Students tend to sit a little straighter when visitors come to observe their class. When the visitor is the state's public education chief, they walk a little taller afterward, too.

Union Middle School students, educators and leaders, as well as Canyons District's superintendency and academic leadership, last month hosted a tour of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Martell Menlove. The visit gave Union an opportunity to showcase Utah's premier sixth-grade STEAM curriculum — a marriage of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math — approved by the State Board of Education last spring for implementation in Canyons School District. The sixth-graders also showed off the robots they designed as part of their STEAM class' robotics and space science challenge.

"To be the one middle school chosen was a big deal, and to show off our great kids and great teachers was a big deal," Union Principal Mary Anderson, the 2013 Utah Middle School Principal of the Year, said of Menlove's visit. "Our students did a great job presenting themselves as ambassadors of our school."

Dr. Menlove visited the school Oct. 24, 2013, as part of efforts to view the innovations within and keep in contact with the professionals who work in Utah classrooms, the State Office of Education reports.

Dr. Menlove also was introduced to the District's innovative middle school model, which, in addition to STEAM, includes implementation of PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports), reconfigured grades, a model reading program, and a flexible schedule that increases instructional time in core subjects while allowing numerous elective opportunities. He also observed teacher's instructional strategies in social studies, math, and English language arts classes. Later, Canyons Superintendent Dr. Ginger Rhode hosted Dr. Menlove and neighboring superintendents for a lunch discussion.
At the same time NCAA athletes were hustling for a national hoops championship, aspiring Sweet 16ers from Canyons District middle schools were hitting the court in their own version of March Madness.
Union and Indian Hills both ran away with two first-place trophies in the District’s Middle School 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament. Boys and girls teams from CSD’s eight middle schools competed at the fourth-annual event, held April 2-4, 2013. About 430 students competed at the tournament.    
Also netting first-place wins were teams from Crescent View and Albion.
The NCAA tourney-styled contest, complete with a bracket system that winnowed the field to overall winners for each age group, is part of Canyons District's Middle School Intramurals Program, developed to promote healthy lifestyles and gauge interest for future competitive extracurricular programs.
First- through fourth-place winners were awarded trophies; all participants received ribbons. This year’s winners are:
Seventh Grade
  • Boys: First Place: Union (1); Second Place: Albion (1); Third Place: Indian Hills (1); Fourth Place: Mount Jordan (2)
  • Girls: First place: Albion (2); Second Place: Indian Hills (1); Third Place: Eastmont (2); Fourth Place: Indian Hills (2)
Eighth Grade
  • Boys:  First Place: Crescent View (1); Second Place:  Indian Hills (1); Third Place:  Albion (1); Fourth Place: Mount Jordan (1)
  • Girls:  First Place: Indian Hills (1); Second Place: Albion (1); Third Place:  Indian Hills (2); Fourth Place: Union (1)
Ninth Grade
  • Boys:  First Place: Indian Hills (1); Second Place:  Mount Jordan (1); Third Place:  Indian Hills (2); Fourth Place:  Butler (1)
  • Girls: First Place: Union (1); Second Place:  Crescent View (1); Third Place:  Indian Hills (1); Fourth Place: Eastmont (1)
The coaches are:
Albion:  Courtney Long, Ryan Durrant
Butler:  Megan Leach
Crescent View:  Ken Smikahl
Eastmont:  Joe Karlsven
Indian Hills:  Ron Halbert
Midvale:  Kip Saunders
Mount Jordan:  Joel Smith
Union:  Kelsey Gill
What time is it? It’s almost time for Union Middle, which later this month will produce Disney’s “High School Musical Jr.,” to cast a spotlight on dancing and singing students with a new stage-lighting system that was funded by a $20,000 grant.

Union’s theater club, also known as the Union Theater Group, in December received word about the successful grant application to Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc. The director of this year’s musical, Bryan Stephenson, applied for the grant on ETG’s Web site. Out of hundreds of applicants, Union was among the few to receive aid.

Stephenson said the grant allowed the school to update the lighting board and purchase state-of-the-art lights for the back wall.

“The back wall is always a challenge to light in any show Union puts on, whether it is a musical or dance concert,” said Stephenson, who also directed last year’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

Largely because of its size — roughly 40 feet across and 25 feet deep with a 20-foot back wall — crews find it difficult to adequately light the stage.

In previous shows, to convey different moods, Union has been able to project a handful of colors on the back wall. Now, with the new LED fixtures provided by the grant, Union stagehands are able to access hundreds of colors with a simple click of a button.

“It has made our back wall something to look at and interesting throughout a show, instead of being a distraction because of its size,” Stephenson said. “We really are lucky to get these wonderful new fixtures.”

“High School Musical Jr.” is a musical written for adolescent performers. The 70-minute show, based on the teen phenomenon of the same name, features all the songs from the Disney smash, plus a few extras.

The show is Jan. 24-26 and Jan. 28 at Union Middle, 615 E. 8000 South. Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show are $2 and can be purchased in advance at the Main Office during school hours or at the door the day of the performance.



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