Owen concert, HS begins

Staff Reports


Owen has had seven No. 1 singles to date. This week, “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” is the No. 1 single on the country airplay charts and marks his seventh career No. 1 hit. His other six No. 1’s include the 2X PLATINUM anthem “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” PLATINUM – certified hits “Beachin’,” “Anywhere with You,” “Alone with You,” “The One That Got Away,” and, GOLD – certified “American Country Love Song.” Owen’s fifth studio album, AMERICAN LOVE, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and No. 4 on the Billboard 200 all-genre chart. Most recently, Owen signed a new label deal with Big Loud Records, reuniting him with award-winning producer Joey Moi. Owen’s debut single for Big Loud, “I Was Jack (You Were Diane),” was the most-added single at country radio for two consecutive weeks and the fastest rising single of his career. Owen and Moi are currently in the studio working on the forthcoming project.


The start of high school doesn’t have to be stressful

August 13, 2018

Up to two-thirds of students experience ‘ninth grade shock,’ which can affect everything from grades to mental health.


David Yeager

Associate professor, University of Texas at Austin

Hae Yeon Lee

PhD student, University of Texas at Austin

Disclosure statement

David Yeager receives or has received funding for his research from the NSF, the NICHD, the William T. Grant Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Bezos Family Foundation, and the Templeton Foundation. These entities place no constraints on the publication of results from scientific studies.

Hae Yeon Lee does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

This month, more than 4 million students across the nation will begin high school.

Many will do well.

But many will not.

Consider that nearly two-thirds of students will experience the “ninth-grade shock,” which refers to a dramatic drop in a student’s academic performance.

Some students cope with this shock by avoiding challenges. For instance, they may drop rigorous coursework. Others may experience a hopelessness that results in failing their core classes, such as English, science and math.

This should matter a great deal to parents, teachers and policymakers. Ultimately it should matter to the students themselves and society at large.

One of the biggest reasons it should matter is because students’ fate as they transition to ninth grade can have long-term consequences not only for the students but for their home communities. We make these observations as research psychologists who have studied how schools and families can help young people thrive.

In the new global economy, students who fail to finish ninth grade with passing grades in college preparatory coursework are very unlikely to graduate on time and go on to get jobs. One study has calculated that the lifetime benefit to the local economy for a single additional student who completes high school is half a million dollars or more. This is based on higher earnings and avoided costs in health care, crime, welfare dependence and other things.

Lifetime consequences

The consequences of doing poorly in the ninth grade can impact more than students’ ability to find a good job. It can also impact the extent to which they enjoy life.

Students lose the adults and many of the friends they turned to for support when they move from eighth to ninth grade. One study of ninth grade students found that 50 percent of friendships among ninth graders changed from one month to the next, signaling striking instability in friendships.

In addition, studies find the first year of high school typically shows one of the greatest increases in depression of any year over the lifespan.

Researchers think that one explanation is that ties to friends are severed, while academic demands are rising.

Furthermore, most adult cases of clinical depression first emerge in adolescence. The World Health Organization reports that depression has the greatest burden of disease, in terms of the total cost of treatment and the loss of productivity, of any affliction worldwide.

In search of solutions

Given all that’s riding on having a successful ninth grade experience, it pays to explore what can be done to improve the academic, social and emotional challenges of the transition to high school.

So far, our studies have yielded one main insight: Students’ beliefs about change – their beliefs about whether people are stuck one way forever, or whether people can change their traits and abilities – are related to their ability to cope, succeed academically and maintain good mental health. Past research has called these beliefs “mindsets,” with a “fixed mindset” referring to the belief that people cannot change and a “growth mindset” referring to the belief that people can change.

We found that when students felt like their declining grades were a sign that they will never be successful, or when they feel like a loss of support from friends means that they will be stuck being “not likable” for life, then they have coped poorly.

In one recent study, we examined 360 adolescents’ beliefs about the nature of “smartness” – that is, their fixed mindsets about intelligence.

We then assessed biological stress responses for students whose grades were dropping by examining their saliva for cortisol levels — a so-called “toxic stress” hormone that is secreted by the body when people feel threatened.

Students who believe their situation can change tend to cope better with stress, researchers say. Monkey Business Images/www.shutterstock.com

Students who believed that intelligence is fixed – that you are stuck being “not smart” if you struggle in school – showed higher cortisol levels in their saliva when their GPAs were declining at the beginning of ninth grade. If students believed that intelligence could improve – that is to say, when they held more of a growth mindset of intelligence – we detected less cortisol in the saliva of students whose grades were declining.

This was an exciting result because it showed that the body’s stress responses are not determined solely by one’s GPA. Instead, declining grades only predicted worse stress hormones among students who believed that worsening grades were a permanent and hopeless state of affairs.

Keeping stress at bay

We also investigated the social side of the high school transition. In this study, instead of teaching students that their smartness can change, we taught them that their social standing – that is, whether you are bullied or excluded or left out – can change over time. We then looked at high school students’ stress responses to daily social difficulties. That is, we taught them a growth mindset about their social lives.

In this study, students came into the laboratory and were asked to give a public speech in front of upper-year students. The topic of the speech was what makes someone popular in high school. Following this, students had to complete a difficult mental math task in front of the same upper-year students. This is called the Trier Social Stress Test, and it has proven to be an effective and ethical way to examine physiological signatures of stress responses. Public speaking is stressful but is no different from common experiences in high school. Students are thoroughly debriefed and have the opportunity to have a more lighthearted interaction with the upper-year students afterward. Parents also consented before allowing their children to participate.

Students who were not taught that people can change showed poor stress responses. When these students gave the speech, their blood vessels contracted and their hearts pumped less blood through the body – both responses that the body shows when it is preparing for damage or defeat after a physical threat. Then they gave worse speeches and made more mistakes in math.

But when students were taught that people can change, they had better responses to stress, in part because they felt like they had the resources to deal with the demanding situation. Students who got the growth mindset intervention showed less-constricted blood vessels and their hearts pumped more blood – both of which contributed to more oxygen getting to the brain, and, ultimately, better performance on the speech and mental math tasks.

These findings lead to several possibilities that we and others are investigating further.

First, we are working to replicate these findings in more diverse school communities. We want to know in which types of schools and for which kinds of students these growth mindset ideas help young people adapt to the challenges of high school. And where do they need to be paired with other resources to have their strongest effects? We have made a free beta version of our intervention available to schools or parents.

We also hope to learn how teachers, parents or school counselors can help students keep their ongoing academic or social difficulties in perspective. We wonder what would happen if schools helped to make beliefs about the potential for change and improvement a larger feature of the overall school culture, especially for students starting the ninth grade.

How ‘story maps’ redraw the world using people’s real-life experiences

August 10, 2018 6.41am EDT


Lauren Drakopulos

PhD Candidate, Department of Georgaphy, University of Washington

Shefali Juneja Lakhina

PhD Candidate, Australian Centre for Culture, Environment, Society and Space, University of Wollongong

Disclosure statement

Lauren Drakopulos received funding from University of Washington Simpson Center for the Humanities through their Public Projects in the Humanities Fellowship, in partnership with Washington Sea Grant.

Shefali Juneja Lakhina’s doctoral research is funded by the Australian Research Council award to Dr Christine Eriksen and the joint State and Commonwealth Natural Disaster Resilience Program by the New South Wales Office of Emergency Management.

Maps are an important part of our everyday lives.

We use them for driving directions, to look up restaurants or stores and parse election data. We can even use smartphone maps to locate friends when they’re out on the town.

What digital mapping tools like Google Maps or Citymapper generally don’t tell us is how a certain street got its name, or what issues are of critical cultural importance to a community.

But “story maps” – an interactive form of drawing the world around us and an increasingly popular form of mapping – can do all this and more.

As geographers, we believe story maps can also help people better understand such complex global issues as human rights, climate change and refugee resettlement.

Here are a few examples.

Untold histories

Story maps typically combine geographic maps with narrative text, images and multimedia content to tell a richer, often hidden story of a given place.

Julian Barr, a geographer at the University of Washington and an LGBTQ historian, has transformed a printed walking tour of Seattle’s Pioneer Square into a digitized, interactive self-guided tour of Seattle’s queer history.

The Pioneer Square walking tour, first created by the Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project in the late 1990s, was designed simply to commemorate the area’s history.

“It was conducted a couple of times a year to engage the public with a queer history that is not obvious or apparent,” Barr explains.

In 2017, Barr decided to make the tour available to a wider audience and offer it in a more interactive format. He took it online and added historical photographs from newspaper archives about Occidental Square, the site of major protests against a 1978 anti-lesbian bill, and on the backstory behind every gay bar in the area.

A new digital tour of Seattle’s Pioneer Square allows users to interact with the city’s queer history.

People can now learn more about how each stop on the walk has helped build Seattle’s local LGBTQ community since the 1890s.

“Digitizing the tour allowed me to make this important local history more accessible and engaging” for a broader audience, he says.

Personal journeys

Story maps can provide insights into the experiences of refugees as they settle into new lives far from home.

In 2017, as part of doctoral research at Australia’s University of Wollongong, interviews were conducted with 26 people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Myanmar, Syria and Uganda about their experience of resettling in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia.

The Illawarra is safer than the war zones the refugees fled. But it is also home to a range of seasonal hazards, including flooding, bush fires, hail, strong winds and lightning. Ten of the 26 refugees interviewed reported being caught unaware by severe weather during their first years of living in the Illawarra.

The detailed, hand-drawn charts that emerged from the interviews plot refugees’ experiences en route to Australia, showing their journey from “risks” – flooding, fire and the like – to the “safety” of family, neighbors and community.

This map shows how Syrian refugees fled danger back home to find relative safety in Australia — and how policymakers can better help them resettle. S. Juneja

These charts, now available online in digital form, offer insight into how refugees apply their past disaster-survival experience to stay safe in Australia.

City councils, local emergency agencies and community groups are now working directly with former refugees to design more responsive and relevant disaster preparedness and response services in the Illawarra.

Mapping climate change

Story mapping can even be done in places with little or no regular internet access by building on the visual and oral mapping traditions of local communities.

In 2016, University of Washington professor Jin-Kyu Jung, working with Ecuadorian subsistence farmers, used Post-It notes to facilitate a community discussion on climate change.

Mapping climate change on Post-Its in Ticatilín-Macaló Grande, Ecuador. Jin-Kyu Jung. 18 June 2016., Author provided

“The locals have a very limited understanding of maps,” Jung told us. “And they really couldn’t precisely point out where climate changes are happening.”

So Jung asked 16 male and female farmers from the Ticatilin-Marcaló Grande community in the mountainous central Ecuadorian province of Cotopaxi to answer three questions: Has your community changed since you were a child? How has the climate changed since then? Are there any past climate-related events that affected you the most?

A word cloud representing Ecuadorian farmers’ perception of climate change. J-K Jung

They wrote their answers on Post-It notes and stuck them on a map of the area.

The result was a deeply personal and geographically detailed narrative about climate change in this swath of the high Andes.

Farmers observed that local grasslands were drying up, making food and water for livestock harder to find. Some said they had changed how they farmed in response. Others prayed before heading to their fields for the harvest, understanding severe climate events as a punishment from “taitita (father) God.”

Jung hopes his story maps – along with the journal article that they helped inform – can help Ecuadorian policymakers design responsive and relevant climate policies for the Andean region.

What story maps can teach us next

The three projects outlined here are just a snapshot of a much broader universe of story maps.

Story mapping is a versatile tool for engaging with people whose tales often go untold, informing how communities and governments think about the history and future of the places they call home.

Aberystwyth University’s Global-Rural project explains how globalization impacts the Welsh town of Newtown by tracing the sourcing, production and sale of the soft drink Fanta. Global-Rural Project

By making uber-local or highly personal experiences more visible, story maps have the potential to tell a more nuanced, complex story about some of the most important issues of the day, from globalization to migration and beyond.

Our research suggests its power as a storytelling tool, not for just geographers but activists, policymakers and neighborhoods alike.


Staff Reports