The Lake Project: Semester 2

For those of you who have never read one of my blogs posts before, let me quickly give you a brief description of what the Lake Project is all about. For the past semester (and some months before) I have been photographing and cataloging species around the Westtown Lake. My goal is to be able to present a finished catalog of as many species as I can identify to the archives at the end of the year.

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A New Path – Tom

It is a new semester, and my independent is taking a very new direction. I wrapped up my game theory course, and now I am moving onto implicit bias. Like Alyssa’s said, implicit bias is changes in how people act based on subconscious factors. It is often in the headlines these days due to how it affects many different aspects of our society, be it college admissions or racial profiling. Continue reading


Beginning Islam – Yiheng

It did not take more than a few minutes before I laid Nasr’s Islam Religion, History, and Civilization down on my desk. Taking two deep breaths, I realized: OK, this is not anything I was imagining.

I was not so ignorant to believe that I could swagger into the Islam and understand everything like snap, snap, snap, but I did not realize its immense complexity either. The first 40 pages of reading were a humbling experience. Continue reading

A Look at Editing-Will


As I’ve written before, editing is a massive part of my work in writing my novel. I typically have a call once per week with my editor where we will cover as many pages as we can in an hour. We don’t simply look for misspelled words or grammatical errors, but the actual value of a word, a sentence, a paragraph. Sometimes this does mean deleting most of a paragraph and writing a new one. To properly illustrate the editing process, I thought I’d provide some examples of an unedited (only edited by me) and edited (by me and my editor) excerpt.

Here’s an “unedited” piece:

I found Kelvin precisely where Prichard had told me he might be, and after a grunt of acknowledgement and a brief description of what we were going to do, we jumped right into the education of the day with our audience of roughly 12 of the youngest. Our audience wasn’t really the youngest who were being educated at the time in The Pack, but rather the youngest of the group who could be educated on the material we were covering. Most of the young ones present were between 6 and 8 years of age, and were going through activities that, though physically strenuous to a certain extent for that age group, would have been much too easy for anyone of an older age.

The education began with some pointers on the basics of hand-to-hand combat. It was all about how to throw a punch, kick properly, and maintain a proper fighting stance. Kelvin and I modeled all of this, occasionally striking each other in the chest or shoulders, before we moved into one of the most important physical subjects for the youngest: balance. This took a great amount of time as Kelvin made the youngest hold arduous positions, balancing on one leg, on two arms, on one arm, for great amounts of time. They then clambered up and around trees, and balanced buckets full of water on their backs, heads, and shoulders all whilst tackling an impromptu obstacle course Kelvin had quickly created. Everything was repeated to a point that must have seemed far too excessive to the youngest, but that they would later, much later, be thankful for. Then came physical conditioning and measuring. Kelvin had the youngest run for miles on end, carry each other, and do an excruciating number of pushups and squats. I ran through the motions alongside them while Kelvin was measured their overall progress. It was during all of this exertion that time began to slip away and I slowly began to shake the nagging anxiety about Thane’s mission. I shook it loose to greater extents with every stride and every repetition, every laugh at a muddled attempt to clear an obstacle and every cry of effort when they had nearly reached the top of a steep rise with their brother or sister clinging to their back. Focusing on the task at hand, my mind became clear.

Now, here’s the same piece after editing:

When I found Kelvin he gave me a grunt of acknowledgement. He was with 12 of the youngest, most of them between 6 and 8 years of age. We began with the basics of hand-to-hand combat– how to throw a punch and maintain a proper fighting stance. We tried to teach them balance. They held arduous positions on one leg, on two arms, on one arm. They clambered up trees, and held buckets full of water on their backs, heads, and shoulders all whilst tackling an impromptu obstacle course. Then came physical conditioning. Even the youngest ran for miles on end and did an excruciating number of pushups and squats. I ran alongside them while Kelvin measured their progress. With every stride and every repetition, every laugh at a stumble and every cry of victory as they reached the top of a steep rise, I began to forget about Thane and his mission. Focusing on the task at hand, my mind became clear.

Aside from fixing some typos and grammatical errors, the main change one would notice would be that the edited piece is much, much shorter than the original. Editing is really about making writing more concise and streamlined. This means that I may have to delete plenty of sentences that I thought were borderline poetic. However, if making my writing better means making it a whole lot shorter, I’m completely game.

Since what I’m reading always impacts my writing, here’s what I’m reading right now:

Shogun by James Clavell

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Link for image



Pennsylvania’s Sex Education Legislation is Scarier Than You’d Think!

This week I’ve started my Independent Study by delving into Pennsylvania’s legislation that regulates health and sex education in Pennsylvania. Here’s the thing: there is isn’t much regulation or specification on sexual education in the Keystone State.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education is the governing body that sets guidelines and regulations for health education in Pennsylvania public schools. The state only requires that students in grades 9 and 12 learn information pertaining to the transmission of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS/STI’s. These same grades are also required to discuss healthy relationships and abstinence. You can read the complete guidelines here.

I was personally shocked to see how little our state oversees and manages sex education. If we are going to have a knowledgeable future generation, our students need to understand the complexity of human sexuality. Especially in a society that glorifies sex on media and is in the midst of a “hookup cultural revolution”.

Pennsylvania’s Public School Code of 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), which is the governing legislation surrounding school regulation, fails to mention adequate education regarding sex education throughout the state also. We are in dire need of an updated. (To read the full bill click here)

The point of focus for my Independent in the coming weeks is to address the problems with Pennsylvania’s sex legislation and effectively draft an act to amend the Public School Code of 1949 (P.L.30, No.14) to include provisions for comprehensive sex education.

Photo Citation:

“The Interview: A History of Sex Ed.”,

For the first week of the independent seminar, I went into it not knowing where to start on a film. I had many questions: How will I present information? What format should it be in? What movie maker will I use? Should I use clips?

I scheduled a meeting with Teacher Karl in the alumni office and he was very helpful. I will be working closely with him this semester because he has expertise in film making and production. I have answers to all of my questions and a good starting point for this film. I have some ideas on how I want to format the video: I am thinking to use pictures instead of videos. While it seems very plain and uninteresting when first thinking about historical pictures being displayed as a slideshow, T Karl explained there are many techniques used to make it more dynamic and engaging for viewers.

I also decided to use iMovie for my platform as this is the most accessible. While Adobe Premier would give me more effects and technical benefits, iMovie works very well and is much easier to navigate for beginners.

To start, Teacher Karl told me the first step would be to create a treatment. A treatment is similar to an elevator pitch; It includes a thesis along with a description of the film. I started writing my treatment and will hopefully finish it by this week. After T Karl edits this I can move on to the next step which I believe will be the documentary script.

Below is a link to a sample film treatment:


Press Release: Introducing Polaris

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania — January 20, 2017 — The Polaris Team today announced Polaris, a revolutionary departure management system designed specifically for the Weekend Program at Westtown School. Polaris replaces the current SignUpGenius®, an event organizer, and offers a responsive design, Google® integration, Alchemy℠, manageability optimizations, data analytics along with many other features.

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The Lake Project: Come Prepared-Dex

The last time I went to the lake, I learned an important lesson on the necessity of coming prepared whenever you are trying to take pictures of wildlife. Animals generally don’t want you to be anywhere near them, so, if they see you, you generally only have a few moments to capture an image before they are gone.

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