Thursday, November 14, 2013

20% Project Reflection

In Rogate, every year we complete a project known as our Passion Project, or our 20% Project. This year, rather than just do one, we are creating two passion projects for each half of the school year. Now is the halfway mark of our projects, mine being the inhuman treatment of orcas in captivity. This is a very hot topic now in today's news and social media, and I personally feel that it is a major issue to be analyzed and discussed. Currently, I have collected much information and research over the eight days that I have been working on this project. I have studied the opinions of many animal experts and scientists, and have read many articles. I have watched the new film that just recently came out: Blackfish, which is everything and more that my topic is about. More specifically I have gathered much data on the incident at SeaWorld in which an orca trainer was killed by the now- famous Tilikum.

My research and work so far has been going pretty smoothly, other than just a few obstacles. At first, I wasn't able to find many opinions of any experts online and it was difficult getting some fresh thoughts on the topic. However, when I watched Blackfish, there were a few firsthand opinions I was able to get from experts that spoke. It also was difficult deciding where I wanted to go with my project, and what I wanted to do with all of the information I was collecting and learning. It also took some time to decide which topics I really wanted to focus on and emphasize, and which ones were the most important to me. As I got further into my project, I soon sorted all of these thoughts out.

Now that I have all of my information, over the next eight days that we have to work on this project and some time at home too, I am going to work on putting together all of my research into a very interactive presentation. The next steps to finalizing my project will be:
- Come up with some interactive activities to incorporate into my project
- Create questions for the class that will require thought and will give me some opinions on what others think
- Possibly come up with some sort of debate for the class
- Finally, I will stay tuned for any current news that may occur on my topic!

I should be able to finish my project by mid - January if I work hard. If I don't happen to finish it in class, I will finish up anything else at home. I am really looking forward to this project and presenting it, and I am very excited about my topic!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Who Blew the Whistle?

At 11:30 am local time in Washington DC on October 26, 2013, the rally against mass surveillance began. At this time, over thousands of people marched the streets of the National Mall, protesting against the NSA's national surveillance programs. The NSA's Domestic Spying Program was first put into effect by President George W. Bush, weeks after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. There are several aspects of these programs, however the basic idea is that with the help of prime telecommunications carriers such as AT&T, the government has become involved in a massive illegal surveillance of the communication between millions of American citizens daily. This has been in action since 2001, as millions of domestic communication records (calls, emails, texts, etc.) have been intercepted and documented to then be analyzed by the US government. The database will be fully operational by September of 2013, when a massive data center is constructed in Utah, to store all of the records it has been collecting since the past decade. "Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases," Bamford wrote, "will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital 'pocket litter.'"  James Bamford national security author). Numerous Americans would not and will not stand for this.
The Stop Watching Us organization is made up of over 100 public advocacy groups, who started the "rally against mass surveillance". All of these groups came together to protest against the NSA's national surveillance programs, and to demand a complete investigation of these spying activities. About 575,000 signatures were collected on a petition, and sent to Representative Justin Amash. Along with the full investigation of the NSA's programs, the letter asked Congress members to repeal Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The letter also asked for whichever officials were responsible for this "unconstitutional surveillance", to face consequences for their actions.
Video made by the Stop Watching Us organization:
Quote from the petition: “First, we are asking for a congressional investigation so we can shed light on exactly what the National Security Agency is doing. Secondly, we ask for reform of federal surveillance law, specifically Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the state secrets privilege."


Monday, October 28, 2013

Grades, Grades, Grades!

Grades...when you think of that one word, what comes to mind? Yesterday when we walked into Rogate, there was one word up on the board on a PowerPoint slide: Grades. There was an immediate reaction from all of us when we saw that word, as we all began to discuss our current grades, tests we were worried about, assignments that we hadn't done well on, etc.  Those first five minutes of class showed how obsessed all of us have grown over grades.  I personally feel that my entire life revolves around my grades, and that my whole future depends on them.  They are so important to me, and they always come first before everything else that I do (sports, friends, etc.).  We have grown up being taught to constantly stress and worry about grades.  We have become so accustomed to focusing on not the concepts and ideas that we are being taught, but instead the numbers that we are being given. 
In my eyes, grades serve several different purposes.  Grades are a way for teachers, parents, and the whole school overall to be able to easily track and monitor the progress of a student's learning.  Grades are represented with numbers, and even letters.  The numbers are out of a 100 point scale, while the letters are used from A-F.  They act as a shortcut for teachers, allowing them to only having to quickly glance over a student's grades, and see their overall "achievement" in that class.  Grades can also act as a motivation for students.  If teachers motivate their students by saying they will receive good grades if they study and prepare for a test, then that could result in many more students studying for the assessment, leading to higher scores.  Overall, grades allow teachers, parents, etc. to be able to quickly decide whether a student is advanced proficient, proficient, or below proficient in a certain subject.  We have used this system of grading for many, many years, and now the question is rising after several studies being done on this topic: how accurate does this system truly represent learning and knowledge?

Why is this system of grading so commonly used in basically every school throughout the world? You might say that it is because the system is easy and simple for teachers to use.  Numbers can be easily averaged together to find an overall grade, and can be easily calculated.  Numbers can be used for several different reasons, and are incredibly important in today's world.  Nonetheless, when it comes to describing and showing the progress and achievement of someone's learning, I personally believe that words always outweigh numbers.  Every year I look forward to the teachers comments that are posted on PowerSchool.  Even though it is only two sentences the most that is written, I still really enjoy reading through the comments.  I don't think that a lot of teachers realize how important and meaningful these comments are to me, and to most likely many other students too.  Those few words and possibly sentences are one of the only times that teachers can express their students' learning and achievement in words rather than numbers.  I personally would rather have words used to place me somewhere or classify me, rather than numbers, or just one letter. 

Even though in all systems of grading there are always numbers involved somehow, I feel that our current system of grading is not a fair or accurate way to measure learning and knowledge. In the traditional system of grading, instead of students being evaluated on how well they truly understand a specific concept or skill, they are graded on how well they understand the entire topic.  This is how it is with every subject.  There is absolutely no way to tell, with just a two digit number, what specific concepts of that one topic the student has mastered, and which ones they still have trouble with. Last year in English, I once received a low grade on a very difficult quiz that we took.  This brought my grade down to a 90%, almost a B.  I worked so hard to bring my grade up so that it would not sink down to a B, and I eventually did bring it up.  That shows how just because of that one quiz, my entire grade could have been brought down one letter.  For some students that could be the difference between a B and a C, or a C and a D.  
Standards-based grading system...when most people hear this they think of the childish system of grading used for little kids back in elementary school.  Well, things are now beginning to change.  This system of grading is becoming more and more common in schools all across the country.  Rather than ranking you on your overall understanding of a certain subject (Science, English, etc.)the standards-based grading system breaks down each individual topic into all of the concepts that make it up.  It separates the subject into all of the skills that the students need to master by the end of the year.  Once that topic is broken down, the students are given a rating from 0-4 on their understanding of each specific concept.  Your overall grade is not effected by the skills that you still need help with, as it is based off of the number that appears the most among all of the concepts.  This is much more accurate than the traditional system because rather than teachers, parents, etc. measuring the knowledge and progress of students with just one number grade, there are several different grades that allow you to see which specific skills the student has mastered, and which ones they continue to have trouble with. 
I personally believe that the best system to use would be the standards-based grading system.  The standards-based grading system is accurate and fair.  Teachers who are monitoring your progress can clearly see which specific concepts you still need help understanding, and how well you truly understand a subject.  They can easily see which skills you have mastered, and in what areas you are advanced proficient, or proficient in.  The standards-based grading system allows you to maintain a high grade, that is not effected by the low scores on the concepts you don't understand.  This system of grading is an accurate and efficient way to measure knowledge, achievement, and learning. 
I truly hope that the standards-based grading system is something that we are all going to be seeing around more often in the future.  We have used the traditional grading system for many, many years, and it is time for a change; not just for the nation, but for the entire world as well.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Eighth Grade Year!

Well, I am already in eighth grade, my last year here in the middle school!  I know that I should probably be feeling excited that I am going to be going into high school next year, but instead I am not really looking forward to having to grow up even more.  Seventh grade was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  The year went by so incredibly fast, and I still find myself remembering days from it as if they were yesterday.  Many people say that they don't enjoy eighth grade, and wish that they were back in seventh grade.  I personally however, am actually truly enjoying eighth grade.  It still is only October, but I still am having a great year!  The work load can be very overwhelming many nights, but the grades and the reward I receive in the end is worth every second of it.  I really like all of my teachers and classes, and I am already learning so much with only about two months into the school year.  This year I am on Team Achieve!  (Each grade level in the school is broken up into three teams.) Last year I was on Dreamcatchers which is the upstairs team, and this year I am once again on the upstairs team.  I personally really enjoy the upstairs hallways, and find that I enjoy them much more than the downstairs hallways.  Overall, my eighth grade year has gone great so far, and I am really looking forward to what the rest of the year will bring! The majority of kids that come to school do not appreciate this wonderful opportunity that they have to receive an education.  School and getting my education is one of the most important things to me, next to my family.  I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity that I have, and I never go a day without being grateful for it. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What Happened to Jonas? The Question Remains

Recently in Rogate, our class just finished the novel The Giver by Louis Lowry.  I personally thought that The Giver was an excellent book, and even though I didn’t really like the ending, it has encouraged countless heated debates worldwide, some even taking part in our very classroom.  The novel ends with Jonas and Gabriel sliding down a snowy hill on a sled (just like the one in the first memory The Giver gave Jonas), and as they slide down the hill, Jonas suddenly begins to hear music and laughter.  He sees glowing lights awaiting him, just like the ones in the Christmas memory.  The book ends, leaving behind one big question: What happened to Jonas? Or more specifically: Did Jonas and Gabriel make it, or did they perish in the harsh landscape far from the community? Even though there may be other theories, those are the two main ideas. 

There are many different opinions on what actually happened to Jonas and Gabriel, yet I personally believe that Jonas did die.  In the story, before Jonas found the sled, he was using every little ounce of warmth left inside of him from his memories to keep him and Gabriel from dying.  Jonas had to use every bit of strength that he had left to fight back the peaceful and never-ending sleep that haunted his every step.  Jonas had not prepared enough for the journey, and soon enough had run out of food.  By the time Jonas got caught in the blizzard, he was already starving, drained, and injured.  He was weak and in much pain.  At that time, Jonas was working hard to keep Gabriel alive.  Jonas physically, was very close to death.  When he began to hear the music and the laughter, and see the glowing lights as he slid down the hill, I believe that was Jonas simply passing on into Heaven.  Before people pass, they usually feel at peace.  Jonas felt like he was at peace at last, and all of the hunger and pain went away.  When Jonas gave away other memories, he still had slivers of them left behind that he could just faintly remember.  I believe that since Jonas was dying, the memory was leaving him and he was holding on to the last bits of it as he passed into Heaven with Gabe.  At the end of the book in the last paragraph, the last sentence states: ‘Behind him, across the vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too.  But perhaps it was only an echo.’ 

The Giver once told Jonas that if he died, then his memories would be sent back to the community and ALL of the people there would have to carry these memories with them.  They would have the memories of love and family, and also those of pain and death.  I believe that since Jonas was dying, the memory was leaving him and the echo he heard, across the vast distance of space all of the way back to the community, was the memory alive once more in the people of the community.  Jonas had felt such a strong connection with the memory, that perhaps he really could hear its echo from the community.

In one interview with Louis Lowry, a student asks:

Student Question: My teachers argue over the ending of The Giver! How does it really end?
Lois Lowry: It ends with Jonas and Gabriel going downhill in a sled toward a house with welcoming lights. Ho ho ho. Aren’t I a mean author, not to be more specific? I like it when you argue. It makes you think.

This shows that Lowry, even if she actually did plan out what really happened to Jonas, she would still have kept it a secret anyways.  She wants these debates and discussions to occur, and purposely made the ending ambiguous, to let readers think thoroughly and deeply about what happened to Jonas (and Gabe too).  She wants readers to make their own assumptions. 
Another interview with Louis Lowry states:

Student Question: Scholastic’s reading guide for The Giver includes an interview in which you’ve quoted saying that you would never want to write a sequel–
Louis Lowry: Uh huh. Oh, how I wish I had never said that publicly! [laughs] It comes back to haunt me. I didn’t have any intention of writing a sequel. I liked the ambiguity of the ending. Over the years, though, it became clear that younger readers in particular did not. The amount of mail I got passionately asking what had happened to Jonas — I suppose after a period of time, it made me wonder as well. So I guess it was in response to the kids who didn’t quit asking and wondering.

This interview shows that Lowry herself didn’t have an actual ending planned for Jonas and Gabe.  In this interview, Lowry herself states that she did wonder too about what happened to them.  This shows that Lowry was not planning on writing a sequel to The Giver, and would not have if it wasn’t for the persistent young readers insisting on a sequel.  This goes along with what I said in the interview above; she left it for readers to create their own ending.  It appears that many did not like the unknown ending of The Novel, including me, and I would much rather have a sad ending, rather than no ending at all.

In other interviews Lowry states that as a kid she would have liked the ambiguity of the ending, but society and the youth today want precision since ‘we live in times that are in many ways ambiguous’.  As I mentioned before, I strongly dislike “cliff hangers” and I do like exact endings, however, I do like thinking about books after I read them, and the plot and the theme of the stories.  Perhaps Jonas really did survive after all with Gabe, or perhaps they both died.  I suppose the only way to find out is to now read Messenger.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My 20% Project!

Rogate 20% Project:
Another unit in Rogate has ended, and I am very excited to start our next project, our Passion Projects - also known as our 20% project.  These projects our called "20%" projects because we take 20% of our week out each Friday to work on these presentations.  We must choose a topic we are very interested in, and then thoroughly research this idea.  Then with all of the information that we have collected, we will turn all of that research into anything that we want that we can present and teach to the class, and that we learn from ourselves.  It can be anything from a PowerPoint Presentation, to a hand-made model, to even a song.  That is my definition of our 20% project and now that you know a bit more about what they are, I will now teach you about mine.

For my Passion Project I plan on researching the topic of Horses.  Now, this may seem like too broad of a topic, but I will be researching deeper into this idea.  From Horses, I will be branching off into more specific topics.  I would like to research all about the different breeds of horses and types of horses, then I would like to research the jobs and occupations that horses are used for,and then how they participate in the Olympics.  After that, I will be researching something a little different.   I would like to research how horses help people and society.  I know that horses do help autistic children and there are horses that spend their whole lives working with these children.  I am not really sure how that works, but I definitely will be looking deeper into it. Finally, I plan on interviewing a few close people that I know that have very good experiences with horses and would love to share a bit about them.  I am not really sure what questions I will ask them, but I know it will be definitely be about their experiences with horses of their own and what they learned from it.  After I have collected all my research I plan on putting it all into a PowerPoint presentation.

Now, this may seem rather simple, but it is not.  I know for a fact that I will be running into a few roadblocks. For example, I am not exactly sure how I am going to transfer the video of the interviews
onto the computer onto PowerPoint to present it to the class.   I am also not sure when I am going to interview the people that I was planning too.  Another obstacle that I am sure I will come across is,
researching all this information and creating the PowerPoint, in time.  I am going to be researching alot of information and I like to go really deep into research and then write alot, so I am probably going to have to narrow my topics down a little more...but not too much:)

As I mentioned before I am going to run in to a few barriers as I am completing this project.  I am going to need some help or "consultants" for this project.  A few people that I am most likely going to need is:

1. My horse trainer, Elise.
2. One of my best friends Taylor Suto who has been riding nearly all her life and was the one who introduced me to horses. 
3. My sister's friend's mom who grew up on a farm with horses and rode all of the way up to college on the equestrian team. 
4. My piano teacher who also rode a huge part of her life and only stopped a few years ago because of how busy she grew.
5. Finally, my parents that I can always ask for help from too, for any simple question.

Finally, some materials that I will need is:
  • Obviously a computer
  • An access to the library for any books on horses that would help me
  • My consultants and the people I am planning to interview (even though they are not materials,  I certainly could not do this project without them)
  • A Video Camera for interviewing
  • And of course, the traditional piece of paper and pencil couldn't hurt too.

Well I suppose that is about it.  I am so excited to begin working on this project and I just can't wait to get started! 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Does Advertising Influence or Reflect Teen Culture...?

Does advertising influence or reflect teen culture? As our unit in Rogate comes to a close, we have been given a final assignment to complete, and that is to write a blog post on our opinions on the question: "Does advertising influence or reflect teen culture?" Well in my opinion, I believe that advertising both reflects and influences teen culture; you couldn't really have one without the other. Ads, advertisements, commercials, and the media in general are constantly influencing the lives of millions of older children and young teens all around the world. However, the media also has to adapt to the changes in teen culture as new interests arise and the culture develops and changes. As that happens, advertising has to change too and generally reflects teen culture and the interests that there are at that time. There is an equal balance of advertising influencing and reflecting teen culture.

First, let’s talk about how advertising reflects teen culture. As I mentioned before, as new interests and likes arise in teen culture, the media and advertising has to adapt to those changes and begin to advertise and sell products associating with the new interests in society. It is true that advertising may have a huge effect on teen culture, but what you see being advertised is 95% of the time what teens are currently interested in. For example, a new pop star or band becomes popular (let us say One Direction since they are my favorite band and are extremely popular today!). Teens all over the world absolutely love this band and just can't get enough of them! Advertisements, ads, commercials, etc. change and businesses begin to advertise their products using this band and its members as role models (this is known as Ethos). For example, One Direction has recently made a Pepsi commercial and I hear many people talking about it. It has stood out to many teens simply because it had One Direction in it! Not only do businesses use this band to advertise, but manufacturing companies now begin to sell products, clothes, perfumes, jewelry, shoes, etc that have to do with this new band! As you can see by this example, advertising greatly reflects teen culture and the current interests in society.

Now, let us talk about how advertising influences teen culture. The media greatly affects teenagers all around the world, and plays a tremendous part in their lives. Before I begin, I would like to share the opinion of another individual known as James Rada:

~ Businesses use advertising to promote their products and services, while other types of organizations use it to solicit donations or promote a cause. Because so much money goes into advertising and because there are so many ways to promote your message, the results are carefully measured to determine when to advertise, what to advertise and to whom to advertise to get the best returns on your money. Teenagers are a prime target market because they are impressionable and have lots of disposable income.
~James Rada

Because advertising plays such a significant part in promoting business, so much money and time goes into it (as James Rada said) to make sure that everything is carefully planned and "measured" out, including when it will be advertised, what will be advertised, and who will be the target age group (mostly teens and children). Another thing that Mr.Rada stated that really stood out to me was when he said that "Teenagers are a prime target because they are impressionable and have lots of disposable income". I do know that teens are a prime target for most advertising because of the fact that they are so easy to draw in and persuade. Teens always want to 'fit in' and have that 'perfect model body' and to be 'beautiful and perfect, or strong and muscular'. The fact that they also have a lot of disposable income is also very helpful to businesses looking to sell more and more products.

Teenagers spend about 6.75 hours per day using the media (such as watching T.V, going on the Internet, etc) according to the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia. Because of this, in one year, children and teens watch an average of 200,000 commercials and ads a year! Due to the intense and constant advertising, teens spend about $144 billion a year on clothes, entertainment, and fast food, and still can't seem to get enough! Even when they think they are satisfied, there is always something new and exciting out there that they just have to get. Interests are constantly changing and there always is some new product out there that is the new deal. The industry newsletter selling to kids and young teens, informed its readers that in order to connect with teens and children in their own homes, they have to use advertisements that uses both teenagers' oppositional nature and their need to fit in and be part of a group. They use these advertisements to build on these ideas and thoughts, in ways that teens can connect with.

One of the biggest issues of advertisement on teens is health and unrealistic views. One study reports that at age thirteen, 53% of American girls are "unhappy with their bodies." This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen. Advertising promotes extremely unrealistic views of society. This greatly affects the views of kids and teens that lack a greater experience of the world, and are more easily drawn in to the media and its advertising. These children and teens are given fake views and requirements of what is "reality", and the importance of being socially accepted. This can be deadly. In fact, tobacco and alcohol advertising targeting teens have been made illegal because of how effective they were. Advertisements such as these can also lead to dangerous diets, drugs such as steroids (especially males), etc. As I mentioned before, teens always want to have that "perfect model body" when in reality those women and men used on T.V. for advertisements have been edited with technology to delete any flaws or imperfections. Women shown in these advertisements are usually too thin and underweight. These ads and commercials are one of the deadliest because even though you might know that what you are seeing is not real or healthy, you can still be impacted by it - more than you may know.

~ The message is that teens aren’t good enough the way they are. Many kids unwittingly buy into that message, and as a result, end up being hypercritical of themselves because we don’t fit a certain “image” that they believe is necessary for their happiness. What's wrong with this picture? This generation of kids is growing up in what is perhaps the most materialistic society we have ever had. They are surrounded by images of excess and the idea that buying “things” will bring them satisfaction. They are given things easily and rarely have to delay gratification. Worst of all, many of the things that are advertised to teens do not promote healthy development.

~ Susan Carney

I hope that after you have read this essay, you now understand more about advertising, the media, teen culture, and how they are all connected; I know for one that I do, after our whole unit in Rogate. This past unit has been so interesting for me and I have learned so much more than when we first started the unit. Now, as I have mentioned in my article, teens always have that sense to want to "fit in" and "be cool, popular, and beautiful, or good-looking". Well, in my opinion, all of this can be so hard to get away from, and I know that it is very difficult to stand out, be different, and to stand up for what you believe in. I admit that it is very hard, but I can assure that it is worth it, and it is better than being someone you are not be afraid of fitting in with society and meeting its expectations. Don't let the media impact you in a negative way, and be proud of who you are...

Stand out...I dare you...



Sunday, January 6, 2013

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013...

2013 has at last come around, and I myself know that I am certainly looking forward to a wonderful new year full of many new opportunities and exciting, new experiences.  Looking back upon 2012, I have realized that 2012 was a year that was full of a lot of change for me and it has been a pretty intense year.  Every single day of my life there are many people and different things such as advertisements and commercials influencing me, and last year more than ever I found myself tempted by those influences. Now more than ever I have realized just how important it is to stay true to yourself.  I have also realized that from the beginning of 2012 to the end, I am not the same person, and I have grown up a lot over the past year.  With growing up comes many new responsibilities and I have realized that I am so lucky to be able to have such a wonderful family that always give me so much support and encouragement.  I would never be who I am today without my family, especially my parents, and my friends too.  After reflecting further over 2012, I am very proud of myself for continuing to excel in school and winning more awards than I probably ever did, and I myself am very excited for a new year; I cannot wait to see what the future brings.

My New Year's Resolution would probably be to continue to work hard to stay true to myself, and not be as easily tempted by a lot of the advertisements and influences in school, on TV, etc.  Furthermore, I also want to continue to work hard on chasing after my dreams (outside of school), and to really go after something and never give up, if I really want it.  Someone once told me that you are stronger than you think you are.  Finally, in 2013, I want to remember that growing up doesn't mean changing who you are, but rather becoming an even stronger individual.  Lastly, I would like to thank my amazing family, and to never forget all that they have done for me, and all that I am sure they will do for me.
Good luck to everyone else in the New Year, and I hope that 2013 is filled with many new joyful memories and experiences!

~ Marissa

P.S. And always remember: You are stronger than you think you are. ~ Mrs.Mystrena