The Rocket Flame

Puerto Rican Paradise

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Puerto Rican Paradise

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After two years of planning, a group of 16 students were ready to begin their six-day journey in Puerto Rico that included snorkeling, hiking, ziplining, touring the capitol, kayaking in a bioluminescent bay, and eating lots of beans.

This was the first trip Ms. Danielle Simchick (Faculty) organized and planned on her own with her students. Ms. Danielle Fox (Faculty) and Mrs. Marie Donahoe (Faculty) accompanied her. Sign-ups began in the Fall of 2017, where 16 students decided to participate in this experience. With two years of planning and fundraising, June 18, 2019 was the day the group of students and faculty would start their travels after saying goodbye to their families and boarding a bus to BWI. 

To prepare for this big trip, students made lots of packing lists and learned about all the places they would be visiting. It is crucial to know the background of all the places that they were visiting.

“It was a little nerve-racking at first, but then after the first day everybody got really comfortable,” said Simchick. 

After the group made it to the airport, they made their way to the plane for the four-hour flight straight to San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

“The flight was really fun,” said Colby Starr. “It was some of our first time on a plane together.”

After landing, they were picked up by their tour guide on a bus after claiming all their baggage. The students started to experience the hot and humid weather of Puerto Rico, so they stopped at a local beach near the airport and enjoyed a couple of hours in the water before heading to the hotel.

The first full day of Puerto Rico was mostly all on foot. The first stop of the day was zip

lining and hiking. The rest of the day consisted of the students touring San Juan with a tour guide. 

All of the faculty and students gather together for a picture in front of the La Fortaleza in San Juan.

Three more groups accompanied JB on this trip: groups from Kansas, Virgina, and Wisconsin, which made a full bus. Between sightseeing and other activities, the students spent a lot of time getting to know the other groups. 

“My favorite part about the trip was snorkeling,” said Starr (11).

The next day was dedicated to riding a boat out to a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico. Students spent their time swimming, paddleboarding, and eating lots of food. After some time, a tour guide took all the students out farther in the ocean to snorkel. Most students said was their favorite part was seeing the sea turtles, stingrays, and puffer fish. 

Later that night, on the way home the last stop of the night was to a bioluminescent bay in Vieques. A bioluminescent bay is a bay that has tiny organisms that will light up at night, causing the water to turn bright blue, and students were able to kayak through it.

 

While touring San Juan, the group takes a picture at one of the pit stops.

After all the water and hiking days, the rest of the trip was spent touring Puerto Rico in San Juan and Ponce. The last day was traveling to Ponce and staying in a new hotel for the night. 

“This experience taught the students how to travel, how to navigate through an airport, how to be on time, how to pack, how to speak and practice Spanish, and most importantly how to be flexible and go with the flow,” said Simchick. 

Even though there was a set schedule, the students learned how to be open to things changing, as well. 

Once the time came on the sixth day, everyone got up and did a little more touring before getting on the bus to head home. Their flight home was a layover, so their first stop was in Orlando for a couple hours before they would make it to BWI. By that time, the students were anxious to be back home and in Mercersburg. 

Late that night after making it to the airport and onto the bus home, the students arrived in the middle of the night with welcoming friends and families waiting upon their arrival. 

With lots of pictures and new friendships, the students will always remember this experience and all hope to do it again with Simchick next year.

October Festivities

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October Festivities

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October Festivities

Freshmen Royalty

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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.

Foreign Exchange(d) Club

Why the Gap Year for the Club Came to be

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Foreign Exchange(d) Club

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Everything has been the same in the James Buchanan district. Everything, except the disappearance of an organization and the new faces we receive every year.

 

The James Buchanan Foreign Exchange Club has been a way for the students and staff to experience diverse cultures and people from around the world. Each year, the school typically receives a few exchange students who come from all over the globe to attend school and live in the small town of Mercersburg.

 

But when students walked in the doors this semester, they noticed the absence of these faces.

 

“The Foreign Exchange Club is not going to be active this year due to the lack of exchange students in our district,” Ms. Danielle Simchick, (Faculty), the advisor to the club, originally stated.

 

Simchick had plans to continue the club, even without the exchange students, but that plan had fallen through.

“We initially were going to work with a former exchange student, Marianna Davidova, this year,” Simchick said.  “Marianna is an Armenian exchange student who attended James Buchanan in 2015-2016, who is now attending Wilson College for four years.”

Davidova was unable to fulfill the duties required to participate in the club, so Simchick decided it would be best to make the club inactive. This was the plan until Mid-October when the school got news that there would be a new foreign exchange student.

“His name is Fernando, and he comes from Mexico,” Sarah Hoffeditz (12), President, informed.

 

Hoffeditz did not want the club to take the gap year and had her own intentions for the exchange students.

 

“I was disappointed because I was looking forward to meeting new exchange students,” Hoffeditz states, “My plans were to show the exchange students the way of America and go on trips with them.”

 

She then found out the Club was reinstated around the same time other students began to.

 

“It was the very beginning of this week. Simchick sent out a text telling us about the new exchange student,” Hoffeditz said. “It was a nice surprise to add to my senior year.”

 

As the Club regains its footing, Hoffeditz recommends students should meet the foreign exchange student and be a part of the club.

 

“Do it. You get to meet amazing people, whether they are the exchange students or people within the club,” Hoffeditz said, “You get to be apart of their lives, and they will really cherish that. You get a friend and a new adventure by being apart of the club. “


The Club has been selling water bottles in room 117 and is making monthly deposits to raise money for Club expenses while hoping to boost their participation for the year.

The Seating That Transforms the Classroom

From the classroom to Starbucks, teachers are changing the classroom atmosphere, by personalizing the classroom seating structure for each child.

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The Seating That Transforms the Classroom

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Myer’s classroom set-up of long tables, ottoman cubes, and the cushions corner.


Teachers all over the United States are beginning to make a change in the way classroom seating operates. From standing desks to yoga balls, the classroom has begun to operate as a Starbucks in the way seating is personalized for students. Flexible seating has become a huge craze for teachers across the country, allowing each student to choose their own seating to learn.

 

This year English teacher Ms. Nicole Myers, faculty, is the first to implement full-on flexible seating in her classroom. Along with her, Spanish teacher, Ms. Danielle Simchick,  and Art teacher, Ms. Kayla Chambers have also began to add their own flexible seating ideas to their classrooms. 

It is talked about how important it is in the elementary levels promoting, movability, being versatile as a teacher, how it allows kids to have additional choices.”

— Ms. Nicole Myers

“It is talked about how important it is in the elementary levels promoting, movability, being versatile as a teacher, how it allows kids to have additional choices,” said Myers.  “So I thought as much as that is an elementary thing it can be a middle school and high school thing. ”

 

Myers explains how she had to make some changes to make it more age appropriate for students in middle school and high school.

 

Myer’s classroom set-up of high-top tables and four chair table.

“ I had to look for options that would work for those bigger individuals.” Myers said.

 

This led her to choose options like the high-top tables, low-top tables, and lawn chairs rather than options that would be more fitting for smaller children.

 

Making the classroom student-centered, also raises the question, “Can students handle it?”  It is believed students will become disruptive when given the chance to sit on structures, like the yoga balls.

 

Myer’s classroom set-up of yoga balls and fabric covered pool noodles.

“They’re still fifteen, they still want to sit with their friends. If they find a chance to be distracted they take it. They get it some days, and I take it away somedays.” Myers said . “What it does for me to take it away is make it that much more of an award. They take it and make good choices with it.” Myers explained.

Many teachers adopt this new method of the classroom because each student is different in the way they learn. It can be difficult to accommodate every student, but this type of seating can allow each student to sit at a different structure each day depending on what is best for them.

 

“I have had students say I really do not like this, I want this instead, ” said Myers. “And that is what it is for.”

 

The students have alternative seating arrangements, and allowing them to choose what they enjoy and don’t enjoy, helping the student be comfortable in their own learning environment.  Like Starbucks, the classroom can allow students to work comfortably work alone or in groups.

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