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Friday, December 18, 2015

DIY Holiday Gifts

Christmas is coming up, and that means gifts. Not just receiving, but also giving. If you don't have the time to go out to the store or just want something with a more personal touch to it, check out these do-it-yourself gifts.

This gift is simple to make, personal, and practical - it pretty much has it all. Decorating a mug is as easy as talking some sharpies, drawing a design or writing a message on a ceramic mug, and then baking it in the oven. You can make the design however you like, so you can suit it to the person easily. For example, I made one for my friend that loves science, so I drew the chemical structure for caffeine. Be careful though, it's a bit tricky to draw on a curved surface! (Pro Tip: Alchohol can erase sharpie if you make a mistake.) 

This is another fun, practical gift that is perfect if you have a sibling or friend in college that is coming home for the holidays. This idea consists of getting a container (perhaps a shower caddy or a laundry basket) and filling it up with college essentials. How you define "essential" is up to interpretations. You might consider filling it up with notebooks, pencils, and pens or maybe putting a lot of candy and top ramen.  

This gift is perfect for a geeky or retro-minded friend. It involves drawing a grid on corkboard, cutting out a shape, then painting in the squares to create an authentic-looking pixel design. This can range from flowers, to stars, to iconic 8-bit symbols (this instruction video shows how to make hearts from the Legend of Zelda series).  I have made this for myself and even though it took more time than anticipated, the result looked fantastic. 

I hope you enjoy these! And if not, don't worry: there are a plethora of DIY gift ideas floating on the internet.

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Three Things You Didn't Know about the City of Mountain View Part 1

Mountain Bay Plaza during & after costruction

1. That giant office building on Castro Street? It's kind of a funny story. 
After construction was completed on 'Mountain Bay Plaza', the building was left empty for over a decade due to city foreclosures and parking disputes. Instead of hiring a squad of security guards the ownership hired a team of Doberman Pinchers--that's right, dogs--to protect the empty building.

2. We have two Sister Cities: Iwata, Japan and Hasselt, Belgium

Hasselt, Belgium
In 1974, Mountain View adopted Iwata, Japan as its Sister City. At
Iwata, Japan
that time, both towns were known for their agricultural economies: Mountain View for apricots and plums and Iwata for cantaloupes. Today, students from Mountain View High School and Iwata Minami High School participate in an exchange program each year. In 1988, Mountain View adopted Hasselt, Belgium as its second sister city. Hasselt is a university town renowned for its museums and other cultural attractions.

3. The Computer History Museum is home to the largest collection of computing artifacts in the

Computer History Museum
The Computer History Museum is one of Mountain View's greatest attractions, Rooted in the heart of the Silicon Valley, the Computer History Museum is home to the largest collection of historical computing artifacts in the world. One such artifact is the Cray-1 supercomputer, one of the world's best known and most successful supercomputers.

Stay tuned for more little-known facts about Mountain View! Part 2 is coming soon!

Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Finals Survival 101

FINALS. For most of us high school students, these next few weeks will culminate the first semester of school with our final examinations. It is usually one of the most stressful, exhausting weeks of school- but it doesn't have to be that way. While your mind is crammed with figures and formulas, try the following tips to maximize your study time and stay healthy.

1. Say bye to Instagram and Facebook!
I know, I know, it's hard to turn away from our smartphones, but you wouldn't believe how distracting social media accounts can truly be. Even just a quick scroll through your 'feed can add up when you consider how many times a day you are checking various media accounts. Don't believe me? I tried out RescueTime for one month, a tool that measures your internet productivity, and I was shocked to learn that I spent up to two hours on Facebook some days. Seriously guys, do whatever it takes: turn off your phone, hide it away, or log out of all your accounts. 

It seems unoriginal, but it is the best thing you could do for your body.  You wouldn't willingly sleep deprive yourself on a normal school night, and finals is no exception. If anything, aim to get more sleep. Get in bed a little earlier, as it may take longer to fall asleep because the nervous jitters and all the material in your head can keep your brain wired.

3. Eat healthy!
Stay hydrated and avoid eating a solely junk food diet. Make sure to have a supply of healthy snacks on hand to energize you, as what you eat can affect your study focus and test outcome. Try fruits, nuts (secret protein!), and veggies to start. The University of Kentucky has compiled a great list of finals-friendly foods to keep you covered.

4. Come prepared.
Don't be that kid that has to ask to borrow a pencil - and a piece of paper - and an eraser.... Bring whatever you need on test day, including your appropriate calculator, pencils, and note cards. This experience is already going to be stressful, so try to reduce the last-minute frenzy by coming at least with the necessary supplies.

Best of luck on your finals! After reading this, I hope you'll try these tips and sit down for distraction-free study time. Your grades will thank you as your hard work reflects on your exams. Best of luck :)

Written by Katia G., Homework Assistant

Thursday, December 10, 2015

New Starbucks Holiday Cups

When I went to Starbucks this weekend to satisfy my craving for a pumpkin spice latte, I noticed something a bit strange about my cup  (besides my misspelled name): it was noticeably plain.

This year, Starbucks has unveiled a new holiday cup with a simple red gradient and lacking the holiday symbols of years past, which have included snowflakes, snowmen, Christmas tree ornaments, and nutcrackers.
2011 Holiday Cup 

This Year's Holiday Cup 

This decision has caused sizeable amounts of controversy, with claims that it is another causality of the "War on Christmas", which seeks to eliminate all public mentions of Christmas from American society.

I (and many others) feel that these claims are a bit overblown. Removing the Christmas theme is not an attack on Christmas, but rather, a way to recognize that some people may celebrate other winter holidays or none at all.
2014 Cup

Another, more practical reason for the design shift is to make the cups simpler and less busy-looking. This trend has been going on for a while - just look at the relatively simple design of last years' cup, featuring only red tones and a subtle pine tree print. Simplifying the palette and design makes the cups more pleasing to look at and possibly decreases the cost of production.

But yet another group brings up a valid point: who cares? Arguing about the design of a Starbucks cup is perhaps the epitome of a "First World Problem". A Starbucks cup, at the end of the day, is simply a receptacle to hold an expensive drink before being deposited into a landfill (which some argue is the cup's biggest problem).

But what do you think about the new design? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Quick, Easy Ways to Relieve Stress

Sometimes it all becomes too much. Between school, extracurricular activities, work, and other obligations, the stress and responsibilities can just be a little too straining. If you want to de-stress without spending a lot of time or money, try these simple techniques:

1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
This technique involves tensing each muscle group, starting from the head to the toes (or the other way). You hold each muscle group for 8-10 seconds before adding tension to another group. Once you have tensed all of your muscles, you then relax all the muscles at once. By forcing your muscles to relax, you force other relaxation responses in the body (deeper breathing, lower heartbeat and blood pressure, etc.) Although difficult to execute, it is effective if you only have a few minutes to spare.

2. Listen to music (or maybe nature sounds?)
Or you could watch the Hotline Bling video
for some laughs. 
Listening to music may reduce stress by shortening the stress response, which is done in two ways. The first is by reducing levels of alpha-amylase, an enzyme found in saliva that is released during stress. The second is by lowering levels of cortisol, a hormone that helps cause stress. However, these effects help stop stress after the stressful situation is over. To reduce stress while still in the stressful situation, research has shown that ambient nature sounds may be more helpful.

Child's Pose
3. Light Yoga:
No, this doesn't mean go buy a yoga mat and sign up for a class at the YMCA. By performing simple poses and employing controlled breathing techniques, anyone can reap the stress relieving effects of yoga (more specifically, reduced blood pressure and cortisol levels.) Some easy poses suitable for beginners include the eagle pose, child's pose, and my favourite, corpse pose. 

4. Don't Perceive Stress as a Bad Thing 
Hear me out: while not technically a way to relieve stress, perceiving stress as beneficial may help prevent serious health problems. As Kelly McGonigal explains in her TED talk, "How to Make Stress Your Friend", people who see stress as helpful do not harm their cardiovascular systems in their stress response as  much as those who perceive stress as bad. If this change of perspective seems impossible, she also recommends caring for others and seeking social support.

I hope you find this list helpful when prepping for the endless amounts of standardized tests or preparing for your next presentation. Feel free to leave some of your own stress relief techniques in the comments!     

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What's up with the new SAT?

A few years ago, the College Board announced that they would rehaul the SAT. This redesigned SAT is being used for the first time in March 2016. For you current juniors, this means you have a choice in whether to take the new or old SAT. Although you probably have an idea of what the new test will be like because of this year's new PSAT, I thought I would run down the major differences.
  • Optional essay based off of analysis of a given source that does not affect the composite score 
  • New scale: from 2400 to 1600 (800 from a reading and writing section, 800 from the math section) 
  • No guessing penalty 
  • Replacing obscure vocabulary (like perfidy or calumny) with words that are used frequently in many fields (like synthesis or empirical) 
  • Removal of the dreaded sentence completion questions 
  • 4 answer choices instead of 5 
  • Emphasis on increasing opportunity - the College Board is partnering with Kahn Academy to provide free test-prep for the new SAT 
  • Questions asking for justification for a previous answer 
  • Fewer but longer sections 
  • Increased focus on complex questions that require critical thinking 
  • Addition of a non-calculator math section 
  • Questions involving diagrams or other informational graphs in the reading/writing section  
  • Trigonometry concepts in the math section
No matter what test you end up taking, I wish you the best of luck. And remember, your SAT score is one of many factors colleges will use when making admission decisions!

Additional Resources:

Monday, December 7, 2015

Plant Nanny: Cute, Fun Way to Drink More Water

I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and saw an interesting picture on my friend's profile: a simply adorable cartoon plant. I checked the description and found out that it was a screenshot from an app called Plant Nanny.

Something this cute deserves investigation.
Curious,  I downloaded the free app to my phone. I didn't really know what it was about, and I was delighted to find out that it was designed to remind its users to drink more water (something I have trouble doing).

When you first start the app, you input your weight, activity level, and preferred volume measurement. From there, the app will tell you how much water you need per day. I was surprised at how much water I needed, more than the 64 oz. that seems standard.

After you choose your plant, you give it some water every time you drink water in the real world. If you are drinking enough, your plant will look happy and sing. If not, it will be sad and thirsty. If you forget to water your plant for an extended period, it will die. For the forgetful, you can also set up the app so it sends reminder notifications after certain time intervals (I set mine to two hours).

For me, this app worked wonderfully. Before the app, I would drink maybe around 5-7 cups of water. Now, I drink around 10 cups and feel a lot healthier and more hydrated.

I highly recommend this app. Feel free to tell me how it goes in the comments!

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant                                          

Friday, December 4, 2015

After School Activities in the Teen Zone

Great new things are happening at the Teen Zone! Each school day, we will have a different activity for you to relax and rejuvenate yourself during study breaks. Especially with final exams approaching, it’s important that you take some time to just have fun. Read on to learn more about each day’s activity!

All of these activities take place from 3:30-5:30, they are free, and you don't need to register!

Mondays:  Teens Only Legos
Let loose your creativity with our giant tub of Legos!

Newsflash: Legos are just as fun as they were when you were a ten year old! Challenge your friends to a Lego-building competition for some spirited fun.
Tuesdays:  Coloring for Teens
Unwind with our stress-busting pictures and mazes.

This is coloring like you’ve never seen before! We’ll have plenty of artistic patterns and complex mazes for you right here at the Teen Zone! According to Huffington Post, "The practice generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity." 

Wednesdays:  Game On!
Get your game on with our collection of board, card, and party games.

Board games are a great way for you to have fun with your study group. We have an awesome collection of all sorts of games, so come by and choose one to play!
Thursdays:  Craft Break
 Duct tape, paperclips, pipe cleaners and more. Every week we will have a new craft.
Back by popular demand! Weekly crafts at the Teen Zone have been a patron favorite for years. We supply all the materials; just bring your creativity and craftiness!

Fridays:  Knit and Crochet Club
Open to all skill levels, ages 8 and up. Supplies provided for beginners.

All knitters—beginners, experts, and everyone in between—will enjoy knitting with us at the Teen Zone.  If you’ve never knitted before, come and learn this skill just in time for the holiday season!

Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Winners Announced: Teens' Top Teen 2015!

The votes are in! The Teens' Top Ten 2015 winners have been announced! This list, straight from the American Library Association website, is as follows:

1. The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen. (Scholastic) War is on the horizon in Carthya, and Jaron needs to protect his country. However, the ruler of Avenia has also captured Jaron’s best friend and love, Imogen. Jaron needs to save both his friend and his country, but everything that possibly could go wrong, does go wrong.

2. I Become Shadow by Joe Shine. (Soho Teen) Ren Sharpe was abducted at fourteen, chosen by the mysterious F.A.T.E. Center to become a Shadow: an unstoppable guardian of a future leader/world changer. After four years of training, she is assigned to protect Gareth Young, one of these future beings, an easy assignment, until a team of trained and armed professionals attempt to abduct him in broad daylight. With nowhere else to turn, Ren breaks F.A.T.E. rules and tracks down the only person she can trust; a fellow Shadow named Junie Miller, and decides that her kidnappers may be able to see the future, but they are unprepared for the killing machines they've created.

3. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. (Simon & Schuster) Lara Jean has a teal hatbox under her bed filled with all her precious things, old feelings, and memories that should be buried forever. In that box, there are letters Lara has written to all the boys she has ever loved with no intention of ever sending them. One day, the hat box goes missing, marking the beginning of a series of confrontations she never thought she’d have to face.

4. My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak. (Sourcebooks) As the perfect girl who had everything scheduled, always looked nice and studied hard, Jackie couldn't predict her parents’ accident. She also didn't see her future consisting of moving from New York to Colorado and living with twelve boys. How can she cope with her parents’ death, a dramatic change in lifestyle while still being the perfect girl she was?

5. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. (Bloomsbury) Celaena, the King’s Champion, has faced many challenges throughout her life, but none compare to what she must now face. As the King of Adarlan seeks to destroy all that she cares about, Celaena must learn to control her powers while deciding who should fight back: Celaena the assassin or Aelin the Fae princess. *Annotations provided by the Teens’ Top Ten book groups.

6. The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare. (Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry) Magnus Bane, the mysterious High Warlock of New York, has been alive for a long time and has a mysterious past unknown to most of his companions. In this thrilling novel, secrets and stories are revealed, of lovers, of adventures, and of friendships.

7. The Young Elites by Marie Lu. (Penguin/G.P. Putnam's Sons) Adelina Amounteru is a survivor of the plague, a Malfetto, a freak to the rest of society. The treatment of abuse over the years has caused a darkness to brew inside her. She believes there is hope for her yet as there is a group of other Malfettos, called the Young Elites. The Young Elites have not only survived the plague, but have developed unexplainable abilities. Is refuge with these people what Adelina always wanted, or are they just going to end up using her like everyone else?

8. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. (Macmillan/ Henry Holt & Company) As Lia tries to run from her bounty hunters, she begins uncovering one of her kingdoms deceptive secrets, hidden by the years passed. Meanwhile, she begins falling in love with two men who are not who they seem to be...

9. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson. (Simon & Schuster) Emily and Sloane are the bestest friends having an amazing summer, until one day Sloane disappears. Sloane leaves behind a to-do list of 13 tasks Emily would normally never try without Sloane by her side. With the help of Frank Porter, and a few other friends, will Emily finish the list?

10. The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith. (Hachette/Poppy) Lucy and Owen get stuck in an elevator in a New York City blackout. When they finally get out of the elevator, they spend the night looking at the stars. Soon after the blackout, Lucy moves away to Scotland while Owen heads out west. With that night in-grained into their minds, they try to stay in touch with each other while trying to figure out what that night truly meant for both of them.

And, here is the video announcement:

Come out to the Mountain View Public Library to checkout these winning titles!

What are your thoughts on the list? Did your favorites make the cut? Is it strange that three out of the teen have the word "shadow" in the title--what's up with that? Comment below!

Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My Favorite TED Talks

I love TED talks. For those who don't know, TED talks spread powerful ideas through talks that are under 18 minutes. These talks cover a wide variety of topics, from creativity to science to leadership, so there is something for everyone. And with my school deciding to host a TEDx event, I thought I would share some of my favorites.

How many lollipop moments have you had?

This TED talk is short but incredibly powerful. Dudley demonstrates how leadership is not in positions or grand actions, but in the little things we do every day that make other people's lives better. As an example, he recalls a day in which his humor encouraged a young woman to stay in college and caused her to meet her future husband. His actions helped that woman tremendously, but he didn't remember it at all. He dubbed this moment and others like it "lollipop moments". For a funny, quick TED talk, I would highly recommend this video.

2. The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This TED talk is all about representation, storytelling, and stereotyping. Adichie starts off this talk by telling the audience how, as a child, she only wrote stories about Western cultures, because that was the only culture represented in the books she read. After reading stories featuring African culture, she started writing stories with African characters. From there, she explains how having only one story of a person or a culture is damaging, talking about stereotypes she faced living in America and stereotypes that she believed of other cultures. This talk deftly explains the connections between stories and stereotypes without any blaming or shaming.

3. Why City Flags are the Worst-Designed Things You've Never Noticed by Roman Mars 
City Flag of SF. As it turns out, it's very badly designed 
This TED talk is very unique. The most striking difference is that it is presented like a radio show, complete with a presenter that is (gasp!) sitting down and with prerecorded interview segments. Another difference is that unlike in most TED talks, this topic is not discussed very often and, at first glance, does not seem very significant.  Despite this, it still manages to be insightful as well as entertaining, using a fairly simple topic to explain elegant design principles that can be used in many other things.

4. Play This Game to Come Up With Original Ideas by Shimpei Takahashi 
And finally, another short talk, this time about creativity. In this, Takahashi shares a simple game that he uses to generate ideas for his job at a toy company. This game may not be useful for all creative endeavors, but the principle behind the game is quite so. That is, maintain an open mind and consider any and all ideas that come to you, even if they seem unorthodox. Not all of your ideas will end up working, but eventually you will find the few "golden" ideas that you may not have thought of otherwise.

I hope you enjoy these! Feel free to share some of your favorites TED talks
in the comments below.

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cast Your Vote: Teens' Top Ten!

Tis the season for Teens' Top Ten! Teens' Top Ten is essentially a yearly YA book list chosen by teens and for teens.

Teens can choose from 24 nominated books the winning ten will comprise the list. And voting has already begun! Head over to the web page to vote and learn more about the nominated books. Or check out the display on the bulletin board in the Teen Zone!

Voting ends on October 24th, and winners will be announced on October 27th.

                                              Check out this video to learn more about the nominees!

In the mood to read some winning books? Click here to see the Teens' Top Ten past winners.

Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Benefits of Performing and Visual Arts

California A-G Requirements 
When applying for California colleges, fulfilling the A-G requirements are a must. For the average student, these requirements will be completed without the student having to go out of their way, with one exception. For a lot of students, completing the one-year visual and performing arts requirement can seem like a hassle, requiring the addition of an extra class for senior year.

But why do the California university systems insist on this year? Participating in performing and visual arts can have numerous benefits. The first is how they can help students handle mistakes. In performing arts, students must continue even if they commit a folly. Although their mistake can feel disheartening, performers must learn to get over it quickly and focus on making the rest of their performance the best it can be. The same is true of visual arts. In many mediums, there is no "undo" button for mistakes (for example, after putting some paint on a canvas, it is impossible to take off). Instead, artists must incorporate their mistakes, even if it involves straying from their original vision.

Another benefit (perhaps limited to performing arts) is learning teamwork and group trust. Most, if not all, performing arts classes in high school are about being in an ensemble. This involves cohesion and communication between different sections and people. To create the best final performance, individual players must not be afraid to offer constructive suggestions to others.

Finally, participation in visual and performing arts rewires the brain in beneficial ways. For example, participating in visual arts helps students recognize patterns, find meaning from complexity, and understand metaphorical representations.

But what do you think? Does the art requirement encourage students to try new things? Or is it simply another hoop to jump through? Feel free to leave a response in the comments

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant

Friday, October 16, 2015

Outdoor Activities Close to Home

While the Silicon Valley is an international icon for technology, our location also boasts many fantastic natural resources. For when you're tired of staring at your computer screen, I've compiled some of the best (inexpensive!) outdoor activities that don't require a long drive to beach or an even longer drive to Lake Tahoe. Read on for more information and check out the map above for directions!

1. Kite Flying at Shoreline's Kite Lot
Flying a kite is both relaxing and fun. Track down a kite in your garage, or order one from Amazon. Round up your friends and take advantage of the winds at Shoreline Kit Lot. It's free--but then again, charging people for using the wind would be an obnoxious thing to do.

2. Paddle Boating at Shoreline Lake
Paddle boating is surprisingly cheap and unsurprisingly awesome. For teenagers 16 and up, all you need is a parent signature and $23 dollars between the four (or three, or two) of you and you're good to go for an hour. Just don't fall in--if the color/aroma of the water is any indication, it would not be a pleasant experience. There are also sailboats, stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, bikes, and tandem bikes (!), but paddle boating is a particularly safe bet for the uncoordinated.

3. Walking at the Stanford Dish
The Dish is a great walk that's shaped in a loop, so it's pretty hard to get lost. The trail is free, but surprisingly rigorous. Try not to feel embarrassed when you get passed by an 85-year old woman, it happens...to me at least. Parking can be tough, I recommend going in the morning to beat the crowd.

4.  Visit at Deer Hollow Farm
After a hike at Rancho San Antonio Preserve (which has many scenic paths for running and hiking, by the way) stop in at Deer Hollow Farms to say hello to the animals. There's also a community-run orchard for your perusal.

5. Fishing (and more!) at Lake Vasona
Los Gatos' Lake Vasona is one our area's hidden gems; the county park offers fishing, nature trails, boating, and paddle boarding.

6. Hiking through the Los Altos Hills Pathway System
Much of Los Altos Hills is crisscrossed by winding trails making up the Los Altos Hills Pathway system. The trails are open to horses, bikers, and walkers and the scenery is lovely. Access to the trails is free, but a map of the different paths is available for $3.00 in the Los Altos Town Hall.

Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Favorite Book Covers

Whoever said "don't judge a book by its cover" has not seen this TedTalk by master book cover designer Chip Kidd. I find book cover design to be a fascinating industry, and this talk gives it a fresh and funny perspective from someone who is at the top of the field.

My favorite book cover design is that of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time". I love it because of the cutout feature, the simple but compelling graphic of an upside down dog, and the clean layout of the text. What about you? Do you have a personal favorite book cover design? Share below!
Interested in some more book cover eye candy? Check out this New York Times round-up and another great round-up from shortlist.com.

Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Half an Hour of Your Life Well Spent

Perhaps one of the most impactful pieces of journalism I read all year also happens to be incredibly relevant to our city. Using an interactive media format, reporter John D. Sutter explores the poverty that permeates one of the most wealthy areas in America: our home, the Silicon Valley.

Sutter focuses on how poverty affects children, which makes it even more important and pertinent for high school students to read. To view the piece, readers click through various slides, some featuring text and images, others featuring video.

The experience of reading and discussing the story made me see the Silicon Valley in a whole new light. All in all, interacting with the piece takes about 30 minutes. But I implore you all to take a half an hour out of your day to learn about this issue, you won't regret it.

The Poor Kids of the Silicon Valley 

Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

If All Your Friends Jumped Off the Bridge, Would You?

If all your friends jumped off the bridge, would you? 

We are all familiar with this saying and laugh at because we would not even give it a second thought about our decision in this situation. Of course we would not jump, but an article in the New York Times believes that adolescents would actually jump off the bridge if their friends did.
This article tries to blame friends for all the reckless decisions adolescents do. Is this true, though? No. It is not true, but the article clearly has a biased opinion on the matter. Of course there are friends who can be a bad influence, but this does not mean all friends are the same. It is like saying that all food taste the same (definitely not true!). An after all, as individuals we decided whether we let our friends influence our decisions or not.
The article refers to a study conducted were subjects (people chosen to do the study) were asked to play a driving gave either alone or with friends watching. The results -of course- showed that teenagers who played while their friends watched had more crashes then adults whose friends were also watching. Okay, well it is true that peer pressure is evident among adolescents, but friends should be the scapegoat for all the dumb things adolescents do.
After searching for an article that was unbiased, the best one I came up with was Fifteen Reasons We Need Friends by Psychology Today. This article gave an impartial opinion as it not only lists the positive benefits of friends, but also the negatives. I mean the article points outs how friends can give you vital skills for life, support you through thick and thin, but also how they can make you miserable, just to name a few.
In my opinion, friends can be either be good or bad, but it is ultimately in our hands to decide whether we let our friends influence our lives.What do you think? Can friends be dangerous? I would love to hear what all of you have to say about this topic.

Maria- Homework assistant

Monday, October 12, 2015

Required Reading Books Worth Reading: A High School Senior Looks Back

Today, I've been thinking a lot about my past English classes, which prompted me to share some of my favorite required reading books. Though my reading of the following books was mandatory, these are the books that I am so grateful to have read.

Classics for a Reason 

A Separate Peace easily ranks as one of my top five favorite books of all time. It's largely psychological (rather than action-packed) but the characters of this WWI-era novel have stuck with me ever since. 
Gatsby is brimming with fascinating characterization, imagery, symbols, and themes. But the time period (The Gilded Age) and the dynamic plot makes it effortless and engaging to read.

Destined to Become Classics?*

The Help is a blend of history, poignant emotion, and humor. It's a modern favorite with good reason!

Persepolis makes graphic novel fans of us all. This autobiographic graphic novel chronicles the author's girlhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

*In case you're wondering, yep, Persepolis and The Help were actually school-assigned books for me. I went to a hippie middle school with some pretty random book choices (Also on the syllabus: The Hunger Games, Shakespeare's Macbeth, and 200-page book of stream-of-consciousness poetry. LOL).
Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Studying With Psychology

This year, I have been taking psychology, and I love it. It's extremely interesting and is quite practical. Conveniently, the first few units were on learning and memory, so here are a few tips to enhance your studying:

1.Study more with operant conditioning.
Operant conditioning, to put it simply, is encouraging or discouraging a behavior using reinforcement (aka reward) or punishment, respectively. So, you can use the principles of operant conditioning to enhance your study habits. Say you want to study math everyday for at least 30 minutes. If you achieve your goal, reward yourself with a small treat, like a piece of candy. Doing this continuously will help make it a habit. (Fun fact: without using reinforcement, a habit takes an average of 66 days to establish.)  However, once the habit is established, be sure to lessen the reward gradually, so you don't get used to studying just for the sake of earning a treat.

2. Don't study similar things right after each other
Have you ever had something "on the tip of your tongue"? If so, you have been the victim of recall interference, which is when you remember something, but can not explicitly say or recall it. Two types of recall interference are proactive interference and retroactive interference. The former is when something you learned before prevents you from remembering what you learned recently. The latter is when what you learned recently stops you from remembering what you learned before. So how can this help you study? It helps if you don't study things that can easily interfere with each other during the same time. For example, don't study Spanish right after French, or you risk not recalling the French translations when you need it.

3. SLEEP (and study right before you sleep).
Sleep is super important to long-term memory formation. The hippocampus, an organ in the brain which acts as the "save" button for memories, is active when you sleep. Some scientists believe that when the body sleeps, the hypothalamus decides which information to store in the long-term, filtering out the irrelevant ones. Another sleep related tip is to study right before you sleep. (Note: "right before" means an hour before, not five minutes before.) This reduces the chance that something you experience will interfere with what you wanted to learn. 
4. Space out the studying.
Cramming the day before the test can definitely show results, but not in the long term. Information that is learned quickly and not used afterward will quickly be forgotten. To retain information longer, it is best to space out studying. This also helps to combat the curve of forgetting, which shows the progression of forgetting information that is not being used. This phenomenon often causes the last-minute race to relearn material from early in the semester right before the final. 

5. Retrieve, not reread

Although reading your textbook over three times feels comforting, it is not the best way to commit things to memory. Instead, psychologists recommend retrieving the information by testing yourself on the material. A way to incorporate this into your studying is with the SQ3R method (survey, question, read, respond, review). It can also help ensure that you truly understand the material, rather than just memorizing definitions and formulas without their meanings. 

Hopefully, you find these study tips helpful. Feel free to put some of your tried-and-true study tips in the comments!

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant 


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Senior Survival Checklist

As senior year progresses, my anxiety (and enthusiasm!!) for college applications continues to grow at a breakneck pace. For my fellow seniors (or forward-thinking juniors who want to know what is to come), I assembled some tips to help keep you on track.

1. Keep the deadlines in mind.
By this point in your high school career, it is more than likely that at some point, you had to turn something in late. It is even more likely that there were no major consequences. Unfortunately, it is not this way for college deadlines. With tens of thousands applicants to deal with, universities simply can not accept late applications. And with most private colleges having varying deadlines (and with even more deadlines to remember if you are considering applying for a scholarship), I would highly recommend taking note of all of them in a place that you can see everyday, such as a calendar. Always keep in mind: there is early action and regular action, but no such thing as a late action.

2. Study Hard
Since the beginning of freshman year, I've heard that all the hard work of high school pays off in senior year, which is a breeze compared to hectic junior year. Now that I am a senior, I find some of those claims misleading. Although I do have a reduced workload (thanks to a lack of AP history notes), that is more than made up by working on college applications. And in case you didn't know, senior grades do count in first semester and are the most reliable and recent information for colleges to see how you are as a student. So keep on trucking for the final stretch!

3. Mind your limits
 Although it is very tempting to apply to all 50 colleges on your list, it should be no surprise that it is impossible to do so while retaining your sanity. Between writing countless essays, participating in extracurricular activities, and keeping grades up, there are simply not enough hours in a day (yes, even if you pull several all-nighters). So keep it reasonable. Most people find around 10-15 colleges to be doable given the relatively short time frame for submitting applications.

4. Take a Deep Breath
It's more than easy to get caught up in applications and feel massively overwhelmed, so remember to relax once in a while. Instead of using that lunch period as a cram session for physics, consider going out to eat with your friends instead. Try to pick up a book that you weren't assigned to read for English. Or maybe go out on a nature walk one weekend to gain some perspective. And just keep this in the back of your mind: if, when all the dust settles, you don't get into your dream school, it's not the end of the world. You can be happy and get a quality education no matter where you end up.

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Academic Online Resources

Now that school is back in session and classes are in full swing, I thought I would share some online resources that I find helpful. (Especially in helping me survive junior year).

1. Gilder Lehrman AP US History Study Guide

This site contains a video series that condenses around 500 years of history in under two hours. There are nine videos corresponding to the nine periods of the AP framework. These videos provide great overviews by breaking down each period into a few themes, making it easier to understand the bigger trends (which can help you remember smaller details during a test). Additionally, there are explanations of the historical thinking skills and test-taking tips after each video. Overall, this is an amazing resource for any USHAP student.

This site (although not the most aesthetically pleasing) is very informative and a great tool for any chemistry class, especially in Honors or AP. It has clear, explanations and examples for almost every major chemistry topic. One thing to keep in mind: this is a British website, so it is designed
 for A-level tests used in the UK, not the AP test. Despite this, there is still a good amount of overlap in content.

Bozeman Science is a YouTube channel run by a high school teacher and offers a huge variety of educational science videos. Mr. Anderson, who runs the channel, goes step-by-step to explain complicated concepts without overwhelming the viewers with detail. This channel is very similar in style to Khan Academy,  but goes a bit faster. 

This YouTube channel is run by John and Hank Green and has videos covering any subject you could ask for. Biology, chemistry, psychology, history, economics, you name it! (And new subjects are added frequently). These videos combine humor, information, and animation, culminating in a video equal parts entertaining and educational. These videos tend to be very fast-paced, so multiple viewings may be needed.

5. Shmoop
Although primarily known as a literature analysis site, Shmoop is another multi-subject website, with math, social studies, science, and even music resources. If you are willing to pay for a subscription, they also offer study guides for most standardized tests. This site presents information casually and humorously. If using it for an English class, remember to use sites like these only as a starting place to help develop your own ideas, not as a way to find commentary for an essay.

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant