High school students put physics lessons into practice to catch falling pumpkins

Leaves are falling, and Monday at City Academy, so were pumpkins.

Dennis Pedersen’s 11th-grade physics class put what they had learned about gravity, acceleration, velocity and force to the test Monday afternoon as they dropped pumpkins from the school’s roof onto five different catchers.

All the pumpkins survived the fall, which surprised Pedersen — in the four years he has done the experiment with his students about 1/3 of the pumpkins have been smashed.

Physics students at the City Academy in Salt Lake City celebrate a successful after taking part in a pumpkin catch on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018.

All designs used memory foam products in some manner to cushion the fall.

Pedersen said he was most impressed with the catcher built by Payden Checketts and Nicole Crocker.

“They put several different layers, and in their explanation told why they chose those layers,” Pedersen said. “They looked a lot at the lab we did about crumple zones in cars and designed it after the same idea, that there should be rigid parts and soft parts in multiple layers.”

The team built a container with wood posts and fabric on the sides, and inside they had rubber surgical tubing topped with a folded piece of memory foam.

“It absorbs a lot of force without a lot of give,” Checketts said of their memory foam piece. The surgical tubing acted as “suspension.”

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Salt Lake City—As part of the company’s community day of service, nine employees from the Wells Fargo Bank Commercial Real Estate Division spent much of the day at City Academy in early October. The group was led by Wells Fargo Vice President (and City Academy board member) Erik Bengtzen. This marks the third consecutive year that Wells Fargo has embarked on doing community service for City Academy.

According to City Academy Executive Director Sonia Woodbury, “The Wells Fargo team re-landscaped the west section of our grounds with rock donated by Utah Sand and Gravel (this company has donated to us in the past). The volunteers worked all day, first tearing out overgrown landscaping and then hauling wheelbarrows full of rock up from the street to fill in a zero-scape with large rocks. These rocks are large enough that are students can sit on them during lunch. The area looks really great, and is complemented with the parking strip area Wells Fargo worked on last year, with the same zero-scape scheme as Alsco’s property to the west of our school.”

Woodbury added, “It is so amazing to have these banking professionals take a whole day to do this for our school—now for three years running. As one of our teachers said, ‘They are helping us look great on the outside to match the great education students are getting on the inside of the building.’”


Salt Lake City—A standing-room-only crowd gathered at the University of Utah’s Saltair Room June 2 for City Academy’s 14th annual graduation ceremony, which honored our 16 outgoing seniors.

City Academy’s founder and executive director, Dr. Sonia Woodbury, welcomed the attendees and provided the confirmation of graduation.  The City Academy Choir performed with three songs, “Proud,” “The Argument” and “Sing Me to Heaven.”  English teacher and Senior Advisor, Hana Jabr, conducted the presentation of graduates, and retiring principal, Kevin Livesey, spoke of how this would be his final graduation ceremony.  The 11th grade farewell message was given by Maille Rollo, and the senior message was delivered by Davona Dorsey and Selena Ferrel.

The graduating seniors were Evelyn Alvarado Togno, Mindy Cardenas, Cade Denton, Hannah Dimock, Davona Dorsey, Selena Ferrel, Ian Hamlet, Shane Hepworth, Samuel Hudgins, Elise Hunzeker, Emmery Jansen, Alexander Jones, Corbin Madrill, Mina Matta, MacGeorge Pyle and Tasia Wu.


Salt Lake City–City Academy students who took the ACT test received high marks when compared with other Utah charter schools, according to the State Charter School Board.  (The ACT test is a standardized admissions test required by many colleges and universities in the United States.) In fact, the Board reported that City Academy had the highest relative number of students to meet all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks.

According to the ACT’s website, “The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks are the minimum ACT college readiness assessment scores required for students to have a high probability of success in credit-bearing college courses—English Composition, social sciences courses, College Algebra, or Biology.”

The website adds, “Students who meet a Benchmark on the ACT have approximately a 50 percent chance of earning a B or better and approximately a 75 percent chance of earning a C or better in the corresponding college course or courses.”

The ACT subject area tests include English, Reading, Mathematics and Science.  ACT test scores range from a low of 1 to a high of 36.  Students typically take the ACT test in their junior and/or senior year of high school.  The ACT Test Benchmark scores are English 18, Reading 22, Mathematics 22 and Science 23.


Salt Lake City—City Academy charter school seniors showcased their service learning internship projects Thursday, April 12 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the charter school’s Multipurpose Room.  City Academy is located at 555 E. 200 S. in Salt Lake City.

According to City Academy Executive Director Sonia Woodbury, “Our mission is to graduate responsible, informed citizens who have achieved their best academic success.  As a part of that, we require that all of our students complete a service learning internship project as part of their graduation requirements.  These internships provide students with real-life experiences related to issues that are important to them.  Many internships are with local nonprofit organizations that are making a difference in the community. Our students have now served in 120 different community organizations over the years.  Plus, experiences gained through our program can really give students exposure to careers they may want to pursue in the future. ”

City Academy’s Senior Exhibition of Service Learning Internship Projects exhibit was open to the public.

City Academy is a public, tuition free charter school for grades 7 through 12.  The school was founded in 2000 by a group of University of Utah educators.  City Academy is the only school in Utah offering the Cambridge University International Examinations program for Advanced Placement and pre-advanced classes.  This program is recognized by every Ivy League school in the U.S. and several of the world’s most prestigious colleges and universities.  For more information about City Academy, visit



Salt Lake City—A student at City Academy charter school in Salt Lake City has been awarded the Outstanding Cambridge Learner Award for receiving the highest mark in the U.S. for the Cambridge IGCSE History June 2017 exams.  Jeremiah Chapman was a 10th grader at City Academy last spring when he took the exam (he’s now a 16-year-old junior at the school).

Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education pre-advanced level courses (IGCSE) provide students from 9th grade onward with preparation for advanced-level study in high school and in college.

In the process of achieving the highest mark, Chapman took two two-hour essay exams each consisting of three three-part questions.  His teacher, Gareth Orr, said that an example of one three-part exam question would be:  1) What were Hitler’s foreign policy aims?; 2) Why did Hitler and Stalin sign the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact? and; 3) “The policy of appeasement was the most important reason why war began in 1939.”  How far do you agree with this statement?

The Cambridge IGCSE program is part of Cambridge Assessment, a department of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209 and is the second oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university.  According to the Cambridge International website, “Cambridge IGCSE is the world’s most popular international qualification for 14 to 16 year olds. It is taken in over 145 countries and in more than 6,100 schools around the world.”

Cambridge International Advanced-level qualifications are recognized and accepted in a similar manner as Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) by universities, colleges, and employers in the United States and around the world as proof of high academic achievement.  In fact, Newsweek magazine includes Cambridge International Exams in its criteria for ranking the top high schools in the United States.

City Academy is currently the only school in Utah to offer students the Cambridge IGCSE program and Cambridge Advanced-level courses.  City Academy founder and executive director, Dr. Sonia Woodbury, Ph.D., said, “Most educators agree that Cambridge Assessment International Education provides more authentic forms of testing.  Educators have found that students who are part of the IGCSE program are more likely to take advanced-level classes in high school and college.  Cambridge International Examinations’ Advanced-level early colleges courses (A-levels) offer a distinctive alternative to traditional AP or IB courses because they demand higher levels of analytical thinking.  Exams for these courses are primarily essay and performance-based.  By comparison, AP and IB testing is primarily multiple choice.”



Salt Lake City—Every senior student from City Academy must complete a service learning internship in order to graduate from the tuition-free charter school.  According to City Academy Executive Director Sonia Woodbury, “Our internship program is just one of the many ways that we use to help our students become a part of the community.  Plus, experiences gained through our programs can really give students exposure to careers they may want to pursue in the future.”

One example of an internship can be found with City Academy student, Cade Denton.  Denton began his internship project last spring.

Denton wrote, “My internship project is becoming an ambassador for FBI. I wanted to not only learn what I, as an individual with limited power, can do to stop crimes against children, but also how I could spread awareness in order for others to learn what is happening and what they can do. I helped put on a Crimes Against Children Youth Symposium in February 2017 with the FBI and several other Ambassadors for Change, and then in October I attended and graduated from the FBI Teen Academy.”

On Oct. 20, Denton and 30 other high school students from Utah participated in a daylong teen academy with FBI agents to discuss cybercrime, domestic and international terrorism, human trafficking and civil rights.  The academy also examined specific gangs in Utah and a civil rights case that happened in the state.

One of the day’s activities involved a mock crime scene, in which a taped stick figure was surrounded by crime scene tape.  An empty water bottle, a cell phone and piece of rope were present at the scene, and students were asked to figure out what type of evidence they might find. 

According to an FBI spokesperson this is the first such academy the Salt Lake City branch of the FBI has hosted for teenagers.  The spokesperson added that the goal of the academy was to have students think about possible careers and provide insights into how the bureau operates.

Denton noted, “From this breathtaking opportunity, I have learned that the FBI is where I want to work, and that although I am only one person, I have greater power than I realize. I’ve learned what is going on in my own neighborhood, how to look for the signs of crimes being done against people, and what to do if a crime is being done. During the symposium in February, I actually got the chance to be on a panel with several adults, and speak of my own history. I learned that a symposium is a very good way to reach out to a community, because there are people who were taught and dedicate their lives to handle certain crimes, as well as individuals who have suffered, and can provide their unique experience and viewpoint to the audience. During the Teen Academy, I got a sneak peek how the bureau operates, and its inner workings. I spoke with several agents who are experts in their fields, on what they do, and how each crime is happening in today’s society. We were walked through a mock crime scene, and were taught how to pick up fingerprints as well as blood stains even after they have been cleaned up, and we were quizzed what can be found on different pieces of evidence. I learned so much more than the different careers the FBI has to offer, and the different crimes they solve and prosecute. I learned about my own community, and what I can do to make it a safer place.”

To be a part of the academy, students had to be between ages 15 and 18 and have some community involvement experience.  They were also selected based on GPA and a personal essay.

Students smash pumpkins in the name of physics

SALT LAKE CITY — Peering over the edge of the school roof, physics teacher Dennis Pedersen balanced an orange pumpkin in his arms and grinned.

More than a dozen students waited on the ground below with fingers crossed. With a quick countdown, Pedersen dropped the pumpkin from the two-story building.

High school seniors Erick Holloway and Shane Hepworth cheered as the pumpkin splashed into their homemade pumpkin catcher: a garbage bin full of water and laundry soap.

Hepworth fished the sudsy pumpkin from the bin.

“Water stops velocity,” he explained, inspecting the pumpkin for damage. “If you can slow down something’s velocity, then the object is less likely to break.”

“Laundry soap is much heavier than dish soap,” Holloway added. “When you combine that with salt, it makes a much thicker density.”

The physics class of high school students at City Academy in Salt Lake City designed several pumpkin catchers during the past week. On Wednesday they tested the catchers by dropping pumpkins from the roof above their classroom.

Junior Demitri Bergstrom used cardboard, a blanket, a pillow and a wooden frame to construct his pumpkin catcher. His 3-pound pumpkin smashed through the cardboard barriers but didn’t crack after landing on the pillow.

“I kind of expected the small pumpkins to work,” he said. “If I would’ve had a bigger (pumpkin) that worked, I would’ve been surprised.”

Students brought their own pumpkins to drop, though each pumpkin had to weigh at least 3 pounds. If the pumpkin survived the drop, students were awarded extra credit for every additional 2 pounds.

“A lot of schools do egg drops, that’s fairly typical,” said Principal Kevin Livesey. “This is kind of different, this is upscale.”

Safio Hassan, Davona Dorsey and Mac Pyle also used a wooden frame cushioned with pillows. The group debated between using water or cushions for their design, Safio said.

“We didn’t really have any steps to it,” Mac said. “It worked, and that’s what really matters.”

For Pedersen, the best part of the assignment is after the pumpkin drop, when students file back inside to watch the video of the drops.

“Bigger pumpkins, more force,” he explained. “We saw the bigger pumpkins were the ones that didn’t survive because they had the greater force.”

This is the second year he has held a pumpkin drop at City Academy. He’s seen many creative ideas in the past, including a group who caught a 28-pound pumpkin in a container of mashed potatoes.

“The ingenuity that goes behind it is something I really like,” Pedersen said. “I’m very proud of the resources they put in.”

This year, Claire Scoville and Maille Rollo used an idea Pedersen had never seen before. The two juniors strung several black garbage bags together and hung the bags from the roof using ropes.

Maille said the original idea was to stack actual garbage bins on top of one another, but the plan was too expensive.

“I think my favorite part was probably the free rein, but it was also the most intimidating part,” Maille said.

“We wanted to do something a little crazy,” Claire agreed. “We were a bit ambitious.”

Many of the pumpkins survived the fall, but a few smashed into the ground or broke through the catchers.

“We’re trying to get rid of pumpkins anyway, so why not get some educational value out of it?” Pedersen said.

Author Christian Moore Speaks to City Academy Students about Resilience

Salt Lake City—“Where does resilience come from?”  That was the question author and social worker Christian Moore explored with students from City Academy during a schoolwide town meeting on Oct. 5.  City Academy’s motto is Respect, Responsibility, Resiliency.

Moore is the author of “The Resilience Breakthrough: 27 Tools for Turning Adversity into Action.”  He came from a blended family of 12 children, and spent most of his childhood on the streets of a tough neighborhood just outside of Washington, D.C.  By the time he was in second grade, he had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, conduct disorder and severe learning disabilities.  Despite these disadvantages, Moore went on to become the only person in his family to receive a college degree, which was eventually complemented with a master’s degree in social work.

Moore has been quoted as saying that “Eighty percent of change in a child’s life will come from a relationship.”  During his presentation at City Academy, he recalled how his biological mother let him skip school all the time.  Had it not been for the intervention of a friend’s mother, Mama Jackson, Moore said he never would have graduated from a major university. “She taught me how to not give up,” he added.

Moore said Mama Jackson would feed him, help him with homework, and even physically get him out of bed to go to school for two years.  When Moore completed his MSW, no one from his immediate family attended his graduation, but Mama Jackson flew 2,000 miles to be there.  Moore said that when he saw her, “I thought to myself, before I’m six feet under, I’m going to make sure every child in America has access to the social and Emotional education she gave me.”

According to his website,, “Christian’s personal mission is to ensure that all human beings are given the opportunity to thrive, regardless of social or economic status, race, background, or other personal obstacles. With this in mind, Christian has expanded his vision from his highly successful WhyTry Program for youth to an adaptation that can provide EVERYONE with the tools and opportunity to develop a resilient mindset.”


What a way for City Academy students to start a school year!  On Monday, Aug. 21, at approximately 11:30 a.m., City Academy staff and students, along with neighbors and others, gathered outside the school to experience the first total solar eclipse visible in the continental U.S. in 38 years.

Everyone at City Academy was given a pair of special solar eclipse glasses to watch the event.  In addition, TVs throughout campus were tuned into NASA streaming live for another perspective.  Refreshments for the day included MoonPies, Sunny Delight and Moon Cheese Pizza.

City Academy executive director, Dr. Sonia Woodbury, said, “Some of the best learning happens during real-world events like the eclipse.  The timing could not have been better.  I’m so happy that many of the people who work and live around City Academy joined us for this incredible natural event.  It was remarkable how quiet our school was during the eclipse.”

Here are some graphics and examples of writing City Academy used to inspire students to express themselves after the eclipse:


Salt Lake City—As part of City Academy charter school’s annual Spring Art Share Program on April 5, students paid tribute to longtime Utah dance teacher, Rowland Butler. Butler passed away Feb. 14.  Toward the end of his life, Butler taught dance at City Academy.

The event was held at City Academy, located at 555 E. 200 S. from 6:15 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Butler was one of the founding dancers at Ballet West.  He also helped launch the University of Utah’s musical theater program, where he taught ballet and theater classes (he also served as resident choreographer of Pioneer Theatre Company for 18 years).

City Academy’s Spring Art Share Program was free and open to the public.  The evening began with a visual art gallery stroll at 6:15 p.m.  At 6:45 p.m., doors to City Academy’s multi-purpose room opened for the 7 p.m.  These performances included choir, theater, guitar and design students.  The dance tribute to Butler was among these performances.

For more information about City Academy’s Art Share Program, call (801)596-8489.

About City Academy

City Academy’s students performance



Salt Lake City—City Academy Charter School art teacher/artist, Jo Bradbury, is now offering oil painting classes to individuals who are 14 years old or older.  Aspiring artists of all skill levels are invited to attend the class for introduction to, or continuation of painting in oils.

The art class will meet every Wednesday from 3 to 4 p.m. in Room 2 at City Academy.  City Academy is located at 555 E. 200 S. in Salt Lake City.  Cost is $40 for each one hour class.  The classes will run until May 17.

According to Bradbury, “Students will get focused one-on-one instruction on how to create an underpainting, mix and apply colors, and the process of glazing.  Tuition includes in-depth demonstrations and instructions, as well as a process-based experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life!  You will leave the class with at least one finished painting.”

Students will receive a supply list via email when they sign up.  To reserve a spot in the class, email or text (801)800-1237.  Cost is $40 per one-hour class.

Bradbury holds a bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree from the University of Utah in painting and drawing.  She has been teaching secondary art at City Academy since 2014, and has a total of nine years’ experience in teaching secondary art education (she also taught art at Viewmont High School in Bountiful from 2006 to 2012).

In 2013, she was the Pratt Institute Masters of Fine Arts scholarship recipient.  She has been the first-place winner at the Statewide Art Show at Eccles Art Center in 2010, and won Best in Show at the North Ogden Art Festival in 2007.  She also participated in the Utah Watercolor Society Spring Show in 2008.


Salt Lake City— Utah Opera Company provided City Academy students with an introduction to opera on March 9.  At that time, five Utah Opera resident artists demonstrated the elements of opera and drama beginning with an aria and building to full scenes from popular operas.  The artists performed snippets and full scenes from such operas as “Carmen,” “The Barber of Seville,” “The Magic Flute,” Die Fledermaus” and “La Boheme.”

The Utah Opera resident artists included Abby Rethwisch (soprano), Sarah Coit (mezzo-soprano), Christian Sanders (tenor), Markel Reed (baritone) and Tim Accurso (pianist).



Salt Lake City—The Academy of Creativity and City Academy Charter School will present scenes and monologues from some of Shakespeare’s best-known works Feb. 23 through 25 at 7 p.m.  Tickets for “Passion in Play: The 2017 Shakespeare Project” are $5 for students and $8 for adults, and may be purchased at the door at City Academy.  City Academy is located at 555 E. 200 S. in Salt Lake City.

The production will include excerpts from “Hamlet,” “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” “Twelfth Night,” “As You Like It,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Cymbeline,” “Richard III,” “Macbeth,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “Henry IV,” “The Tempest,” “Sonnets” and “Words, Sayings and Insults.”

Thirteen cast members have been drawn from City Academy’s student body and the community at large.  Cast members range in age from 13 to 22.

According to Director Gaby Saxton, “The performance will take place in a black box setting and we’re modernizing the scenes.  Actors will be performing in blue jeans, Converse and their production shirts.”

In addition to the public performances, the Academy of Creativity and City Academy will be presenting a school-only matinee of the first act on Feb. 23 at 11 a.m.  Representatives from the media are welcome to attend this matinee.


Salt Lake City—City Academy, the tuition-free charter public school for grades 7 through 12, will host prospective student information nights Tuesday, Dec. 13, Thursday, Jan. 19 and Wednesday, Feb. 8 from 6 to 7 p.m.  City Academy is located at 555 E. 200 S. in Salt Lake City.  Prospective students and their parents are welcome to attend the hour-long presentations.

City Academy is accepting students for its second semester, which begins Jan. 18, 2017, and for fall 2017.

According to City Academy founder and executive director, Sonia Woodbury, “If you’re the parent of a middle school or high school student, and you want a good academic experience for your son or daughter in a safe and personalized environment, you should consider City Academy. Our school offers small classes with no more than 25 students per class, a dedicated faculty and staff, and programs designed to help students flourish in their education while becoming involved citizens of our communities.”

Woodbury said that City Academy students come from across the Salt Lake Valley to attend the school.  Since the school opened in 2000, it has had students from 33 ZIP codes attend City Academy.  The school provides UTA passes to students who aren’t within walking distance.

Woodbury, who has her Ph.D. in education, and some of her colleagues from the University of Utah founded the school.  In its 16-year history, the school’s students have consistently exceeded the state’s average on ACT scores (the ACT test is used by many colleges and universities across the country in determining student admissions.  Furthermore, in 2015 alone, $1 million worth of college scholarships were awarded to City Academy graduates.  (City Academy also offers $1,000 scholarships to all of its graduates who decide to attend any post-high school education programs.)

To learn more about City Academy’s prospective student nights, call the school at (801)596-8489.


Salt Lake City–City Academy students are pulling together to help families within their own school have a better Christmas. From Nov. 28 through Dec. 16, students from the tuition-free charter school will be gathering winter clothing (hats, gloves, scarves, coats and snow pants) for families in need.

City Academy is a Title I school with half of its families being low income.  In addition, the school has many refugee students.

Students and families can pick up winter clothing On Dec. 16 at the school’s front desk.  After Dec. 16, any remaining items will be donated to a local homeless shelter

The winter clothing drive is being spearheaded by the school’s student council.



Salt Lake City—Fourteen students at City Academy, a tuition-free charter school in Salt Lake City, are now completing novels as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  National Novel Writing Month is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Berkeley, Calif.

This is the 18th year that NaNoWriMo has been held.  This year’s theme is “Your Novel, Your Universe.”  Last year, there were 431,626 participants in 633 different regions on six continents.  Over 40,000 of these met the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month.

According to City Academy English teacher, Hana Jabr, “The Young Writers Program is the section of NaNoWriMo that the kids use to tally their words.  This program recommends that students try for 30,000 words, but I encourage them to go for 50,000 because I know they can do it.  At the end of November, I grade based on the effort they put in as well as their word count.”

Jabr was initially introduced to NaNoWriMo by one of her college professors.  Last year, she decided to introduce it to her high school students.

She adds, “The process begins with dedication. Every student who joins the creative writing class must dedicate themselves to this challenge. That’s what makes this different from other classes and other projects. It’s about individual dedication and passion for your work. Students cannot succeed if they are writing the novel for a grade. It’s impossible unless there is a sincere desire to write a novel and to complete the challenge. What a lot of people may not realize is that we all have book ideas floating around in our minds, all we have to do is dig for them; find those stories that are begging to be told and write them down.”

Jabr said the class does a lot of prep work in the months prior to November using the Young Writers Program workbooks that help form and shape the ideas, characters, plots and stories.  Students outline and pre-write until Nov. 1 (the rules don’t allow students to start writing until this date).“NaNoWriMo is more than just writing. It challenges you to believe in yourself at your lowest moments. It forces you to overcome self-doubt. Even if you do absolutely nothing with your novel at the end of November, you’ve written a novel–a real, actual, full novel. It’s powerful and I think, no matter what, high school students who complete the challenge get a lot more out of it than just a novel.  NaNoWriMo is a community. The kids can bond over struggles or celebrations during the month of November. They find that they can do things they never thought possible,”

“NaNoWriMo is more than just writing. It challenges you to believe in yourself at your lowest moments. It forces you to overcome self-doubt. Even if you do absolutely nothing with your novel at the end of November, you’ve written a novel–a real, actual, full novel. It’s powerful and I think, no matter what, high school students who complete the challenge get a lot more out of it than just a novel.  NaNoWriMo is a community. The kids can bond over struggles or celebrations during the month of November. They find that they can do things they never thought possible,” Jabr concluded.


Salt Lake City—City Academy has continued its tradition of hosting a special Thanksgiving feast for students and parents.

This year’s feast was held at the school Nov. 18 during lunch.  The food was provided by many parents and students at the school.

According to City Academy Executive Director Sonia Woodbury, “As a Title I school with over half our families being low-income, we know that often this is the only Thanksgiving feast some students will have.  In addition, for some of our refugee students, this will be their first and possibly only exposure each year to this American holiday.  This is a special event we look forward to each year because it brings us together to celebrate or our community and enjoy each other.”

KTVX Channel 4 News visited the school and ran a story about the special feast on Nov. 18.


Now that Halloween has passed, what’s one to do with all those leftover pumpkins?  City Academy physics teacher Dennis Pedersen had students drop pumpkins off the school’s roof on Nov. 9 and 10.  But, there was a catch to this assignment.

According to Pedersen, “The students are designing catchers that should keep the pumpkin from breaking.  The pumpkin drop is intended to allow the students to apply the concepts from kinematics and force to a real-world situation.  The catchers will have been researched and designed using the kinematic equations and Newton’s second law to predict both the fall and the best-catching technique.  We are recording the drop in slow motion, and afterward, we’ll be using physics video analyses software to analyze the forces and motion in order for the students to learn from their successes and failures.  This is for the love of physics and the fun of smashing pumpkins.”

Ten teams (five each day) made up of City Academy high school juniors and seniors participated in the pumpkin drop.

Rules of the drop included:

-Pumpkin catchers must be large enough that it can catch a pumpkin from 20 feet.

-Students are responsible for bringing their own pumpkin.

-Students can bring up to four pumpkins, and each pumpkin must weigh at least 3 pounds (extra credit will be awarded for every extra 2 pounds if the pumpkin survives the drop).

-Pumpkins may be painted, but no other modifications are allowed.

-Pumpkin catchers must be able to be moved and set up within 3 minutes.

-Styrofoam peanuts are not allowed.


Salt Lake City–With help from City Academy history and civics teacher, Gareth Orr, the school’s students held a civic conversation about election issues Monday evening, Nov. 7.  Students shared their thoughts and then invited the public to join in this open discussion.

According to Orr, “For the past several weeks, our students have joined in study and debate on the issues of the election and the issues that animate them as they approach voting age.  They had a lot to share.”

Orr also noted that, “Whatever political persuasion people brought to the conversation, this was a meaningful opportunity to share with and to invest in the education of the voters of this and our future elections.  Our students led us in practicing a civic virtue cherished at City Academy but not always modeled during this election campaign:  we can disagree without being disagreeable.”


Salt Lake City—As part of the company’s community day of service, 10 employees from the Wells Fargo Bank Commercial Real Estate Division spent much of the day at City Academy on Sept. 14.  The group was led by Wells Fargo Vice President (and City Academy board member) Erik Bengtzen and Vice President, Relationship Manager Mark Lemon.

In addition to working on the building’s landscaping and doing office work, the Wells Fargo employees taught classes on financial literacy and computer science.  They also conducted a college and career awareness class for 7th graders.  Prior to Sept. 14, students and teachers were asked to submit questions and possible topics to the guest teachers.  (In the financial literacy class, students submitted questions about student loans, student debt, interest rates and the financial implications of marriage.)

According to City Academy Executive Director Sonia Woodbury, “All of us at City Academy are grateful to Erik, Mark and the rest of the Wells Fargo team for interacting with our students and staff all day and being such a great example of service.  By having professional people like these at our school, we’re able to provide our students with valuable insights into what’s available to them after high school.”


Salt Lake City—City Academy, the Salt Lake City college preparatory, tuition-free public charter school for grades 7 through 12, has named Kevin Livesey as its new principal.  City Academy is located at 555 East 200 South.

This marks the first time City Academy has had a principal.  Sonia Woodbury, Ph.D., has been overseeing the charter school as its executive director since it opened in 2000.  Woodbury and some University of Utah education colleagues founded the school.  City Academy was one of Utah’s first eight charter schools.  Woodbury will remain as City Academy’s executive director.  She said she plans on spending more time in pursuing fund-raising and development activities for the school.

Livesey was born and raised in Essex, England.  After graduating from high school, he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and a P.G.C.E. degree (which is comparable to a master’s in education in the United States) from the University of London.  Livesey began his career in education by teaching biology from 1974 to 1976 at the Ramsden School for Boys in Kent, followed by 18 years of teaching (from 1976 to 1994) biology and mathematics at a British school, Kensington School, in Barcelona, Spain.

From 1994 to 1998, he served as founding principal for the start-up Escaan International School in Barcelona.  This position led to administrative/teaching positions at Montessori School of Madrid, British School of Vila-real in Valencia and Agora Masia Bach International School in Barcelona from 1999 to 2011.  From 2011 to 2015, Livesey was the academic vice principal at Bin Ham School in Abu Dhabi.

During his professional career, Livesey established high school programs that included the Cambridge International Examinations.  City Academy is a Cambridge University Cambridge International Centre—and it was the first school in Utah to achieve this accreditation status.  As a result, City Academy is able to offer Cambridge International Examinations courses.  When students pass Cambridge International exams, they may receive college credit (similar to that given for AP and IB exams) or advanced placement or scholarship opportunities.  The Cambridge International courses are geared specifically for 9th and 10th grade students, and cover mathematics and sciences, languages, and arts and humanities.

According to Woodbury, “City Academy offers small class sizes, a dedicated faculty and staff, and programs designed to help students flourish in their education while becoming involved citizens of our communities.  Every City Academy graduate can be eligible for a $1,000 scholarship to any post-secondary educational institution (colleges, universities, trade schools, etc.) upon completion of his or her senior year.   At City Academy, we’re building the future one student at a time.”

For more information about City Academy, visit


Salt Lake City–Motorists who drive by City Academy on 555 E. 200 S. in Salt Lake City may notice that the 200-foot-wall in front of the public charter school has undergone a dramatic transformation.  At first glance, they may think it’s a giant piece of graffiti, but upon closer inspection, they’ll discover that it’s a carefully designed art piece that’s meant to showcase City Academy and its official dragon mascot.

City Academy art teacher Josephine Bradbury worked on the design for the mural since last winter.  What’s more, the piece went through an approval process that involved numerous meetings with City Academy’s faculty and board.  Some of the paint for the project was donated by Tyler Huntzinger of Iconography Inc.  Beginning in early July, Bradbury has been sketching the basic outline and began painting the piece.

On July 7 and Aug. 3, City Academy students, parents, faculty, board members and friends helped with the painting of the piece.

Bradbury has a B.F.A. degree in painting and drawing with a teaching certificate from the University of Utah.  She has been teaching for eight years.  Prior to joining the faculty at City Academy, she taught at Viewmont High School in the Davis School District for six years.  In addition to working as an art teacher, she is practicing professional artist.  She also teaches adult classes in portraiture, still life, mixed media, drawing, oil and acrylic and watercolor painting.

Bradbury and the mural were featured in a news story on KSTU Fox 13 on July 7.


Salt Lake City—Open Community Theatre, part of a Utah-based nonprofit organization geared toward helping middle- and high-school students express their creativity, presented a musical production, “Hooray for Hollywood,” July 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. at City Academy Charter School. City Academy Charter School is located at 555 E. 200 S. in Salt Lake City.

The performances were open to the public.  Tickets prices were $6 for adults and $4 for students.

“Hooray for Hollywood” is a musical revue celebrating movies and their songs.  Some of the songs performed included “Hooray for Hollywood” from “Hollywood Hotel,” “I’m a Believer,” from “Shrek,” “Pretty Woman” from “Pretty Woman,” “I Believe I Can Fly” from “Space Jam,” “Blaze of Glory” from “Young Guns II” and “Eye of the Tiger” from “Rocky III.”

Open Community Theatre held a five-week theater camp for students in grades 7 through 12.  The camp began in June and the “Hooray for Hollywood” performance marked the culmination of the summer program.  Twenty-five students participated in programs about musical theater, improv comedy, Shakespeare and technical theater.

The scripted musical revue was written by Open Community Theatre’s resident playwright, Kirby Saxton, age 18.  Saxton also starred in the show as the film director, Gerald Irving.  Other leads were Cade Denton (age 16) as the movie star, Roger, and Maille Rollo (age 15) as Mary Rogers, an actor plucked out of the background to become a movie star.

Prior to “Hooray for Hollywood,” Open Community Theatre’s improv comedy campers performed short-form improv on July 21 and long-form improv on July 22.  After the improv, the Shakespeare campers performed a short scene from “Richard III.”

Open Community Theatre is part of a new, non-profit after-school community theater education center known as Academy of Creativity.  City Academy Charter School hosts Academy of Creativity.

The Open Community Theatre summer camp was run by Gaby Saxton, director of Academy of Creativity and coordinator of City Academy’s after school learning extension program, and Will Saxton, volunteer assistant director of Academy of Creativity.

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