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The Persistence of the Oyster and the Power of the Sea Star

Good morning and happy weekend! I hope you had an amazing week. I know I did! Earlier this week, I started planning out a blog post on the secret to being lucky. But then 2 incredible things happened and I decided to blog about those instead. I will write about how to be lucky next week (if you are lucky 😂).

I had the opportunity to present my ideas and website to two different teams this week. Both times, I was completely shocked by what happened afterwards. There is a huge lesson to be learned from each experience, and I wanted to share those with you. It is funny how you think you are going to teach somebody something, and then you end up being the person that learns something.

geralt. (2018). iPad. [digital image]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/blue-orange-colors-animal-beach-2309309/ . CC 0

When I first encountered the Sea Star Team, I was struck by what a good fit their name was for them. Sea Stars are kind of little, and really fun to watch. Sea Stars are certainly not the strongest, fastest, or most powerful creature in the ocean. That held true for this team too. They were not the fastest, most powerful team at the school. However they seemed excited about earning points for their team, and that made me happy. I never would have ever predicted what the Sea Stars could accomplish! By the end of the day, the Sea Stars earned over 50,000 points for their team, which made them the top scorers ever! I guess no one them they were too little to make a difference (and BIG KUDOS to their teachers and parents for that). They had a goal and set out to accomplish it.

geralt. (2018). iPad. [digital image]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/shell-pearl-valuable-light-sand-1972980/ . CC 0

By, the time I presented my website to the Oyster Team, the Sea Stars were so far ahead that I thought nobody could them. However, the Oysters had different plans. They got right to work, and almost caught up to the Sea Stars. The weekly challenge ended with the Sea Stars on top, but the Oyster Team did not get discouraged. The Oyster Team immediately starting working again towards their goal of being the top team.

I have to be completely honest. I was blown away by the persistence, positive attitude, and power at what these teams could accomplish. They did not let being little or not “winning” stop them. Instead they focused on what they could do and ran towards their goal with all of their might!

So, let’s make a deal. This week, when you are faced with a challenge that seems bigger than you, remember the persistence of the Oysters and the power of the Sea Stars and just set out to overcome it. I will do the same.

Have a great week! Go play Acalympics 😊

Mindfulness Lessons From My Cat

Hello and happy weekend! I had a busy, but amazing week. I hope you did too. I got the best compliment this week, which got me thinking about a blog post. A kid, that is a year older than me in school, asked me how I managed to stay on top of everything, that I am involved in. I answered him with a very intelligent comment. I said, “I don’t know”.

At the time, that was the truth. I couldn’t come up with an easy explanation of how I get things done. I wasn’t sure if I should tell him about my schedule, or how I make calendars. It wasn’t until I thought about it for awhile, that I realized I could have answered him with one word, Mindfulness.

Mindfulness can be defined as the state or quality of being aware. I like to just think of mindfulness as staying on top of things. I try to look at my schedule every weekend and plan for what is coming up. I highlight the days I know I will not have a lot of time to work on homework, or music, or my website, because I have activities going on. Then, I try to plan my week schedule around my schedule. Hah! Let me give you an example, of what I mean. I have the privilege of playing saxophone for a local Wind Ensemble. This Wind Ensemble practices every Tuesday evening in a neighboring city. My mom picks me up from school on Tuesdays and we head straight over to the city where practice is, grab a quick bite to eat, then go to practice. I know that on Tuesdays, I do not get home until pretty late. I know that I am not going to be able to get a whole lot of homework done, so I try to get as much homework done as I can, on the weekend and on Monday.

You may be wondering where I learned such an advanced skill from. I will tell you the secret source of this wisdom. I learned to stay on top of things that are important, from my cat.

Source: Bock, K. (2018). Chena On Top of Homework. [digital image] CC BY-VB

This is my cat Chena. In this picture, she is sitting on my brother’s AP European History short answer essay paper. Chena always sits on anything she thinks, we think, is important. It is kind of a joke in my house, if my mom asks if we have our homework done, we tell her not to worry, Chena is on top of it. 😊

Honestly though, Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit”. From experience, I can tell you that is not always easy to practice mindfulness, but when you do, your life becomes a lot easier. So, this week I give you this challenge. See if you can be like Chena, and stay on top of what is important!

Have a great week! Go play acalympics.com 😉

Chasing Dreams

This morning I am reflecting on just how important practice is. The most exciting thing happened to me. I got to bring home my 4th instrument. If you know me, you know I LOVE music. I play the piano in many festivals and events throughout the year. I play the alto saxophone for my school band and a local Wind Ensemble. I play the soprano saxophone. I have been trying to perfect the soprano, so I can audition for my school’s jazz band with soprano, instead of the alto. However, lately I have found myself very interested in the clarinet. Clarinets always seem to get the really neat parts , in big band pieces of music.  I decided I wanted to learn how to play the clarinet too.

I got to bring one home yesterday, and I could not wait to start playing some incredible pieces of music, on it. I got it all put together, put my mouth on this new mouthpiece and blew with all of my might. Guess what happened? The most horrible squeaky sound you have have ever heard came out. Honestly! So, I tried again, and again it was terrible! I was pretty disappointed. I was expecting to pick up on this new instrument where I left off on my current ones. Did I have a misguided expectation? Yes! It has been awhile since I learned a brand new instrument and I forgot the amount of work you have to put into learning anything. I forgot one of my most trusted quotes “practice makes anything easier”. I expected just to be a pro at it.

I think sometimes our expectations make us quit something new before we give ourselves a chance to learn it. I think we assume that we will instinctively know how to do something that we have never tried. I think we get really frustrated when it doesn’t go as well as we think it will. I think we just give up and quit chasing our dreams too soon. However, life teaches us differently. Life teaches us sometimes success comes from a series of small steps.  I mean, look at babies. They have to crawl before they walk. When they first learn to walk, they fall down. A LOT! The thing about babies is, they don’t give! When they fall down, they get back up. I think sometimes we forgot that part. We forget to get back up.

With that in mind, and after petting my sweet doggie, and telling her I really am not trying to torture her audibly, I went back to the clarinet. Guess what? I have been able to master three scales! My mouth hurts and my thumb is killing me (all new muscles I need to build up). On my alto saxophone I can easily play all major scales and most of the minors, but you know what? I decided that I am going to play this clarinet just as proficiently, as I do my alto. I know I can do it, because practice makes anything easier.

I got to see the The Piano Guys  in concert once. The chelloist Steve, said something I have never forgotten. He told the kids in the audience to keep practicing their instruments, because some day all of their theory and practice would just click, and it would feel like they were flying when they were playing their instrument. I can confidently assure you, that has not happened to me, YET. But I am confident I am just one practice away from it . I decided I am going to keep chasing my dreams and I hope you will chase yours too!

Have a great day! Go play acalympics. 😉

Importance of Dreams

I am currently on day 2 of my 3 day weekend. Yay! Even though I love my school, I do enjoy days off. During my time off, I have the opportunity to work on my personal projects. In my busy world of school, homework, after school activities, and music, my time often runs short. I am grateful for the chance to work on what I want to work on, instead of what I have to work on.

I was thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. while I was organizing my time for this 3 day weekend. You know what always comes to mind when I think about him? 4 words. Can you guess what they are? “I have a dream”. In my mind “I have a dream” defines Martin Luther King Jr. Thinking about that very important sentence made me question, what is the difference between dreams and goals? Could Martin Luther King Jr have said “ I have a goal”, and it have made the same impact?

We just celebrated the New Year, and some of us made resolutions for this year. Personally, I jotted down a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish this year. 4-5 items are on that list. Was anything on that list a dream of mine? Maybe 1 item. The rest were just goals. I looked at my list and it helped me define the difference between dreams and goals. I came up with three thoughts. 1. A dream is much bigger than a goal. Dreams are your overall big picture, goals are the actions you take to accomplish it. A football team can have a goal to win the game they are playing, and a dream to make it to the state playoffs. Goals are the steps on the way to the dream. 2. Both dreams and goals are very similar in that they both require action. Both! It is simply not enough to say you have a dream and then go about your day, never working on it. My 5th grade teacher used to say that anything worth having was worth working for. This train of thought led me back to Martin Luther King Jr. What he was working for, was so much bigger than a goal. It was a dream! He worked tirelessly on promoting equality, despite the odds against him. This brings me to my 3rd thought, 3. Dreams have a way of pulling you through failures, if you let them. Dreams become a passion that is a part of us. When a door closes on a dream, we are crushed. However, if you stick with your dream, your brain will find another way (I have experience with this, ask me sometime why Microsoft doesn’t host acalympics.com). In comparison goals, can be easy to give up in because sometimes we aren’t really that attached them in the 1st place.

What are your dreams for this year? What goals will get you there? Zig Zigler said “You are born to win. However, you must plan to win, prepare to win and expect to win.” While your dreams may seem a million miles away, if you start now, by the end of this month you will make so much progress and be that much closer than you are now.  Don’t be afraid to dream big. I read a little sentence that said “if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough”. I would bet that there were times Martin Luther King Jr. was scared. However, he didn’t give up and our world today is a much better place because of him. Tomorrow, remember him, come up with a dream to make the world a better place, and Dare To Dream Big!

Why should you review math facts?

I recently found a good article on Twitter that I would like to share with you. (https://journal.thriveglobal.com/how-to-rewire-your-brain-for-massive-success-according-to-neuroscience-f051a30395d1) The author post steps on how to rewire your brain for success. Guess what the 1st step is? To engage in “brain aerobics” every day. You can do this by solving crossword puzzles, playing chess, or reviewing your math facts! Not only is acalympics.com a fun way to advance a team, but it is good for you!

Acalympics = Academics Olympic Style

Academics Olympic Style
When I was in 6th grade, my school district hosted a district wide competition open to all students. The challenge was to create a product to meet an under met or unmet need in education. I thought it sounded like fun, and signed up for the competition. I immediately started researching how the USA performed in mathematics. The results I found horrified me! In 2015 only 33% of 4th graders were considered proficient in mathematics, and a mere 25% of 8th graders were proficient according to Pew Research Center. I began doing more research and learned two very important concepts:

Algebra is called the gatekeeper subject. Algebra alone serves as a measure of predictability for success in higher level mathematic course
Algebra is the most failed course in high schools and colleges
At this point in my school career, I had not taken Algebra yet, but I was becoming more and more aware of how important it was. While researching how I could help underperforming students in math, I noticed a trend. The common theme was strong math fluency helps build strong mathematic learners. I realized this was an area I could address. Learning math facts, known as math fluency, is really beneficial for you. I reasoned if your brain was not bogged down trying to figure out the answer to an addition, multiplication, division, or subtraction problem it was free to engage in higher level thinking. I knew I could address this area, because let’s face it: fact worksheets, while beneficial are boring. I decided to create a product where answering math questions correctly, not necessarily quickly, would earn you points. Then I could create a running total of those points for display.
I used the Olympics as my inspiration, and made teams. In the Olympics, you have several different athletes with different strengths all working towards a common goal, earning the gold for their country. In Acalympics, I wanted to do the same thing. The students would all be placed on a team, and could login to earn points, by answering fluency questions correctly, for their team. My idea was once a month, quarter, semester, whatever the teams would be awarded the Gold, Silver and Bronze. I wanted to make the teams flexible, so if one grade is constantly outperforming another, you could rearrange the teams for a closer competition. My ultimate goal is not only for the school to compete with themselves, but to host this competition, so schools can compete against other schools, and districts against districts (I am still working on that). My reason for this is, at the end of the day, there is a whole lot of math fact review going on.

A little bit about me, I am currently a 7th grade student that wanted to help people, and had an idea. The superintendent asked me how to get my idea into his classrooms, so I started trying to learn how to make a website. It has been a whole lot of work (and a big “thank you” goes to my dad), but I have learned a whole lot too. When I am not working on this website, I can be found spending time with my other passion, music. I play the alto saxophone and the piano and love every minute of it. Or you just might find me petting my dog. To close this About Tab, I want to leave you with a thought that inspires me. Simon Sinek said (and I am paraphrasing it) “What good is an idea, if it remains an idea? Make a plan, change the world.”

Thanks for checking out my website, blog, Facebook and Twitter!
Karstan