gather around the dirty dishes as they start cleaning up from a long day of making food.

Not only do the meals take time to make, they must also follow the guidelines that are required by the Food Service Department. Those guidelines are very thorough and contain the essentials needed in every meal.


The lunch ladies normally make the lunches, but Adam Carlson (Faculty) is the one who manages the lunch program to the way that the district wants it to run.


“Complete meals have to be under one thousand four hundred milligrams of sodium,” Carlson said. “Fats needs to be less than 35% of calories, 80% of our offerings have to be whole-grain rich, with the exception of our pizza doughs, and vegetables are contained in every school-meal lunch.”


“Basically what I do is I plans out the menus, plan the schedule for the staff, implement the recipes needed in the lunches, and provide culinary training.” Carlson said. “I try to keep up with trends in the food service. I usually read Food Service Director Magazines and find some ideas in there. Once I find some ideas, I will try to add them to our school.”


Carlson tries to come up with ideas of his own, but he is always open to suggestions made by students who have their own thoughts on what they would like to see on the menu.


“I like the fish taco because it is really healthy and tastes really good,” said Gabe Bard (11). “One thing that I would like to see on the menu would be grilled chicken. Grilled chicken is a healthy food and I believe the kids at JB should eat healthy. Plus, who doesn’t like grilled chicken?”


”I like the jacked-up fries because it is very creative,” said Mason Younker (10). ”It’s like nachos and fries mixed together. I think that our school has a bunch of good choices, but if I had to pick one thing to be added to the lunch menu, then it would be steak since steak is a good source of protein.”


In order to have school lunches, we have to have money. “On estimate, the Food Service Department spends around $600,000 to feed students in one school year.” said Carlson. “In one school year, we will make a little over $1,000,000 in revenue.”


The school cafeteria is where people convene together and socialize with their peers. During lunch, it is the one place where students and staff can enjoy themselves.


“I like my job. I started at the middle school only working four hours a day,” Lyons said. “Eventually, I came up here and now instead of working four hours a day, I have a full-time position being the kitchen manager.”

My favorite thing about working as a lunch lady is probably the kids. It is nice to see the students and interact with them at this age.”

— Rhonda Lyons

World Trade at James Buchanan

In Mr. Lum's Economics class, Dakota Blair (12), Sierra Suffecool (12), and Sarah Hoffeditz (12) are working together to plan their next purchase.

In Mr. Lum's Economics class, Dakota Blair (12), Sierra Suffecool (12), and Sarah Hoffeditz (12) are working together to plan their next purchase.

In Mr. Lum's Economics class, Dakota Blair (12), Sierra Suffecool (12), and Sarah Hoffeditz (12) are working together to plan their next purchase.

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The simulation that continues to thrill James Buchanan Economics students was created 42 years ago while Mr. John Lum (Faculty) was a student teacher. World Trade Simulation has evolved over the year to what it is today, teaching students how a third-world country develops.


“I was trying to do something innovative and different,” Lum said. “I wanted to do something unusual so I put together this game.”


He found a lot of success in playing the game with his students. He has continued to play it for the past four decades and will continue in the future.  


“It’s original, in fact some of the currency we use, the dollar bills are the same ones from 42 years ago,” Lum said.


The aspect of the game continues, but he has had to evolve the game to match the times.


“Every year I had students write a paper and one of the questions was, ‘How would you improve the game?’’ Lum said. “Some of the improvements came from that, some came from things I was noticing after playing the game.”


He has began facing a new obstacle with the game, one he has not faced before.


“Students now are so much more game-savvy because of playing online,” Lum said. “It’s harder to keep their attention with it.”


Lum has always tried to make his game better and better each year, always making improvements. The business opportunities a country can receive were not always present in the game. More recently, Lum added war to the game, as well, to add more elements.


The game, however, can be very complex and even random. He explained it may be difficult to implement it online due to this.


“It is exciting. While you’re trying to prepare for what is to come, you also are trying to grow,” Lum said.


The game is played by students that are split up into teams, with three or four people to a team. Lum tells his students to choose any African country they would like. The country they choose will be the country they represent in the simulation. The “countries” will buy certain developments that may be found in real life. Countries can buy education, travel resources, fishing resources, and public buildings that would normally be useful. The more of these resources the country has, the more developed it becomes. When a country buys these resources, they also get money during a pay round. Every three rounds, each country receives money to continue growing. The money comes from resources they have purchased throughout the game. The game does not just consist of buying resources, though; there are also many business opportunities and hurdles that Lum throws at each country.


Some of the business opportunities included can be beneficial, like the Toyota Car Factory. A dice is rolled to choose a team at random, and whichever team is chosen Lum gives a certain amount of money to allow a car factory to be built. The factory is able to give the country money throughout the rest of the game, as well.


However, there are also bad business opportunities. Lum rolls the dice again he gives the chosen team $200,000 to store toxic waste. This opportunity results in a toxic waste spill a couple rounds later and costs the country more money than they received.


Three countrie’s folders and the dice Mr. Lum (faculty) uses to give a fair chance to each team during business opportunities and war.

Lum also allows countries to buy natural disaster insurance. In case  a natural disaster were to happen to your country, which is decided by what team is rolled on the dice, the insurance saves you from having to pay for damage. Some natural disasters that happen are forest fires, floods, and droughts.


Countries also can create treaties with one another, because there is also a possibility of war. Countries can buy weapons to accumulate battle strengths. Battle strengths are used if a country does go to war. Whatever side has the most battle strengths has a bigger possibility of winning.


He also gives incentive when playing the game.


“The object of the game is to have the highest market value,” Lum said. “The stock money they produce, plus whatever cash they have, plus three times their last pay round.”


There is not just one way to win the game, nor is there a set way to win.

“No two classes end up the same. Because of the different variances of the game, each winner can win a different way,” Lum said. “People have used war to win, people have used their stock to win, others have used their investments.”


While the main lesson was to show developments of these poor countries, he found the game taught more valuable lessons students could use in the future.


“It teaches negotiating skills, working as a team with new people, budgeting skills, thinking into the future, and looking at value on what to invest in,” Lum said.


He has bigger plans for the simulation, as well: he would like to put it online for others to play and enjoy.


“I have been talking to a former student here who is into graphic and game design, and we would like to put it online,” Lum said.


He has found success in his game, and enjoys teaching it. Students will remember it years to come and the lessons they have learned, whether it was how exciting the game was or skills they use in the future.


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Baking, Building, and Bonding

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Two of the gingerbread structures, a truck and log cabin, sit finished after the designing and planning.

Houses are covered in a dusting of soft, white snow around the neighborhood while icicles hang from the roof so elegantly that only a steady hand could have produced them. Gingerbread fills the air with an intoxicating aroma. Gum drops line the path to the front door that you have to twist a peppermint to- Wait, what? Are we talking about a gingerbread house here?  

Mrs. Chambers-Matulevich (Faculty) 3D Design class combined with Mrs. Horst’s (Faculty) Life Skills class to create gingerbread structures together. Taking up their time before winter bre

As they glue the pieces together with icing, Ashton Heckman(9) and Austin Shaffer(9) wait patiently for the roof of their log cabin to stick together.

ak, the two classes formed multiple groups of students from both classes to create the structure of their desire. While the 3D Design class worked on the design, the

Life Skills class baked and gathered the ingredients.

One of Chambers’ students in her 3D Design class gave her the idea for this project.

“I was like, gingerbread, great idea!” she said. “How are we going to accomplish that? I don’t have an oven.”

From there, Chambers-Matulevich approached Horst, who has an oven, and Horst loved the idea. Together, the two came up with the details to incorporate the skills taught in both classes to create the educational project.

Putting the pieces together of their train and police car, Chance Buchanan (9), Tristen McFadden(9), and Dustin Goshorn(11) concentrate on gluing their gingerbread together.

While the students look forward to the fun of building, designing, and probably nibbling on the supplies, Chambers-Matulevich sees it more as a life lesson.

“I think it’s just really great experience. Not only for her students, but for my students as well,” said Chambers-Matulevich. “You know, you have to communicate with lots of different people.”

Going away from the traditional gingerbread house, the students have decided to use the gingerbread in different forms.

“There’s castles, mansions, trucks, trains, police cars, train stations, trees, a cabin,” said Chambers.

Designing their gingerbread proved difficult at times for the students.

“I think the main challenge is just finding a simple enough pattern that we can make it in the time we have,” said Emily Palmerchuck (11), whose group made a pickup truck. “The original design we had had peppermint wheels, but the

peppermints we can find around here aren’t big enough, so we changed that to the colorful swirling lollipops.”

Currently, designing has been a trouble for the students, but there are worries for what also lies ahead when it comes to building.

“I’m really nervous about the building because I’ve never built a gingerbread house, and part of me can see like giant catastrophes ending in tears,” said Chambers-Matulevich. “I’m hoping it doesn’t go that way, but I am mildly afraid that it could be a catastrophe.”

Enjoying the less stressful part of building their gingerbread house, Alexis Crabtree (10) and Edward Leevy (9) put the gumdrops on the roof.

Even the students themselves are concerned about their structures holding up with the designs that they have made.

“The fact that we have to lift it off the ground with just candy is gonna be interesting, and I think the biggest thing with gingerbread houses is making sure the icing will dry and stick together,” said Palmerchuck.

Going along with the concerns for the building, one of Palmerchuck’s group members also has apprehensions with the design.

“The hood is sorta slanted,” said Adam Cramer (11). “The front piece is too short, and there is gonna be a gap in between the windshield and the roof.”

Although the students and teachers were worried about the outcome of the 3D Design and Life Skills classes gingerbread creations, they used loads of icing and plenty of decorations to achieve their goals. Castles, police cars, and log cabins alike, are all covered in gum drops and peppermints waiting for Christmas day to arrive. 

Filed under On Campus

Spreading the Christmas Cheer

Making the Difference

Olivia Harmon (11) is decorating her Appomattox student's bag for Elf on the Shelf.

Olivia Harmon (11) is decorating her Appomattox student's bag for Elf on the Shelf.

Olivia Harmon (11) is decorating her Appomattox student's bag for Elf on the Shelf.

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“Tis the season to be jolly.”  We hear that so much this time of year.  However, what does this season actually mean to you?  Does it mean presents, food, lights, and decorations?  


    To the James Buchanan High School Tri-M members it means something different.  To them this is the season to give back to the elementary school students.  They are able to do this through Elf on the Shelf with a kindergarten class at Appomattox Elementary School.  

Rebecca O’Brien, daughter of Deike, is the teacher of the class at Appomattox where Tri-M sends the letters and goodies.  Even though Deike and her family had everything under control she decided to hand the baton to another group.

“Our family took upon her [Rebecca O’Brien] class… so we wrote letters to the kids, we were in contact with them, we even followed them throughout the year a little bit,” said Band Director and Tri-M advisorMrs. Sheryl Deike (Faculty)

Deike said, “I presented it to Tri-M and we decided to take two classes.”


Tri-M is a National Honor Society for musically-inclined students.  This year the club has 27 students.  Each member had a specific student to whom they wrote and sent presents.

“She said that they just sat and cried because the way these kids just took to the letters that you guys wrote…” said Deike, “it was so cool because things that you, that the kids had written to their kids unbeknownst how fitting it was.”

Each year the letters are written in the perspective of their Elf, whose name was Chippy.  The letters contain words of encouragement to the children.  The notes are handwritten by the Tri-M students themselves and were sent December 12.  The goodie bags containing erasers, pencils, crayons, coloring books, and different kinds of snacks were sent out Dec. 15 to 22.  Each club member was in charge of bringing these items in for their student.  This year they were only given a few days to get these gifts for the children.

“We should get the names 

of the kids sooner so we have more time to work on it.” said Kierstyn Martin (12).

Martin, the president of Tri-M, hopes that next year the members will have more time to work on this so that the elementary students can have an even better Elf on the Shelf.  She enjoys being able to know that these elementary school children can get these gifts around Christmas time.  The Tri-M members don’t know the backgrounds of the students so they try to make this a fun, memorable event for the children.

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Investigate the Specifics About Forensics

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Just imagine, you are the first one being called to the crime scene, with nobody to tell you what actually happened, you have to figure it out for yourself. Examining the blood splatters, collecting fingerprints, assembling hair samples, and analyzing the fibers, it is up to you to put the pieces together. Forensic science is one of the vital tools used in finding the truth to any situation.


“Forensics is a hands-on class that uses different scientific lab techniques to investigate evidence found at a crime scene,” says James Buchanan Forensics teacher Mrs. Emily Poffenberger (Faculty).


Forensic science is a combination of all different kinds of science including: Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. There is a lot of Chemistry in forensics because you are looking into non-biological evidence found at a crime scene. An example of this would be drug toxicology. According to, a toxicology screen is put into place to test the approximate amount and type of legal or illegal drugs that the person/suspect has taken.  


Biology also shares an important part in forensics because it examines the smaller things like blood, saliva, and hair. This is important because it can determine the DNA structure of the suspect or even the DNA that is on other evidence.

Physics is included in Forensics in terms of gun ballistics, fluid dynamics, vehicle collisions, and finding out heights people fell from. Basically, this helps to figure out what happened to a victim.

“The most challenging part (about forensics) is that you have to be very detail-oriented and you have to be very patient with your observations,” said Evan West (11), who takes forensics. “In a few labs such as fingerprinting and blood analysis, you have to make sure you really pay attention and give the most accurate details you can.”

Details are essential when it comes to being a forensic scientist. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences  stresses “because the work of a forensic scientist is intended to be used in court and because scientific evidence can be very powerful, the forensic scientist must be accurate, methodical, detailed, and, above all, unbiased. The ability to keep detailed notes and to write clear, concise, and accurate reports is vital.”

Details and scientific evidence are what can make a court full of judges and the jury, go in favor, or go against the accused.


Some of the fields that one can get into using Forensics include, “Crime scene investigator, anyone in law enforcement, pathologist, or a psychologist,” ”

— Poffenberger

With getting a degree in Biology, Poffenberger took all the sciences required to teach general science. By passing her Praxis exam, it allowed her to teach any general science course. Poffenberger keeps up to date with all the new discoveries and technologies with updated textbooks and articles she reads online.

“After taking the class and learning about all the different types of forensic scientists, it helped me realize that this is a field I’m very interested in,” said Emily Gipe (11) about her future. “Out of the many types of careers in this field, I’m looking towards criminology, which is the study of what makes people commit the crimes they do and their motives for the crime. Basically, looking more into the mind of a criminal.”


The Forensics class mostly involves completing labs and discussing scenarios. One scenario that the class takes part in entails looking at a purse given by the teacher with evidence and clues of who committed the crime. It is then the students job to piece the evidence together, then analyze the suspects with certain information given. These types of projects allows the students to act like a real forensic scientist.


“Right now we are doing a lab about blood splatter,” said student Madison Hann (11). “We are dropping liquid at different heights by ten centimeters. We also read case studies about real crimes that have happened and we do a lot of questions to go with them.”


From the classroom to a crime scene, the Forensics class is learning how to do it all.


“I would especially suggest this class to anyone interested in forensic science in their future,” said Gipe. “It really allows you to actually experience what real forensic scientists do.”


Filed under News, On Campus

Freshmen Royalty

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Every year the high school welcomes a group of freshmen. Each class must nominate class officers to be in charge of fundraising and planning events for their class. They remain officers throughout their high school career. Recently, the class of 2021 voted for the individuals who they wanted to fulfill these positions.


Students can run for the positions of President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. This year’s President is Jackson Dorty (9), Vice President is Meredith Iverson (9), Secretary is Hunter Scofield (9) and Treasurer is Justyce Ryder (9). The class advisors are Ms. Nicole Myers (Faculty) and Ms. Danielle Simchick (Faculty).


The candidates used different tactics to campaign in order to persuade classmates to vote for them rather than the other opponents that were running for the same position.


“Meredith and I “ran” together.” said Dorty, “We posted pictures and tried to get people to vote for us. “


They used social media like Snapchat in order reach many students in the school, and to draw in voters. Supporters of Dorty and Iverson shared their campaigns on Snapchat. Then like a chain reaction, their campaign was spread to the entire school.


“I have never ran for a student officer position before and it can kind of get stressful during the election because you don’t know if you’re ahead of your opponent or if you are trailing your opponent.” said Scofield.


The candidates worked together to rack up votes from their fellow classmates. However, the competition was easy for some and more intense for others. Some had to use their best campaign skills to try to out beat their opponents to win their position as an officer.


“It was definitely not easy, but I applaud my competitors for giving it their all.” Iverson said.


On the other hand, some claim they had an easier fight than others.


“I will say that it was not as tough as I thought it would be, but I’m happy that I stayed with it and became the secretary for the class of 2021” said Scofield.


A total of 10 students ran in the election.


When they are in office each person has a specific role that they play. Each officer does different jobs but they have to meet in the middle sometimes to get the task at hand completed.


The president is in charge of running meetings and will sometimes talk to the whole class about fundraisers and other events. The vice president supports the president, helps make decisions, and helps run meetings. The secretary records and takes notes during the meetings. The treasurer signs all withdrawal and deposit forms, collects and counts fundraiser funds, and writes receipts for cash payment that they have received.


Considering these tasks, what drove each officer to run for their position? They all have a reason on why they accepted the challenge of being a class officer.


“I really wanted to make sure that our class was set off on a good foot and everything went well,” said Iverson.


Some of the officers also are involved in activities that made them more fitting for the jobs that they must do as an officer.


“I thought the things I had to do as a secretary was a perfect position for me because with me being in Boy Scouts, I do most of the stuff that my position asks me to do,” said Scofield.


The team of officers are focused on making important decisions to benefit the future of the Class of 2021. The officers have many plans to help the class succeed. They must focus on raising enough money to have a good junior-sponsored prom and senior class trip.


“My plan is to hopefully help our class’ high school years to be memorable and fun, but educational,” said Ryder, “My goal is to have our class really push with the fundraisers so we are able to do more with our dances and/or senior trip.”


With difficult decision-making comes difficulties with coming to a consensus. The officers must not only try to agree with each other but also compromise with the entire Class of 2021. The advisors also help guide them in the right direction.


The Class of 2021 has already begun to start their journey to reach their goals. They just finished their Sunnyway Pretzel Sandwich fundraiser. As a whole, the class raised $2,337 from this fundraiser.


Each member will gain more experience as they go from freshmen to seniors in their officer positions. This is just the beginning for the freshman class, and they hope to make it a good four years by putting their best foot forward.

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Environment, Education, and Envirothon

Understanding JB’s environmental club: Envirothon

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It’s found all over Pennsylvania and throughout the world and it’s here in our school. For over 35 years at least five students have represented James Buchanan High School each year by competing in Envirothon, a competitive program teaching students about natural resources and environmental sciences.


Every year on the first Tuesday in May, James Buchanan sends one or two teams of five to Cowan’s Gap to compete against other schools at the local level. From there if a team wins the local-level, they move on to the state-level, and from there they compete at a national level, which includes several international countries.


The teams work together to complete five different tests on each area of the environment, the areas of the environment being soils and land use, aquatics, wildlife, forestry, and a current popular issue in the environment.  


Each team rotates through five stations (one station for each topic), and they have thirty minutes to complete each station. The teams have to answer or solve questions varying from identifying wildlife pelts and bird songs to measuring the height and width of a tree.


Some may think knowing all this random information may not be important, but for the people of Envirothon, there is more behind the melody of a certain bird whistle.


“Exposure to nature and seeing how humans impact the natural world provide invaluable lessons for understanding ecosystems and our environment,” states Pennsylvania Envirothon on their website as they describe the purpose to Envirothon.


This club teaches students almost every little detail about the environment such as managing watersheds, finding sources of pollution, conserving habitats, identifying animal populations, evaluating landforms, or knowing soils that affect agriculture and development areas.  


“It’s applicable to a lot of fields. There may be students interested in going to be a game commission officer or wildlife biologist,” said Mrs. Jenna Ross (Faculty), the advisor for James Buchanan’s Envirothon. “So it’s an introduction to what’s in some of those careers.”


Ross has been leading the Envirothon for the past five years and is looking forward to bringing a team again this year.


Many members join the team to further enhance their knowledge in a career field they may want to pursue.


“I want to be a civil engineer and specialize in the environment; I want to know how roads and buildings impact the environment,” said Logan Rockwell (12), explaining how Envirothon is helpful in his career of choice.


This is the second year Rockwell has participated in Envirothon and is hoping to win this year’s competition.


Starting after Christmas, Envirothon members get together two times a week to practice and study everything they might need to know for the big day. Sometimes they might review with Kahoot or go outside to measure the diameter of a tree. Much of what they practice is a review since many of Envirothon members partake in wildlife classes that teach these topics.


This year the members of Envirothon are Brady Mickley (12), Logan Rockwell (12), David Clopper (11) and Alec Urban (10). Anyone interested in following a career path in the environment or is really interested in the environment is welcomed to join.


For what seems like a small club, Envirothon is packed with opportunities to help further students in learning about the environment and the natural world around them.

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