Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to make an origami ninja star: Draft

Part 1- Intro and Materials

A ninja star is a simple origami figure, made from 8 pieces of paper. The ninja star was given its name because of its resemblance to, well, ninja stars, as well as its ability to transform. Pulling or pushing pieces of the ninja star in or out will cause it to transform into a donut-like ring or an eight pointed star.

You will need 8 square sheets of paper, each of the same size. You can use square self-stick notes, cut out magazine paper, newsprint, origami paper, or almost anything else you think of. Generally, slightly stiffer paper will work better for this project because it isn't apt to fall apart when your star is assembled.

Part 2- Folding the Pieces

1. First, fold the paper in half. Open it up, and use the center crease as a guide as you fold the top two corners in, similar to as if you were to make a paper airplane.

2. Then, using the same center crease, close the figure back up, so that the triangular flaps you just folded are on the inside. Remember to fold with precision and make sharp creases. Otherwise, the ninja star will not assemble correctly.

3. As shown in the diagram, push the opposing corner in. Align the center creases together, then flatten. The figure now looks like a parallelogram. The folds for the project really are not difficult, they just require you to be accurate and precise.

4. Your figure should now look like the first picture when opened up, and the second one when folded properly. 

Part 3- Assembling the Star

For many, this is the most difficult or confusing part of making a ninja star. It's very important to do this part right, and make your creases tight, otherwise your ninja star will fall apart.

5. First hold one of the pieces like this, with the point facing left and the open end facing right. Take a second piece and hold a second piece vertically, with point facing up and open end facing down. the vertical piece (piece A) should be above the horizontal piece (piece B).

6. Now, slide piece B into piece A, so that flaps of piece A "hug" piece B.

7. You will notice that the little corners of piece A are sticking out. Tuck these corners into the open end of piece B.

8. Now, continue adding pieces to the ninja star like so. When you get to the last piece, things will start to get a little tricky. you must put the open flaps of the piece over the preceding one, but stay between the flaps of the first one.

9. When you have the pieces in the right paces, carefully tuck the corners in, so you don't undo any of the other pieces.

Congrats!!! You've finished making your very own ninja star! Now, practice playing with it (THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP!) Grasp two opposing fingers and pull on the ninja star. Continue with each "set" of pieces until your ninja star is completely transformed!

If all has gone well, you now have an amazing ninja star of your own. Now, go show it off to your friends.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Testing the Validity of a Website

Most modern day students resort to the internet to do research. Well, why should't they? Using a search engine to find information is quick, simple, and high yielding. Unfortunately, not all of the information posted online is reliable or accurate, which is why the knowledge of how to test the validity of a website is crucial to anyone who does Google searching.

Before you start researching, you'll need to know what information you'll be looking for the most. For many topics, it's best to start out with "who, what, when, where, why?", as well as any other information that seems interesting.
  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • Other:
Now, the second step is to look at your search results and find the sites that look promising. These are the ones you'll go to first. Also, preview some of websites, if you're not sure. 
Screen reader users, click here to turn off Google Instant.

Here are some tips that'll help you filter out which sites you want to use, and which sites you don't:

  • NEVER use wikis! they can be edited by anyone and any sort of irrelevant information can be posted on them!
  • Well known sites or organizations that you may have heard of before will most likely be trustable.
  • Do not use websites that are biased, for example something that was created to promote a certain political party, or talk trash about another.
  • ".org", ".gov", or ".edu" websites are good sources to consider.
  • If using an unfamiliar website, check what the author of the article/site is. If that author has credentials like college degrees or job experience, the information he or she provides will most likely be reliable.
  • While in the search engine, read the URLs. Websites with URLs related to your topic are worth checking out.
  • Read the website descriptions, so you can skip over anything irrelevant. For example, when one Google searches "civil war", one of the results is the homepage of a band, not information on a historical event.
  • Sometimes, visual clues can show you whether a site is reliable or not. If a website has distracting, inappropriate, or popup ads, it's usually not a good source. If a site looks amateurishly designed or difficult to navigate, it is probably best ignored as well.
  • Pretty much any website made for the sole purpose of kids or education is dependable- so an easy way to get basic information about anything is to write "for kids" after the keywords for whatever you're searching for.
  • Is the information current? Some topics will require up to date information, such as world events or science, since topics like these are always changing.
  • If the grammar on a site is insufficient or the sentences choppy, it was cleary not written by someone who knew what they were doing.
  • Of course,one must also use common sense. If the information seems weird or incorrect, don't trust it right away! Instead, find backup in other sources.
After you've found some trusty sources for your research, gather the information you need. A good way to do this is to read the headings of each paragraph, of find any words in the article that are emphasized (large, bold, italics, underlined, different color, etc.). These words may give you a clue about what its context contains. Sometimes, it's more appropriate to actually read an article and find details, while other times, skimming will save time and eliminate surplus information.

The web plays a major role in our lives today, including our educations. It may be large and not extremely organized, but with the right tools and knowledge, anyone can make it safer, easier to use, and more beneficial to their personal needs.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Letter Essay #3: A time of Angels

Dear Mrs. Shanley,

Due to an extremely unappealing cover, a boring blurb, or perhaps (most likely) both, I've put off reading "A Time of Angels" for three years now- the amount of time I've had this book ever since it was given to me as a gift. The book is by Karen Hesse, and tells the story of a teen girl named Hannah who's parents are trapped in Russia by the war. Therefore, she lives in small Boston apartment with her sisters and her Tanta (Aunt) Rose. Tanta Rose and Hannah both work hard to support the family, but Rose's companion Vashti is annoyed by the girls.

When she is not working to help her family, Hannah draws. Lately, she's been drawing what she sees- angels.  Soon, many people in the neighborhood fall victim of the disease. When Rose is killed by the influenza epidemic, Vashti decides that the best course of action is send Hannah away into the countryside, where relatives are to care for her. On the train ride there, she catches the influenza and misses her stop in Albany, ending up unconscious and under emergency care in Vermont. Throughout all this time, Hannah is helped by a mysterious girl with black hair and violet eyes. Because of the influenza, Hannah's throat is badly damaged, and she's rendered unable to speak, writing and drawing in a notebook to communicate instead. A kindly old man who refers to himself as "Uncle Klaus" takes her in and nurses her back to health. During her time with Klaus, Hannah learns about kindness, giving, prejudice, and pain, as Klaus is of German blood and shunned by many of the townsfolk.

Constantly haunted by the fear that she has abandoned her sisters, Hannah, with the help of Uncle Klaus, earns money to pay for a train back to Boston. When back home, Hannah finds everything changed: many people dead, families torn apart, empty streets, and nearly every school and business closed. She rejoices to find her sisters alive and well. At the end of the book, Hannah reflects upon her journey and thanks the angel girl with violet eyes who helped her.

"A Time of Angels" was definitely a very engaging read. Even though the plot was a little extreme, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Karen Hesse has a way of letting the reader have a strong emotional connection with the characters (have you read "Out of the Dust"?)- I really could feel what Hannah was feeling (it was pretty stressful), and imagine all the places in the story, even though the author didn't actually put in too much of an in depth description of the setting(s).

Another thing I liked about "A Time of Angels" was that it actually taught me some stuff! From it, I've figured out three random folk cures: first, skim milk fixes broken cups, second, drinking excessive amounts of vinegar helps cure influenza, and finally, that oats wrapped in a little cheesecloth bag make for a more soothing bath. Yes, they're strange. I'm pretty sure that I'm only going to try the broken cup thing...

However, there was one major problem in the book that stood out to me. After all of Hannah's good times in Vermont with Uncle Klaus, she left for Boston way too... easily. ""One to Boston, please," I said, putting Uncle Klaus's money, Ottiwell Wood's money, my moose maple money under the grill." [Hesse 227] With this quote, Hannah describes paying for her ticket back home. There was very little hesitation to leave Uncle Klaus anywhere in this section of the story, and I didn't understand that. Personally, my heart ached when Hannah went back to Boston, because I couldn't help but think of how happy she was in Vermont, and how much Klaus must've missed her.

Also- the last sentence was a downer. "Slowly, making our way back across the rooftops of Chambers Street, Harry and I went home." [Hesse 269] This sentence was almost a complete book killer! All the pretext of it was amazing, magical, and described Hannah's ethereal encounter with her angel. All that, and then you give me "we went back home"? From a celebrated and award-winning author like Karen Hesse, I expected more. Exactly what I expected, I'm not sure, but I know that I wanted more.

In conclusion, the book "A Time of Angels" was a satisfying read with some errors, which while they left me with some questions, did not do too much damage to the overall quality of the text. After reading this, as well as the "Out of the Dust", I'm definitely thinking about investing some more time into Karen Hesse's works. Her stories are so creative and intricately woven! I'm sure that "A Time of Angels" is going to be one that I'll revisit over and over again.