This blog is set up to give STEM Academy families tools to think about learning in positive ways both in and OUT of the classroom.

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Reading Rocks and 21 Day STEAM Challenge.

The STEM Academy is in the middle of our annual read-a-thon fundraiser. Students are reading on the weekend, and at recess to raise money for our natural playground that is sponsored by the parent teacher group. Thank you parent teacher group (PTG) for sponsoring the event, and supporting our school, teachers and students!

I am participating in the 21 day STEAM challenge with my family, and I want to encourage you to do the same. You can sign up for the challenge @ It’s a great way of looking at the world and it’s also a set of building blocks for innovation and let’s not forget it’s a lot of fun! Why should you make sure that your family or your students have a healthy STEAM diet in their daily life?

Engagement in school and academic success is a partnership between the family and the school. At the STEM Academy we work hard to inspire students to love learning, and also exemplify that having grit and a growth mindset are as important as getting A’s and B’s or high test scores on standardized exams. You can support this with the STEAM challenge, and by participating in the read-a-thon with your child or teenager.

The parent teacher group meets the second Wednesday of every month in the STEM Lab and all are welcome. The next meeting is November 8th and you can like them on facebook @ Last summer volunteers from the PTG constructed an outdoor classroom, a ¼ mile jogging and walking trail, and two gaga pits. If your child is gaga for gaga and you are wondering what is this all about watch this ABC story about gaga ball.

Posted by Chris Chopp  On Oct 20, 2017 at 10:29 AM

A common image when thinking about optimism is the glass half full. The chemist would say the glass is full, ½ liquid and ½ gas. This image doesn’t fully capture what optimism is, how it is learned, and how it can be used to improve your life. To do this we need to look at research, Disney movies, and anecdotes from prisoners of war.

            Martini E. P. Seligman professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania is one of the leading authorities on learned helplessness and its relation to optimism and hope. Here is a 23 minute video on the new era of positive psychology. talks about optimism as a strength of will. “Optimism is being hopeful about future outcomes combined with the agency to shape that future.” It is important to see this definition in two parts. Hope for the future, and the agency to shape the future. Looking at optimism with a growth mindset recognizes that bad things happen, but they are often temporary and how can I change my situation through new efforts or strategies? There is a genetic component to optimism, but genes are not destiny. “This isn’t your traditional “glass half full” optimism (which some might call blind positivity) because optimistic people seek to directly connect their own power and actions to the future they want. For example, after getting a bad grade on an exam, an optimistic student believes that studying harder or differently will earn her a better grade on the next one. Another critical part of optimism is not “catastrophizing” a situation. For example, when a friend doesn't want to play that day, the optimistic kid imagines that his friend is having a bad day, not that no one wants to be his friend.”

Growing up I loved the Disney movie Pollyanna. This 1960’s movie about an excessively cheerful and optimistic orphan Pollyanna, both made me smile, and scratch my head.

The glad game was cute, as was the scene where the Pollyanna is excited to get a Christmas gift only to discover that in the gift is an old pair of crutches. She initially looks understandably disappointed but then exclaims, “At least I don’t have to use them. Pollyanna’s name has morphed into a noun to describe an excessively or blindly optimistic person, and Pollyannaish adjective; unreasonably or illogically optimistic. Pollyanna misses the point of what true optimism is. It is natural to get upset when bad things happen. We shouldn’t respond with blind optimism as Pollyanna does, but must exercise our agency to shape the future for the better through new efforts and strategies. We must realize that, with a growth mindset our current situation is not set in stone, written in our genes, and outside our control, but we can influence our circumstances for the better.

Our third example comes from a prisoner of war the late Vice Admiral James Stockdale. He was the highest ranking naval officer to be held prisoner during the Vietnam War. Jim Collins writes about the Stockdale Paradox in his book Good to Great, “The Stockdale Paradox is named after admiral Jim Stockdale, who was a United States military officer held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. Stockdale was tortured more than twenty times by his captors, and never had much reason to believe he would survive the prison camp and someday get to see his wife again. And yet, as Stockdale told Collins, he never lost faith during his ordeal: “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Then comes the paradox: While Stockdale had remarkable faith in the unknowable; he noted that it was always the most optimistic of his prison mates who failed to make it out of there alive. “They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

What the optimists failed to do was confront the reality of their situation. They preferred the ostrich approach, sticking their heads in the sand and hoping for the difficulties to go away. That self-delusion might have made it easier on them in the short-term, but when they were eventually forced to face reality, it had become too much and they couldn’t handle it.

Stockdale approached adversity with a very different mindset. He accepted the reality of his situation. He knew he was in hell, but, rather than bury his head in the sand, he stepped up and did everything he could to lift the morale and prolong the lives of his fellow prisoners. He created a tapping code so they could communicate with each other. He developed a milestone system that helped them deal with torture. And he sent intelligence information to his wife, hidden in the seemingly innocent letters he wrote.

Collins and his team observed a similar mindset in the good-to-great companies. They labeled it the Stockdale Paradox and described it like so:

You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

AND at the same time…

You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

For me, the Stockdale Paradox carries an important lesson in personal development, a lesson in faith and honesty: Never doubt that you can achieve your goals, no matter how lofty they may be and no matter how many critics and naysayers you may have. But at the same time, always take honest stock of your current situation. Don’t lie to yourself for fear of short-term embarrassment or discomfort, because such deception will only come back to defeat you in the end.”

Posted by Chris Chopp  On Jun 02, 2017 at 9:26 AM
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