Thursday, December 7, 2017

Journey to the Center of the Cell

Imagine being a molecule.
Not just any molecule. A nonpolar molecule. Meaning, you’re made up of two atoms, and the electrons are equally shared between the two.
Funnily enough, I am one. And we are one of the only materials that can pass through a cell’s membrane.
One day, I decided to travel through a cell, the building block of life. After all, it’s one of the things I can do that is unique to me. I thought, why not get to know the cell? So that’s what I did.

This quarter in science, we've been learning about cells. We've learned about the cell theory, organelles and their functions, the characteristics of life, and fancy terms like "homeostasis". It's been a fun unit and we wrapped it up with a layered curriculum project and a quiz.

For my layered curriculum, I flew through the Layer C pretty fast. I had fun with the ABC's of Life lab where we looked at samples of onion, cork and human cheek cells under the microscope. In this layer, we also learned about the characteristics of life. All living things will contain cells, grow and develop, reproduce, obtain and use energy, and respond to environment.

I really liked doing the layered curriculum project for cells, and I think that it really helped me understand the concepts.

[Read the rest of Journey to the Center of the Cell here.]

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, in 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!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Idea of Karma

One of the things I've been wondering about that doesn't really have an answer is the question that everyone has at some point in their lives: why do bad things happen to good people?

The reason why I started thinking about this was because of what's happened in my family recently. Just last year, my grandfather was diagnosed with the worst kind of brain cancer there is, the most malignant tumor. This kind of cancer is called glioblastoma, or GBM.

GBM is is a malignant, cancerous tumor that affects the brain. It is rare; there are less than 200,000 cases in the US in a year. GBM is the most aggressive brain cancer of it’s kind. There is not a sure cure for it yet, like how there is not a sure cure for most cancers yet. Most treatment involves surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Life expectancy after diagnosis is 12 to 15 months. The most powerful symptom of GBM is progressive memory or personality deficit, but symptoms depend on the location of the tumor in the brain. GBM occurs more commonly in males.

Even though my grandfather cannot speak or move the right side of his body, I think that the worst part of this is that he's starting to forget who we are. This is similar to Alzheimer's disease, which affects memory, but it's the tumor that's affecting his brain. Some days, he knows who we are, and others, he doesn't seem so sure.

My grandfather is a great person. Our whole family has asked each other this question at least once: What did he do to deserve this sickness? Do things like this happen for a reason?

This is similar to the idea of karma from Hinduism and Buddhism. These people believe that whatever you do in this life affects how your next life is lived, or decides their fate in your other lives. Did my grandfather do something wrong in his other life and that's why he now has GBM?

I don't know the answer to these questions, so in the future, I will continue researching karma and see how these ideas work.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Poems Create Magic

Earlier this year, we studied poetry in Language Arts. Poetry is writing that conveys feelings, thoughts, and words both directly and indirectly, metaphorically and rhythmically. I love poetry because not only does it seem like a song, it also comes with a lesson. Most poems have themes, or morals. These morals apply to our everyday lives.

To finish out our poetry unit, Mrs. Barrow, our Language Arts teacher, had us each write an unexpected perspective poem. These poems are really interesting because the reader doesn't know who the speaker is. It could be anything from a mailbox to an elephant. The speaker describes its surroundings and its thoughts, and how it sees the world around them.

Poetry involves careful use of words and rhythm. Poets can write poems in several different ways, but all poets use words to write their poems. It is for this reason that I think that words are powerful. Words express emotions by using careful word choice and rhythm. 

So, I decided to write about the power of words in my unexpected perspective poem (link). I'm really proud of this poem because it was my first poem in which I used poetic devices such as figurative language that sounded so right!

I really liked the poetry unit in school this year and I hope we have one next year  - so that I can write another poem to share with others, as well as reading my peers's poems too!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Write About Writer's Block!

Charles Bukowski once said, "Writing about a writer's block is better than not writing at all." Writer's block can be really difficult to get through - it may feel like your creative mind has left you, and you're just boring and you can't think of anything new. I love writing, and I've gotten writer's block several times. Here are some strategies I use to get out of writer's block that I'd like to share:

1. Listen to music. You can get so many ideas from listening to music. Like writing and drawing, music is a form of art, and art is a form of inspiration. People who create music, either through an instrument or with their voices, use their words or their melody to express feelings and words. Just listen to music and pull out ideas that you'd like to use in your writing.

2. Read. I know that this sounds like something that people do everyday, but books are also a form of art and inspiration. When you find a cool idea that the author or poet used, you can borrow the idea and use it in a different way in your own writing. Authors help each other out by sharing their writings.

3. Get creative. You're probably wondering, how do I get creative if I'm missing my creative mind? Just take out your pencil and sketchbook and draw whatever comes to mind. You can just draw something in your room, such as a lamp or a potted plant. Drawing can help you get ideas that you can write about.

4. Go outside. Go for a walk, go biking, go swimming, go hiking. You could even just go outside and sit in your backyard. Nature is what makes the world work, and to me is one of the most inspiring forces on this planet. Just observe nature and you just might get a cool idea.

Even though I use strategies such as these to get rid of my writer's block, I still find that I blank a lot while I'm writing! From now on, I'll remember to practice these strategies more often so that I stay inspired and ready to write more.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Power Behind Music

Take a look at these two instruments. On the left side, you have a small, delicate flute producing light, beautiful music. On the right side, you have a huge, strong tuba producing deep, supporting music.

In our band, I consider every instrument important. In any band, every instrument plays a key role in the music the band produces, but I think that the tuba and the flute are among the most important instruments.

The flute is the highest pitched instrument overall, along with the piccolo. This is why the flute typically plays the melody of a song. A higher pitch will be more likely be heard over the deeper instruments. Without a melody, songs would sound very different.

The tuba is the lowest pitched instrument in a band. Even though it's the lowest, the tuba plays a really big role in our band music. This year in band class, I learned that tubas play supporting parts and harmony parts, keeping the band on track during the song. Our tuba player, Alex, does a really good job of this because he practices so hard on his tuba.

Bands really cannot do without these two instruments. Flutes bring out the melody while tubas support with the harmony, and although they are two very different instruments, they both play a key role in the music that is produced.

This is one of the reasons I love band - we work together to create something we love: music! We are a team, just like my swim team, but the interest that we have together is different from swimming. And that is why I am grateful for my band - because they work with me to that we can all enjoy the music that we love. The power behind music is our teamwork. I'm glad I took band because it's taught me a lot about how we can work together and create a rainbow of sound from black and white notes. I'm proud of us!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Procrastination = the Thief of Time

Everyone knows that procrastination steals your time away because you're distracted. There are a lot of procrastinators out there, and everyone feels bad when they get a bad grade in a certain subject, but who's to blame? The only person that you can blame is yourself. And why is that? Procrastination, and not studying. So, here are three study strategies that I find most useful when I'm studying for a quiz or test.

One of the study strategies that I find most useful is Quizlet. Not only does it help you review vocabulary, it's also fun to use! The games Match and Gravity test your skills and your knowledge about the words. If you'd rather do some old fashioned studying, you can use the flashcards they provide, or test yourself using a test which they'll grade for you. You can also practice spelling the words, too!

The second strategy that I enjoy using the most is filling out my study guide. Teachers hand out study guides to help you study! The thing about study guides is that they cover all topics that you've learned in the unit, so you'll practice everything again before taking your test. After answering all the answers in your study guide, you can then check with the answer key.

Finally, I love studying with a partner. Sometimes, I'll play Concentration or Go Fish with a friend using my vocabulary to get more familiar with the terms in a fun way - and this way, not only are you practicing vocab, your friend is, too!

When you study in the right way, it can be fun as well as good for your learning - and that's the way I like to study.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Swimming Technique

I recently watched a YouTube video replay of Michael Phelps's 200m IM in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, because I am a swimmer who is specialized in swimming the Individual Medley event. The first thing I noticed about this video is how all the swimmers do underwater dolphin kicks. Their kicks are so powerful that they've gone a third of the way across the pool before they even start swimming the stroke. This tells me that underwaters are incredibly important to swimming.

The second part of the IM that I focused on in the video was the breaststroke part, which is my worst stroke. I noticed how fast his arms shoot out to start his next stroke, and how he dives under the water just a bit to glide further. From this part of the video, I learned that breaststroke has fast parts and slow parts, and you need to perfect your stroke before you start sprinting.

I learned that you can learn a lot from people who enjoy the same things as you and are older, with more experience. And these tips may even let me do better at the one sport I love to do! In the future, I will both try out Michael Phelps's skills and also keep an eye out for more videos or articles that might help me with my swimming.

Monday, March 13, 2017

What's the Matter?

The other day, we took our Matter unit pretest in Science class! I got an 80 on the test.

I know that 80s don't seem like a very high grade, but if you got an 80 on a pretest, that's actually super good. Getting an 80 on a pretest means that you already know 80% of what you're going to learn in the unit. That's really cool! It means that you already have a lot of prior knowledge!

We started exploring atoms, elements and compounds as well - we began to talk about how they're related and how they're different. I learned that atoms make up all matter. They're classified into elements, and they're counted as similar when they have the same atomic number. Compounds are substances made of two or more elements.

^The makeup of a glucose molecule^

^ The diagram of an oxygen atom^

Mr. Ferriter also taught us that the atoms in solids are packed tightly together and vibrate. The atoms in liquids slide past each other and are less dense. Finally, the atoms in gases move unpredictably and quickly through the air.

I wonder if atoms also affect the way substances look. I know they affect the way that compounds feel because they'll be either solids, liquids or gases. But do the atoms affect their color or texture as well?

To answer my question, I'm going to pay special attention to these properties during this unit.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Mental Pathways

I was reading about a panda that was about to be brought back to China, and I knew what her Chinese name meant. This got me wondering about languages and mental pathways.

I've heard that the things that we take as granted, easy to do, are like pathways carved into your mind. Now, you can just hop onto your bike and take off, but do you remember how hard it was when you first tried to ride your bike? Wasn't it super hard? You had to focus on balance, pedaling and steering all at once, and now, you don't even need to think about it!

When you do a math problem, you automatically know what to do to add, subtract, multiply and divide without having to think hard about it. How do you remember that so easily?

Same goes for speaking. You don't need to think to remember the word you want to say; the language is just imprinted in your brain. It could be any language, too; English, Chinese, German, French, Spanish. I've also noticed that the older you get, the harder it is to learn new skills like speaking a new language.

How do our minds remember how to do things? My grandfather has brain cancer, and he can't move his right side. I'm wondering if that's because the cancer affects his memory or just paralyzes that side of the brain. Along those lines, how do diseases like Alzheimer's make your memory malfunction and forget? How does memory work?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Berlin Wall

We are currently working on a project in Language Arts in which we read a historical fiction book and try to persuade others that our book should be awarded the Salem Middle School Award for Historical Fiction. The book that I am reading is A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen.

This book takes place in Germany. Specifically, the day is Sunday, August 13, 1961, and we are located in East Berlin. The Berlin Wall has just gone up.

The Berlin Wall divided Berlin into the East and West. People lost their jobs. Easterners could not cross into the west. People were so desperate to go into the west for freedom that they crashed their cars through the Death Strip, which was part of the wall. Other ways people escaped were swimming through canals and digging tunnels under the bridge.

These ways of escaping were life-threatening. So if they chose to escape this way, they'd live free or die. This means that freedom and rights must mean a lot to people.

Would you rather live a life that you don't like, or die?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Women's Rights

In Social Studies, we've learned about many different religions. In a lot of these religions, women have different rights than men, and are often placed below them. For example, in Islam, women have to cover up their hair and bodies as a sign of submission. Why don't men have to do this? Is it because they are stronger, and work more, and are capable of doing more than women?

I think that this is unfair.

Women in the United States now have the same rights as men, but they're still treated unequally. Is this because of prejudice, from a long way back?

Mr. Ferriter also talked about this today in the media center. He said that he read a book called Almost Astronauts. It was about the tests being taken to determine who would be sent to the moon for the first time. Women asked if they could be tested and sent to the moon too, and NASA allowed them to take the tests. The women performed significantly better than all the men, but were not allowed to be part of the crew going to the moon. When they asked why, they were told that it was because of racism and sexism.

Women are just as equal as men, and we deserve not only the same rights but also the same respect.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Nature's Miracles

I've noticed that, throughout the school year, lots of things in nature are similar. For example, we learned that plants break apart carbon dioxide and water molecules, and rearrange them into glucose. This reminded me of our unit on rocks. I know that metamorphic rocks are formed when other rocks rearrange the "ingredients" in themselves.

Lots of things in nature are related to each other in weird ways. The thing that surprises me is that the things that are similar are the things that seem most unlikely to be like each other. I wonder why this is?

Mr. Ferriter says that all things in life are specially suited to survive, thrive and reproduce. Does these similarities have to do with that? How is everything in the world so miraculously adapted?