Who We Are

This page is made as the final project of Ms. Navarro's Living Skills class. It Includes overviews of selected topics that we have learned and discussed in the class, including topics of influences, individuality, health, substance abuse, and sexuality.


  • Inside the Teenage Brain

People over centuries have been confused/distressed/frustrated about the sometimes strange actions of those no longer children, but not yet adults. There is a reason that all humans, no matter what race, what gender, what year, go through more or less the mood swings and feelings of rebellion. The reason lies within the functions of the control center of the body, the brain. In the early years, the brains go through a lot of "reconstruction" processes like rapid growth of cells followed by pruning. The teenage years are very important because the brain is settling down into its relatively fixed state in the years of adulthood and it is very receptive to good or bad influence. Also, the frontal lobe of the brain, the part responsible for logic and rational decision-making, is not completely developed during teenage years, so teen use more the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with passionate emotions. Teens are more susceptible to impulses and decisions based on emotions than in adulthood. The anatomy of the brain explains why teens are more emotional and why teens are more easily influenced.
  • Learning Styles

Different people learn differently and there are ways to judge the learning styles of others. Three ways to judge learning styles is the visual/audio/kinesthetic modalities, multiple intelligences, and global/analytic thinking styles. In the first and most popularly used way, people are separated into three groups based on how they learn. Visual learners remember best by using their eyes and need visual information to help them picture what their are learning. Audio learners use their sense of hearing to receive information. They remember well from lectures, for example, more than writing. The kinesthetic learners receive information by actually doing and acting a process more than the traditional ways of school. The second way is called multiple intelligences and divides the different aspects of a person's learning and thinking into nine groups - natural, musical, logical, existential, interpersonal, kinesthetic, verbal, intrapersonal, and visual. The last way to determine learning styles to dividing people into a spectrum with global and analytic and the ends. Global is more of a "big picture" person and more focused with cooperation while analytic is more logical and competitive. These three are some of the ways to determine the learning styles of people.
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  • Race Issues

The problem of race has been with us for centuries and there is even scientific evidence to racial prejudices. Although we have banished many problems in the quest for complete equity, there are still many that remain. There are many sayings or jokes that hint at the hidden prejudices, such as "blonds are dumb," "Asians are smart," or "Jews are rich". One short documentary the class watched was called Separate and Unequal and about the horrible conditions of African Americans in Jackson, Mississippi. The living conditions of those people had become worse instead of better after the Civil Rights Act half a century ago. Although the act required African Americans and whites to be desegregated and changed what people see of the society, it did nothing to change the prejudices and what people thought. The whites simply moved out of the city and into the suburban areas while the government ignored the worsening conditions of life in Jackson. The documentary showed that African American battle for their rights had only diminished but not gone. Another problem of racial inequality has surfaced in the 21st century, the prejudice against Muslims after the 9/11 attack. For this problem, the class watched one part of the 30 Days series called "Muslims and America" where one decided Christian man with strong prejudices about Muslims was put into a Muslim society for 30 days. There were many problems that Muslims faced in everyday life in America. Many people, most ignorant of the history and culture of the religion, prejudice Muslims to be connected to terrorism. This newer issue has to be addressed and stopped too.
  • Media Influences

The media has become one of the most influential forces in society with the advancement of technology. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our decisions have been influenced by the countless sounds, images, writings of the media. According to Killing Us Softly 3, each person receives over 3000 advertisements each day. The media is a very large part in building stereotypes about men and women. In advertisements, movies, and TV shows, women are supposed to be beautiful, voluptuous, emotional, etc. while men are muscular, independent, rich, etc. Women are materialized into tools to use for pleasure in many parts of the media. Men are pressured to not show their emotions and be "manly" to the point of violence. Yet people in the media business still refuse to acknowledge these misconceptions of who people are supposed to be because billions of dollars are earned by them. The media, especially advertisements, gives people the idea that they are not good enough. Diseases such as anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders are also caused or affected by the media. The image below shows a model who starved to death to create a thin and beautiful image. She was 21 years old and weighed only 88 pounds. We have to stop the advancement of harmful media influences before they take more lives.
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  • Depression/Anxiety

Depression is a mental state and is dangerous if it becomes long-lasting or permanent. It can be fatal in the form of suicide when the person feels too discouraged in his/her life to continue living. There are different types of mood disorders including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and postpartum depression. Symptoms of depression include feeling of constant sadness, tension, or irritability; feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness; change in eating and sleeping habits; either loss of energy or restlessness; and thoughts about suicide and death. Bipolar disorder is weeks to months of "high" characterized by extremely alertness and endless energy, followed by a long period of "low" characterized by depressed mood. Depression and bipolar disorder is caused by chemical fluctuations in the brain including hormone increases and decreases. Also, it can be caused when the neuron's ability to receive electric messages is malfunctioning. Antidepressant drugs work by restoring the natural balance of chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain. SSRI's, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, help the body by increasing the amount of serotonin into the brain so chemical signals can get across synapses between neurons more efficiently. Depression is a serious disease and needs treatment before it can prove fatal.
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  • Sleep

One of the biggest problems for people of all ages today is lack of sleep. Rarely any teens have eight to ten hours of sleep every night. In an informal survey done in our Living Skills class, most student sleep an average of six to seven hours a night. The common conception of the necessary time spent unconscious is that it is a waste of time. But lack of sleep can cause many problems including fatigue, anxiety, mood-swings, memory problems, immune system problems, and even gaining weight. Research has shown that sleep is the time that the brain organizes memories, so getting more sleep can actually be better than staying up all night studying. Also, recent scientific study has also shown that not sleeping increases a person's appetite. There is speculation that the growing popularity for less sleep is connected to the increasing obesity rate in developed countries. Long term lack of sleep can affect the general wellness of the body in decreasing the function of the immune system and the brain. People who lack sleep are often unfocused and have problems making logical connections essential in decision-making. Lacking sleep can also be dangerous in activities such as driving or operating other machinery.
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Substance Abuse

  • Addiction

The definition of "drug" is any substance that affects a person physically, mentally, or psychologically. Because of its effects and how it makes people feel, drugs are dangerously addictive. Most people who use drugs continuously know the side-effects of it and how it is bad for their health, but quitting is extremely hard because the body has adapted to the intake of these substances. The bodies of those who are addicted need the drug to function properly, and when the substance is taken away, those who were addicted experience withdrawal symptoms. People can be addicted physically, mentally, or both. Addiction is usually together with increasing tolerance of the substance as the brain and body adapts. Not many people who are addicts seek help because they can be in denial about the true degree of their problems. Helping a person out of addiction is a very arduous process because the body will have withdrawal symptoms of different kinds based on the substance used and the degree of addiction, also the person would psychologically miss the "high" of the drug experience. Overall, addiction is a gradually progressive disease that can prove fatal if help is not sought.
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  • Short and Long Term Effects

Drugs all have short and long term effects, but the effects range greatly from the different substances. Short term effects can be separated into two groups, depressants and stimulants. Depressants slow the bodily functions down. Symptoms include slowed heart rate, loss of focus, impaired speech, blurry vision, slow reaction time, loss of balance, etc. Stimulants are the opposite; they speed functions up. Symptoms include increased heart rate, bursts of focus and alertness, dilated pupils, high body temperatures, and sometimes anxiety and paranoia. Long term effects are different and slowly increase in degree. They include different cancers such as lung, throat, liver, kidney, uterine, bladder, and skin cancers; heart problems; problems of the respiratory system; reproductive problems; brain damage including memory loss, hallucination, and paranoia; and other effects such as coma, speech and intelligence impairment, etc. These effects are very scary and should be understood to discourage the taking of drugs.
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  • Methods of Birth Control and Abstinence

There are numerous ways to prevent getting a sexually transmitted disease or getting pregnant for girls, but only one way is 100% effective - abstinence. Abstinence means the act of not having sex for any amount of time. For some it may mean until marriage, others until college, others until in a stable and loving relationship, and still others until next weekend. For those who do not consider abstinence an option, another way to protect themselves is using birth control. Although this method is not 100% effective, it is useful protection against STDs and pregnancy. There are three overall types of birth control: barriers, intrauterine devices, and hormonal methods. Barriers include male and female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and spermicidal foam. They are not highly effective, but have less side-effects than the other two kinds. Intrauterine devices are small "plugs" in the uterus to prevent the sperm from meeting the egg. They work by making the environment of the uterus hostile to a developing egg and work for five to ten years. The third kind includes hormonal methods such as pills, patches, and vaginal rings. This method releases estrogen and progestin hormones. The hormones regulate the body so that it cannot be in the condition to become pregnant. These hormones also have other effects such as reducing pain during menstruation and helping with severe mood swings. There are also implants and shots that release the hormones systematically into the body.
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  • Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy is a ongoing problem in the United States, the statistics prove the degree of the problem. Every year, about a million teenage girls will become pregnant, that is one every thirty seconds! Out of those children conceived, 30% are aborted, 10% end in miscarriage, 60% are born, and 10% are adopted by others. Pregnancy can be unexpected because no form of birth control except abstinence and sterilization are 100% effective. Even if the sexually active teens are always using condoms, pills, diaphragms, etc, or any combination of those, there is still a chance of pregnancy. The process of being pregnant is extremely taxing both physically and mentally. If the girl chooses to abort the child, she will be left with the horrible memory and the image of a child she will never see. If the girl chooses to keep the child, she will face enormous burdens financially, physically, and psychologically. She will become a teenage mother with little or no source of stable income with the child's father usually not a part of her and her baby's lives. She will have a minimum commitment of eighteen years to her child. The burden would take away many opportunities and a bright future for her. Many people think that the rate of teen pregnancy is connected to media influences that sexualize and sexploit young girls, and famous celebrities such as Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin also have gotten pregnant at a young age. They may be unconsciously forced to have sex younger because of these media pressures. Teen pregnancy is an important problem in the United States. We have to stop the hidden influences in society and the media in order to solve it.
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What Every 9th Grader Should Know

When you get into high school, it is a bigger place. Everything increases in scale. You have more teachers, more people in your class, bigger campus, more homework, more tests, more clubs, busier schedule. To deal with this, the more important aspect of high school is organization. Having a set schedule for afterschool (ie. doing homework first, then email and hang out with friends) will greatly increase your efficiency in doing homework and studying for tests. It will also ensure that you will not sleep very late because of cramming. Also, a planner is very helpful in helping you remember homework and events. Since there definitely will be more homework, tests, and events in high school, you may not be able to remember them all in your head. Even if you think you can, it is good to have a backup in case you forget a specific date for an event or something. I also recommend a calendar to keep track of important events, holidays, tests, etc. Having a large calender give you the overall idea of where you should be at in your schedule or credits. Having something to organize your events can also have a calming effect because it tells you what you should do, step-by-step, instead of making you feel overwhelmed by everything. Whatever you do, organization should be an extremely important part of your high school life.
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"Birth Control - Birth Control Methods." Birth Control Health Center. 22 May 2008. Healthwise, Incorporated. 12 Jan 2009 <http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-birth-control-methods>.
"Anorexia Nervosa." National Eating Disorders.org. 2006. NEDA. 12 Jan 2009 <http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/p.asp?WebPage_ID=286&Profile_ID=41142>.
"What is Addiction?." Understanding Addiction. 2007. HBO. 12 Jan 2009 <http://www.hbo.com/addiction/understanding_addiction/18_what_is_addiction.html>.
"Addiction and the Brain." Understanding Addiction. 2007. HBO. 12 Jan 2009 <http://www.hbo.com/addiction/understanding_addiction/11_addiction_and_the_brain.html>.
"About Learning Styles." Learning Styles: Unlock Your True Potential. 2008. Learning Styles Network. 12 Jan 2009 <http://www.learningstyles.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20&Itemid=70〈=en>.
"Types of Depression." Depression.com. 2007. GlaxoSmithKline. 12 Jan 2009 <http://www.depression.com/types_of_depression.html>.
"What is Bipolar Disorder." Bipolar.com. 2007. GlaxoSmithKline. 12 Jan 2009 <http://www.bipolar.com/what_is_bipolar/what_is_bipolar.html>.
"Antidepressant Drug Information." My Depression Connection.com. 2006. HealthCentral Network. 12 Jan 2009 <http://www.healthcentral.com/depression/find-drug.html>.
Albert, Bill. "Teen Birth Rate Increase." The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. 07 Jan 2009. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. 12 Jan 2009 <http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/birthdata/Teen_Birth_Rate_Increase_Press_Release.pdf>.