Monthly Archives: February 2014

Falcons Fly High at Science Olympiad Practice Invitational

How successful would you be if you were responsible for maneuvering a small car with an egg attached to its front, for an undetermined distance, then parking it next to a wall… without cracking the egg?

Or bungee dropping a weighted, plastic water bottle in the attempt to lower it as close to the ground as possible without having it touch?

Students attempting these feats lie at the heart of Science Olympiad.

Rotating between test-taking stations and activities called “constructions,” hundreds of Science Olympians from 15 area schools spent this past Saturday, Feb. 22, at Allendale High School and Middle School working on events with fundamentals based in biology, chemistry, physics and earth science. With about 1200 people in attendance, including event coaches, supervisors and parents, this practice invitational was preparation for the March 29 Regionals which will take place at GVSU.



High School coach Brian Brethauer, in his 24th year in this role, praises Science Olympiad for what it offers students:

“This is a great program and from a science standpoint, this is one of the best programs out there. It covers all areas, any kid can participate and there’s a lot of cool stuff going on. A lot of these kids go on to college, a lot of them go into science because of this, a lot of them come back and help coach — and I want people to be aware that this goes one.”



For the past several years the invitational has been directed by Mrs. Candice Cooper-Greinke, who has been involved since her own children participated, and her husband Paul. The two are passionate about the opportunity that Science Olympiad provides students who may not find the field, court or pool to be a good fit.

“The Science Olympiad program is a really great way for kids who aren’t necessarily sports-oriented to have an extracurricular activity they can participate in. It’s really fun and educational,” Candice said.

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This years’ constructions at the invitational were Scrambler, Elastic Launch Glider, Boomilever, Magnetic Levitation Vehicle Test, Bungee Drop and Mission Possible. And with the possibility of state competition, and then nationals, these students know that scholarship money could be on the line, especially for engineering events.

“Science Olympiad provides opportunities for every kind of kid — from the brightest academically to the kids that are talented with hands-on skills. It’s a good chance for them to become state champions at something,” Paul added.

If you’d like to become involved in this exciting activity, the Falcon Science Olympiad team is in need of event coaches in the fields of engineering, medicine, machination and geology. Please contact Dave Erdmans at the middle school or Brian Brethauer at the high school for more information.

Categories: Allendale High School, Allendale Middle School | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

New Options Star Student: Yulexis Ruano

Allendale New Options, Yulexis Ruano

It was just four weeks ago that Yulexis Ruano left the comfortable hallways of East Kentwood and started a new chapter in Allendale at New Options High School. Just one credit short of being admitted to the high school, his personal goal of pursuing a spot on the football and baseball teams, and later a career in car mechanics and auto body repair, is propelling him to work hard and make a difference.

“Since I’ve come here, I’ve been more motivated to become something and do something with my life. No one in my family really did anything and I really want to be that person–the one who makes it,” he said.

Since his time at New Options, Yulexis has been particularly inspired by a field trip he took to the Careerline Tech Center. Once he heard that they are number one in the state, he was prompted to research the opportunity further. Seeing the facilities and learning about the practical training available opened his eyes to a field that he wasn’t interested in at all before. He’s determined to spend half his day at the tech center during his senior year to complete their auto-related programs.

“I’m seeing the future and looking forward career-wise and taking it more seriously,” Yulexis added.

Guidance counselor Marie VanFarowe glows when she mentions his name, saying she attributes his success at New Options to his personal goal of getting into Allendale High School. “Yulexis is  great student and he’s working hard at getting the credits he needs to transfer to AHS.”

To make up the credit he needs for that transfer, Yulexis is taking double the normal class load of his peers and earned a 4.0 last trimester! He hopes to spend his entire senior year at AHS so that he can graduate with the high school class. “I’m coming to the high school and I’m going to do something to better the high school. I just need a little — a little — help to push me, to motivate me to do so,” he said.

While he waits for that transfer to happen, the junior spends time on the courts as a player for the Stars, an alternative basketball team in Allendale. He is currently the only player from New Options and says he’s doing it to have fun even though it really isn’t one of his “good sports.”

Yulexis’ enthusiasm and zest for life are apparent from the moment he smiles. He already has plans for ways he’d like to get involved once he’s a Falcon — and his teachers believe he’ll make them happen. Ms. VanFarowe adds, “He’s a great kid, very polite, well mannered and respectful. I wish I had twenty Yulexis! It’ll be hard to see him go, but I’m going to be happy for him.”

Dream big, Yulexis! We believe in you!

Categories: Allendale New Options High School | Tags: | 1 Comment

High School Students Prepare for Spring Trip to Spain

Spain, Allendale High School

If you’re like a lot of West Michigan families, you may be considering spending Spring Break in a state with a little more sun and a lot less snow.

But these kids have different ideas entirely. Because their plans have more to do with passports and planes than they do with road maps and minivans. This April, these lucky students will travel with other high school Spanish students and their teachers Ms. Sult and Ms. Culp, to Spain.

The group will fly out of O’Hare International Airport on Thursday, April 3 and return home on Sunday, April 13. At $2,100 per student, the investment is sizable, though the school has been diligently offering fundraising opportunities to offset the expense. Despite the price tag, Ms. Sult says three reasons come to mind when explaining the value of this trip:

1.  It provides education on location: you can never truly duplicate an authentic experience like traveling to a new country and immersing yourself in a different culture. For kids who are serious about pursuing the language, this in invaluable. Says Cathy Culp, AHS Spanish Teacher,  “There is no better way to learn a language than to travel to a country where the language is spoken and truly immerse yourself.”

2.  It is an opportunity to experience life and foster relationships with people outside of the norm. A new country means new world views, new perspectives — and new food! More importantly, of course, is the opportunity to develop relationships with these new friends.

3.  It puts into practice what students have been studying for several years. We all know that taking tests and writing papers equip us to become proficient in a subject area, but where language is concerned, speaking it in a native setting helps to solidify new knowledge, cultural norms and accents. Ms. Sult punctuated this point when she said, “At school students are immersed in Spanish for less than 6 hours in a week.  In Spain, students will be fully immersed in the language all day, every day. Students can potentially learn more in a week living with a family in Spain than they can taking two semesters of Spanish here. As a teacher, there is no better satisfaction than seeing students successfully use what you have been working hard to teach them over 3-5 school years.” 

Allendale High School, Spain Trip

We recently had an opportunity to learn more about this unique opportunity and are pleased to share insights from Ms. Sult on the blog today:

Where did the idea for a trip come from… and has APS ever offered an international trip to its students?

This will actually be the 7th trip I have taken with students from AHS.  I had traveled with students both as a student teacher and during my first years of teaching before I came to Allendale so I knew how rewarding a trip could be.  A trip wasn’t possible during my first years at Allendale because we only offered Spanish levels 1 and 2 at the high school. Once the program grew and we were offering advanced levels, I introduced the trip opportunity. 

We took our first trip in 1998 and have taken several since then, though they have changed a bit. In the beginning, our trips consisted more of a tour together with students from other US high schools with maybe a few days of family stay. Now we have more of a true exchange program totally built around a family stay.  We connect with a specific school in Spain and we visit that school, stay with the families of students studying English there and then those students come to AHS and live with the families of the students that lived with them.  Students really have the opportunity to connect and form lasting relationships.  Most students continue to stay in contact with their Spanish host brothers and sisters and some have even gone back to visit.     

What kinds of activities do you have planned?

Students will live with a family in the city of Huelva, Spain for the whole time, giving them the opportunity to learn first hand about the culture and family life of Spain, as well as practice their Spanish in real life context.  The students will also go to school with their host brother or sister and get a first hand look at high school in Spain.  Besides sitting in on Math, science, language and history classes given in Spanish, students are often guests in the English classes. 

We will visit some important historical sites together as a group.  Christopher Columbus sailed for the Americas from the city of Palos de la Frontera which is just a few miles from Huelva, so we will go on an excursion to visit the famous Christopher Columbus sites including La Rábida Monastery, where Columbus lived while planning for his trip, and the Muelle de las Carabelas, the Harbor where he departed, which now has life-size replicas of Columbus’ ships.

We will also be going on a Full day excursion to neighboring Portugal ( Vila Real  Santo Antonio, Tavira). This is the first time we have had this opportunity on a trip. Finally, we will have the opportunity to spend a day in the capital, Madrid, before leaving to come back to the US.

“Buen viaje” to this group of adventurers! We look forward to hearing more upon your return.

Categories: Allendale High School | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Middle School Thespians Prepare for Opening Night

The incessant snow has not only produced dangerous driving conditions this winter but world class levels of cabin fever among kids and parents alike. If your family is looking for a fun activity, you’ll agree that the timing of this year’s middle school play couldn’t be more perfect!

Beginning this Thursday evening at the Ceglarek Fine Arts Center, under the direction of Shawn McMasters, 46 middle school thespians will be presenting a combination of one act plays based around these children’s stories:

  • Three Fairy Skits and a Tale
  • The Golden Goose
  • Through the Looking Glass
Allendale Fine Arts Center, Ceglarek Fine Arts Center

photo of the CFAC courtesy of Building Schools; click for link.

Mr. McMasters shared his enthusiasm for this group and what they bring to the stage. “The students always  bring wonderful ideas that add so much humor. We really try to put on shows to make people laugh, and I really think we have achieved that with this. Not a single rehearsal has gone by where I haven’t laughed right out loud with the students.  They are a talented group of young people. It is truly a delight to watch them have fun.”

While some might assume that snow or canceled practices have proved the most challenging hurdle for this team of actors, Mr. McMasters says that keeping involvement levels fair was even more difficult. In fact, making sure that everybody who wanted to be involved was able to participate was one of his reasons for selecting multiple one-act shows. Mr. McMasters said that this approach divides up the roles a bit more, allowing some students to have one larger part and others to balance out their time with two smaller roles.

photo of the CFAC courtesy of Building Schools; click for link.

The cast this year is a mix of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students, with the 6th grade class representing the majority at about twenty students participating. You’ll see most of the 6th graders bringing energy and excitement to Three Fairy Skits and a Tale. The 7th graders, about nine total, will be supporting Through the Looking Glass. Mr. McMasters notes that they have grown a lot in the past year and have enjoyed sharing their ideas during practice. The 8th graders round out the troupe, bringing strong skills, “particularly with comedic ability,” said Mr. McMasters. You’ll see many of AMS 8th graders in Through the Looking Glass and  The Golden Goose.

As we know, no production would be complete without the many helping hands of those on the crew. Their dedication to sets, props and keeping things running smoothly cannot be underestimated. “The crew has been absolutely wonderful about set design and getting things together.  They deserve so much credit, and they have a lot of talent, as well.”

The group will offer three performances for the community. We hope you’ll come out and join us!

  • Thursday, Feb. 6th at 7:00 p.m.
  • Friday, Feb 7th at 7:00 p.m.  
  • Saturday, Feb. 9th  at 12:00 noon.  

Tickets are $3.00 at the door; children under 5 are free.

Categories: Allendale Middle School | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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