Excited students attend Drama Workshop

Each year, Manchester-Essex High School competes in an annual competition called Drama Festival. In preparation for this, as well as other shows put on by the school, English teacher Elizabeth Edgerton works with students weekly in a drama workshop.

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Junior learns sign language at Beverly School for the Deaf

Sarah Beckmann photo

 

  By Sarah Beckmann

  Imagine a life without sound. Imagine having to communicate with people only by certain hand movements and other body language.

  Junior Evanthia Boling is currently learning to do just that. She’s been taking American Sign Language classes at Beverly School for the Deaf since the summer.

  Boling has already taken the beginner’s class, in which she learned “basic stuff, like the alphabet, some numbers, a few little signs,” and now she is in a more advanced and conversational course.

  Although no deaf people are in her class, most of the other students attend these classes because they might need hearing aids or will eventually become deaf in the future.

  “I’m interested in special education, and I do a lot of volunteer work with [special-needs] children, many of which are non-verbal,” Boling said, concerning her motive for taking these classes.

  “Knowing some ASL has already proven to be a very valuable resource for me,” she said.

  Biology teacher Maria Burgess, who majored in communication disorders as an undergraduate at Pennsylvania State, commented on Boling’s journey into the world of sign language.

  “The signs are pretty simple to learn,” Burgess said. She also advised Boling to join a group of people to speak sign language together and practice.

  “Another thing that I think might be good for her is to try to teach somebody [sign language], because when she does it and has to explain it, [she] internalizes it a little bit better,” Burgess said.

  Not only does Boling learn to physically speak the language but learns also about the culture behind it, for example, how and when to approach a deaf person.

  Unlike Spanish or French, or even English, the past and future tenses of sign language are “very basic—you don’t use subjunctive,” she said with a laugh.

  “I think it will absolutely help her,” teaching assistant Donna McKay said, having taught a deaf child in a different school.

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Negatives of homework policy

  By Rebecca Even

  Established at the end of last year, the new homework policy, instead of encouraging good working habits and diligence, only fosters stress and dishonesty. As students grow older and their workload increases, homework is often a huge source of pressure in their lives.

  Activities outside of school, such as sports, drama, and jobs, are big parts of many students’ lives. However, these extracurricular activities can seriously detract from their studying time.

  Even the most devoted of students are sometimes overwhelmed with work and are forced to prioritize. However, picking the most important homework assignments to complete and leaving the rest for later is no longer an option.

  When freshmen and sophomores are unable to complete their homework, either due to a busy schedule or an overload of work, they are forced to either resign themselves to the consequence of not having their homework- an office detention and a low grade- to do the work hurriedly and incompletely, or to find another person off of whom they can copy.

  Many students, unwilling to receive a detention or a bad grade, choose either the second or third option. Because of this fact, homework is no longer achieving its goal: to help students better understand material and enrich their understanding of the subject. If work is done hurriedly and without effort, students aren’t absorbing useful information. Instead, they are simply rushing through the work, not taking the amount of time necessary and therefore not learning as effectively. By mindlessly copying other students’ work, they are moving even further away from this goal. The work that they pass in is not their own, which fosters habits of plagiarism and other forms of cheating.

  While the goal of this policy is to help students to develop time management skills and to encourage them to complete their homework, the policy has failed to achieve these things. The threat of an office detention hangs over the heads of freshmen and sophomores, adding more stress to their already busy lives. To avoid this consequence, many students cheat, building in high school a bad habit that can be present throughout their lives. Instead of creating lifelong habits of time management and diligence, the new homework policy only cultivates dishonesty and stress.

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Art student creates dress out of grass, rope

  For the month of October, a typical mixed media class wasn’t much different from what someone would see on the television show “Project Runway.”

  Teacher Marion Powers assigned students to create articles of clothing using unconventional or recycled materials.

  Junior Julia Paccone surpassed expectations with her mini dress constructed from rope, a rug mat, wire hangers and sea grass, according to Powers.

  “I had no idea such a beautiful dress could be made out of those materials,” junior mixed media student Hannah Parker said.

  Paccone was inspired by the sea grass plant in front of her house and rough rope she found at the hard-ware store to create her dress.

  “The contrast between the coarse rope and the fluffy plant is the piece’s strength,” Powers said.

  Paccone described the process: “I weaved and braided the rope to make the top then layered and glued the sea grass to the rug mat to make the skirt.”

  The dress took her roughly a month to complete.

  “I would definitely wear it if it wasn’t so itchy,” Paccone said.

  Powers further praised Paccone for her hard work. “It’s not your typical high school project. There’s no question this is college level work. It could get her into any art school,” Powers said.

  The monochromatic dress is “a work of art in texture,” Powers said, “The vision, the craftsmanship, everything was executed so well.”

  Paccone plans to bring her dress to National Portfolio Day in Boston to have it, as well as her other artwork, critiqued by portfolio judges.

  She will also submit a picture of the dress to the Boston Globe art contest.

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Ellie Goulding’s album ‘Halcyon’ exceeds expectations

By Hannah Riordan 

 Ellie Goulding’s highly anticipated sophomore album “Halcyon” lives up to its name and embarks from her debut in a new, more artistic direction. Goulding is famous for her electro-packed song, “Lights”, which reached No. 1 on the Top 40 charts back in 2010.

  Many of “Halcyon’s” songs were leaked before its official release, but the album as a whole presents a cohesive collection of emotional confessions and musical innovations.

 The album’s single, “Anything Could Happen”, is upbeat and euphoric. Goulding’s voice is used as a riff throughout, and the chorus explodes with power as she sings the melody and harmonizes with herself, inviting the listener to enjoy many layers of sound.

  Piano ballads like “I Know You Care” and “Explosions” work well and lend the album some diversity from her usual formula of bass and soaring vocals.

  “Needing somebody and you’ve learned, It’s okay to be afraid,” Goulding croons in the chorus of “Explosions,” an emotional song about love and loss.

  “I Need Your Love,” a bonus track and collaboration with electronic producer Calvin Harris, is extremely satisfying. The mix of a strong electronic hook and catchy melody sung by Goulding is a winner.

  While ballads and anthems are aplenty, some songs strike a balance and fall somewhere in the middle.

  “In My City” starts out slow and picks up in the pre-chorus, where Goulding sings, “But you gave me wings and I used them, I used them, I used them on my youth.”

  Many of Goulding’s tracks are impressively haunting, while others are warm and vibrant. This contrast is even presented in the same song. “Only You” starts out bare and evocative, but by the chorus is a perfect model of Goulding’s so-called sparkly style.

  The title track perfectly embodies its name. A halcyon is an idyllically happy and peaceful period; the song’s subtly strummed guitar and blissful harmonies are an exact parallel.

  “It’s gonna be better,” Goulding echoes throughout the chorus of “Halcyon.” Perhaps this is a reference to what she hopes to produce in her future, but fans should already be thrilled with her first two studio albums.

  “Halcyon’s” lyrical and sonic diversity is outstanding, and fans and critics alike won’t be disappointed.

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STAFF EDITORIAL: Pledge of Allegiance teaches moral values to students

By Fiona Davis

Students across the country regardless of geographic location, race, or economic background are connected by one essential American tradition: saying the Pledge of Allegiance each morning at school.   

  The pledge is not to be taken lightly; schools have a responsibility to convey the seriousness of the commitment to the nation students make when saying the pledge.

  While individuals can make the choice not to say the pledge, schools must honor their responsibility to students by always allowing for the proper opportunities to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

  The announcement system here has hindered students’ ability to say and respect the Pledge of Allegiance and moment of silence. The administration holds the valid opinion that most students are in class before the second bell, and teachers can begin class quickly without interruptions if the pledge and announcements occur before the bell.

  However, because the announcements occur before the school day officially begins, many students are still in the hallways during the pledge. Students also interrupt the moment of silence when entering a classroom. Often times, teachers are not even present in the classroom when the announcements come on.

  This loose attitude towards the pledge creates an environment where students do not appreciate the significance of the pledge and where students only mumble or remain preoccupied by other tasks during the pledge.

  Saying the pledge should be part of the regular school day in order to give students an understanding of the important moral values of loyalty and unity the pledge conveys. The pledge also has educational value, teaching respect and acceptance of the beliefs of others as well as confidence.

  If the pledge is not part of the regular school day, students are less inclined to take these values seriously.

  Though having the announcements as part of the school day may cut into class time, sacrificing the pledge for one extra minute of class is not worth the cost to student’s moral education. If including the pledge in the school day means beginning the day five minutes earlier or ending it five minutes later, the school should take these measures without hesitation in order to instill important life skills and lessons in students.

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“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” portrays importance of high school friendships

By Kendall McCormick

Depicting the story of a seemingly average, unnoticeable high school student, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” based on the novel by Stephen Chbosky, highlights the importance of friendship and individuality.

 Set in a Pittsburgh suburb in the 1990s, the film has Logan Lerman, of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” playing Charlie, a troubled freshman in high school who has recently suffered through the suicide of one of his best friends. Charlie struggles to fit in and find friends on his first day of high school, and the story is told through letters to his recently deceased friend.

  He eventually becomes accepted by another group of outcasts, including quirky and flamboyant step siblings Sam, played by Emma Watson (the “Harry Potter” series), and Patrick, played by Ezra Miller (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”), both of whom are seniors.

  Charlie’s character begins to morph throughout the movie; as he becomes closer with his friends, he becomes more outgoing and confident. He even begins to view Sam as a little more than just a friend.

  A large portion of the movie, however, involves Charlie’s painful efforts to come to terms with a variety of traumatic events in his personal life. His family offers little support, which he finds in his friends, who seem to understand him better.

  “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is not your average flaky high school drama/comedy, but rather a meaningful film that shows the profound influence of friendship on a troubled high school student’s life.

  The movie portrays ups and downs in Charlie’s life, leaving viewers laughing in some scenes and crying in others.

  The score, written by Michael Brook, enhances the film by illustrating Charlie’s emotions at different times.

  Though an American accent is not necessarily Watson’s strongest suit, both she and Lerman do an incredible job portraying two individual high school students, both in a quest to find themselves and forget troubling past experiences.

  Directed by Chbosky (“The Four Corners of Nowhere”), “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a film that can be related to and enjoyed by people of all ages, male or female. The movie offers insights into the power of strong relationships and how they can shape a person’s life.

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Spirit Week excites students, shows school pride

  Many students look forward to Spirit Week, because it gives them the opportunity to dress in ridiculous outfits and compete as a class, according to senior Student Council president Dana Filias.

  Student Council secretary senior Audrey Davis was a member of the Spirit Week committee, which helped organize Spirit Week by deciding what each day would be, making flyers and organizing the pep rally.

  “I think most of the students enjoy it, I mean we do have a lot of participation and it seems to be a lot of fun. I see a lot of kids dressed up and I really like it too. It’s funny to watch kids make fools of themselves, but it’s fun and that’s why we do it,” she said.

  Tuesday was Twin Day, where students chose a fellow classmate to dress exactly the same as them.

  Wednesday was Decades Day; seniors had ‘80s, juniors had ‘90s, sophomores had ‘70s and freshmen had ‘60s.

  On Thursday, Music Genre Day, seniors dressed as hip-hop artists; juniors dressed as country singers; sophomores dressed as rock stars; and freshmen dressed as reggae singers.

  On Friday, Spirit Day, the whole school came decked out in Manchester Essex apparel.

  Opinions differ between students about which day is the favorite, but according to Davis many seniors preferred Decades Day.

  “I think one day like ¾ of the senior class participated; I think that was ‘80s day. It was really fun to dress in all neon. A lot of kids wore roller blades, which weren’t really allowed but they did it anyway,”

  Junior Lizzi White, however, preferred Twin Day, as did juniors Charlie Hoff and Seth Cohen.

  “Everyone always likes something different, but I think Twin Day is a crowd favorite because it’s pretty easy to do, and almost everyone dresses up that day, which makes it fun,” Filias said.

  Sophomore Emily Moore liked Spirit Day the best. “It was cool to see everyone’s spirit for the school and how many people participate in sports,” she said.

  Filias thought Spirit Week was a success overall. “I think it went well, but I would have loved to see more participation from underclassmen!” she said.

 “I give a big shout out to Ms. Deluca for being in charge of Student Council!” Davis said.

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Upcoming trips offer cultural explorations

By Rebecca Even

Upcoming trips to Costa Rica, England, France, and Quebec will all involve cultural explorations.
   The foreign language department trips to Costa Rica and France aim to enjoy a week of complete immersion in the Spanish and French languages.
   “It’s great to have kids exploring the Spanish-speaking world,” Spanish teacher Robert Bilsbury said of the trip to Costa Rica, which will take place over February vacation. During the trip, students will be expected to speak entirely in Spanish.
   According to Bilsbury, to motivate everyone to converse in Spanish, a prize will be presented at the end of the trip to the student who has spoken the most Spanish.
   The trip to France over April vacation, led by French and Spanish teachers Erin Fortunato and Julia Gross, also encourages complete immersion in French language and culture.
   “We’re really going to enforce speaking as much French as possible,” Fortunato said.
   She added that students will be expected to contribute pocket change to a pool if they are caught speaking English, and that the money will be presented to the student who speaks the most French. This reward, similar to that of the Costa Rica trip, will encourage students to focus on improving their French and appreciating French culture.
   Although two involve speaking a second language, being bilingual is not a requirement for all trips.
 The band’s trip to Quebec will take place in March, and music teacher Joe Sokol hopes to help band students grow accustomed to performing in front of different audiences. He also plans to spend time appreciating the beauty of the city.
   “We’ll be doing a tour of Old and New Quebec City,” Sokol said.
   He added that students will be able to shop and have lunch on their own, giving them time to explore the city and appreciate Canadian culture.
  The trip to England, chaperoned by English teachers Allison Krause and Mary Buckley-Harmon, which will take place over April vacation, aiming  to explore English culture and experience the many activities England has to offer.
   “We do sightseeing tours of London and then we also have a few different excursions… to Stonehenge, Bath, and Oxford,” Krause said.
   She also said that they plan on visiting the Globe Theater and are attending a musical in the West End.
   While the trips are vastly different, the chaperones all anticipate a fantastic experience and are hoping to get to know students outside of the classroom.
   Students are also looking forward to exciting trips, hoping to expand their knowledge and see new parts of the world.
   “It’ll be an enrichment trip, and it’s really going to [improve] our Spanish-speaking skills,” said junior Vanessa Kelley, who is attending the trip to Costa Rica.

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Legal music downloads help improve industry, support artists

By Hannah Riordan

Due to famously ludicrous lawsuits, downloading music from the internet is now synonymous with crime. Although some forms of downloads are illegal, many are both legal and promoted by the artists themselves.

  Today’s stress on social media has changed the way music is distributed. According to a Nielsen and Billboard report, 50.3 percent of music downloads in 2011 were digital, meaning that digital downloads have officially surpassed physical sales.

  Programs like Napster and Limewire facilitate illegal downloads and give internet music downloads their bad reputation.

  On the other side of this phenomenon are the websites that allow consumers to legally download free music.

  I am a firm proponent of websites like thissongissick.com, where I easily download free, legal music. The site has truly broadened my music taste to different house, electronic, and rap artists that iTunes simply does not sell.

  Artists benefit from these websites with the ability to promote their music and push it directly to listeners.   Alerts about festival and concert dates are also put on these websites where many fans check regularly for new music or tour information.

Once artists develop a relationship with certain sites, they often give exclusive free download links to those sites for a limited time. This helps increase the fan bases of both the website and the artist, which is mutually beneficial.

  As far as I know, there aren’t many websites that circulate free downloads of popular music; the reason Top 40 music is popular is because its listeners are more than happy to pay $1.29 for it on iTunes.

  In today’s digital world, the way people consume everything is changing. Record company executives may argue that the digitalization of music harms the industry, but I see absolutely nothing but benefits from expanding my music taste at no monetary or legal cost.

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