The Last Three Years – a Not-So-Brief History of #Sugarkills

As 8th graders, we are very much looking forward to graduation. But one of the things we will miss about our school is the work we have done on the #sugarkills blog.

Over the past 3 years, coming up and working on #sugarkills has always been a highlight of the day. From this blog, we have learned a lot about sugar, blogging, and most importantly, ourselves. The special thing about us is that we aren’t the kind of kids you would expect to write a blog about sugar, yet we really enjoy working on it. We have all developed our roles on the blog, and we all really enjoy what we do, which is why we have come back to write almost every school day for the past 3 years.

The #sugarkills blog all started in the fall of 2012 when the mayor of New York City was trying to impose a sugar ban on the city. This sparked debates in class and led to the creation of our #sugarkills blog. The in-class debates and further research led to a lot of interest in sugar and how it affects your body. Our first couple posts were created out of curiosity of the amount of sugar in our favorite foods.

But as the blog grew, our content was generated from more than just curiosity. We started receiving requests from those who view our blog, and we started to write about news relating to sugar and health. This led us to our first big post, Daniel’s Natural vs. Added Sugar post. This post has been a huge post since the day it went up.  It led us to record highs in page views and comments. This post brought even more attention to our blog.

The increasing success in our blog got us a interview with Middleweb. This was huge for our blog because not only would our current readers learn more about us, but a whole new group of readers would learn about our blog! The day our interview got published, March 17th, 2013, we changed from just a couple of random 6th graders to credible writers.

The combination of our publicity from Middleweb, plus Mr. Ferriter writing about us on his blog, generated hundreds of page views a day (for a few days, at least). It still blows my mind that a bunch of 12-year-olds could have their creation read by 200 people, and change the way those people think about sugar. One of the comments I still remember to this day was from this women in Australia, who left us a comment saying that her grandfather with type 2 diabetes changed the way he eats because of our blog.

Then, on May 19th, we got our highest ever page views in one day: 863. Unfortunately, it was from a group of people hating on our blog. They claimed that we were “fat shaming,” or posting too much about the bad effects of sugar. We learned a couple lessons from that day:

  1. If you are writing online, there will be people that will hate on your blog. They will claim that you are lying, or writing useless information (like that doesn’t happen on the internet).
  2. As a blog, we needed to write more healthy options posts so that we don’t get accused of being overly biased or “fat shaming.” Looking back on the this, I think we still need to include more healthy posts on our blog. We never wrote nearly enough healthy posts to keep up with all the “sugar is deadly” posts we write.

Then, the day that ever kid dreads: the end of the school year came. The entire #sugarkills gang was so (not) heartbroken. But we knew that the new school year could bring the end to our time with #sugarkills. None of us wanted that to happen. But thankfully, our school started developing time for enrichment projects like #sugarkills.

Although 7th grade was a slow year, we completed one important goal. We kept this blog going. We knew going into 8th grade we would have a group of experienced* bloggers working on #sugarkills. That summer, we knew that we could accomplish something special as a blog the next year.

At the beginning of the year, we put up our 150th post! But another important thing we achieved is that we developed a group of (kind of) talented 6th graders to succeed us next year so that the blog will go on. As 8th graders, we were scared and excited about the future of the blog after we left.

Then, we saw our biggest controversy as a blog. It came with the name fitness guy,” or as we like to call him, Mr. Guy. He harshly criticized the credibility of the content of our blog. He claimed that a part of our Natural vs. Added Sugar post was “wholly false.” We went back and checked, and it turned out he was right. There was an error in our content that we went back and fixed. But that wasn’t the important part of the exchange. The part that we learned a lot from was the language he used when pointing out our mistake. Here is what Mr. Guy left us:

The information on this page is very wrong. Please, educate yourself for a few moments via a simple Google search. Remove this false information from the internet.

The immediate lesson learned is that dialogue through a computer screen is much different then a conversation face to face would be. People generally feel more powerful typing a comment rather then talking to someone in real life, due to the anonymity of the internet.

The other lesson is that some of our readers don’t realize we are just middle-schoolers. That’s both good and bad. Good, because that means our writing makes us sound like adults, but bad because people will respond to us like we are adults. In this situation, it led to comments using language that isn’t generally used in a classroom setting.

This goes with the lesson we learned from an incident in 6th grade. No matter what, if you are writing on the internet, people will try to shoot you down (*cough Youtube comments cough*). But you have to keep writing.

After our Mr. Guy “experience” we hit another #sugarkills milestone: our 200th post went up. In those 200 posts, we’ve had some incredible achievements…

  • 40,000 all time page views
  • Over 150 comments
  • And, most importantly: ~30 middle-schoolers changing people’s lives day by day.

That leads us to this post, which is more than likely the 8th graders last post, and definitely our longest post. Over the last 3 years, I never thought the day would come that we would write our last #sugarkills post.

Now for some self-reflecting from the 8th graders.

Cross – writer, idea man, organizer

This year was great for #sugarkills. We got a whole new class of #sugarkills kids who will be coming back next year to keep making posts (hopefully). As for us, were all going off to high school. But this has been one of the best experiences from middle school, and I owe basically my whole high school career to Mr. Ferriter, who wrote me a fantastic recommendation. #Sugarkills is a great blog and has brought me and my friends closer together. #Sugarkills has proven to me, and the rest of the school what a bunch of dedicated middle-schoolers and a great teacher can do. We got over 100 posts in half a year, and that was just the beginning. We now have 3 years of #sugarkills kids and we have tons of posts. It has been a great journey.

Dylan – writer, art technology

I find it hard to believe that all of us eight graders will be gone in just a couple of days [note: we are gone now]. My thoughts are: who will take over the blog as the leader? Because that has been the eighth graders’ role. Who be the leader and control our content and our editing and our designing on Canva or WordPress? Who will that be? Maybe it can be the rising eighth graders. Or maybe Mr. Ferriter can find responsible students that can take on that big role. But us eight graders will always miss this blog and the time that we spent together. #Sugarkills has inspired me to always work my hardest, do my best, and to help others fix their problems.

I feel that I have helped #sugarkills in a huge way because all that we were was a normal word-based blog. But then, Mr. Ferriter found a designing website/app that could create posters, infographics, and other things. And we used that to our advantage and inputted pictures into the blog. We used this to make our posts pop and make our posts look even better.

In conclusion, I really hope that #sugarkills will continue because it grabs the attention of many kids. I hope that #sugarkills becomes more than just a blog at our school. I hope that other schools might want to pitch in and help expand our blog. I also hope that the rising sixth graders join our blog and we can get more improved posts up. Us eighth graders are the founding fathers (and mothers, but they all left earlier) of #sugarkills and we all hope that this will grow and become even bigger than it is now.

Joel – writer, editor, blog technology

This experience has been a blast over the last three years. From sixth grade to now, I’ve had a great time. When the club first started, I didn’t know about it. I really started #sugarkills in the middle of sixth grade when a couple of friends told me about it. Since then, my role of the blog has been writing and editing posts. I’ve met new people in younger grades, too. The sixth graders will have to pick up the blog after we leave.

I also like changing people’s lives through a blog in school. I wish all classes could be used to change people’s minds and lives. Mr. Ferriter is always asking us around the room if we’re “being productive.” I think classes that were used to make a difference in the world would be more “productive” than any classes that we’re taking right now. This also educates us on more than just “textbook work.” We are learning science through #sugarkills. We learn about complex and simple carbohydrates, natural and added sugars, and diabetes and other diseases. #Sugarkills is more productive than any class we could be taking now.

I think that the biggest event (or incident) we’ve had is the comments by Mr. Guy. He left a few comments on how we should “educate ourselves.” Mr. Ferriter happened to be out the day that he left the first comment. Ried and I were the only #sugarkills kids in the room. We had to leave a response quickly because we wanted him to hear the facts. Ried typed and I proofread. At first, Ried wrote something a little bit harsh but I told him that probably wasn’t the best thing to write in that case. If we wrote something harsh, he probably wouldn’t care about the truth, he’d only care about being better than us, and making us feel stupid (which ended up being what happened anyways).

One day, a few years ago, Ried and Daniel were challenged by Mr. Ferriter to do a “sugar experiment” in real life. The idea was to  count up how much sugar each one ate in a day. It was supposed to be on if you could get under 24 grams of sugar in one day, but they turned it into a game to see who could eat the least amount of sugar. Ried ended up winning (which isn’t important) with 12.5 grams of sugar in one day. The next day he ate a normal days worth of sugar… which was a whopping 198 grams of sugar, which is more than 8 days worth of sugar!

Christian – writer

These last three years have been very exciting. #Sugarkills has made me think so much about my life and many others. Also, I couldn’t think of anything more exciting or fun to do with my friends that I have known for so many years. #Sugarkills has given me the chance to express my opinions and create many things that I wanted to write about. This all let me have a fun break in my day.

If we had more classes like #sugarkills, then I would be thrilled. This class has interested me a lot, that’s why I love it so much. Since I’m so interested in this group, I have been very focused and have a lot of fun.

Daniel – editor, technology, co-leader

I came into #sugarkills not because I cared about sugar or health or anything like that, but because I liked Mr. Ferriter and because it had to do with computers. I quickly started to like the process of blogging. More than that, I got to hang out with some of my friends and have fun.

Although I didn’t care about sugar at first, I’ve realized I have been slowly removing dessert from my diet. In fact, I only have dessert about twice a week now, as opposed to twice a day when I joined #sugarkills. Working on #sugarkills has made me think of sugar as disgusting, rather than delicious.

In addition, I’ve noticed my grammatical understanding has increased. Slowly, I have been making fewer edits to Ried’s posts, too, so I suspect others have also become better writers by working on #sugarkills. In fact, the best way to become a better writer is just to write a lot.

At school, we might have 7 or 8 writing assignments per year. With #sugarkills, or any other blog that is updated frequently, you do that much in like, ten school days. Even with 100-word posts, that’s somewhere around 12,000 words per school year. No wonder we are better writers now!

Ried – writer, stud, co-leader

[Daniel’s comments in brackets]

I think I speak for all of us working on #sugarkills when I say that this blog has been the greatest thing I’ve done in middle school these 3 years. This blog has taught me more real world things then all of the classes I’ve had, combined. The writing has been my favorite part of this blog. The ability to express my opinion while providing facts online has been a joy over the last three years. It gives me the ability to express myself freely without worrying that my grade would be affected. [all of this is true for me, too]

The thing I don’t like about school writing assignments is that you are not encouraged to write what you actually think, you are encouraged to write what the teacher wants to see. And that is just a waste of people’s time. What is the point of writing if you don’t mean what you write? Even in argumentative papers, you have to write it in such a way that takes out the opinionated part of paper and just focus on what everyone wants to hear [Ried can be very opinionated]. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite teachers have taught language arts, but the way we are taught to write essays is flawed.

Another reason #sugarkills work should be valued higher then all of our schoolwork combined is because of the Mr. Guy incident. Interacting with a bully through social media taught us more about how the real world works then any math formula we could’ve memorized [except the Pythagorean Theorem, which is actually useful]. Social media is taking over this world.  It is more important that we learn how to use that, rather than how to use an I.L.L. notebook [“interactive learning log” – a downright stupid way to take notes].

Mr. Guy probably taught me more information I can use when school is over then all my 8th grade teachers taught me combined. Sure they taught me how to pass their tests, but Mr. Guy taught me how to handle criticism in the real world. That, to me, is important information.

But the best part of #sugarkills has easily been working with some of my best friends [like me!], on an important topic and having fun while doing so. That is why I come up to work on #sugarkills every day. All the kids that come up to work are some of my favorite kids at this school, and I really enjoy coming up and hanging out with them.

As I have previously stated, the most important part of this blog is the friends I have made working on the blog. Not only are they great friends, and incredible people to work with, and they take my writing to enormous highs. The posts I have written could not be nearly as good as they are without my editors Joel and Daniel [seriously, not even close]. Whenever I write, they always get the final say in the post or comment. Because sometimes I let my emotions flow as I write, that can lead to me writing things that are not the best for the blog. I trust them on almost everything, which is saying a lot coming from a person like me. Our #sugarkills fam [rly?] has been an incredible experience in my life and it’s all because of the friends I made doing so.

Our final thoughts…

We all have one dirty little secret: We all know sugar is extremely bad for our body, but we still choose to eat a lot of it. No matter what we learn about sugar, we will continue to eat a lot of it. Our goal in #sugarkills has always been to change people’s lives around the world. But no one of us were ever all that interested in changing our own sugar habits (except Daniel).

We think that this blog has been a success – and will continue to be successful – and no one can take what we did for our blog away from us. But this blog would never have started if it wasn’t for our incredible teacher, Mr Ferriter. We all agree that he has forever changed our lives, and we will never forget what he has done for us.

Mr. Ferriter is an outstanding teacher, and an even better friend to be around.  We can’t say enough to justify how amazing he really is. He changed us from kids who have some good ideas, to writers with powerful opinions that can change the world. That is what made the sugarkills experience the best of our lives, so far.

-The Original #sugarkills gang.


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