An Off Game

Because my grandma is in town this weekend, we decided to go out and do something fun this morning in order to all spend time together. We ended up going bowling, which seems to often be what we decide to do whenever anyone is in town.

I had my worse game ever of bowling today. I scored a 45. It was bad. I kept hitting one stupid corner, or worse I would just flat out get a gutter ball.

We ended up playing three rounds of bowling and by the last round, I won with 116 points which is up there with some of my best games of bowling. It was really funny to see the improvement over time happening right before my eyes.

Every now and then you need an off game to remind you to always push yourself to work a little harder; perfect is really a myth so always aim further.

This also reflected how I was thinking while watching my siblings’ dance performance this weekend.

Sometimes things come really naturally to certain people, but at some point, the people who work hard will surpass those who have natural talent. So if you are naturally talented at something, work even harder so you can try to top yourself which each performance/game/test/etc.



Learning the Game

Sometimes you can forget about generation gaps in knowledge. Things that are normal for you to experience growing up are just completely foreign concepts to others.

That’s essentially what it was like playing Mario Kart with my grandma earlier tonight. She has never played a video game before and playing with her and my siblings was pretty amusing, to say the least. There was a lot of supportive coaching while simultaneously trash talking and getting mad at the computer players.

My grandma may have never come in higher than 12th place (which if you know Mario Kart, you know that is last…), but she said it was a fun game and she personally improved her speed a little each time.

It’s not always about winning. Sometimes it’s just about learning the game and getting a little better each time.

Why Learn

Well, I’ve officially had the first hiccup of my challenge from forgetting to blog last night. Probably for the best though so I didn’t procrastinate studying physics any more than I already had by this point last night.

Though now that my final test before finals is over, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to “study.”

Sometimes we use this word synonymously with “learn” but the more I think about it, I believe there is a difference.

Most frequently, studying refers to preparing for an assessment of some kind, but this can be done in a number of ways, not all of which require actual learning. To most students, more often than not, studying just means committing facts and equations to short-term memory in order to do well on a test. I myself am guilty of this.

Learning takes time that we don’t always have before an assessment. In theory, you learn along the way so by the time an assessment comes around, you already have learned what you need to know. But what if you didn’t learn what was necessary? After all, not everyone learns at the same pace, so if we’re expected to have learned certain things before an assessment, then why are we expected to take assessments at the same times?

The fact that we teach “study skills” is kind of funny in this regard, because part of this notion is implying that you don’t fully know the material you are going to be assessed on so you have to strategically study to make sure you know enough to pass. It seems reasonable that we shouldn’t be expected to fully know everything, but that begs the question of what qualifies as “enough”? Who determines what “enough” is? Should “enough” be the same metric for everyone?

Logically the next thing to talk about would be the notion of grades, but I feel like I’ve made my opinion on grades fairly clear in the past and don’t want to dwell on their problematic structure. However, I do wonder, if before going into surgery we saw our doctors report card, how would we perceive him/her?

Anyway, back on the notion of “learning,” I’ve realized that I often consider myself to have truly learned something if I’m able to teach it to someone else. And to be honest, I feel like if I take all of my education thus far, I don’t know how many things would fall into this category. I’ve done well in school, but I’m not sure if I was always learning. And this includes classes I considered to enjoy based on the subject or teacher.

And I’ve noted that in the education world, we like to talk about “teaching kids how to learn,” but pondering this today I wonder if really we should be trying to teach kids why to learn. I think most kids have a general understanding, even at a young age, that learning takes time and practice. Most of the time when we don’t learn, it’s because we don’t want to. We haven’t been convinced why it should be worth learning something.

The reasons why we learn really don’t need to be obvious or even relevant out of context. For example, as a bit of a tangent story, I believe, and if you ask 75% of my graduating class they’d agree, I learned my 7th-grade vocab words. I was motivated in this case by competition.

We played a game in English class called “Vocab Basketball” where at the end of each week our class would split into teams and be asked vocab questions if we got it right then we got a point for our team and the chance to try making a basket to gain a second point. However, there was more to this game. Each week if you used, read, or heard a vocab word used in a sentence then you could write down the word, how it was used, and what it means and put it in your class bucket. At the end of the week, whichever student in each individual class had the most words got a homework pass, and at the end of the year, whichever class had the most words got a party. First semester only one kid in my class really tried, so he got all of the homework passes. I didn’t really care about the homework passes, but it seemed silly to me that he should get all of them for barely trying at all, so I started trying. Sure enough, we ended up in steep competition, but it was also benefiting our class, so then kids from other classes started trying more in order to attempt to keep up with our class total. We may have been motivated to want to learn due to competition, but we definitely learned. The reason I have no doubts about having learned those words and their meanings is because to this day we will occasionally still point out and use words we recall being on one of our 7th-grade vocab lists. I can’t say the same about vocab words from other years.

Anyway, I got lost in my train of thought on that tangent, but I do wonder still, for the amount I’ve studied this year, how much have I really learned? How much do we learn any year for that matter? How do we choose what we learn? What motivates us to learn? How can we spend more time exploring why we learn certain things and not just how we learn them?

Full Experience


Just about every winter break I’ve gone to New York to see my family and I just love the culture of the city. There are so many different types of people that people watching is fun anywhere you go, plus there are so many different art installations, and amazing restaurants!

One of my favorite parts is having the ability to walk outside and get places so easily. When I’m there I’m given a key and a metro card and the freedom to explore the city. However, growing up in Atlanta without good public transportation, I’m still not really use to this freedom, so I don’t go far yet.

IMG_6390.JPGThis trip was full of adventures because I got the joy of having my best friend come to the city with us for her first time ever, so we had to give her the full experience.

We ate my favorite egg bagels fresh in the morning and pizza the size of your face for second dinner almost daily. We saw amazing shows such as Black Angels Over Tuskegee, The Color Purple, Chicago, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and Avenue Q. We went to the botanical garden and saw a train exhibit made entirely of natural material. We heard my mom yelling at stupid cab drivers in Time Square. We sprinted down street blocks to img_6427catch subways on time for events. We went to my favorite museum: an interactive math museum. We played Disney Cranium with the conductor for the Book of Mormon. We rushed between shows to see the Statue of Liberty from a distance. And we finished the trip by spending New Year’s Eve on the roof of my aunt’s best friend.  

It was a great and non stop adventure, and I think we really captured the full New York experience.

IMG_4793.JPGIt’s amazing what you can accomplish in just a few days when you have the ability to travel so accessible. Whether it’s a bus, subway, train, ferry, or feet, New York has so many ways to get around and it’s the biggest thing I always miss about the city.


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Improv Rules for Life

I’ve officially pushed submit on all of my college applications!!!!!!!! Technically this happened a few nights ago, and I still have a few portfolio pieces left to submit, but everything required is finished which is exciting!! I didn’t blog about CxWb-RGUQAEV88c.jpgit earlier because I’ve been on the road since Thursday night in order to interview at 3 of my 5 schools which are all in the north east… Currently I’m in Pennsylvania with 1/3 interviews done. (And I must say I think the first went rather well.)

Even though I’ve already hit submit, over the past few years I’ve come to learn my strengths and weaknesses well and I know that I’m much better at talking than CxbPibbWIAAzx1w.jpgwriting .(Even though my writing has improved tremendously since I started blogging.) However, despite knowing myself better, I still don’t know where I most want to go to college yet. There are just so many options and different factors, and it’s so hard to really know the culture of a school without immersing yourself in it first- a luxury I don’t have when looking at colleges.

It’s times like this- when I feel completely lost in a situation- that I feel grateful for being in drama and thus constantly learning about improv. In fact, last week was show week for our 2nd theater production of the year which was an improv meets comedy sketch variety show called “A Night of Stars.”

There’s a lot we can learn from improv- no matter who you are. I like to call these key learning moments the “Improv Rules for Life.”

  1. Jump In & Have Fun: Improv, like life, can feel scary and uncomfortable, but the only way to stop feeling uncomfortable and move past the fear of the unknownCwNYjOcWcAEPQ5n.jpg is to jump in and try it out. Put yourself out there and over time it will stop feeling so scary. One of the hardest parts of taking the first step is often just standing up, but once you’re up it’s a lot easier to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Just keep having fun and you’ll be fine.
  2. Go All Out / Believe in Yourself: Make big choices and commit to them! If you are going to use a toy horse as a tennis racket, then you have to do everything in your power to really make that horse seem like a racket. You have to convince yourself of your choices before your audience will ever believe you, so if you start swinging a toy horse around like you truly believe it’s a racket then you’re audience won’t even think about calling it a horse.
  3. Listen and Respond: Help you’re partners out!!! It’s hard to constantly come up with ideas all on your own, so listen to the people you are working with and work off of each other. Listen to what they suggest and respond to it with a new suggest that adds to what they said. When everyone helps each other out, things get most exciting.
  4. Think Positive / “Yes And…”: Saying negative words like “no, but, death, etc” is the fastest way to kill a scene and put your stage partner in a really difficult CxdYOfFVEAA9OUe.jpgposition. Keep conversations light hearted and agree with your partners; it will make for a much more interesting conversation with some crazy ideas being easily generated.
  5. Fail-Up : Push the editor off your shoulder. Don’t be afraid to fail, because it’s inevitable that you’ll mess up at some point in time. Just keep trying your hardest and commit to everything you do, that way when you fail, it’s a spectacular failure that you can later laugh about because it was just that horrendous. The best improvers still fail, but when they fail, they laugh it off and keep moving forward- sometimes it even becomes a part of a later sketch. It’s true that if you don’t try you won’t fail, but you also won’t succeed that way.

CxQy931WIAA_633.jpgWhen thinking of college, and many difficult and potentially uncomfortable life situations, I try to remember these improv rules for life. I’m never going to feel 100% ready, but eventually I’m just going to need to jump in, go all out and believe in myself, learn to respond in my new situations, think positively and don’t shut down new ideas, and remember that the fear of failure should never stop me from dreaming big and committing to my actions.

Observing the Little Sparks


Today, (like pretty much every day at Nerd Camp), was fantastic!!!

Sunday’s are our only day off from class, but we still do a bunch of learning because it’s still life! We have free time until 12, then from 1-4 we do TIP Star activities (which usually are more learning activities), then 4-5 free time (like normal), then dinner, then 6-8 we watched a movie, then free time until our rag meeting and bed.

After playing flute some, I did lots of physical stuff today actually. I stretched for gymnastics practice, I tried out for the top ultimate frisbee team, and I took an African Dance class.

Ultimate frisbee cracks me up at TIP because we take it really seriously. The try outs today involved signing up, choosing which team to try out for, an inspiration/historical speech of why we play and have the Water Colors team (the top team that is captained by a 4th yearer who was given the special frisbee by last years captain and has been signed by all of the past captains), then we did some actual drills with ways to pass a frisbee and offense versus defense. So I’ll find out later this week about the team…

African dance was also really cool because I love dancing and it’s always interesting to see how different cultures dance. We learned a dance from Guinea and it was really energetic and fun!

The second activity I did today (which was actually my first TIP Star activity before African Dance) was Make a Movie. I was in an all girls group with a bunch of people I didn’t know, but we decided to make a silent, abridged version of Romeo and Juliet. It was all filmed in the library and some right out side of it, and it actually turned out surprisingly well! In fact I think it was better than most school movie projects I’ve done and it was completely filmed and edited in only and hour and a half which is way less time than any of our school projects take. We had one girl who was a wiz with iMovie on her phone and was editing as we were filming. It was actually incredible and it was one of those moments where I was amazed with what people can learn to do.

The idea of being amazed by what people can do relates so nicely with the movie I watched today. I watched The Imitation Game!!!!! I’ve seen it once before a month or so ago, but I’ve been wanting to watch it again especially since being in Spy 101 because the movie is all about stuff we’ve been talking about!!! We spent about an hour one day talking specifically about Enigma and WWII even. So this time I think I was able to follow a lot more of the story just because I had a better idea of what was happening (it switches time periods a bunch and I don’t think I caught that well the first time), and on a small scale I related to the stress and joy to code breaking.

I love the quote that they repeat through out the movie, “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” It’s just so inspiring to make you want to embrace the things that make us all different.

I ended the day with more learning too. I taught some friends how to play Kemps, then when we had 5 people we switched games and I learned a new card game for me called Hearts. The game was pretty fun and it is basically the opposite of Spades in just about every way which I find funny because I learned both at TIP.

Learning doesn’t stop when class stops. We can be inspired by things all around us, and who knows if some little thing we learn could spark a new passion and goal inside of us. I wonder if people take more time to notice and observe even our little learning moments, then will these sparks become more clear.

Math Games


I would have loved to blog last night, but we were driving to Virginia and thus I could not.

Today though, there was no driving, and we got to hang out at my great aunt’s house playing games, doing crafts, and cooking!

I’m a huge fan of playing games. In my family we specifically have a big thing for card games.

There is a game called Phase 10 that you could consider one of our big “family games”, and today that was the main thing we played. It involves sets and runs along with strategy and patients to make it through all 10 phases with the least amount of points against you. Most people in my family are math people so numbers are awesome to us!

When ever I play a card game it always reminds me of a time at Nerd Camp (Duke TIP) where I learned  about probability through a card game. We first took an entire morning learning to play Spades and also playing ourselves some. This game is similar to Rook of Bridge where there is betting and partnerships involved. Then we spent the second part of the day, and most of the next, working on group projects where we calculated the probability of getting different suits, or specific hands, or other statistics like that which we could apply to the game. While we were doing these mini projects, we learned about equations that we could then use for solving other equations as well when problem solving (the course was titled Mathematical Problem Solving). After the project and during them, we also used this information to solve short word problems or problems for our Mathematical Battles.

It was so much fun!!!!!! After we learned to play, during our free time we would play against each other and also teach people in other courses. When I went back to school, I just kept waiting for us to get to the probability section so I could get a refresher about what I had  learned over the summer as well as talk about what I learned. I had also hoped we would get to do fun activities with it as well.

I was then really disappointed when we barely spent any time talking about probability especially because many of my peers then did not grow to love that section because they felt it was rushed and difficult.

Why can’t all math be taught in forms of games and Mathematical Battles? (I didn’t really talk much on the Mathematical Battles, and this isn’t the exact link to what we used, but in a over simplified summarization: they are events where 2 out of 3 teams competed with each other by going back and forth challenging the other to solve challenge problems we were given the day before and the 3rd team served as a jury to divide the points up based on the answers given. And they were AWESOME!!!!!)

I know not everyone is super motivated by competition, but I also know that a lot of teens are motivated that way. When working with little kids you often hear that they are more engaged when you make things into a game; why can’t this logic be used with high schoolers too? Learning is suppose to be fun, so HMW make learning at school more fun for everyone?

The Power of a Card Game

Possibly the most useful style of writing is persuasive writing. If you can master the art of persuasion, then there is a lot you can accomplish. I was thinking about this while writing a draft for an email I will be sending to the upper school faculty at MVPS to try and persuade them into joining Kemps Khaos. Kemps is a card game that I’ve learned, like most of my family, by watching people play at Capon (the family reunion spot in West Virginia). Kemps is a partner card game in which teams compete to get four of a kind and then call “kemps” after their partner does their secret signal.I’ve known how to play for several years, and at the end of 8th grade year, I along with a few other people that knew how to play, ended up teaching most of our grade about the game. The game is a ton of fun, and since then we have been kind of addicted.

At the end of 8th grade I had an idea; “What if we had a tournament with the faculty members at school where the students and faculty members were all partnered up?” A year later, that idea became a reality. A group of around 8 students to begin, myself included, decided to start coming up with how we would present the idea to the teachers. At first it was almost just a joke. We were all calling dibs on which teacher we would want. We had made mock invitations that we called “formally ridiculous” because while they looked very fancy, complete with a wax stamp, the information was written in a very silly fashion. We talked about how we could create t-shirts and even designed our own logo. Then we decided to call it “Kemps Khaos” (I know chaos is spelled with a c really) as a joke off of “March Madness”. After we had fantasying for a while, we finally realized that there was no reason why we couldn’t try to make it actually happen.

We worked out all of the details, and also found other students that we thought might want to play until we had a total of 16 students with at least one person from each grade in the high school. Then we started to unveil our great plan to the teachers. Most of the teachers had never played kemps before, but they said that because we had worked all of the details out so nicely, they couldn’t help but agree to it. Then we taught the teachers how to play and set up the tournament!

Everything went great! We bonded so much with our teachers just by playing these short little games when we had the time. How often do you get to hear your teachers trash talking in Elizabethan English about a card game that they don’t even know how to play? Because for us that actually happened when we were just sending out emails about it! You can only imagine what things happened once the competition actually started.

The idea started just because we were curious how it would turn out. When you mix secret signals and competition, you are bound to get some interesting circumstances. However, once the tournament started, we realized that Kemps Khaos was actually so much more then just an entertaining game. It was serving as a great way for student and teachers to just relax and have fun. We had unintentionally not been able to start until late into 2nd semester, so everyone was pretty stressed about the end of the year. Kemps games were really helping to relieve everyone of that stress, and also create some great bonds between the students and faculty.

During school you are always being told the importance of getting along with others and being able to work well with different people in your grade. The teachers are also told they need to have strong grade level teams, and need to work as a unit to help best benefit the students. What about the student-teacher relationships though? What about cross-grade relationships? How can we help strengthen those relationships? How might we make a strong MVPS Upper School team?

I have discovered that something as simple as a card game can help bridge the gap between students and faculty.

This is why this year we took things to the next level. Kemps Khaos is now a club, and anyone in the high school can join! Planning has been taking place since the beginning of the school year, and once this email has been sent (I’m waiting for some feedback from others before sending it), the teachers will finally be involved and the games can begin! Every time I start thinking about Kemps Khaos I get really excited for all of the fun we will have! It’s amazing how this one card game has really made such a difference in my high school experience.