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?