Performance Bonanza

Level 4 and up group routine to “We Built This City” ending pose. (video of full routine coming soon)


This past week was endless. All of last week I was working like crazy to prepare over 50 kids for various routines to perform at our spring showcase yesterday. Then Saturday was crunch time, trying to get in last minute practices, but only up until one of the girls had her Bat Mitzvah. And if you’ve ever been to a Bat Mitzvah then you would know they last all night long… Then Sunday was the big day and I was at the gym working for 12 hours straight, but it was worth it to see all of the smiling faces of kids and impressed parents.

I always say the most exciting part of a show is what happens backstage, but it’s typically not viewed as entertaining until after the show is over. I’m glad the audience mostly though everything ran smoothly because in the back room it was crazy. There were girls changing leos and getting hair done while some people were stretching and warming up skills. Then there were last minute order changes in the program. And what was most stressful was that I had to change all 4 of the huge routines about 20-1 minute before each show because so many people just didn’t show up… I had to re-block two routines slightly, teach a level 4 boy a routine to fill in for someone, and I even ended up having to be in one routine because I was the only other person that knew it and could do the acro skill with a girl.

Level 4 and 5 team pose.

However, thankfully everything went still went surprisingly well and I was so proud of all of the girls. I even had a couple people say they were close to tears during some of the routines because the choreography was so good, which of course made me want to do a little happy dance!

I’m sure there were some mistakes, and I know there were more last minute “oops” moments, but the show must go on and I was very happy with all of the team and acro kids.

Then today my acro tops started asking “what are we going to do now in acro; are we going level 9?” We aren’t ready for level 9 yet, and I told them how we still need to work on improving and advancing our level 8 skills first. However, we did start working on learning new skills today which everyone was excited for. It made me think about how in school it’s also the end of the year, but in school if you repeat a level that’s like taboo even if you are

Hot Shots (ages 4-6 soon to be on team) final pose after their group routine to “Little Bitty Pretty One.”
working on more advanced skills. Furthermore, in school there isn’t the same excitement about it being summer time and that meaning you get to work on a bunch of new skills and try different things than normal.

I wonder how we can bring the excitement of getting to learning something new back into school.

Ends and Beginnings

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This weekend was crazy fun!!! So much was going on that I didn’t even get a chance to blog. The Council on Innovation (COI) happened Friday and was a great success, then we had our drama one act play competition which was super fun and exciting, then my friends and I went to the lake, and then my girl scout troop had a mini Halloween party tonight!

In my opinion, the coolest part about COI this year was getting to watch all of the light bulb moments that council members were having. You could visibly see people thinking about how schools should be starting to find ways to further develop and showcase  EQ and CQ instead of just IQ, and how students can add great value to conversations.

I personally had a really fun time getting to talk with the council members and hear potential areas for future Design Briefs, where ID cohort members will work for extended amounts of time to help solve problems faced by people in their work. Design Briefs are our version 2.0 of last year’s Consultivations the biggest change being the idea of working on a project for an “extended amount of time” rather than just 90 minutes.

Working on Friday with business leaders just made me even more excited for the day when there is no difference between “school” and the “real world”, and it is just the norm for businesses and students to working along side each other, to not only learn, but also to positively affect the world around them. I hope the council members walked away from Friday feeling that this future isn’t impossible, and in fact has already begun with steps we are piloting with MVPS and MViFi.

I’d like to think the MVAllstars positively affected people all week, and especially Saturday morning for our one act play competition with our show Lions in Illryia. I had so much fun putting on the performance and then getting to watch other actors put on their shows too, plus all of the drama people there were so nice and fun to talk to. Plus we walked away with 2nd place overall, best ensemble, best supporting actor, and 3 all star cast awards!!!!!! (I was pretty psyched to get an all star cast award even as a musician!) It was a great day of fun, and lot’s of talk about “yes and” and working as a team with your fellow actors which I think are great lessons for life even out of theater.

With all of the work I had been putting into these 2 big events for the past few weeks, and especially last week, it was nice to then just hang out with friends some this weekend.

And now I’m super excited for this week because all week are auditions for our winter show The 39 Steps and our spring musical Shrek, the Musical!! Plus tomorrow is our arts concert where I’ll be performing with both the middle and high school bands, and also our a cappella club will have our debut performance at MVPS!!!

It’s sad when things end, but it’s exciting when it springboards something else to take off for the first time!

Putting on a Leadership Hat


Today Kat and I had our first big discussion on #EdJourney after having finished “Part 1: Roadblocks: How Can We Overcome the Biggest Obstacles to School Reform”. Now to be honest, Kat and I both felt that the book is more written for an audience that is either a teacher or educator rather than a student, but that’s ok it just challenged us to change how we read. Personally I’ve been reading the book through the perspective of a leader.

We are trying to make this a timed writing piece so rather than going into depth on our discussion I would like to point out a few key insights I found through our reading and discussion today:

  • Teams and organizations need to break the mold of pyramid structured leadership if they wish to innovate and instead have a richer system of many levels and different people that can be trusted to lead.
  • Leaders must be challenged in order for improvement and innovation to occur. It is uncomfortable to ask teammates hard questions, but it is necessary. This is a cultural change that needs to take place.
  • Decision making should not all be done by one person; therefore, people need to be able to trust others with the responsibility involved in making decisions in order to innovate.
  • Giving people a title helps them feel more empowered as a leader that can be responsible in that area of work, and helps give others someone to go to other than a “top dog” on a traditional leadership pyramid.
  • I wonder when it is right to lead by example versus letting others experience and struggle with something on their own.
  • We wish there was a book like this exploring innovative colleges and universities are the country.
    • And it would be really cool if we could do this as high schoolers or college students… (including writing a book about the findings.)
  • We wonder what it would be like for high schoolers to have more opportunities like those of college students to go on long “breaks” for learning outside of school. Like building a school in the rainforest of Thailand. Or traveling the country talking to different educators. Or trying to find a solution to clean water. Or apprenticing artist for a few weeks. (We both went on college visits this weekend so study abroad, internships, and co-op  opportunities are on our minds.)

Life = Humanities “and” STEM not “or”


MVPS is on fall break currently so we have a long weekend with no school today. It was such a great day!!!

And I spent half my day at school by choice. 🙂

While the students had today off, teachers had a planning day. While I haven’t been to a planning day before, I do know that this was not the normal planning day because it was run by MViFi and set up like a conference. Teachers seemed to really enjoy being able to have the choice of what sessions they attended and also being able to do a lot of hands on work.

The reason I was at the planning day was because I was offered the opportunity to co-facilitate one of the sessions, specifically the recycling session. This was a great and fun opportunity to lead and share our work in ID with teachers from across divisions. After years of talking about recycling problems that need to be solved for, I’m excited with the conversations that have been started and can’t wait to see how things continue. It’s also always nice when people get excited about your prototype. (Which is officially done and in place in a middle school classroom collecting data!!!!)

However, what I think I enjoyed most about today actually was my second session on designing a humanities course that will be launched for freshman to take for 2016-2017. It was a great group and a great challenge that sparked great conversation!

One of the big take away thoughts that I had was around the idea of fun work versus meaningful work.

My table had a conversation about how the humanities are about humans, which also has a lot to do with struggle. (By the way also there was an important distinction with “humanities” not just meaning English and history classes, but also arts and language and being more about culture than just being a combo of subjects.) Both analyzing and communicating the struggles of others, and having to struggle yourself to get work done. The truth is that there is a lot of struggle in life. I might not have the years of experience to really be able to say this, but I’d like to think, while I may not be able to empathize, I can at least understand on some level.

Sometimes you will have work that you simply don’t want to do, but you still have to get it done. In life you don’t always get to do what you want. It’s not always fun. That’s ok thought.

We talked about how you can do really hard work, that might not be the most fun while you’re working on it, but afterwards it can feel so rewarding. Rewarding to the point where students even comment by saying, “This was really hard, but I loved it! I feel like I really learned something.” One of the teachers mentioned our past show “Beast on the Moon”, and how it obviously was not a very up lifting comedy kind of show. The show was very serious, with lots of emotions and moving pieces constantly changing, and in general it was a tough drama, not to mention the amount of lines to memorize. However, after the show, we were thrilled with what we had just pulled off. It was rewarding to know we went through all of the hard work and then could put on a show that truly moved people.

However, the interesting question/struggle comes with how to make the hard work then feel rewarding at the end. In my opinion, this requires for students to be given the opportunity to do meaningful work.

Meaningful work can be fun. Feeling happy about learning something I think is pretty meaningful– being happy is important to a healthy life.

However, meaningful work can also be hard. It can be tiring and stressful and time consuming and still be meaningful.

In AP Lang we’ve been working on our Creativity Crisis papers (in fact I was going to officially share mine today, but I was much too passionate about today’s adventures to not talk about them). Now while we were still writing a paper, and staying up late to meet deadlines, and getting specific feedback that wasn’t always positive, we have been ok with all of it because we know that we have to go through all of that hard work in order to share something valuable with a wider audience. That is how we are choosing to try and make the work we do meaningful in this situation.

Teachers can’t just make work meaningful because for work to be meaningful, students have to find that meaning. However, it is possible for the work to not be given the chance to be meaningful. When this happens, this is when work feels tedious on top of being tiring and stressful and time consuming.

I feel like there is a common assumption that students (especially those of us helping more significantly with shaping our own learning experience) think we should only do work we find to be fun work. Another assumption being that your typical “STEM student” (a bubble to which I find myself often included) thinks everything should be about brainstorming and creating a product.

I’d like to dispel these beliefs at least a little because I don’t believe either of these assumptions to be true.

In fact I don’t want to ever only be doing fun work because after a while it stops being fun if it isn’t also challenging. While “fun stuff” is needed to help relieve stress and keep high energy levels to be able to work on harder stuff, overcoming challenges often feels more rewarding then just doing the fun stuff.

Also I find it interesting, because while I do love STEM and will likely go into a STEM field, I have found myself in a lot of humanities conversations lately. Sometimes it is important to just have a conversation. To not be focused on trying to make an end product, but to just sit and have a deep talk. However, you can’t always just sit and talk because eventually it will start to feel like you are having an empty conversation because it’s the same type of conversation you’ve had before but nothing is changing.

STEM and the Humanities need each other. Humanities, understanding humans, is at the basis of any thing you are trying to design, and you need the STEM skills to then actually design it to help provoke change which then leads to new conversations.

I feel like my thoughts have been all over the place tonight. (Probably doesn’t help with it being so late and my flight to Ohio being such chaos tonight.) I think part of the disjointedness to this writing tonight is because I have so many thoughts about this idea of Humanities and STEM; it feels like they are always working in competition with one another rather than collaboration with one another.

My big thought I guess is that great learning is about overcoming challenges that leads to something where you are able to feel happy and proud about what you’ve accomplished at the end. If you aren’t happy and proud at the end, then why did you do it?

Hello October


Today I really felt like school was back. The reason being because I had one of my first days this school year where I had a ton of different things to do and people to talk to during my “free time”.

The funny thing is that this feeling made me a little exited actually. Being busy makes me feel productive and helpful which I enjoy. Sometimes it’s just a pain to have so much to do and so little time, but this was different because it was the first time.

October in general is a busy month for me. We have our drama performance and competition, a band concert, auditions for the winter play and spring musical, people start touring MVPS, I’m going to Ohio this weekend to tour Case Western and visit my grandparents, the Council on Innovation happens, I’m helping facilitate a few other things, we have a design challenge coming to an “end”, Halloween, pre-Halloween laser tag in our costumes with Girl Scouts, and this isn’t even including school work…

October is just a lot of fun. A lot of work, but a lot of fun. So many great things are in the works and I can’t wait for every one of them!

From Camp to School


Wow it feels like it’s been forever since I last blogged because so much was going on with so many late nights. I’m officially back at home now for the rest of the summer (which is basically just a week that is flying by). I’m also now in my new house as of 12:30am last night/this morning.

I must say it’s pretty weird coming home to a new home where you can’t even find everything yet.

My last few nights at Yale were great too! The last full day we had all of our big projects coming to an end in the moment of truths. First up was our sea perch competition. We had designed both a surface and underwater robot that had to be able to collect tennis balls as well as ping pong balls for the surface one. These robots were made out of pvc pipes, zip ties, limited duck tape (which had to last all 10 days for every project by the way), a wooden dowel, some netting, and then everything that went with the 6 motors and control box (6 total so we split them 3 on each robot).

Our design did not work out very well… We got some balls on the top, but none underwater because the robot itself flipped upside down a few times and I also don’t know if we had made the best decisions for who was controlling them. It really stunk that we weren’t able to test while building and also we didn’t even get to test ours in the kiddy pool the night before because our motors hadn’t finished drying onto the sea perches fast enough. The experience reminded me of the value of prototyping and testing as well as how to be creative when given limited supplies.

Later that day we also had our product pitch presentation where we pitched “The All-Year-Lawn Mower”. This machine would act similarly to a roomba but for the outdoors. It would be 2.5-1.5 ft wide and would use ultrasonic sensor technology to complete one of 5 tasks at a time: mow your lawn (mow mode), blow snow off of your driveway (snow mode), fertilize your lawn (grow mode), weed spray your lawn (no-no grow mode), or salt your driveway (no-no snow mode).

In my opinion this was the biggest project we did since we had to also create a design document and presentation (as well as a commercial) for our product. For us this project was a lot more challenging then the sea perch because it was more complicated and harder for us to make decisions since there were so many more possibilities about what we wanted to design. In the end we pulled it together and gave a pretty solid presentation. Our product was probably the most complicated and I think that was more evident when people started to question us. (It’s amazing how much harsher your peers like to be then the judges  because everyone wants to win.)

At the end of the night we had a leadership session called “What I Discovered”. We walked in semi-silently because we didn’t quite realize that we were suppose to be silent and our instructor then told us how interesting it was that people so naturally want to resist silence but that’s often when we can further understand ourselves.

After that he pretty much just opened up the floor for anyone to speak. It was interesting for me because I think often times in small groups I’m fairly quick to step up at least after a little if not first. However, this night I didn’t step up to speak, but the important thing was that I was okay with that decision. Our instructor talked about how often people that got up didn’t think they said what they meant, and sometimes those that didn’t then regret what they said, but sometimes you may be just ok with whatever choice you made.

On this particular night I was quite aware of what I was thinking and feeling and I quite honestly couldn’t think of anything to say. NSLC was a fantastic experience and I learned a lot about engineering, but I didn’t really feel like I “discovered” anything significant. I was reminded of some past ideas, but nothing was super new to me. Which I guess was kind of a discovery in itself because I realized how well exposed in leadership I’ve been becoming lately which is pretty cool, but I hadn’t even thought of that until just now. In that moment I was perfectly okay with the silence which was kind of something new for me so it stood out in an interesting kind of way.

On our last day we finally got to discover who won which events from our full competition that was taking place throughout our stay. We knew we had won some of the smaller more team oriented events like minute to win it and mission impossible, but we also knew we lost some big ones like trebuchets and probably sea perch and weren’t sure about others. We ended up coming in last for sea perch (which we expected based on the what the other teams said about how they did), and we came in second on our product pitch which was a big one. Overall we came in second which may not be first, but it still means we beat two other teams so that’s pretty good still!

There was absolutely no prize for coming in any position, but it’s amazing how hard the teams worked to try and win. In the right situations a little competition really can do a lot to motivate kids and I’m always wondering how we could better use this human instinct in the class room without it being detrimental to anyones feelings in the long run.

NSLC was a fantastic experience and I’m really glad I got to go because it really helped give me a better understanding of engineering and introduced me to a lot of important engineering skills. While no where close to TIP emotional level for me, it was sad to say good bye to such great friends and TAs. We had a random group of people show up from all over the country for this event, and yet we bonded so closely so quickly. Many people said they felt more comfortable there then back at school, but it doesn’t have to be that way. School is practically a random group of people as well, so who is to say that the underlying level of trust and comfort with your peers can’t be the same? Why do connections form so easily at camp? I think it may be because there is focus on more than just gaining task oriented skills, but also a focus on creating bonds through leadership sessions and just general moments dedicated to fun.

What if school was more like camp? Both are experiences where students learn and work as a team with others, but what if school had more moments dedicated to just fun? Moments where students could let go of the stress of the classroom and focus on being a kid creating trusting relationships with there peers and dare I say, “their team”. Would students feel more comfortable and  trusting of their peers? Who knows until someone’s brave enough to try?

Trusting Your Team Inspires a Team


(This was actually my team and our design for the wind turbine competition.)

It’s amazing what you can get done when you work as a team. I’ve loved how my team (Team Team) has been bonding so well these past few days!

Tonight we even won the Minute to Win It challenge so now we’ve made an impressive lead for ourselves after winning several challenges now. 🙂

We actually had another challenge today as well where we were building wind turbines. However this challenge was a little different because rather than working with our TA groups we were paired randomly amongst all of the engineering kids. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy that very much. I love my TA group and we’re so close now and have bonded like family which has made us an even better team. However, these people I just met and there was no specific reason as to why we were together. I’m pretty sure actually that all of them were the same personality type which happens to be an owl which also happens to be the type that is most opposite to my major personality type. I mean yes people consist of a lot of different attributes so I in no way mean to label people purely that way, but I found it interesting how quickly I noticed similar characteristics amongst them and felt myself getting bothered by some traits. Without the balance of all different personalities though, it made it harder for our team to productively work and we ended up not doing so great in the competition.

Luckily 2 people from my TA group were on the winning team, and we had one person on the 2nd and 3rd place teams as well, so we still got a good amount of points during that challenge.

We also had a full 4 hours back to back of project development time which was really nice because we were able to make a ton of progress on our 2 major projects. Our team showed great collaboration skills again during this time with quickly splitting into groups to divide and concur tasks. I think one of the best parts about being at a nerd camp is how I think we all feel more trustworthy of each other to get their share of work done well than perhaps some of our actual class members at school. This trust really allows us to get a lot done because jobs can be assigned and everyone feels confident that they will get done in a timely fashion.

I’m so excited to see how things keep playing out for Team Team, and it’s sad to think it’s almost time to leave these awesome people!