Would an extended spring break benefit students?

Upon returning to school after the end of spring break, I was one of the many angry and exhausted students who wished spring break had been even just a day longer.

The next day, upon waking up, I realized that yes, I was not excited to return to school, but I would have to return eventually. This got me thinking about whether this feeling of agony was normal, or, would I feel even the slightest bit better if spring break were extended. Thus came the question: Would an extended spring break benefit students?

Spring break is a week off of school that tends to follow the end of the third quarter. This week off of school is very beneficial to students for several reasons. 

Not only do students travel, and spend time with family and friends during spring break, but this week off of school gives students time to destress, which in turn benefits students’ health. The de-stressing that occurs over spring break is especially helpful because it allows students to come back to school during fourth quarter, which can be seen by students as the hardest quarter, more energized and alert. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the stress that most students feel during school has many negative effects on their bodies including mentally, emotionally and physically.

Some of the common physical effects include low energy, stomach aches, shaking, muscle aches and pains, and frequent colds or infection.

Mental and emotional effects that are often experienced due to stress consist of anxiety, depression, feeling constantly overwhelmed, the inability to relax, low self esteem, and becoming easily aggravated.

These effects can be very harmful to students. Physical effects can become much larger problems, and mental and emotional effects can cause students to withdraw from those they are closest to, affecting more then just their school life. 

Although the week off of school gives students sometime to destress, one week doesn’t seem to be enough time to fully benefit students throughout the last quarter.

Another week of spring break, or even a few more days could give students several more advantages.

For the teachers that assign homework over the break, this would allow students to both complete the assignment and have free time, instead of choosing to do either or.

This extra time could also be used to help students form a plan for the fourth quarter and going back to school. These days could also be used as an opportunity for students to regulate their sleep schedule so they aren’t exhausted their first day back.

While these days could be beneficial to some students, it’s very likely that students would use these days for non school related things, which may benefit their health, or social and home life, but not their academics.

Also, extending spring break means that students would either extend the school year further into June, or take away the three day weekends that students wish for every week.

So, would an extended spring break really benefit students?

After pondering all these things, I conclude that an extended spring break would not benefit students all that much. Yes, some students may take advantage of theses days and actually do something productive, but a majority of students, including myself, would most likely sleep in and do a brainless activity, such as binge watching a Netflix series.

However, there is another solution to revive students upon there return to school after spring break: take it easy on students. Please teachers, no pop quizzes to see what information we retained over spring break, because it will most likely be nothing but disappointing. This solution also includes students being nice to each other.

As students, we just have to suck it up and show up to school and at least try to learn something. After all, we are lucky to have a free education.

Happy fourth quarter!

Bringing Black History to Highland Park Elementary


photo courtesy of BSU

On Thursday, March 25th, Highland Park Senior High Black Student Union (BSU) members took a field trip to Highland Elementary School. While at Highland Elementary, BSU members visited a fourth grade class. There, BSU had an interactive presentation on Black History and black culture. The presentation covered a wide array of things.

The presentation started off with an with an overview of Black History taught in school. BSU asked the fourth graders about what they knew about Black History, and also what they’ve learned in school so far. Most of the responses were connected to the Civil Rights Movement.

There were answers such as “Martin Luther King Jr.”, “Whites had different water fountains”, and “Black people were mistreated”. However, there were also answers like “Fetty Wap”, “Michael Jackson”, and even “The Italo-Ethiopian War”.

BSU wanted to know what the fourth graders knew about Black History because the members of BSU don’t recall learning much about Black History in Elementary School, besides some key events in the Civil Rights Movement.

The presentation touched on how history is usually taught from a Eurocentric perspective, and that African or African American History is usually taught in elective classes. BSU explained that there should be more Black History taught in schools, especially Elementary Schools, because that is a prime learning time for students.

The presentation then talked about what BSU meant, and what its purpose was. “We want to help people understand their privilege, and provide voices for students of color,” BSU stated. ” We also want to help educate people about Black History and common misconceptions, and also help end the disenfranchisement of Black people”. The fourth graders looked severely confused at the use of these big words, so BSU explained their purpose again on a fourth grade level.

The presentation lastly talked about people in Black History that aren’t as commonly recognized and honored as “Martin Luther King Jr.”, or even “Fetty Wap”. These people were Daisy Bates, Kimberle Crenshaw Williams, and Grace Jones. BSU talked about how each of these people helped shaped Black History in their own way.

After the presentation, BSU asked the students to do one more thing.

The students were put into groups and asked to go to a specific table with a sheet of poster paper and markers on it. There, the fourth graders were asked to write “Black is…”. Then the students had total freedom to finish the statement however they wanted to. The answers were both meaningful and funny.

Some of the keywords that often showed up in the posters were “beautiful”, “a skin color”, “peaceful”, “nice”, and “awesome”. However, the fourth graders also wrote “the best culture”, “Daisy Bates”, “whatever the black people want to be”, and also “the most amazing people I know”. 

BSU encouraged the young students to reach their full potential, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, or color of their skin. They also taught the fourth graders to value their cultures, and value others as well, especially ones that are suppressed and commonly misconceived.


photo courtesy of BSU

Hopefully, one day, these students will be the faces of BSU at Highland Park Senior High.

Staycation on a budget

Stuck at home with no pocket money this spring break? There’s an easy solution to your problem: a staycation on a budget. This entails adventuring in the Twin Cites with little to no money.

Right now you may be asking yourself, so what exactly is a staycation? Well to answer your question, a staycation is when you explore where you live as if you were someone visiting on a vacation.

Although the Twin Cities are always lively and buzzing, it can be hard to see them like so, especially in early spring. When winter comes to a close, so do most outdoor winter activities (i.e. ice skating, tubing, skiing, etc.) and because it’s wet and muddy out in early spring, it’s not ideal weather for outdoor activities in general.

However, if you’re willing to venture out into the wild and get a little muddy, here are some fun, inexpensive places to go outdoors this spring break.Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 10.16.14 AM

  • Hidden Falls Regional Park- A more casual park that is great for picnicking and hanging out with friends in Saint Paul. There are bonfire pits, BBQ grills and also bike and hiking trails. This is free.
  • Fort Snelling- A national historical land mark located in Saint Paul. Fort Snelling is a great place to learn about military history, starting before the Civil War, and going up to World War II. The commission price ranges from $6-$10.
  • High Bridge Dog Park- A 7 acre off-leash dog park in Saint Paul. This park is ideal for both dog lovers and dog owners. This is free.
  • Minnehaha Park and Falls- A huge beautiful scenic park filled with paths, bridges, and waterfalls located in Minneapolis. There is also a great restaurant in the park. This is free.

If you’re more of an indoor explorer, here are some inexpensive indoor actives in the Twin Cities.Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 10.15.19 AM

  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts- A large fine art museum in Minneapolis. The art covers over a 5,000 year time period. They are closed Mondays, open 10am to 5 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10am to 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and 11am to 5pm on Sundays. Entry is free, but special exhibits require tickets.
  • Walker Art Museum and Sculpture Garden- A large multidisciplinary contemporary art center in Minneapolis. There is also a sculpture garden across the street from the museum that is free. Within the sculpture garden there is a sculpture mini golf course, the price ranges from $9-$19, however, the tickets include free gallery admission. Museum admission fee ranges from $9-$14. The Walker is closed Monday, open daily 11am-5pm, except for on Thursdays when The Walker is open from 11am-9pm and admission is free.
  • Wabsha Caves Swing Dancing- Lively swing dancing and live music every Thursday night at the Wabasha Caves in Saint Paul. Doors open at 6pm and there are swing dancing lessons at 6:15pm. Live music goes from 7pm until 9pm. Entry fee is $8 and the required speakeasy password is “Gus sent me”. You must wear shoes on the dance floor, and try to dress up! On other days of the week there are tours going on (historical, gangster, and haunted) in the caves, however, these tend to be more pricey (around $20). There is also a great waffle and coffee joint outside of the caves.

These are just a few examples of places you could go and explore this spring break. You can also find events going on near you on websites such as http://www.citypages.com/calendar, http://www.minneapolis.org/visitor/calendar/, and www.visitsaintpaul.com/events-calendar/.

Good luck exploring the Twin Cities, and happy spring breakinging!

First time for everything

Every February, Highland Park Senior High Thespian Society has a winter production called the One Acts. The One Acts are 10 to 30 minute performances that are picked and directed by students. Although the One Acts are an annual event, there are two things that set this year apart from all the previous years.

One way is that this year’s One Acts are different than past years is that the Thespian Society decided to open the opportunity for any grade to direct. In past years only Seniors had the opportunity to direct, but due to lack of students interested in directing, the option opened up to all high school students.image1

The directors of the One Acts this year were Sophomore Zoë Challenger, Junior Schyler Fish, and Senior Max Muter. Zoë directed Variations on the Death of Trotsky and First. Schyler directed 13 Ways to Screw Up A Collage Interview and Sure Thing.  Max directed The Philadelphia and The Chicken and The Egg. The end products of each of these performances were amazing.

Zoë Challenger’s performance First was an extra special production in that she had written it herself.

“I started writing in mid-August of 2015,” Zoë told me, “I didn’t write it for the One Acts, it was more like ‘I’m bored and I really want to write something’…I had a completely different idea at first. I knew I wanted it to based on teens and their problems, but I was going to have it have way more of a plot and be less of a spoke word.”  Zoë was very proud with the end product of First. She told me that she was happy she didn’t stick with her original idea because “it would have been really bad and cheesy.” 

First tells the story of a twelve year old who is excited to turn 12, leave adolescence and experience “firsts.” The girl’s sixteen year old brother and his friends share their “firsts” experiencing everything from sexuality, feminism, mental illness, being a person of color, and coming of age.

First isn’t just powerful in its context and performance, but also the story behind it.

Zoë created the characters based off things that both she had experienced herself, and also things the people close to her had experienced. I asked Zoë about how she had gone about writing about the experiences. “It was really casual, like I just texted them and I was like ‘hey can I ask you somethings’. They new I was writing something so the were like ‘yeah no problem’.”

Zoë submitted her play and Director of the Thespian Society Steven Houtz approved it.

Although the One Acts are “very stressful to direct and manage,” Zoë along with all other directors were very happy and proud of the end result, so in the end it was worth it.

Be sure to see the One Acts next winter!

Kissing Valentine’s Day goodbye

On January 29th, the StarTribune reported that Scott Masini, principle of Bruce Vento Elementary School, decided that the school would no longer celebrate “dominant holidays”. Of these holidays are Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day.Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 10.47.06 AM

In late January, principle Scott Masini sent a letter to the students’ parents saying that the school would no longer be celebrating dominant holidays. “I have come to the difficult decision”, Mansini stated in the letter, “to discontinue the celebration of dominant holidays until we can come to a better understanding of how the dominant view will suppress someone else’s view”. Mansini’s student body is largely non white, filling the school with a majority minority population. Mansini explained in the letter that he wants to “honor and engage in holidays that are inclusive of the student population”. These dominant holidays will now be just another day at Bruce Vento Elementary School.

Most of the holidays listed make sense to most people. Halloween could be seen as satanic to some religions, Thanksgiving suppresses Native Americans, and Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

But Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day, although often portrayed as a day of love and commercialism, has Christian roots. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia there were at least three Saints by the name of Valentine, all of whom were martyred on February the 14th. The most well known of the three was Saint Valentine of Rome. Saint Valentine of Rome was a priest who lived during the ruling of Roman Emperor Claudius II. During his ruling Valentine reeling against the rules of the emperor helped arrange marriage for soldiers. Valentine also healed sick children and through his journey converted people to Catholicism. When Claudius found out he was outraged and Valentine was sent to death.  While Valentine was awaiting his death in prison, Valentine received cards and letters from many Roman children. Knowing the common roots of Valentine’s Day, it’s plain to see how the story of the Christian Saint Valentine could suppress other religions if the day were celebrated.

Although Scott Mansini is trying to enhance the celebration of holidays for minorities that fill his school, what about the children in his school who do celebrate dominant holidays?

It’s very likely for a student to be a minority and celebrate at least one of the canceled holidays.

So, what if Saint Paul Public elementary schools didn’t necessarily celebrate all holidays, including dominant ones, but rather educated the students on the holidays? This way the beliefs of every culture are outwardly acknowledged, but not celebrated in a way that would suppress other cultural groups. Students could learn the history of everything from Hmong New Year to Cinco de Mayo to Chanukah to Ramadan to Valentine’s Days. By acknowledging all holidays, all students are honored. Educating students on all cultural celebrations from a young age would build cultural respect and understanding, which you can never have too much of.

Bruce Vento Elementary School should at least recognize and honor the fact that Valentine’s Day, along with all other holidays, are very likely celebrated holidays among their student body.