Sunday, October 15, 2017

Restless Rohingya Refugees

Over 400,000 Rohingya refugees. All seeking refuge in Bangladesh. Worrying about food and basic safety. Boats capsizing. Children fleeing the Rakhine state. Severe injuries and death. Praying men. People scrambling to catch food distributed by Bangladeshi volunteers and aid groups at refugee camps. So much grief and mourning over lost lives.

Often described as the most persecuted minority in the world, the Rohingya people are an ethnic Muslim minority from Myanmar (Burma), where they have been denied citizenship because they are not formally recognized by the government. Most of the Rohingya people are from the state of Rakhine on the west coast of Myanmar.

One sad story of these refugees is the one of Hanida Begum. Her son, one month old Abdul Masood, passed away after the boat they were traveling in capsized in the waist deep water of the Bay of Bengal.

Unfortunately for the Rohingya people, not many countries are welcoming toward them despite their situation. Sometimes, the Bangladeshi will allow them to stay in refugee camps on its border, but other times, they just send them back to Myanmar. In 2015, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia pushed stranded groups of Rohingya at sea back and forth between each other, refusing to take them in.

There are different thoughts in Indonesia as well, as it is the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation. Indonesians have shown support for the Rohingya by carrying out regular protests.

The Rohingya refugees really have nowhere to go. The Burmese want them out of the Rakhine state, out of Myanmar. But, countries around Myanmar like Bangladesh want them to return to Myanmar. Because of this, there have been deaths and mourning of loved ones. They cannot secure work, food, or safety. Life is very difficult for the Rohingya refugees.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Vote for Voltaire

Have you ever wondered what sparked the ideas for our Constitution and Bill of Rights?

Well, a lot of these ideas came from the Enlightenment. One of the people who played a big role in the Enlightenment was a man named Fran├žois-Marie Arouet, more commonly known as Voltaire. He believed in free speech, thought, expression and religion, which are major rights in our Constitution today!

Imagine if Voltaire was running for president in modern times. What would he say about some of our modern issues? Here is what I think he might say to us:

John Locke once said, "All mankind... being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions."
Locke believed in our natural rights. He told us that man had right to life, liberty and property. I believe that we have natural rights like these and more.  
My mother, Marie Marguerite d'Aumart, died when I was seven, and I developed a bond with my godfather, the Abbe de Chateauneuf.
"My life is a struggle," but I learned a lot from it. I think that all people should be allowed freedom of: speech, religion, thought, and expression.
Let us address a topic that has been worrying people this past year: gun violence.
Gun violence in America has been getting out of control. One Saturday last year, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, a gunman shot six people to death. In Indiana and Texas, murder-suicides occurred. People are getting seriously worried about the recent gun violence incidents.
People have the right to defend themselves, to keep a defensive weapon in their homes to give them a sense of security. But, if this weapon is used for assaulting others, they most definitely do not have the right to do that, because as Locke said, all men have the right to life, and no one has the right to take another's life.
In order to prevent this constantly occurring violence, I propose that a law be made to require all high school students to take a gun safety course. This course will then be repeated again if one wishes to buy a gun later in life.
This action will hopefully alert young adults to gun safety and the violence that is happening around us.
A saying of mine that has become quite famous is "We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue...." Instead of using violence to get a message across, we can use our words and our writing to let people know what we think, and we can teach the next generation this crucial point.
I am one of you, and I am asking you to choose me to represent you. I will alert our people to gun violence and safety. Our Constitution and government enforces our rights and I will make sure it continues to do so. Thank you.

I learned a lot from the project and it was cool to think about what a historical figure would say about issues such as gun violence in modern times!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Absolutely Enlightening

Our third unit in Social Studies is called Absolutism and Enlightenment. Absolutism is a system of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator; this means that the monarch, or whoever is the ruler, has complete power over the nation's land and citizens.

You may be wondering what Enlightenment is, because Absolutism sounds so dreary and unfair. Thankfully, Enlightenment is the movement that pushed for reason and individualism rather than tradition. This means that people started wondering why they let the King, who had the supposed "Divine Right", rule them unquestioned.

For example, one of the ideas that sprang up from this movement was Galileo Galilei's: what if the Earth revolved around the sun, and not the other way around? The Church was scandalized at how Galileo could suggest that the Earth was not the center of the universe.

Here is how Galileo's theory came to be:

In 1609, he switched from being a physicist to an astronomer. He observed four moons of Jupiter, and showed that not all celestial bodies orbit earth. He then observed the phases of Venus, which proved that Venus orbits the sun, rather than the earth. He also predicted that the universe is a lot bigger than we think judging from what we can see with the naked eye.

But even though Galileo's theory proved to be right, the Catholic Church was not happy with his ideas. Galileo got a trial before the Inquisition, and was accused of heresy. His punishment was house arrest for the rest of his life.

Though in 1616, Galileo promised to renounce his ideas, he published a book that made fun of the Church. He was put on trial in front of the Inquisition again and was charged with heresy, with the likely punishment of death.

Some people believe that Galileo was tortured; others think that he was just shown the torture room to scare him.

To save his own life, he recanted his ideas. Legend says that he then muttered "but it still moves" under his breath. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in his house, where he went blind and had to give up his scientific studies.

The church found his findings dangerous. Why is that?

I think that the church found Galileo's findings dangerous because if people began to believe them, the Church would lose its support. They didn't want to lose that support, and since they held the power, they did everything in their will to keep it quiet.

I find Galileo and his story absolutely enlightening! No wonder he was a leader in the Enlightenment movement. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What if History was Different?

In Social Studies class, we wrote a critical question after reading this article about the Charlottesville protest. My question was, "The lasting effect of the slave trade led to the 'whites are superior' way of thinking. If the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade never happened, and the three continents never interacted, would our world be better or worse?"

I think that our world would be worse - we would be even more prejudiced against other races since we don't know anything about them. We wouldn't have interacted with them so we would be more suspicious of them than we are now.

Also, if the three continents hadn't interacted then there would be no connection between them, since we wouldn't have traded and integrated our cultures.

What do you think? Answer in the comments!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse - and Total Amazement!

This past August 21st, there was a total solar eclipse across the Path of Totality in the United States. Unfortunately, Apex was not in the Path of Totality so we did not get to see the eclipse at 100%. It was still an unforgettable experience that I am glad I got to witness.

There was a big mix-up with the eclipse glasses the week before the eclipse was going to occur. Some scammers on Amazon sold us glasses that were not certified by NASA. These glasses were not safe to watch the eclipse with at all. 

I was really anxious about this - I wanted to watch the solar eclipse but we couldn't watch it if we didn't have safe glasses to use. Thanks to my science teacher, Mrs. George, and her connections, we managed to get not just enough glasses for our whole team, but also these super cool packets from NASA that gave us more information about eclipses.

The day of the eclipse was amazing. All classes were shortened, and an entire two hours of viewing was dedicated to the eclipse. Though the only signs you could see with your naked eyes was that the sky was dimming, you could see the moon crossing the sun with the glasses on. It was so cool to see!

Even though we only got to see this eclipse at 90%, it was still such a memorable event that we were glad to be able to see. We are extremely thankful to all the people who helped us get glasses.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Vasco da Gama - Hero or Tyrant?

I recently did a project on an explorer in the 1500's - Vasco da Gama. Here is a video with some background information about him.

Like I mentioned in the "Impact" part of the video, the Portuguese people considered him a hero for finding the sea route to Asia. They thought this because they were dependent on many goods from Asia before the land routes were cut off. Therefore, when da Gama discovered the sea route, they thought that he was a hero for reinstating the trade between the two continents.

But, in Africa and India, da Gama had treated their natives harshly and cruelly and even tortured and killed people there. His reputation spread as a tyrant and this made Portugal's reputation decline too - since da Gama was representing Portugal, the Africans and Indians thought very negatively towards the Portuguese.

So, was Vasco da Gama really a hero or a tyrant? 

It depends on what point of view you see it from. Tying into language arts, point of view affects how you see the people in the event. The Portuguese thought he was a hero - the Africans and Indians thought he was a tyrant. These views all depended on da Gama's actions and where they were from.

In conclusion, it all depends on your point of view to assume your opinion of people; in this case, Vasco da Gama. Always consider the other point of view!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Create an Experiment

For our first science project in 7th grade, we had to create a group experiment -  meaning that we created what we wanted to test, a hypothesis, and tested it. My group consisted of Ben, Nate and me, and our experiment was to find out how many water drops would fit in different sized bottle caps - the ones we used were Gatorade, Dasani and soda caps.

Here is our document with our experiment details (i.e. independent/dependent variables, constants, etc.):

Our hypothesis for our test: If we put water drops into a bigger cap, then the bigger cap should hold more drops of water because it has a greater volume.

Here is a graph showing the results from our test.

After experimenting, we filmed another Flipgrid of our conclusion, explaining how our hypothesis was correct, some trends we noticed in our experiment's data, the inferences we could make from our data, and changes we would make to the experiment if we had the chance to do it again.

I really loved the project! It gave me a chance to work with kids that I don't normally work with and learn about different learning styles and teamwork, as well as practice the procedures for an experiment. This gets science off to a great start this year!