Teachers share experiences at summer fellowships

hile students are on break, teachers are spending their summer or spring taking part in fellowships, programs where teachers further their understanding about the subjects that they teach. Science teacher Emily Fitzgerald spent five days in Philadelphia, PA at the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation fellowship while history teacher Bonnie Belshe attended Mount Vernon Research fellowship in Mount Vernon, VA for a week.

Teachers who participate in fellowships get the opportunity to learn about specific topics that they may not have gotten the chance to study elsewhere. Many of these teachers choose to implement what they learned into their classes at MVHS.

“Some of the things we [learned]about were equity issues, how to make things more equitable for all the students in our classes,” Fitzgerald said. “[We also] talked about what it means for a student to do be a doer of math and science [and what it means]for a student to be acting like a chemist in a chemistry class.”

While Fitzgerald’s fellowship was centered around learning about different methods of teaching, Belshe’s focused on further researching into her history classes at MVHS.

Fellowships are rather popular among teachers because of the unique opportunities that they present. As such, they can be very hard to get accepted into. Just as students are applying for summer internships, teachers are applying for fellowships to get themselves prepared for the coming school years.

“Two years ago is when I first found out about it [… but] I already had future camps lined up for that summer so I decided to wait until this last year and applied,” Belshe said. “A little over 500 people applied and 5 were accepted.”

Most fellowships are individually funded by people who want to invest into those fellowships. Consequently, teachers are given the chance to meet some of the famous people who help run the research programs or help fund the programs they go to.

“Harry Knowles invented the barcode scanner and he got a lot money from doing that,” Fitzgerald said. “[To give back] he wanted to invest in math and science teachers because he felt [that it was the]math and science teachers that had led him to be so successful [and he put this money]into starting this fellowship program.”

To make it easier for teachers to continue their research, fellowships are spread across multiple years to ensure that teachers get the time they need to finalize their lesson plans.

“I already have some of the sources but the plan is the following year,” Belshe said. “This first week I was there it was just the gathering of sources. I was just meeting with everyone I could, talking with all of them, tons of research time, now I need this next year to process it, and there’s a ton to process.”

Pulling from what they’ve learned, teachers are spending the rest of the school year trying to finalize lesson plans for the following school year. Fitzgerald has already started implementing her new plans into this year’s chemistry classes, including an improved grading system.

“It was just a really great experience and it was really honoring to be chosen because it is such a prestigious program in the entire United States,” Fitzgerald said. “I am excited for the 5 years of continuous support and in addition to the meetings they give you more money so that you can have more professional development in other places too.”

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Health news: Alcohol industry influences the perceived risk of cancer

“Flaming cocktails” is licensed under CC BY 2.0

study published in the Drug and Alcohol Review reveals a stark truth about our risk of developing cancer from alcohol: the alcohol industry has a substantial stake in influencing public perception and discourse of such risks.

In the study, researchers analyzed how alcohol companies disseminate misinformation about the risk of developing cancer from consuming alcohol. To determine this, the researchers analyzed various texts to draw themes of misinformation. They found three ways the alcohol industry does so.

  1. Denial. According tot he study, alcohol companies have been guilty of denying any correlation between the consumption of alcohol, or claiming that there is zero risk of cancer when drinking in moderation. The omission of certain types of cancers caused by alcohol is also used to mislead the public.
  2. Distortion. The alcohol industry has also been found to misrepresent the size or nature of certain cancers by citing specific patterns of consumption. The industry also discredits those who draw a relationship between alcohol and cancer, claiming that there is insufficient evidence.
  3. Distraction. The alcohol companies draw attention away from the correlation between cancer and alcohol by citing a variety of factors which cause cancer.

The study reveals a startling but understandable truth about alcohol: booze companies don’t want you to know they cause cancer. Actively silencing discourse about such a relationship is a hazard to  public health. As the public, we need to inform the public about such a misdoing and demand the truth that there is a strong correlation between drinking and cancer.

Legislation also needs to take into account such misinformation. Currently, there are sin taxes in place to dissuade the public from consuming alcohol. While they have been proven effective, such excise taxes could be higher if the public is more informed about the great risks of drinking. A reminder of the dangers of drinking also begs the question of why harmful substances like alcohol are legal while less harmful ones are not.

The allure behind Nintendo Switch

grew up as a Nintendo kid. The first product I owned was the DS Lite, which provided me with countless hours of fun, and still remains a cherished part of my childhood today. My fondest recollections of the handheld include playing Animal Crossing Wild World in the pitch blackness of the backseat of my family’s minivan on a roadtrip.

The Nintendo Wii also gave me hours of good fun. Mario Kart Wii played an instrumental role in my preteen years, and even today I’ve put the console to good use by using it to emulate Gamecube games from an even older era.

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So I certainly see the appeal of the Nintendo Switch to Nintendo fans, veterans and noobies alike. When Nintendo first released its trailer for the Switch in late 2016, I was immediately drawn to the console as if it were some $300 matte black child magnet. After all, it seemed like a novel idea to introduce a console that blurred the line between game console and handheld, with detachable game pads which doubled as remote controllers.

However, early reviews of the console have rendered it sub-par by Nintendo’s standards, with IGN giving it a 7.0/10 rating, stating “Switch doesn’t do any one of the many things it can do without some sort of significant compromise.” Furthermore, CNET gave the Nintendo Switch a meager 7.5/10, noting its biggest flaw in its ecosystem, which currently lacks AAA titles aside from Breath of the Wild.

Perhaps I set my expectations too high.

Only time will tell how well the Switch bodes in the future, but early signs have suggested that the Switch is yet another concept that looks good on paper, but unrealistic in practice.

But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I believe that great products come from people trying to solve great problems. And in the case where the consumer dictates the flaws and market for the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo has great potential to turn a difficult concept into the console of the decade.

Is Donald Trump a narcissist?

Is Donald Trump a narcissist?

The arrival of a new president also signifies the arrival of a new personality in the White House. Lincoln, witty and honest. Wilson, dispassionate and pragmatic. Obama, charming and sensible. Trump, some may argue, is a completely different breed. He’s unfiltered. He speaks what’s on his mind. And he is always determined to be right, truth or not. Regardless of how the American people view this behavior, Trump’s resolve and self-confidence is undeniable. Psychologists and media outlets such as “The Atlantic” have been quick to point out that Trump’s infatuation with himself is a symptom of an actual disorder: narcissistic personality disorder. Yet these labels may have surfaced out of rage and discontent with the president, begging a critical question: are these statements qualified?

According to the DSM-IV, which is used to diagnose mental disorders, narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, lack of empathy and presents itself in a variety of contexts.” Furthermore, common symptoms include the common belief that one is superior or unique, the inflation of one’s accomplishments and abilities, and the belief that those who associate with one are special. Trump’s public appearance certainly has parallels with the DSM-IV definition of narcissistic personality disorder: he claims to have won the electoral by a landslide, despite several independent findings refuting such claims. He exaggerated the size of his inaugural crowd, while photographs suggest precisely otherwise. And then there is Trump’s persistent use of superlatives such as “greatest” and “best” to describe his family and aids. He has also barred media outlets who ask unfavorable questions from certain press conferences, as he did on Feb. 24 to news agencies including CNN and the New York Times.

However, it’s undeniable that such a definition is fairly broad in today’s social context. In an individualistic society, something as mundane as a football player’s celebratory dance could easily fall under such a definition. According to Marriage and Family Therapist Richard Prinz, it’s dangerous to ascribe a label to people, particularly when taken out of context.

“Once you put a label on something, it sticks,” Prinz said. “And I think if we do that with mental issues, sometimes it’s helpful to some people, but other people feel stigmatized and people will look at them differently.”

Prinz says that creating a label for somebody, a heavy label of “narcissist” at that, puts him or her into a small box, and suggests that he or she isn’t capable of anything else because of a mental disorder. It doesn’t give people a chance and draws attention away from their positive aspects.

After all, the process of diagnosing mental disorders is not as simple as listening to a person speak. It takes a combination of reports from several sources and is based on extensive observation of the patient. Without meeting the patient one-on-one, it is disrespectful, as Prinz describes it, to draw a conclusion about one’s mental state. It’s also difficult to distinguish Trump from average Americans simply because he was not raised in an average household. Trump was raised with money, and entered the real estate business with the support of his father. Therefore, Trump’s personality and that of “typical” Americans isn’t necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison. Prinz thinks this could be an explanation for Donald Trump’s lack of empathy.

“He’s been privileged and entitled, and he’s a white male,” Prinz said. “So there’s a lot of things in this culture, from the get-go, that put him in a powerful position. In that position, people can feel entitled and not empathetic.”

It’s also impossible to tell whether or not Donald Trump is putting on a show or if he truly believes in his words, or as Prinz, calls it, “crazy like a fox or just crazy.” After all, Donald Trump is playing the game of politics, a game which can oftentimes blur the line between a politician’s personal beliefs and what beliefs garner the most votes.

All things considered, even a president with narcissistic personality disorder isn’t inherently bad. Trump appears to have empathy for the working class, with his promises to bring manufacturing back to the United States. Ultimately labels are just words placed on people, and it’s more important to focus on the content of people’s’ character than place them into a box. Perhaps this rings particularly true for the President of the United States.

“When you’re president you’ve got the target on you,” Prinz said. “You’re a public figure, you’re in a position of power, people like you or don’t like you.”

Smartwatches: Asset or nuisance?

Smartwatches: Asset or nuisance?

A couple weeks back I found an ASUS ZenWatch 2 sitting in one of the drawers in my house, looking rather dusty and neglected.

I marveled at the small piece of technology right before my eyes. This was the fruitful effort of millions of dollars and hundreds of work hours being poured into a single piece of technology: the smartwatch. It could measure steps taken, monitor sleep habits, answer calls—the works. And without giving it much of a second thought, I slapped that thing onto my wrist like a child eager to show off his new toy.

But over the course of the week, I gradually realized the impracticality of such a device. There is the issue of always being connected. Sure, there’s an option to completely mute the notifications on your phone, but I found myself constantly marveling the Mickey Mouse watch face that I had installed and checking my wrist often (more than my old watch to say the least) to see what new notifications I’d received when I wasn’t looking at my phone or my computer. It’s become more of a distraction than an asset. The only instances when I used my lavish paperweight for something “practical” was for setting alarms and reminders.

What point is there in wearing such a hefty watch so I could complete a few mundane tasks by burning a couple more calories and mere seconds taking out the phone in my pocket? Who in a right state of mind would spend hundreds of dollars to save a couple of seconds retrieving his or her phone? The answer isn’t really a shocker: a lot of people. According to The Verge, Apple sold over six million Apple Watches last quarter.

Perhaps the invention of such a device speaks to how self-indulgent and, dare I say, lazy we’ve become. I can see why there is a demand for such a device, given Apple’s consistent success in introducing innovative products and how the company has become a symbol of status and luxury. But maybe, just maybe, wearable technology companies that follow suit should consider putting their resources into trying to solve bigger problems than the abominable task of consumers reaching into their pockets to pull out a five-inch piece of silicon.

Sunday Project: Christmas in the Park

“SPIRIT ACRES,” one of them reads in bold, black font reminiscent of the wild west. “THE BEACH HOUSE,” reads another, with an intricately carved crab underneath. These are all wooden signs, hand-crafted and personalized by woodworker James Greene. It all began with a shop at Bass Lake, where Greene’s brothers got jobs, only for Greene to get one as well. Each sign is hand-carved using only Greene’s hands and an arsenal of low-tech equipment.

“We hand carve free-hand all these signs with routers like that one there,” Greene said, “so we don’t use any stencils or anything like that so everything’s hand-made. We’re very low-tech. We’re low-tech in the center of high-tech.”

In his 30 years doing woodwork, Greene’s passion has taken him to the farthest corners of the United States, from Tucson to Seattle. He began coming to Christmas in the Park to sell and showcase his work after attending the Santa Clara County fair for several years. But the fair “went away for a few years,” so Greene looked to Christmas in the Park as an alternative venue. One of the most rewarding aspects of Greene’s job is the fact that everything he makes is a representation of America. With every cut of a wooden block, every stroke of sandpaper and every sign he sells, Greene interacts with a variety of people across a wide range of locations.

Greene’s passion for people and his beloved woodworkings is ultimately what gets him up for work every morning. Woodworking, after all, is an art that Greene deems an astounding feat of human achievement.

“They’re all awesome,” Greene said. “Are you kidding, that’s real wood, that’s made by humans, right? Made by humans on real wood, by hand. It’s art. Art is priceless.”

At the center of all of the commotion in Christmas in the Park stand two women greeting and assisting passersby at the event. Wearing red sweaters and tags which say “Board of Directors,” they radiate authority and confidence. One of them is Martie Degutis, who has been on the Board of Directors for Christmas in the Park for 20 years, and next to her is Karin Cogville, who was recruited by the Executive Director of the Park five years ago. Collectively, the two have not only invested countless hours into the 40-year-old holiday tradition, but have also shared a passion for their work each day.

“My favorite part is just seeing the little kids and just how excited they are to see Santa,” Cogville said, “to see all of the lights, to see the new displays, and just the families get[ting] to make new traditions every year.”

Ever since being recruited by the telephone company Pioneers, one of the event’s first sponsors, Degutis has seen many changes take place, including the way displays and clothing have been modernized and the difference in creators of decorations.

“It used to be done by all volunteers,” Degutis said. “So you would look at it and say ‘Yeah, a three-year-old painted that.’ And now you’re looking and going ‘Wow!’ So there is a huge difference because we’re more self-sustaining now than we were 20 years ago. ”

However, it would be a fallacy to say that the Christmas tradition has changed drastically over the years. Some things simply never change. For one thing, families continue to come to the park yearly to enjoy the displays and have a cup of hot chocolate. But behind the opulent lights and action, those who have made the annual tradition happen continue to do what they love most: providing a free community event for those of all ages to enjoy.