Category Archives: Reviews

MythMasters Bring Ancient Greeks to Life for Cultural Enrichment Day by Kally Proctor

MythMasters Performers in Action
WAYLAND, MA–Ancient Greeks in the auditorium?

That’s what the students at Wayland Middle School were welcomed to on Friday, December 8th for Cultural Enrichment Day.

The event involved three performances by the MythMasters, two actors reenacting myths from ancient Greek civilization. After each 15-20 minute show, the MythMasters held discussions with students about their meaning and purpose.

The program is the brainchild of David Zucker and Richard McElvain and is offered by Young Audiences of Massachusetts which provides a variety of educational-oriented performances, workshops, and residences for schools and students.

According to the creators, the myths “force us to reflect on ourselves and our lives. The idea [is] that a myth is not a lie, but an investigation into the human condition.”

According to Principal Gavron, the school has been hosting cultural enrichment performances for at least 20 years and are selected by the PTO to highlight cultures from various regions of the world that tie in with the curriculum. “I think celebrating the arts and enjoying the many ways people communicate history and culture is a true gift the PTO offers us,” she notes.

To accommodate the event – which occurred during a 54 minute block at the end of the school day – Principal Gavron said the administration borrowed 10 minutes of time from each class and reduced a couple of passing times from four minutes to three.

The first performance was called “Phaeton and the Sun Chariot” and was about the sun god’s son (Phaeton), wanting to take a ride on his father’s sun-filled chariot across the sky, against his father’s wishes. As legend has it, Phaeton lost control and plummeted to the Earth, scorching some of the Earth and many of its inhabitants, including himself. During the Q&A which followed, one student suggested the moral of the story is that “you better be careful what you wish for.”

The second performance was the story of “Echo and Narcissus” about a nymph named Echo who suffered a curse limiting her to only repeat what others have said (this is where the word “Echo” comes from). Echo fell in love with a handsome man named Narcissus who loved only himself (this is where the word “narcissist” comes from). As the story unfolds, Narcissus fell in love with his reflection to the point where he never could leave it, forcing Echo to stay there by his side until they both withered away. In the Q&A, students claimed the moral of this story is that people shouldn’t love others because of their looks, but because of who they really are.

The MythMasters last performance was called “Orpheus and Eurydice” and was about a talented musician named Orpheus who fell in love with a woman named Eurydice.  When Eurydice died, Orpheus was heartbroken and pleaded with the gods of underworld (where all people went when they died) to resurrect Eurydice. The gods granted Orpheus’ wish on one condition — Eurydice had to walk behind Orpheus who could never look back at her until they exited the underworld. Unfortunately for Orpheus, however, he accidentally looked back at Eurydice, and she was returned to the underworld without Orpheus. Students noted that the moral of this story was more complicated and was harder to find.

Students at WMS found the experience both fun and entertaining: “I think that the MythMasters were awesome. My favorite part was about Narcissus and how he was obsessed about himself. I [also] liked it when they picked people from the audience,” said Bethany Foreman, a 6th grader.

“I think it was very interesting to see what a few Greek myths were.” added Jaden Kane, another 6th grader.

According their website, MythMasters provides: “a skillful blend of mime, comedy, drama, puppetry, masks, music, reverence, irreverence…[where with] lots of audience participation, the gods and goddesses, heroes and villains, monsters and maidens of Greek mythology walk the earth once more.”

Zucker and McElvain are also responsible for two other similarly-structured educational performance shows: Shakespeare Guyz and MathsAmazing. They said they were inspired to create MythMasters “there is something about these stories that captivates the imagination of young folk.”

Some images and data borrowed rom Young Audiences at http://yamass.org/our-programs/mythmasters/

Pay to Play: The Problem of Youth Sports Fees by Abby Gavron

I don’t know about you, but when I first learned not all kids have a chance to play youth sports I was furious. I know I’m lucky, my family has always been able to afford the registration fees for sports. Knowing that there are kids like me that don’t have the resources to play sports makes me feel bad. My time on the field and court with my friends make up some of my best memories. I believe all families should be able to send thir children to sport even if they are on a tight budget.

Charging families for youth sports is blocking kids from learning important things including sportsmanship and teamwork, preventing kids from building friendships, and the fees create barriers between kids.

The score was 2-1. We were losing as the whistle blew my teammates all wore frustrated faces. Having arrived at the soccer field at 8:00 that morning, tired but ready to play, this loss was very disappointing. We lined up to shake hands. Even though we were all angry, there was a silent agreement between the team to be good sports, like coach always says. So, we shook everyone’s hands and thanked the referees, because that’s what we were taught. Sports are an opportunity for children to learn important skills including sportsmanship and teamwork. All kids should have the opportunity to learn these skills because later in life you will need to be able to work well with other and show sportsmanship in your everyday life. Don’t you want all children to have the chance to learn these skills?

While some people could argue that kids can make friendships at school and that, sports aren’t required to make friends, I disagree. I have had many friends throughout my life and a majority of them I made through the many sports I play. Playing sports with people for hours builds a certain type of friendship. You understand each other better. You win and lose together and that makes your friendship stronger. I can remember times I would not want to play sport. Then I’d remembered that I would get to see all my friends, it wouldn’t matter the time or day, the thought of seeing them would make me excited for practices. The bonds you make of the through sports extend far off the field or court. The current system that is not allowing all kids to play sports and develop these friendships can cause kids to be more shy, less friendly and less outgoing, the system of fees should be abolished. I believe that every child should have the opportunity to build strong friendships. No matter if the family is struggling financially.

Lastly, I feel that the cost of youth sports has created a barrier between kids. One day I was talking to my mom about sports, and that was when  I learned about the expensive fees in youth sports. I had asked my mom more about the sports fees,  she told me that we were lucky, not everyone can afford to play sports. Anger boiled up inside of me, I couldn’t believe that some kids are not allowed to play sports because they are not doing well financially. The fees represent a barrier of who can and cannot afford to play sports. I feel like this barrier will cause children who cannot afford to play sports to not interact with children who do play sports. It is sending a message of financial inequality. Is that really the message and values you want to be sending to kids?

21% of parents spend more than $1,000 on child sports. Some people can afford that easily but for others with many children the price of sports add up quickly. I believe that the fees on youth sports act as a barrier that are separating kids, preventing children from learning important lessons, and restricting kids from forming friendships. Do you honestly think it’s fair that not all children can play sports?

 

Homework Hell: How Homework Impacts our Children’s Lives by Allen Zou

The school bell rings. Freedom! Free from the stressful workloads during the weekdays. Freedom to spend time with family and friends… Everything is fine until I remember the homework. I puff out a long, frustrated sigh, and start to work. I bunch up in my room like a hibernating bear, surrounded by endless textbook pages, google classroom assignments, and essays to write.

When teachers assign homework on the weekends, it stresses out students. Like all the students that procrastinate, they’re gonna keep off the homework until the last day due to having a full schedule so that they have to stay awake much longer than they’re supposed to and scramble to finish the homework. Studies from the U.S. National Education Association says, “giving homework over the weekend leads to a buildup of stress during a time when students are meant to relax and unwind. The same is true for giving students homework over the holidays, such as winter break.” But doesn’t stress help you focus? Yes, it does. However, it also makes the outcome of your work much, worse than without stress. I recently watched a TED-Talk about procrastination about a man who had a 90 page thesis to write throughout a year and procrastinated until the last three days, having to write 90 pages in 72 hours and you can already guess the outcome. A study of stress in teenagers shows that 56% of students consider homework as a primary source of stress, while only one percent of the students report that homework was not a stressor. This analysis proves that homework is a major key role in creating stress among our students and children. 43% of the students put tests and good grades to add onto the stress so that it becomes a competition of whoever has the better grades. Schools in Finland have shorter school days and little to none homework, and instead of competition between the grades on the standardized tests (which don’t even exist) and grades, there’s cooperation from helping each other out with each other’s problems and struggles. This makes the students less stressful and that can help with memory, relationships, a healthier heart, a better outlook on life, and more benefits. A focus group of students reflected that a majority of them said that their homework load led to sleep deprivation, among other health problems. The researchers concluded that the massive amount of homework impacted the health of the teenagers through headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss, and stomach problems. Weekends aren’t just for de-stressing, it’s also for relaxing and spending time with loved ones.

We all know adults who work usually get the weekends off to relax, but it’s not the same for students. Adults get time off to spend with their family only to find out that their kids are up in their rooms or at the library doing homework or studying. They may not be working in school, but they would be working in their rooms or at the library. I believe that weekends should be a time to relax and spend the time with friends and family. Kids should be kids, spending their time being filled with creativity and wonder, not moping with frustration around because of their homework. Alfie Kohn, author of “The Homework Myth”, told the Huffington Post, “It’s one thing to say we are wasting kids’ time and straining parent-kid relationships, but what’s unforgivable is if homework is damaging our kids’ interest in learning, undermining their curiosity.” The amount of homework schools give is too much, and our relationships with their own families are being damaged due to the lack of time spent together! The piles of homework distract students from their real lives – lives of creativity, fun, adventure. Homework sucks away all of that. Survey data shows that the students are “not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills,” according to the researchers. Due to the heaviness of the homework load, students are forced to drop activities like sports, time with friends or family, and pursue hobbies they enjoy. In high performing schools, too much homework can reduce their times to foster skills of personal responsibilities, the analysts concluded. “Young people are spending more time alone, which means less time for family and few opportunities to engage in their communities.” This says that their time focused on homework, can be turned and used to spend time with friends and family and their personal hobbies. Weekends are also to unwind and breathe a bit.
Weekends are not just for fun, it’s also to slow down and take a break from schoolwork and breathe. It gives us more time to sleep and that alone can influence our entire day or even the entire week. The time assures students that there’s time and no need to rush all the time. In my school, we have C.U.B. weekends which stands for Catch Up and Breathe, it happens every other week. As a student, I can tell you that I look forward to it. Every other Friday, I start to pack my backpack with binders, folders, books, and I complain about the homework, but I realize with a sense of relief, that it was a C.U.B. weekend and I happily put everything back. I could finally spend some time without schoolwork. I’m not saying schoolwork is bad, I’m just saying that to have an excessive amount is bad. Kids in Finland, the country with the best schools and education system, have NO homework, and they use their free time to use their imagination, to have a sense of wonder and creativity. With long breaks students are given time to relax and take in all the information given to them. In the US, we have class after class. Only sometimes do we go out for a break after lunch, and it’s usually not longer than 5 minutes. The schools in Finland don’t just care about the academics, they care about the entire well being. They care about what they do in their free time, about their habits etc. Of course, you can argue that homework is to remember what you learned in school that day, but it really doesn’t help. In Finland kids don’t have homework altogether and they still have the best education system in the world. Do you want to know why? Because they want their students to go out into the real world and explore without stress or anything like that. This makes them remember things a lot easier. Have you ever had to do something under stress and you couldn’t do it, but you could do it when you’re practicing or reciting? This is pretty much the same thing.

This goes the same for a lack of sleep. If teenagers sleep for less than 8.5 hours of sleep (the recommended amount of sleep for a teenager), they can have some major side effects in their heads throughout the day. Lightheadedness, tiredness, being unaware of the current situation, dizziness all results from sleep deprivation. Studies prove that sleep deprivation can influence your ability to pay attention, creativity, abstract thinking, decision making, remembering long term memories, and overall mood and motivation. All of these are required during school and without these, you wouldn’t be able to function the way humans are supposed to. Although sleep is one of the highest priorities for learning, it’s the thing that is most lacking in students. One study showed that less than 15% of the teenagers get at least 8.5 hours of sleep each night. To balance out the lack of sleep, teens sleep a lot more on the weekends which takes even less time from doing homework. A survey given to 1,000 k-12 teachers has shown that students are now spending upwards of up to 17.5 hours a week on homework if they typically have 5 classes with different teachers. This is around 3.5 hours a 5 day week for each teacher and 2.5 hours in a full week in high school, in middle school, it’s about 3.2 hours a 5 day week and 2.3 a full week, and in elementary school, 2.9 hours a 5 day week and a bit less than 2.1 hours a day in a full week. By comparison, a 2011 study from the National Center for Education Statistics found that in 1994, only 39% of 17 year olds said that they did at least an hour of homework each day. Also, the National PTA recommends that there should be 10-20 minutes of homework per night in the first grade, and add an additional 10 minutes per grade level. That means a senior in high school, should be doing roughly 120 minutes (2 hours) of homework a day, but may do more depending on certain courses they take.

Due to this abundance of stress and lack of sleep, socializing, exercising and extra curricular activities. Homework is the number one priority in students’ minds and can really mess up the body and habits. Teachers can relieve the students and ease their studies by giving time in class to do work, give less homework and stick to the recommended amount, or not to give homework on the weekends. Although students are only 20% of our population, they are 100% of our future.

Vile Victoria’s Secret: Why This Company is Tearing Down Our Society by Meredith Prince

Vile Victoria’s Secret: Why This Company is Tearing Down Our Society

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show: one of the most popular fashion shows in the nation. Millions of people throughout the country flick on their T.V. and wait intently for the different angels wearing fluorescent wings and stilleto kitten pumps to strut down the glamorized runway. Excitement pours out of people like sunshine through fine white linen. Every fiber in their bodies vibrates with anticipation to view the variety of outfits and models. Unfortunately, they aren’t going to be seeing much diversity within those models. Of all 14 angels, 12 are white, 14 are tall, 14 are skinny, and 14 have a “perfect” hourglass figure. Thousands of girls’ faces droop, filled with dismay, desolation and despondency. The giddiness they once had has managed to slip through every piece of them, and has been replaced with pure disappointment. Victoria’s Secret only glamorizes one type of body, making girls insecure about themselves, creates offensive campaigns, all making it a bad influence.

Victoria’s Secret only carries one type of model: your typical gorgeously tall, ultra lean woman with a busty physique. The majority of them don’t weigh over 95 pounds, The average 14 year old girl weighs 105 pounds. When a late teen/mid twenty model weighs less than you do, it doesn’t make you feel so great about yourself. This makes girls look down at the flashing numbers on their scale and fill with disappointment and sadness.Victoria’s Secret only makes one type of body seem “beautiful”, and totally ignores the fact that other body types exist and that all body types are beautiful. Although Victoria’s Secret models and angels all have the same figure, some people can see this as a good thing. A recent survey from She Knows found that women were, unsurprisingly, more likely to buy a product if they liked how women were portrayed in its advertisements. The company knows this, which is why they keep their ‘perfect’ models to appeal to the most females as they can. This does make sense, but don’t you think they will appeal to a wider audience if they widen the types of bodies they support? Besides, it’s the 21st century, when are we going to acknowledge that there is more than one “beautiful” body type?

When you walk into the wide glass doors of a VS store, you are immediately bombarded by wall-size photos of those reed thin, top heavy, beautiful models. And when you don’t exactly look like them, it can make you feel pretty bad about yourself. Women and girls-teenagers in particular- will see these bodies and wonder, “Why can’t I look like that, and what can I do to look like that?” The answer is clear. You cannot look like that because those bodies because they are physically unobtainable without a trustworthy plastic surgeon and some solid photoshopping software. I remember one time I went into the store with my friend. She had been self-conscious about her body, and seeing that the company only supported one body type made her feel even worse. It was hard for her to learn how to love herself and be proud of her body when these models all had the same “perfect” body that she didn’t have. These models make girls feel insecure about themselves, and make girls who are already insecure about themselves even MORE dissatisfied with their bodies.

The company raised online rage only a few months ago with their “The Perfect Body” campaign. The images that they used for this “Perfect Body” campaign were 10 models that all had that same body figure as explained above. No attempts at body diversity were made in the image. Even worse, these images suggested that these were what “perfect” bodies were supposed to be. Given that those models’ bodies are basically unobtainable, it seemed a little insulting to imply that women who didn’t share their exact measurements somehow have ‘imperfect’ bodies. This campaign made thousands of young girls look in the mirror each morning and feel dissatisfied with themselves. An online petition was made, requesting that the brand apologize and take responsibility for the unhealthy damaging message that their ‘Perfect Body’ campaign sends out about women’s boies. More than 33,000 signatures were gathered, but Victoria’s Secret only took minimal action. They changed the campaign name to “A Body For Every Body” (which still didn’t make a lot of sense given the narrow range of bodies depicted in the advertisement remained.) Even after this petition, they still did not add any different body types to this campaign.

Victoria’s Secret has mentioned that they are going to try to add more angels and models of different ethnicities, but if they are serious about diversifying their models, they might want to add different body types as well. Adding different body types will help all women feel better about themselves, make the modeling shows more interesting to watch, and help the company widen its audience. Imagine a new generation where young girls can open up a magazine and instead of pinching their stomach with disappointment, stare into a mirror and think “Wow, I am beautiful.” Imagine a society where everyone believes that they are beautiful and are proud to be in their own skin. But until Victoria’s Secret starts to take action and add different types of models, I refuse to watch their shows or buy their products, and maybe if we all do, we can convince them to make the change.

Do Books Lack Diversity? by Julia Callini

What are the most popular books we read? The classics, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare, Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, Lord of the Flies, William Golding, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne. And we have today’s bestsellers, The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, Me Before You, JoJo Moyes, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins, Paper Towns, John Green. What’s up with this? Many people are facing this problem, while few publishers are doing anything to change it.

What are the perks of having books by diverse authors?
For starters, children (or anyone for that matter) is more likely to feel more understood, and when they feel more understood, they become more empathetic. When you have someone you can relate to, you are more likely to turn to them when you are in need of help. Many excellent readers don’t realize this, but when upset, they turn to reading, to someone who understands what they are going through.

In 2014, there were 393 books published about people of color, of which 225 (57%) were by people who were not from the group in which they wrote about. This can be quite problematic, in some cases. Authors can often abuse or carry out stereotypes with the culture. For example, I read a book by a white author about a young latina girl growing up in a small town in southern California. Her parents are poor, illegal immigrants who are illiterate and own a taco restaurant. Oh, and her brother was arrested for dealing marijuana. Every Mexican stereotype right there people. It was a little insulting, honestly. I have a few friends who are latina, and yes, their parents do make delicious tacos, but they are not poor, illegal, illiterate immigrants. They are very nice, kind people who have worked hard and live in a nice neighborhood and are genuinely caring. I do not think for a millisecond that my friends brother would try to sell me pot (he works as a therapist at a rehab center, so the chances are extremely low).

Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Books
I was babysitting my cousins, and they asked me to read them a bedtime story (which I was more than happy to do, of course). They chose the book “I’m Glad I’m a Boy, I’m Glad I’m a Girl”, by Wendy Darrow. It was chock-full of stereotypes like “Boys are doctors, Girls are nurses”, “Girls can cook, Boys can eat”, “Boys invent things, Girls use things that the boys invent”. As a feminist myself, I was extremely insulted. I come from a family of hardworking women and won’t dumb myself down to “just” be a nurse, instead of a doctor. I’m afraid that if little girls read this book, they will only think that they have to be the cook, and the boys will think that a) they don’t have to learn to cook; girls will do it for them, or b) that cooking isn’t “manly” enough.

After all, we are promoting empathy and respect for all people, but why aren’t we putting that into books?

 

Statistics from http://blog.leeandlow.com/2015/03/05/the-diversity-gap-in-childrens-publishing-2015/

Nora’s recommendation for Spring Cupcakes!

Hi Guys!!!!!! We found this super cute spring cupcake! I would like to thank Sritha for helping me find this cupcake!

Here is the link: http://www.punchbowl.com/p/spring-themed-baby-shower

Here is the recipe:

  1. Bake a vanilla cupcake
  2. Then frost with a light orange frosting
  3. Then make small little fondant orange flowers to go on the rim of the cupcake
  4. Then you can either frost the cupcake on top with more frosting, or put white fondant on top by folding it so it has creases
  5. Then make a big orange fondant rose!

Enjoy!

Julia Callini Reviewing Rethinking Normal

Rethinking Normal–A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill

I could give you this whole book in one word.
inspirational.
moving.
funny.
sweet.
sad.
painful.

The truth about this book is, it is a rollercoaster and a blend of all these adjectives together. In every chapter, every page, every paragraph, every sentence has a new emotion that Katie Rain Hill weaves into her truly heartfelt story.

Katie Rain Hill’s story starts off with a random fun fact about her- she hates flies. It’s something that makes her relatable. She gives an intro about her life, where she has lives, where she goes to school, how old she is, then cuts right to the point of why she is writing this memoir. When Katie Rain Hill was fifteen she went from being Luke (a boy), to Katie Rain (a girl). She goes back to her present; she just killed the fly. Her voice, which she portrays beautifully in her writing, puts me right at ease. She is so relatable, and it makes me feel as if I really do know her. Of course, by the end of this book, you really do start to know her and her past.

Hill’s past is the most powerful part of her story. She tells the struggles of being born in the wrong body in an steady, raw, and honest voice. Even though most people are not transgender, we can all relate to Hill’s feeling of being uncomfortable in our own skin. She talks about her romances and her boyfriend, Arin, and how he really helped her through the whole thing. Whenever Katie talked about Arin, it made me smile. Her mom is also someone who Katie and I can both look up to. Her mother was supportive and loved her daughter for who she was.

The part that hurt the most was when her three best friends, Lisa, Maria, and Katherine, left her because she came out that she was a trans. As she wrote with such unrefined talent, spoken through ink on a piece of paper, Hill touched my heart and inspired me to speak up for what is right, her her voice will do the same for you. The most important thing I learned from this book is to accept people for who they deeply, truly are.

I would recommend this book for people who feel like everyday is worse than the last and their lives will never get better. It will. Because if you don’t trust me, you will trust Ms. Katie Rain Hill. Also, parents, teachers, and anyone who has children as a huge part of their life, read this book. It will help you understand them, and help you make the best decisions for them, and teach them what is right.

I have no doubt that this book will change the way you see and treat people.

xoxo,
Jules

P.S. I couldn’t put this book down.

Up and Coming Young Adult Author: Pintip Dunn by Julia Callini

When she was in first grade, Pintip Dunn´s first grade teacher asked her what she wanted to be.

“An author,” she responded. While having many interests, the passion of writing has always thrived.

She graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor’s in English Literature and Language. She received Master’s at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. She lived with her family and Maryland.

Summary of Forget Tomorrow
from http://www.pintipdunn.com/books/

It’s Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she’s eagerly awaiting her vision―a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they’re meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist.

Or in Callie’s case, a criminal.

In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in Limbo―a hellish prison for those destined to break the law. With the help of her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn’t spoken to in five years, she escapes.

But on the run from her future, as well as the government, Callie sets in motion a chain of events that she hopes will change her fate. If not, she must figure out how to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all—Callie, herself.