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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