New courses coming to 2017-18 school year

Mason High School’s course catalog is getting upgraded.

Changes in the course catalog this year include the addition of classes such as Filmmaking, Advanced Placement Comparative Government, and Engineering in our World. Assistant Principal Shanna Bumiller said courses such as Engineering in our World will give students a taste of a potential career in engineering.

“I think (many) kids are interested in going into engineering,” Bumiller said. “And we currently saw that as a gap. We don’t have an engineering course here at the high school. This is really meant to be an introductory course where kids say, ‘I want to go into engineering,’ but they really don’t know what that means, or all the fields that are in engineering. (This course would) give kids a broad survey of all the different types of engineering (and) peak their curiosity.”

Sophomore Corinne Mattingley said Filmmaking would allow students interested in video editing, writing, and acting to practice everything at one time.

“There’s an element of writing, with an element of technology, and a little bit of acting too,” Mattingley said. “So it’s kind of a combination of all three things. You can take a class where you learn how to edit videos, you can take an acting class, and you can take a writing class, but there’s not really a class where you can combine all three.”

Junior Seth Gerus said AP Comparative Government would allow students to deeply analyze America’s government and make connections about the world.

“I think it would be a great class, just so people know what’s going on in the world,” Gerus said. “So many people have so little knowledge on what’s happening outside of the U.S. and think that we live in a vacuum, but really, the U.S. is how it is because of how we interact with the rest of the world. You would not only learn about foreign governments and what goes on in their own countries, but how it affects America.”

Another change for next year pertains to AP Biology and AP Chemistry. Both of these courses next year will take up less space the students’ schedules. Bumiller said that one of the goals for this change is to make sure that only the students truly interested in science take the AP courses.

“We want students to pick (AP courses) because that’s where their passion lies,” Bumiller said. “We don’t want students to take it because it’s one and a half weighted credit, and if that causes a decrease in enrollment because kids looked at that as a pathway to increase their GPA, then so be it.”

Freshman Alishaan Ali plans to take AP Chemistry next year and he is concerned about learning the material in enough time.

“My main concern is (getting through) all of those labs,” Ali said. “And (if it is) going to become even a lot more work than it was this year.”

AP Biology teacher Elizabeth Coleman said that the AP Biology and Chemistry teachers are trying to make up with the substantial loss of time due to the course changes to make sure that the students benefit and all specific course requirements are met.

“Losing 100 minutes every week is going to be huge, because if you multiply that over the 36 weeks of the school year, that’s going to be a lot of lost time,” Coleman said. “So things have to be adjusted, and we’re working with the administration too, to see what’s best not just for students, not just for the whole building, but looking at some of the things going on that are unique to AP Bio and AP Chem.”

Coleman said that adjustments made for next year such as a proposed new schedule will help students stay more focused on each of their classes, and make their day less chaotic.

“The brain’s not really meant to stay engaged that often (seven times) throughout the day, and changing it that frequently,” Coleman said. “I’m hoping that with this change, what will be nice about it is that students can focus on a few of their classes, at least a couple days a week.”

Students awarded for work in Scholastic Art and Writing competition

These young artists have once again proven their talent on a grand scale.

The Scholastic Art and Writing awards released their 2017 art winners and this year, 38 artists from Mason High School won Gold Keys, Silver Keys, and Honorable Mentions.

Digital Image Design and Photography teacher Tina Roberts said that the number of students entered in the competition was lower than in previous years.

“(The amount of winners) was about the same,” Roberts said. “Although, I think we entered a little less this year than we have in past years.”

There are three regional awards a piece can win, and the highest scoring pieces move on to be judged nationally, Roberts said.

“Basically, there’s a gold key, a silver key, and an honorable mention,” Roberts said. “They get the key awards at the Regional level and at the National level they get the medals, and they get an actual medal. All of pieces that got gold key will then go on to national level judging.”

This is senior Emma Morrissey’s second year in the competition. She along with Lauren Fournier, Tasha Norris, and Jenny Wan earned gold keys this year. Morrissey said that she prepared long in advance and was excited to win awards again this year.

“I was really excited this year,” Morrisey said. “I knew (the awards were) coming and as soon as I got home from New York, (last year’s nationals) I was like ‘I want to do this again next year,’ so I got all of my pieces together. I submitted 10 in total and four of them won (awards).”

Morrissey said that she chose pieces to submit based on results from the previous year.

“You have to think about the judges, and pieces that won last year,” Morrissey said. “They like traditional work, but they also go for the oddball style, or something that’s kind of unique or provokes thought. (There are) a lot of applications of creativity that you normally wouldn’t see.”

Arts and creativity lost in shift to STEM

Originally published in the November 18, 2016 edition of The Chronicle.

Calculators instead of clarinets, Einstein instead of Shakespeare, systems instead of sonnets. Do you see a trend here?  It seems that in the push to expose students to more science and technology related education, the result could be a decreased emphasis on art and creativity.

STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – is a buzzword around the Mason City School District, but research shows that the arts provide students with a skill set that helps them excel farther academically.

Dana Arts and Cognition Consortium, a philanthropic organization conducting brain research, conducted a study in March 2008 that examined the effects of music education on attention and test scores.

The scientists took a group of 88 three to five- year-olds and collected their baseline test scores.They split the students up and engaged one group in music-related activities daily for eight weeks.They found that this group had significantly higher test scores in the non-verbal, spatial, and numeracy sections of an IQ test.

Senior Faith Kim has done Science Olympiad and taken multiple advanced science classes, and she said that the skills gained from playing the cello and making visual art has helped her to think more creatively.

“Doing art helps you to be more creative,” Kim said. “Creative thinking and problem solving, especially because those are huge aspects when you are making a piece of art, I think it transcends all subjects. Especially (with science) where problem solving and finding ways to solve your problems are a huge part of it.”

Kim said this is especially evident in physics.

“With physics, which I am taking right now, the problems that we have to do require a lot of thinking and thinking in different ways,” Kim said. “(We use) a lot of formulas to try and solve a problem, and I think being able to think creatively helps with that.”

Language Arts teacher and Speech and Debate adviser Melissa Donahue said the arts provide students with skills vital to success in STEM fields.

“Speech and debate, from an artistic standpoint, carries over to the STEM areas,” Donahue said. “I have many students that really develop analytical skills, (and) critical thinking skills, that I know you certainly would need to use in the STEM fields as well. In fact, many of the people who are in Speech and Debate or take (it) as an elective typically go on to fields like medicine or engineering.”

Even work done behind the scenes in the artistic fields prepares students for many types of careers, Donahue said.

“You may think of Speech and Debate as something that’s going to involve more of your public speaking skills and performing in front of an audience,” Donahue said. “(But) there’s a lot of behind the scenes work and preparation I would imagine a lot of science, math, (and) technology majors also use on a daily basis.”

The arts provide students with additional skill sets that they would lack with just math and science, Donahue said.

“I think it’s that idea of having that confidence or communicating in front of others,” Donahue said. “Learning the social aspect of it, beyond just the intellectual or the educational aspect of it, I think it’s that social component, and the idea to be able to empathize or sympathize with others (that) an arts education or focus is certainly going to help you excel in that area.”

While Donahue said she understands the focus on STEM, the arts are not receiving as much credit as they should be.

“(It’s) almost as if we maybe belittle an arts education,” Donahue said. “(We) think that something like Speech and Debate, or performance types of courses, or music, or art education is less important because of the big push to science and math, so in some cases, we might gloss over (the arts).”

Science teacher Joseph Schnell said there is a connection between the arts and STEM that helps stimulate more parts of the brain.

“There have been a lot of studies done that the arts, such as music, stimulate the parts of your brain that relate to STEM,” Schell said. “And I think having a wide body of knowledge allows you to make more connections than you might otherwise be able to (make).”

Such studies include one from the University of Utah in which scientists analyzed more than 1,000 brain scans of people ages seven to 29 in order to better understand lateralization: the preference to use a certain side of the brain over the other, Live Science, a science news website, said.

They analyzed more than 7,000 regions of the brain when the test subjects were at rest and concluded that on average there was an equal number of neural connections on each side of the brain. The results debunk the myth that one side of the brain is predominantly used for creativity and the other for logic.

Potential modifications to STEM would be more beneficial to students, Schnell said.

“There’s been a lot of emphasis (on) trying to change from STEM to STEAM,” Schnell said. “It’s basically, science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, and including (arts) as a piece and sort of wrapping them all together. I think that is a more beneficial and worthwhile approach.”

Schnell said an understanding of one field, such as science, makes another, such as music, easier.

“They sort of feed each other,” Schnell said. “If I say that it changes pitch from high to low, that’s a change in frequency as well. It allows me to better understand what frequency means in a context that I’ve experienced before.”

Many people assume that they can only excel in one aspect of academics, Schnell said.

“I think a lot of people just identify one thing that they’re good at and they sort of shut out all the others,” Schnell said. “I don’t think that’s a great approach. A lot of times, problems that you are trying to tackle can be benefited from looking at it from a different perspective.”

An open mind will help students better see the connection between both fields, Kim said.

“Just (be) open-minded and try to see the relationships between the two because they’re everywhere,” Kim said. “I don’t think you should limit STEM and say ‘Art doesn’t go there,’ and I don’t think you should limit art by saying science can’t be involved in it.”

Exercises linked to stress relief and relaxation

Originally published in the December 16, 2016 edition of The Chronicle.

Yoga is more than trees and sun salutations.

A study done at the Ohio State University and later published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology said that yoga reduces inflammation and fatigue, as well as the risk of diseases such as heart disease and arthritis.

Senior and Yoga Club founder Nealofar Madani said that yoga has been beneficial to her in multiple ways.

“I’m noticing more flexibility (and) more balance,” Madani said. “I feel like (I have) more control and more awareness of my body, mind, and thoughts.”

Senior and former Drishtiq Yoga employee Maddy Walouke said taking up yoga can help students practice concentrating their focus on a single task.

“It’s getting harder and harder for teenagers to focus on one thing mindfully,” Walouke said. “I feel like yoga is a really good way to practice and to exercise your mind to only focus on one thing. In doing that, it can help you be more mindful in the future in other things you’re doing.”

Madani said students can use yoga to counteract daily chaos and stresses.

“Especially for students, I know that there’s so much stress because of school and AP classes and standardized tests, as well as life in general,” Madani said. “It’s a great way to release stress in a healthy way and stay positive.”

Walouke said physical contact athletes participate in yoga to safely recover from an injury.

“In my experience, a lot of people start coming to yoga because they have some sort of pain,” Walouke said. “They’re athletes, they have some sort of injury that is not allowing them to do what they need to do, and yoga is a really good tool for healing and exercising those injuries in a really safe and healthy way instead of getting back on their feet and continuing because that would make the injury worse.”

Senior football player Josh Stewart said the football team uses yoga to properly recover after games.

“With the football team, we use yoga to our advantage for recovery after games,” Stewart said. “After games, we get in there Saturday mornings and we do our lift and we do yoga. It’s just to stretch us out and get all the lactic acid out of our muscles so that way we can recover faster.”

There has been a significant reduction in muscle soreness after starting yoga, Stewart said.

“I definitely see benefits just with the amount of soreness after games,” Stewart said. “We didn’t do yoga last season and I was sore all the time. This season we started doing it Saturdays and it’s made a big difference in my level of soreness.”

Bethesda Certified Athletic Trainer Kim Joest said that yoga is beneficial to athletes because it creates more flexible muscles that can easily remove lactic acid.

“Lactic acid builds up in the muscle,” Joest said. “We always describe it as dirty water–we want to get it out. By stretching and gaining flexibility helps get that back into the system so then it can be flushed out from your body.”

Madani said it’s advantageous for beginners to start simple.

“I would definitely say to start with beginner classes and move up,” Madani said. “There are so many opportunities for yoga. Start easy; don’t push yourself. It’s really cool to build–you’ll eventually be able to do poses you never thought you could do.”

Students should make their health more of a priority and take action to maintain it, Walouke said.

“A lot of students put their health as secondary, when your health is so important,” Walkouke said. “Students should be investing more time than they already are in things like yoga. That is going to make your mind work more efficiently as well.”

Mendu earns spot on Forbes 30 under 30

Mason High School freshman Maanasa Mendu was recently featured in the class of 2017 Forbes 30 under 30 list, making her the youngest to earn one of the coveted spots.

Mendu won the Discovery Education 3M Scientists Challenge with an energy-harvesting device. The goal of this device was to harvest both wind and solar energy as power sources.

Mendu said she was surprised to receive this level of recognition and hopes that she can inspire people to make good use of their talents.

“It’s way beyond what I initially expected (after winning),” Mendu said. “I guess it does feel like a pretty big responsibility to set an example so that other people can also be inspired to use their talents to do something good for our world.”

Mendu said being featured on this list will allow her to develop connections and start her on a path towards a career in science.

“It helps me contact people who are in the industry and well accomplished,” Mendu said. “At first I didn’t really think of it as a career–just a cool project I was working on. Now I’m considering it because I’m at the phase of taking it forward.”

Her innovative mind has brought her an immense amount of recognition. In order to come up with ideas, such as her harvesting complex, Mendu said she first starts with analyzing problems and evaluating current solutions.

“Take a look at the problems that are currently affecting society, make a list of one through five and then start off by looking at more of the specifics, ” Mendu said. “Try to narrow down on the problems that you’re thinking about solving, and then look into current solutions and the flaws of current solutions–that’s pretty important so that you have an idea of what you want to do.”

Mendu has shown her age is nothing but a number as she continues to achieve great success in the science field. Mendu said taking chances on ideas and not losing faith in them despite the skepticism one may receive is key to achieving a goal.

“Don’t be afraid of your ideas,” Mendu said. “Sometimes you think ‘these are stupid, they’re never going to work,’ but sometimes you have to be brave and go for it. If you believe in it, you will be fine.”

The hoax of horoscopes

The stars have aligned–but does it really mean anything?

Horoscopes have been used for decades to determine someone’s personality based on their month. Theoretically, everyone born within the same range of days have similar personality traits and get along with the same types of people. Sure, they’re fun to look at and compare with your friends, but there’s no actually credibility to horoscopes.

A couple years ago, I was obsessed with looking at those horoscope Instagram accounts, and scrolling through each post, hoping that the traits of my star sign would match up with my personality–and on rare occasion they did. But most of the time, the personality traits offered for my sign were either too general to be compared (i.e. sweet), or completely off. For a period of time, I became disappointed when my personality didn’t match the one word description on a single post and I even desperately searched for moments in my life that would allow me to validate myself to make a connection.

As I spent more time on these accounts, however, I realized that there is no real meaning to a horoscope. There are over seven billion people in the world and it’s simply not possible for them to all fall under 12 categories and there is close to no practical distinction between any of the zodiac signs. If you look up a single sign, not only are descriptions inconsistent with one another, they are so general that they could be anything. Every sign has a synonym of smart, emotional, stubborn, sympathetic, and a few others. Once they are all analyzed, every zodiac signs seems to cover all bases of a human being and there is no reason to group ourselves into categories that barely exist.

Clutter isn’t Always a Bad Thing

Author William Zinsser discussed the topic of clutter in his book entitled On Writing Well. Clutter, in writing, refers to the unnecessary addition of words in order to further explain a point. Zinsser gave myriad examples of clutter he hears in his everyday life, from flight attendants cautioning passengers to meteorologists predicting the weather.

There are some points in his chapter that I agree with: The more recent inclusions of the preposition “up” and the fact that redundancy is just that. Redundant. There has been, as Zinnser said, a newfound need to include a the preposition “up” after a verb when it’s not doing anything other than taking up space. Examples that the author gave were phrases like “head up” rather than “head,” or “free up” rather than “free.” I think that the word up is used way too often and I wholeheartedly agree that it could be deleted more often than not. In addition, when people write and speak, they tend to say the same thing twice but with different wording. This is a huge problem that I think applies for multiple genres. In creative writing, the story can be boring and drawn out if there are too many redundancies; in journalism, stories should be as concise as possible to save space in print and to keep readers engaged online.

Although I agree with those two points, there are definitely a few things in the chapter that I disagree with in regards to professionalism, political correctness, and adjectives. Zinsser gave the example of a doctor asking a patient if pain was felt, and claimed that the language they use is ‘pompous’ because they don’t speak in simple, everyday terms. With this, I disagree. The language used in a professional environment should be different and  more finessed than the language used within the household. A doctor talking to his patient like he speaks to his child, for the mere reason of removing clutter, is neither sensible nor professional. In terms of political correctness, I feel like the same ideas apply: The author stated that “Clutter was political correctness gone amuck,” (Zinsser 14). In my opinion, it’s better to  be politically correct and a little redundant than to be perfectly concise without a filter. The author also degraded the use of adjectives by saying that they were unnecessary and contributed to clutter. In my opinion, adjective are vital tools to unique, interesting writing. I do agree with the fact that a list of six adjectives is unnecessary, but to argue that adjectives were a waste of space is to argue that boring writing is the better alternative.