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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Zest is a strength of the mind and is also referred to as vitality. It is an approach to life that is filled with excitement and energy.


Actively participating, showing enthusiasm, approaching new situations with excitement and energy, and invigorating those around you positively affects you as a student and a person. Young children often naturally exhibit these character traits, and unfortunately wanes over time, but then increases later in life.

At the STEM Academy we make it a goal that we are not only helping students grow academically but we are connecting them with things they can have enthusiasm for. We strive to foster a love of learning, but just help students get smarter. Parents can help with this. Often we think that zest is related to being extraverted, and that this is a fixed disposition of each child, they are or they are not. points out, “Zest is about exhibiting enthusiasm and feeling energized. But zest doesn’t need to be loud—the quiet, introverted artist can approach her latest project with zest, even if she is alone in her studio.” Teachers and parents can observe zest in several ways that include,

  • Actively participating by asking questions or listening closely
  • Showing enthusiasm through smiles or excited comments
  • Approaching new situations with excitement and energy
  • Invigorating others around you

Zest is a character trait that can be nurtured and you can grow whether you tend toward extraversion or introversion.

I would like to encourage you to take some time and reflect about what you are enthusiastic about and share that with your child. I am excited about being in nature, and spending time with my family.

Smokey Mountain National Park

Over spring break I went hiking in the Smokey Mountains with my family and we played in a cold mountain stream for about an hour. My little daughters feet were nearly blue, but she loved making boats out of leaves and sending them over the rapids with her cousins. It excited me to share my love of nature and the outdoors with my family and I came back to the STEM Academy recharged and energized. Here is a link to Character Lab with additional readings and information about the character trait of zest.

Posted by Chris Chopp  On Apr 21, 2017 at 11:33 AM
I asked this question to some of the 8th graders working in the library today. One said, "Easy: to accomplish my goals." Another said, "to help people, or to make the world better."

"What is the reason for your goal?" I asked. 

"Hmmmm, that’s a tough one," the students thought.

Have a conversation with your child(ren) about purpose, and it may surprise you.

March is reading month, and one of the best ways to connect people is through stories. Think of some of the classic children’s books like Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” What does this story tell us about family, love, and imagination?

Where The Wild Things Are

Or Ezra Jack Keats, “The Snowy Day” where Peter has an adventure, enjoys the snow, and learns how to deal with the changing problems that confront children as they grow up. 

The Snowy Day

Or “Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson. This book about Harold and his magic purple crayon takes us on a journey through Harold’s imagination, escaping dangers, and traveling to far-off places; at the end, Harold comes to a surprising realization.  

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Many stories can help us think about purpose. I recently revisited a article I read a couple of years back. “The sense that your personal life is meaningful to you is a cornerstone of psychological well-being,” said Michael F. Steger, director of the laboratory for Meaning and Quality of Life at Colorado State University. Not only that, it is “tightly tied to being happier, more positive, more confident, more caring, more helpful, more resilient, and more satisfied in your life, relationships, and work.”  Who doesn’t want that for their kids? Who doesn’t want that for themselves? Character Lab talks about purpose this way. Purpose is a strength of heart, and it can be cultivated. Strengths of heart are interpersonal, helping strengths. They help you relate in positive ways to other people. Some strengths of heart include gratitude, purpose, self-control, and social/emotional intelligence. In a blog post on Chris Hullman gets in the mind of a middle-schooler and quips, “I could be changing the world right now, but instead I’m solving for X.” Click on the link to see an awesome resource that helps us have conversations with our kids about finding value in classwork, and why it matters.  

Dr. Bill Damon of Stanford University talks about Purpose from Character Lab on Vimeo.

Teachers and parents take note of expectancy-value theory and what it says about helping students answer the ‘why’ question. What do you think? What is your purpose? What is your favorite children’s book? What are barriers to instilling a sense of purpose in our lives?

Posted by Chris Chopp  On Mar 07, 2017 at 10:52 AM
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