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Author Archives: ashleyfetterolf


National Novel Writing Month ended at 12:01 a.m. on December 1, and this year twelve intrepid student writers celebrated a successful month of novelling! Indian Creek students from 7th through 12th grade attempted to write their novels in 30 days during the month of November. Some of them gathered every Monday and Wednesday afternoon to meet for NaNoWriMo writing club, while others could only write during their free time (what is free time?!). Altogether, this year’s group of Indian Creek novelists wrote an ASTOUNDING 114,970 words!


On December 6, the student novelists gathered together to celebrate the end of the month of reckless writing and share their novels with each other. Among those celebrating were THREE student novelists who reached their word-count goals and WON NaNoWriMo this year!


This year’s novels were OUTSTANDING! Students wrote novels that covered a range of genres, including mystery and thriller, romance, paranormal, fantasy, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, and super-hero adventures.

During December and throughout the rest of the year, student novelists will continue to work on their books. Editing, revising, and adding even more fantastic scenes will be their goals. For the three students who reached their word-count goals, they will have the option of using a self-publishing site to receive a copy of their own book once they are ready to print!

Well done, novelists! I’m already excited for next November!

Every year, we celebrate LGBTQ Pride during the month of June. During this month, we honor the heroes who fought for equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans during the Stonewall Riots. We also remember members of the LGBTQ community who were lost to HIV/AIDS or hate crimes, and we celebrate the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals in our communities and nationwide.

This Pride Month, do your part to honor the LGBTQ characters and writers by picking up one (or more!) of these books at your local public library or independently owned bookstore:

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Starr Carter doesn’t really want to be at the Garden Heights party, but her friend Kenya pressures her into tagging along. Luckily, her old friend Khalil is there to take her mind off of how uncomfortable she is. When shots ring out in the distance (a regular occurence in their low-income community), Khalil and Starr take off in his car. A night of near-misses turns into a nightmare when Khalil and Starr are pulled over by a white cop; Khalil, sensing that Starr is frightened, leans into the car to check on her and is shot, over and over, by the police officer. In the days and weeks that follow, multiple voices ring out with their opinions of Khalil’s death. Some people say that he was a gang-banger and a drug-dealer, but Starr only remembers the little boy who was her best friend. Tensions rise in Starr’s community, but the news of Khalil’s death has little impact on her elite (mostly white) private-school friends. Starr feels torn between two worlds: the world of Garden Heights, where gang violence and poverty is the norm but the people in the community still work together for a better future; and the outside world, where white police officers who shoot unarmed black teens are seen as sympathetic by a biased media.


Starr’s story really begins when she decides to speak out about Khalil’s death and the circumstances surrounding the shooting. She testifies before a grand-jury and gives an interview on television. When her interview airs, Starr and her family face pressure from a local gang-lord for Starr’s “dry-snitching.” As tensions rise at home, Starr worries more and more that her speaking out will result in further violence in her neighborhood. Despite her fears, Starr refuses to be silenced. She raises her voice and remembers her friend for who he truly was: a caring young man who went to great lengths to take care of his family.

Angie Thomas’ best-selling young adult novel is heart-rending, tear-jerking, and truly beautiful. Set in the present-day, this book is perfectly appropriate for the nation’s current atmosphere of distrust between black communities and the police officers that serve them. Especially interesting is Khalil’s meditation on Tupac Shakur’s T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. and what it means to low-income, majority black communities.

For readers who enjoyed Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys and Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down, this book inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you think.

2017 is the year of the book-to-television adaptation. The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu and American Gods on Starz are among the popular novel adaptations that hit the small screen this year. If you haven’t checked out these series yet, here’s what to expect:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, adapted for Hulu by Bruce Miller


In this near-future dystopia, the United States has fallen and been replaced by the Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian regime where women have no rights and their ability to bear children define their worth to society. We experience this nightmarish new reality through the eyes of Offred, the handmaid to an important government official and his barren wife. As a handmaid, Offred’s sole purpose is to have a child for The Commander and his wife. Despite her grim new way of life, Offred, previously known as June, remembers a time before Gilead, when she had a husband and daughter who were taken from her by the regime. In a time of extreme suspicion, when government agents known as “Eyes” roam the streets in black vans, Offred does not know who she can trust and where she can turn for news of her family or hope of escape from her forced service as a handmaid.

While the series generally follows the plot of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, it has been updated to reflect a more current time period. In flashbacks, Offred and her friends are seen calling Ubers, using cell phones, and discussing terrorist attacks. This show is pretty graphic, so if you’re sensitive about violence, language, or scenes involving sex, skip this show and book. If you enjoy speculative fiction (like 1984 or Fahrenheit 451), this might be a good book and/or show for you!

American Gods by Neil Gaiman, adapted for Starz by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green

MV5BMzI4NDE4MDY0Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU4MzY1MTI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_If you’ve never picked up a book by Neil Gaiman, this might not be the place to start. Neil Gaiman is weird, and American Gods, written in 2001, is really weird. Set in present-day America, American Gods follows the life of Shadow Moon, a recently-released-from-prison convict who finds himself in the employ of Mr. Wednesday, a strange con-man who has a hidden agenda. As Shadow and Mr. Wednesday travel across America, they meet with other equally strange people, and Shadow begins to understand that these figures are actually incarnations of old mythological dieties. It is not until he is threatened by a “toad-skin-vaping” teenager in a high-tech limousine that Shadow realizes that Mr. Wednesday and his old-world friends might be in danger of being replaced by “new gods.” In the Starz series, each episode opens with a “Coming to America” scene, in which the audience is introduced to an old god and his or her transference to America from their fatherland. In the second episode, for example, the African trickster god Anansi is brought to the new world in the bowels of a Dutch slave ship headed for America.

Only two episodes have aired so far, but the series is shaping up to be just as weird as Gaiman’s novel. Again, if you have an aversion to violence, strong language, or sex, skip this show (and the book). If you like mythology, epic road trips, and dark humor, pick up American Gods in the library or check out the show!

Other book-to-television adaptations that you can check out include:

13 Reasons Why and A Series of Unfortunate Events, both on Netflix.


#ShePersisted has become the new #NastyWoman after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell silenced Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren during debates on the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General on February 7. If you’d like to learn more about persistent women, check out these books in the Upper School Library today!

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In light of recent events, it seems more important than ever to remember that empathy and kindness are Creek values, Maryland values, and American values. Studies have shown that reading stories about people who are different than you can help you  develop empathy for those people and their unique situations. The next time you visit the library for a book to read, try out one of these books about immigrants and refugees!

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Time for more brain rules!

#7: “Sleep well, think well.”

Your brain is so amazing that it even processes information while you sleep! While you sleep at night, your brain is consolidating and processing the information that you took in during the day. Without sleep, your brain is more likely to need to re-learn that information. Here at Indian Creek, our classes and midterm tests start later than at other schools in order to give you more time to sleep, so take advantage it! Get plenty of sleep during your upcoming midterms!

#8: “Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.”

While quick bursts of stress – about 30 seconds or so – are good for your brain functions, long-term stressors can negatively effect the way you learn. Midterms can be a stressful time, so visit the library between tests to take a breather, read something fun, grab a 20 minute nap, or even do some calming yoga! Practice calming exercises that you know work for you, and see how well your brain performs with less stress.

#9: “Stimulate more of the senses.”

If possible, try to incorporate more than one or two of your senses while you’re learning something new. Are you watching a PowerPoint presentation or a movie? Try chewing gum or kneading a stress ball at the same time. Then, when you study that information for your midterms, recreate those sensory environments by chewing the same gum or kneading the same stress ball. With your teacher’s permission, take that gum or stress ball with you into the midterm. When your senses are stimulated, you’re more likely to encode and remember the information!

#10: “Vision trumps all other senses.”

Looking at images can help you encode and recall information much better than if you were to just hear that information. In this TED Talk, Sunni Brown talks about how doodling can help you retain and understand information much better:

If your study guides don’t come with images, add your own! Draw pictures or print out images that help you understand what you are studying and keep them with your studying guides.

#11: “Male and female brains are different.”

Male brains are more likely to remember the gist of an event, while female brains will remember the details. How can this help you rock the midterms? Get a study group with a mix of boys and girls from your class! You will get two different perspectives on the information, and will be more likely to understand it better!

#12: “We are powerful and natural explorers.”

Want to understand a topic better? Explore! Take the time to delve deeper into the topic by searching online, reading books, and talking to your teacher about what interests you. Taking an active role in your learning will ensure that you remember  and understand more information!


As you prepare for the midterms, keep these brain rules in mind. If you need help getting ready for your tests, visit the library! We can help you set up a study schedule, provide a quiet place to study individually or in a group, and give any other assistance you might need! During midterms (Jan. 13 – Jan. 19), the library will be a silent study-hall during testing times and after school.

(this is a repost from our 2015 post)

Midterms are only days away! What are you doing to prepare? Are you planning on spacing out your studying? Getting a friend to quiz you? Using your study guides or flash cards? Cramming an hour before your test? Here at Indian Creek, we learn that everyone learns differently, but there are some things about the human brain that NEVER change. Dr. John Medina’s book, Brain Rules, can offer some great advice to make your brain work for you during the stressful midterm season.

brain-rules-mindmap#1. “Exercise boosts brain power.”

The weather outside might be frightful, but don’t let that slow you down! While you’re studying for midterms, remember to take some time to exercise your body, as well as your mind. Take a break to do some jumping jacks, run in place, or jog around the school! The increased flow of oxygen to your brain will increase your brain power!

#2. “The human brain evolved, too.”

The human brain is a learning machine! If you start to feel hopeless in the midst of your midterm studies, just remember that your brain has evolved over millions of years to do extraordinary things!

#3. “Every brain is wired differently.”

Indian Creek is a great place to learn about how you learn – this is called meta-cognition. If you know that you learn better when there is music playing, make a study-time playlist and get to work! If you need absolute silence, borrow some noise-canceling headphones from the library! Don’t be discouraged if it seems like your peers are catching on faster than you; every brain is wired differently. Practice study habits that you know are successful for your brain!

#4. “We don’t pay attention to boring things.”

Sometimes Netflix calls to us with its siren song, but resist! If you’re having trouble focusing during your study sessions, try the following things:

  • Shut off the TV in the background.
  • Shut off your phone. The constant beeps and boops of notifications coming in will make it really hard to keep your attention focused on your studying.
  • Take breaks every 10 minutes or so. Get a drink, do some jumping jacks, stand on your head! Just DON’T. CHECK. YOUR. PHONE!
  • Think about how the things you’re studying apply to you. You’re more likely to pay attention if the facts feel relevant to your life.  Talk to your teachers if you’re having trouble making these connections.

#5. “Repeat to remember.”

Repetition is the key to remembering facts. You lose most of what you learn 30 seconds after your brain receives the information! To remember the information you’ll need for your midterms, make sure to revisit your study guides more than once. The more times you repeat the information, the more likely you are to remember on test day!

#6. “Remember to repeat.”

This might sound easy, but the trick to studying with repetition is to space out the times that you repeat information to yourself. Repeating something three times fast, for example, won’t do you much good on your test. Instead, try completing 10 minutes-worth of one study guide, take a break and study something new, and then revisit the first study guide again, repeating the information for a second time. Then, repeat again!

Keeping Brain Rule #4 in mind, we’ll keep our post short. In the next installment, we’ll look at the next 6 Brain Rules and how you can use them to your benefit during testing season. Keep your eyes peeled for the second part of this series on rocking the midterms with Brain Rules!

(This is a repost of our 2015 post)

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Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a day to learn more about HIV/AIDS, support people living with the virus, remember those who succumbed to it, and fight for further research for a vaccination and cure. Although people living with HIV/AIDS no longer face the kind of systematic ostracization that they did in the 1980s, when HIV/AIDS outbreaks were at their highest, there is still a stigma associated with the virus and the people who live with it.

One way to fight ignorance and intolerance is through reading! Reading books that depict characters living with HIV/AIDS, their struggles, and their bravery, can help readers better understand the virus, how it affects those who are living with it, and how it affects their families and friends. Unfortunately, a preliminary search for young adult novels that feature characters with HIV/AIDS shows a few things:

  1. Young adult novels that feature characters living with HIV/AIDS are pretty rare.
  2. Young adult novels that feature characters living with HIV/AIDS are mostly in the “precautionary tale” vein, meaning the HIV-positive character is depicted as a pitiable subject who teaches the main character (and reader) about the dangers of sex and/or intravenous drug use.
  3. Young adult novels rarely feature characters living with HIV/AIDS in which the illness is normalized, meaning it is not the character’s defining characteristic.

That said, there are some YA novels that feature HIV-positive characters that are worth your time. Give these a try:

Blue Pills: a positive love story by Frederick Peeters

This beautiful graphic novel follows the love story of Fred and Cati, who is HIV-positive. In addition to learning how to navigate an emotional and sexual relationship while living with HIV, this novel also deals with every-day topics like raising a child, falling in love, and talking to mammoths. This graphic novel is just that – graphic; there are depictions of sex and adult language, so keep that in mind before you pick it up.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

In this novel by popular YA novelist David Levithan, former boyfriends Harry and Craig attempt to break a Guinness World record by kissing for 32 hours straight. This novel is narrated by “the shadow uncles,” a Greek-chorus-style amalgam of men who died of HIV/AIDS during the 1980s epidemic.

I wish I could recommend more than two books, but I can’t! I’ll keep looking for more YA novels in which HIV/AIDS is handled with empathy and respect. In the meantime, check out Two Boys Kissing and Blue Pills. If you want to learn more about HIV/AIDS, check out the World AIDS Day website or visit the library for more information.


After the election of President-Elect Trump, many people were quick to point fingers at various media organizations that may have contributed to the unlikely election. One scapegoat that has popped up is Facebook, the world’s most popular social media website. The Pew Research Center has recently found that 62% of adults get their news from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit, and at least 18% of adults use social media for the sole purpose of seeking out news “often.”More alarming, the study found that 64% of Facebook users get their news from only one source, which means that many people who rely on social media for news are bound to get stuck in an “information bubble” that only reinforces what they already believe to be true.


Image credit: Pew Research Center

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, has already come out against the accusations that Facebook had a major influence on the presidential election. However, anyone who has used Facebook knows that the Newsfeed algorithm tends to set us up with links that we’ll be predisposed to “like.” We follow people who tend to have the same opinions on important topics like politics, civil rights, and equality. We block people who don’t share our views or who espouse ideas that are offensive to us.

The echo chamber effect is one of the reasons why information literacy is so important. “Information literacy” refers to the skills and dispositions that help people identify information needs and evaluate information for reliability, purpose, currency, and authority. In the current political climate, it’s important to hone skills that help you recognize bias in the news. It’s important to be able to recognize the difference between news articles and op-ed pieces on reliable news sources (a skill that Trump has not developed). It’s important find out more about the people writing the news, and looking into the backgrounds of the news sources. It’s important to entertain opposing viewpoints, especially when reading personal blogs or obviously biased writing.

With that in mind, here are some excellent resources to help you find reliable information and evaluate it:

ProPublica, a non-profit investigative news source:

National Public Radio:

The CRAP Test Song:

Opposing Viewpoints in Context (you will need a password): 

Still having trouble finding reliable information? If you need more help, visit the Upper School library or your local public library! Don’t let misinformation win!