Biology class explores interactive learning

  As the year progresses, science teacher Maria Burgess’s biology classroom grows more into being its own ecosystem.

  According to Burgess, the biology classroom’s ecosystem, as she calls it, was started when she obtained two anole lizards for the class two years ago.

  “I thought they would be a nice little addition to the classroom, and they would help my biology classes once we started talking about biomes,” she said.

  The lizards, Burgess said, require a tropical rainforest habitat.  To create this within the classroom, there are heaters, lights, humidifiers, water-retaining bedding that allows organisms to decompose, and live tropical plants.  The students are also responsible for spraying the tank with water each day.

  Sophomore Molly Crehan said, “We get to learn about the lives of animals instead of just learning from reading or lecturing, which I like.”

  Burgess also adopted two gecko lizards from a friend, which allowed the classroom to acquire a new biome because the geckos live in the desert. 

  The geckos, according to Burgess, recently laid an egg, which is waiting to hatch.  The female died last year despite the class’s attempt to research and cure her illness, but Burgess obtained another mate for the remaining male.

  “Geckos don’t always take to each other, and they fight, but these two really took to each other right away,” she said.

  Next, Burgess purchased a tarantula named Francisco, because the students thought a spider was an animal they would never think of studying, and “everyone is a little arachnophobia, including me,” she said.

  Another way Burgess connects the curriculum with the animals is by having the students research them and collect information on the animals themselves as well as their habits and habitats.

  “Dr. Burgess always mentions the animals if they relate to what we are learning, and it would be cool for them to play an even bigger role in our class,” Crehan said.

  The animals in the room eat crickets and worms, so this year the biology classes decided to breed crickets to feed to them.  They researched the exact conditions that would allow crickets to be bred and set up a tank for the crickets.

  “We have also just started to make our own cricket food.  We use ground-up cat food and dried milk, so we can feed the crickets nutrients the animals need for when they eventually eat them,” Burgess said.

  Another job of the biology class, according to Burgess, is working what they call a plant hospital.  People within the school bring in their sick plants, and each student is assigned a plant to try and cure.  Burgess said they successfully resurrected math teacher Richard Brown’s orchid.

  Some of the plants are air cleansing plants, and they absorb fumes in the room that come from the preserved animals used by the anatomy class.

  Finally, Burgess said she wants to “find a way to make dechlorinated water” because the water in the room is non-potable.  To do this naturally, a student in the class found out that if they have a fish tank, the waste in the water of the fish tank would provide fertilizer for the plants.  Also, an aerator in the tank would create dechlorinated water.


Seniors face disappointment from lack of usual privileges

Courtesy of Carolyn Heslop

By Austen Coviello

Senior year is a long-awaited time in a student’s high school career that is filled with the promise of privileges never before experienced in three long years as underclassman.

From the first day of freshman year, the seniors seem to have it made.  They have the ability to sit outside on the balcony, basking in the sun while they eat their lunch.  They even have a whole room to themselves to socialize while working on homework.  This year, however, things are different.

As the class of 2013 entered its last year of high school, senior privileges changed drastically.  After spending three years cooped up inside for lunch, the only light at the end of the tunnel was the seniors-only outdoor seating.

Unfortunately, after a few short moments of senior glory, the happiness was ruined by the sight of juniors flooding the deck.  They were met by cries of denial from seniors when Assistant Principal Paul Murphy delivered the upsetting news: the juniors would be sharing the deck with the seniors this year due to a shortage of tables in the cafeteria.

Lunch on the balcony is one of the few highly anticipated privileges saved exclusively for seniors.  Freshman, sophomore, and junior years are bearable solely because of the opportunities of seniority presented in the final year.

Now, the juniors somehow speed to lunch, filling the tables and leaving the seniors shocked and disappointed as they sulk to the community room, which has a shortage of chairs.

As if not having a space for lunch outdoors during the few warm-weather months of the year is not enough torture for the senior class, another horror that met the class of 2012 upon entering the school year was the loss of the senior room for alternate uses.

The senior room has always been a secluded place for seniors to spend time together and work on schoolwork without the threat of interrupting underclassmen.  Without it, seniors are forced to remain in packed study halls with underclassmen instead of being able to spend quality time together in their last year of high school.

The lack of senior privileges during the 2012-2013 school year has created a wave of disappointment through the whole class. In order to feel like an accomplished high school student, at least a few senior privileges are necessary.


Football hopes to win league title

Austen Coviello photo

By Austen Coviello

After finishing last year’s season with a record of 5-6, the varsity football team is entering the 2012 season with hopes of improvement, according to coach Mike Athanas.

Athanas, who has been coaching the football team for 10 years, said the team has goals to improve their 1-3 record and eventually play for the league title at the end of the season.

The last five games are league games, and, according to Athanas, the beginning of the season has been helpful in acting as a “stepping stone in order to be ready to go in October.”

This season the team has five senior captains: Cory Burnham, Jacob Fitzgerald, Zac Fleming, John Beardsley, and Rockport senior Julian Flavin.

“Having so many talented seniors will be a big strength this season.  Not only have the captains but all of the seniors shown strong leadership so far,” Athanas said.

According to Burnham, leading the team and helping out are important focus points for him and the other captains.

“When I started out, the captain leadership helped a lot, so I want to try and do the same,” he said.

Junior Chris Dumont, according to Athanas, is a promising underclassman who will be a key player to watch during the 2012 season.

“I am excited for this season because we have a really strong offense and good senior leadership.  We all have goals of making playoffs, and we’re determined to achieve them,” Dumont said.

According to Athanas, the team does not have any major areas of improvement they need to work on as the season progresses; however, they need to “keep trying to improve a little bit every game to reach their goals.”

“This season is different because we lost a lot of good players who graduated, but we also gained more seniors that have taken on huge leadership roles.  They’ve all worked hard, and it has been exciting so far even though we have not gotten a win,” Athanas said.


Battle of the Bands raises money for junior class

By Austen Coviello

Raising a total of $817, the junior class hosted a Battle of the Bands in the school’s auditorium Friday, March 23.

The event was planned and run by junior class adviser and special education teacher Jared Harvey along with the class officers Calvin Lamothe, Austen Coviello, Dustin Ferzacca, and Ellie Mortillaro. 

“We have been trying to raise money for our senior year, and we all thought a battle of the bands would be great,” Lamothe, junior class president, said.

According to Harvey, about 110 people attended the Battle of the Bands which was “a great success” especially for a first time event.

“Our biggest strength was in the planning, and the parents were instrumental with their donations,” he said.  The students provided another strength by volunteering to work the concession and ticket tables, Harvey said.

Five bands performed including Busted Bamboo, Faults, The Meaning of Trees, The Wicked, and Contains no Juice.  All bands included members from the school; however, there were some members from other schools.

Lamothe and class treasurer Mortillaro were the winners of the competition.  They sang together while playing the acoustic guitar.

“The whole event turned out way better than I expected.  Performing was really fun and relaxed, and winning made it even better,” he said.

Junior Katherine Hennigan said all the bands were entertaining to watch, but Lamothe and Mortillaro “really stood out.”

Harvey said he hopes to host a Battle of the Bands at least one more time in order to fundraise for the junior class and possibly extend the event to include bands outside of the school.

“I think that the highlight of the Battle of the Bands were the bands themselves.  Every band was memorable for different reasons.  Competition was fierce, and it would be a great event to do again in the future,” he said.


Midnight premieres provide excitement, fun for fans


By Austen Coviello

  When a long-awaited movie premieres in the theater, the mad rush of people who had anticipated the film since the airing of the first preview can be overwhelming.  On the bright side, however, the alternate option is a midnight premiere.

  Midnight showings are available in most theaters for fans who are dedicated enough to brave the late night hours along with the seemingly crazy people who imitate “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” characters.

  Leaving a warm house at 10 p.m. and waiting in a long, tedious line for hours on end may not appeal to a majority of people; however, for those who long for the opening of a movie, the experience is one to be celebrated.

  Unfortunately, most movies come out on Fridays, leaving people to attend the outings on Thursday nights, the night before a long day of school or work.  It is difficult to wake up having only had around three hours of sleep and be motivated to work through a busy and potentially stressful day of work.  Before making a decision, a fan must consider the question of whether or not staying out all night is worth it.

  Attending the midnight premiere of a movie has a number of benefits.  The viewer is able to boast about being the first to see a movie the rest of the world will be seeing the following day, and the experience is one to be remembered for years to come.

  In a majority of cases, midnight showings are most popular when the movie is based off a popular book like “Harry Potter” and the hype of a premiere builds excitement within every devoted fan in attendance.

  While daytime premieres are busy and somewhat exciting, the crowded theater filled with supposed fans is often discouraging for those who actually care about the movie. 

  Midnight movie premieres are by no means social events, as most movie theater visits are.  They provide opportunities for true, brave fanatics to display their affection for the film without having to deal with the nonsense of an average movie visit.


Ski team pushes past snow shortage

courtesy Megan Jones

  By Austen Coviello

  Despite the lack of snowfall this winter, the ski team, through perseverance and dedication, has begun the season successfully, according to coach Tim Wonson.

  Locally, the amount of snow this year has been quite limited, which, Wonson said, was a minor setback for the team.  Before the regular season started, the team went through extensive dry-land training because of the weather.

  “We missed a lot of pre-season on-hill practice time which proved very valuable last year and would have helped some of the newer kids this year,” Wonson said.

  Junior captain Megan Jones said the lack of snow “delayed the season.”  However, Bradford Ski Way, she said, successfully created manmade snow which was a “big help” to the team.

According to junior captain Brian McAuliff, dedication is a necessity for members of the ski team due to the long hours they endure each week. 

  “Ski team runs on a much different schedule than most other sports,” he said. The members leave school at 2 p.m. and travel for 45 minutes to Bradford for races twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays for boys and Mondays and Wednesdays for girls.  Races are directly followed by practices, and the team returns at 7:30 p.m. 

  “It does get tiring,” Jones said, “but it’s doable, and I love it.” 

  According to Wonson, every member is dedicated to the team, despite the time commitment, and they impress him more and more each time they ski.

  According to McAuliff, the goal for the team this year is to have some members make it to the statewide competition at the end of the season. 

   Wonson said a majority of the skiers on the team are doing extremely well for such a small school, and the younger members, like freshmen Alex Marshall and Chris McAuliff, are able to “crush” other skiers that are much older than they are.

  “I will be at the top of a freezing cold, wind-swept, ice-covered race course, and I will look at the racers and tell them if they can push aside fear, put down hesitation, and try their best, they have already succeeded.  I am very proud of this team’s courage and sportsmanship,” Wonson said.


Interact club works with Rotary to raise money, help community

  By Austen Coviello

  Interact Club, a segment of Manchester-Essex’s Rotary Club centered in the high school, is a group that works toward helping the community through fundraisers and volunteer work, according to adviser Dean Martino.

  Rotary is formed by local professionals who create events in which money can be raised to support community needs, Martino said, and it “attempts to integrate high school students into community service.”

  Interact’s goals are to provide aid within the community as well as internationally.  On a local scale, Interact will be participating in projects such as “helping out” at Cape Ann Food Pantry, junior Carolyn Heslop said.

  Juniors Heslop and Olivia Mastendino have been in the club for two years and are now the co-presidents.  Mastendino said the club is made up of 70 members, equally dispersed grade-wise, but about 35 students regularly attend meetings.

  According to Heslop, she and Mastendino “delegate and direct” the meetings with occasional Rotary aid, but the “idea is to have to members run it.”  

  Martino said the club is “still getting traction on what types of fundraisers to come up with,” but presentations from Rotary provide ideas.  The club is in the planning stage of a number of fundraisers, Mastendino said, including a free-throw competition and bake sales. 

  This year, according to Mastendino, the club is hoping to provide aid for Rotaplast, a charitable organization supported by Rotary Clubs worldwide, which provides free reconstructive surgery to children with cleft lip and pallet mainly in third world countries. 

  According to Martino, some members have taken part in a leadership conference at Ipswich High School with Interact Clubs from various other schools.  This, Martino said, allowed the club leaders and members to “look at other models of success the other schools have engaged in and see what they can emulate.”

  “Really, [Interact] is about students integrating themselves into the awareness of community service needs on a broader scope, looking at the world beyond themselves,” Martino said.


Austen Coviello



Student travels to Spain for year abroad


Courtesy Nikki Southard

By Austen Coviello

The Independent Staff

   Junior Nikki Southard is spending the year in Spain with School Year Abroad, a program that offers foreign studies in Spain, Italy, France, China, Japan, or Vietnam to juniors and seniors. 

  According to Southard, she was inspired to apply by her mother and one of her good friends.  “I figured it never hurt to apply, and if I actually got in, I’d cross that bridge when I got there,” Southard.

  Southard said her host family is a mother and a 6 year-old sister who live in Zaragoza, the capital of the province Aragon, which, according to Southard, is about the size of Boston.  

  She attends school in the center of Zaragoza.  School starts at 9 a.m. every day, and 10 a.m. on Wednesdays, and ends at 5:15 p.m.  Each class is 50 minutes long. There is a 40-minute break in the morning and an hour and a half break for lunch, during which the students have the option of leaving campus. 

  Southard’s classes consist of Spanish history, Spanish language, History of Mediterranean Art, English, Spanish literature, and math, all of which are taught in Spanish except English and math.

  “After about a month here, I felt pretty comfortable speaking Spanish.  It’s such a natural part of my day now that I hardly notice I’ve switched languages,” Southard said.  She said she and her American friends are now so accustomed to speaking Spanish that they often speak it when they are together.

  Southard said she has yet to feel homesick, but there are things she misses, including American food, daily routines, and friends.  However, she said the food in Spain is “amazing” and the city is “beautiful.”  She said she loves the historical aspect of the Roman architecture in the city.

  “The way people live here seems to be more laidback…There’s less urgency in the way people live,” Southard said.  “I really like that.”

  Spanish teacher Robert Bilsbury, who taught Southard during her sophomore year, said he had never heard of the program or experienced a student doing a high school year abroad.  “You need to have a passion for the language; you have to be someone who’s pretty brave,” Bilsbury said. “I think Nikki is definitely qualified for that.”  Bilsbury said a year abroad is the best way to acquire a different language.

  During her free time, Southard said she enjoys sightseeing, playing music, and meeting up with friends to go to shops and cafés.  She left Manchester on September 8and will be home around June 5.  After school ends, she said she plans to spend some time traveling around Europe.


Field hockey ends season as CAL champions

Courtesy Melissa Moore

By Austen Coviello

The Independent Staff

  Finishing the regular season with a record of 9-4-5, the varsity field hockey team advanced to the second round of tournament and finished the season off 10-4-6.

  Varsity field hockey coach Andrea Slaven said the regular season was “filled with challenges,” but the team “persevered to overcome some obstacles.”  According to Slaven, some challenges included starting new with a young team and injuries the team faced throughout the season.

  Junior Allyson Conway said Slaven was the main reason for the improvement of the team.  “Our coach always let us know how we were doing, and her feedback helped us improve,” she said.  According to Conway, Slaven always told them how they played, whether they were “terrible or great,” and the constructive criticism that Slaven provided was exactly what the team needed to succeed.

  The team won its first tournament game against Swampscott with a final score of 3-2.  Swampscott had the first goal, but it was quickly followed by a goal from sophomore Brittany Smith.  According to Slaven, the girls “dominated” in the second half with a goal by Conway.  With a minute left in the game, junior Megan Jones scored the winning goal on a pass by junior Nicole Bradley.

  The second tournament game against Winchester ended in a 2-1 Winchester victory.  Smith scored the team’s goal.  Senior and captain Ellen Burgess said the girls “controlled” most of the game, but Winchester “capitalized” on the times when the team “let down even a little bit.”

  Conway said the most important element of playing well during tournament was the mindset.  “I just had to tell myself, ‘This could be the last game’ so I would play my hardest,” she said.

  According to Slaven, the captain leadership by seniors Ellen Burgess, Melissa Moore, and Taylor Coons helped the team to “continue in a positive direction.”

  “It was important for the captains to get the team through difficulties like hard practices or losses.” Burgess said. She continued, “As a captain, I felt my biggest responsibility was to keep our team together and keep everyone thinking positively.”

  Conway said all three captains were “amazing,” and for her Burgess was the most supportive and relatable.  According to Conway, the team could “always get a laugh” from Moore, and Coons provided advice on everything.

  Slaven said the team made great improvements from the beginning to the end of the season. “We began as a very young team, but each game has matured us into becoming a strong, tight-knit group who work together to accomplish one goal,” she said. “I am proud of this group and how far they have come as a team.”


Green Team: New sustainability projects, course, on-site

By Austen Coviello



With the start of a new school year, the Green Team has many changes planned, according to Spanish teacher and Green Team adviser Eric Magers.

Green Team Scholars 2.0 is a new course in which students can work on individual sustainability projects while learning about the environment, according to the Green Team Scholars course description. Green Scholars 1.0 and Green Interns are still running this year as well.

“As of right now, the program has exceeded my expectations,” Magers said.

The on-site compost facility designed by junior Jackie Rose and senior James Kamins, Magers said, is also a big accomplishment for the Green Team this year because it will allow the school to control a big portion of its waste.

Another Green Team accomplishment is the vegetable gardens that were added last year. According to Magers, people have stolen from the garden on multiple occasions. Over Labor Day weekend, he said, three cars full of people took about 10 bags of produce.

“People seem to think our gardens are community gardens, which is very strange to me,” Magers said. “I am just disgusted.”

The most important project, Magers said, is encouraging sustainability throughout the school district. Senior Megan Azadian is currently working on this project with fellow Green Team Scholars 2.0 participants Kamins and Rose. Together, they are planning to “better the environmental awareness” of the students and faculty through signage, Azadian said.

A problem the Green Team has encountered is the cross-contamination of the different types of waste throughout the school, especially in the Lucidomatic, Magers said. This issue could potentially risk the contracts the school has with the waste collecting companies. The Green Team Scholars 2.0 students “will be able to change behaviors in our school district,” Magers said, “but it’s going to take a lot of time.”

“The Green Team has made a lot of improvements since I was in it two years ago,” said junior and former Green Team member Megan Jones.  “I am really amazed by the progress and new things it has done.”

According to Magers, the Green Team has many new accomplishments, but it still has more work to do.