Spooktacular STEM Projects to Try Today!

There are tons of projects that you can do from home all year round that teach kids STEM, but with any holiday come new, exciting projects that are sure to keep your child entertained while learning a thing or two! Check out these Halloween themed STEM projects that are sure to have your child’s wheels spinning and creative juices flowing.

Magnetic Slime

Slime is all the rage these days and kids always seem eager to learn new ways to make this gooey, slimy, gross concoction. That’s where magnetic slime comes in! It’s super stretchy and squishy and does some pretty cool tricks, thanks to the addition of the magnetic element.


Here’s what you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup Elmer’s glue
  • ¼ cup Liquid starch
  • Disposable bowls
  • Craft sticks
  • Disposable gloves
  • 2 tablespoons Iron Oxide powder
  • A really strong magnet

Here’s what you do:

  1. Put the liquid starch into a disposable bowl. Add the Iron Oxide powder and stir until well blended.
  2. To the bowl, add the Elmer’s glue and mix really well. It takes a while to incorporate, but just keep stirring.
  3. Put on your disposable gloves and now mix the slime with your hands. Knead well until it’s thoroughly mixed. If you get any black solution on your hands or arms, wash it off right away as it can stain.
  4. To rid any excess liquid from the slime, dry it gently with paper towel. Once the excess liquid is removed, you no longer have to worry about your hands turning black. It only happens in the liquid state. Once you’ve completed this step, it’s ready!

Try moving the magnet slowly over the slime and watch it dance and rise to the magnet. It’s really cool and your kids from elementary through middle school will enjoy this activity! (Just watch out for little tikes because magnets pose a choking hazard)

Pumpkin Catapults

Who doesn’t love trying to fling something across the room? Just about every kid I know would love to challenge their family or friends and see who can build the better catapult and toss their pumpkin the farthest. Get the challenge started!


Here’s what you need:

  • Various size rubber bands
  • Plastic teaspoons
  • Masking tape
  • Fat popsicle sticks
  • Mini candy corn pumpkins
  • Mini real pumpkins

Here’s what you do:

You child(ren) can use the various objects listed above to build their own catapult. As a suggestion, look up images of actual catapults on the internet so they can pay close attention to how they are crafted. They will probably notice that catapults have a strong, triangular base, require a wedge, and will need an arm to hold the pumpkin.

Once their catapults are built, have them do trial runs starting with the candy corn pumpkins and then take turns launching the real mini pumpkins. Have them measure the distance that each person achieved and then crown a winner!

Pumpkin Castles

This is a great, fun little activity that even the littlest school-aged kids can do. It only requires to things (three, if you include a little bit of patience!) and is perfect for kindergarten and first graders!candy coorn

Here’s what you need:

  • Toothpicks
  • Candy corn and pumpkins

Here’s what you do:

Put the toothpicks in one bowl and the candy in another. Working alongside your child, show them how to construct a castle by using the candy to hold the toothpicks in place. You can show them how to make squares for the base, triangles, pyramids, and cubes. Then, let them have at it and let their imaginations run wild! You’ll be surprised at what they come up with. The best part is at the end, they get to eat part of their creation!

Mutant Eggs

This experiment is so neat and with the added last step, makes it a fabulous, intriguing Halloween project!

mutant eggs

Here’s what you need:

  • Eggs
  • Mason jars or any tall glass
  • White or cider vinegar
  • Corn syrup
  • Green food coloring

Here’s what you do:

  1. Place the raw eggs into the jars and fill it with vinegar. You can loosely cover the jar if you wish and then leave it on the counter for 24-48 hours.
    • Did your child notice any observations when the egg was submerged in the vinegar? Little bubbles formed because the carbon on the egg and the vinegar reacted, causing carbon dioxide bubbles.
  2. After the time is up, remove the eggs from the vinegar jar and make your observations! The egg no longer looks like a traditional egg. It’s more of a rubbery, balloon-like membrane. Gently rinse off the egg.
    • Ask your child what happened to the shell. The shells of an egg are made up of two chemical elements: calcium and carbon. They stick to each other and form calcium carbonate crystals. Vinegar is very acidic and works to break apart the crystals so the shell dissolved and left us with that cool, rubbery membrane.
  3. In a clean jar, place the rinsed eggs and pour in enough corn syrup to submerge them. Add a few dots of green food coloring. Place the jar carefully in the refrigerator and let it sit for 24 hours. What you are left with are slightly shrunken, green mutant eggs!
    • What did your child observe in this step? The egg has shriveled! The membrane let water molecules pass via a process called osmosis. Since corn syrup has almost no water, the water moves out of the egg and into the corn syrup, causing the egg to shrivel up.

We think your kids will have a spooktacular time making these fun and easy Halloween themed STEM projects!

Cyberbullying: Can You Spot the Signs?

Think back for a minute and envision the days when you were in grammar school. Chances are when I say the word “bullying,” a few faces probably come to mind instantly. You can most likely think of at least one person who was bullied and at least one person who was the one doing the bullying. Every school had them. They existed in every grade. Some bullying was worse than others, but it affected the kids none the less.

The biggest difference about then and now is that back then, we knew our bullies. We could talk to our teachers, our principals, our parents, and try to work out the differences and at least try to agree to put an end to the bullying. These days, the bully is often times hidden behind a computer where the simple strokes of their keyboard leaves imprints on those they bully forever.

Cyberbullying, or the use of electronic communication to bully a person, is faceless and often times nameless. A person can hide behind the keys, so to speak, and be anyone they want to be and say anything they want to say, often times with no repercussion or consequences. It is for this reason that cyberbullying is on the rise and happens so often. Things are said online that one would never have the courage or audacity to say to someone’s face.

Computer hands

Cyberbullying can occur on social media and various apps that the child is using and often times, the parents or guardians are none the wiser. Sometimes parents may find themselves in a situation where they aren’t even aware of all of the apps and websites that their child visits or has accounts on. The greater their online presence, the greater their chance of being bullied becomes.

Knowing the Signs

The good news is that as parents or caregivers, you are not totally helpless in spotting and addressing bullying. There are some signs that your child may exhibit if they are involved with cyberbullying.

Keep an eye out to see if your child:

  • Hides their screen or device when you or others are nearby and could sneak a peek
  • Won’t discuss what they are doing on the internet
  • Has a sudden increase/decrease in frequency of device use or is using it at strange hours
  • Shows anger or other high emotional responses when using their device
  • Starts to dodge social situations (particularly those that were once loved), becomes depressed, or shows no interest in people and/or activities
  • Creates new social media accounts or deletes their account

If you noticed any of these signs, your child may be involved with cyberbullying.

I noticed some signs. What next?

If your child is showing some signs of cyberbullying, it’s important not to push it to the wayside in hopes that it will resolve on its own. Often times, as a means of avoiding confrontation or having an awkward discussion, that’s what happens. Keep in mind that you are the adult. You are your child’s advocate. You know it’s not right and it needs to stop and be addressed.

Let your child know that you are concerned that something is happening to them online and that often times people pick on others in this manner because they are unhappy and lack confidence themselves. Make sure you talk to your child in a private, nonthreatening setting and remain calm and collected.

If they admit to being bullied, dig deeper to try and find out where the bullying is occurring. Often time’s people need to be blocked or accounts need to be deleted and then reestablished under a new user name. This is unfortunate, but can act as a deterrent for the bully.

If the bullying is happening through a school site, administrators should be contacted immediately to help put an end to the situation. All parties involved should be addressed and the manner should be put to rest. If the bullying continues or starts back up, further action is needed by the school.

Perhaps the best way to understand cyberbullying is by perusing the social media, gaming, and other frequented apps yourself. Having an understanding of how they work and how people interact on these sites may prove to be invaluable, especially when you have the discussion with your child and try to take corrective measures. You may have accounts on these sites and have witnessed the bullying that can occur first hand. Knowledge is power and it will help if you know all about those apps that your child visits.

dude in grass

Luckily, devices often are made with a parental control feature. Some are more detailed than others, but they allow you to have some control over what your child is allowed to do while on the computer/phone/tablet/etc. Make good use of these parental controls. Put a lock on various things that could be of danger or should be regulated. This way, you will have to enter a secret code that you created to give them access to those areas. It’s also advised to change that code on a regular basis.

Always remember, you are your child’s biggest role model. They look up to you in every area. Demonstrate positive behavior and positive interactions with others. Assist your child in building self-awareness and teach them to have empathy for others. This goes a long way.

Cyberbullying will probably always have some hold on the internet, because it’s an easy, faceless way for cowards to attack and prey on others. It’s important for everyone to know what to look for to spot if it’s happening, and what to do if they think it’s occurring.

For any additional resources or tips on how to prevent bullying, visit:



The presence, or absence, of this one word changes lives. So many students we talk to feel completely hopeless about their future. It is impossible for students to move forward in such a despondent state. As educators we have to take on the role of instilling hope in order to help at-risk learners push on and find success in their lives.

Gabby M. came to us with no hope. She was 18 and almost 2 full years behind in credits. She had dropped out of school, was depressed, overwhelmed and believing those who were telling her that getting her GED was her only option. Gabby’s cousin saw an ad on her Face Book page for My Virtual Academy and convinced her to give it a try.



Gabby found success right away by completing several of her English requirements quickly. That gave her hope that she could get through the rest of the courses. While Gabby has had ups and downs, she credits her teachers and advocate for their continued encouragement and support. Gabby is now only 4 classes away from graduating and is considering going into cosmetology or becoming a midwife.

Students who earn their high school diploma have so many more choices for their future, including more opportunities to be accepted into the military and attend college, as well as more job opportunities. We strive to give all of our students hope. Hope that their lives will improve and that they can achieve their dreams. My Virtual Academy shows them that there is help available. Our teachers and advocates understand that our students have many roadblocks and things do not come easily for them.


A parent contacted me yesterday asking if there was anything we could do for her 19 year old son who had dropped out of school in the 8th or 9th grade. Thankfully, Michigan laws have recently changed and he is eligible to attend high school for free through the age of 21. While attending our virtual high school he will be able to work at an accelerated pace and complete all of his classes. He will have his work ahead of him, but with the help of our online teachers and advocates, both he and his mother now have hope for his future.


Danielle Yanssens

My Virtual Academy


What is Personalized Learning?

Personalized Learning

Danielle Yanssens

Personalized Learning “refers to a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students”, according to The Glossary of Education Reform by Great Schools Partnership. How does Back on Track, offer personalized learning?

When a student submits an inquiry online or calls the Back on Track office, we are able to offer them several different options to acquire their high school diploma. For students who have previously dropped out of high school and are 21 or older, we enroll them into Clintondale Virtual School, a credit recovery program which, for a small fee, allows adults to achieve their high school diploma. This appeals to adults who had considered getting their GED in the past, which limits their options for post-secondary education.

For those students who have previously dropped out of high school and are between the ages of 18 and 20, we suggest our tuition-free Step Up program where students work on one class at a time and are required to complete a minimum of one class per month, with the ability to work year round. This gives students the opportunity to work on completing their high school education at a faster rate than if they attending a full time high school. We have also found that for this population, students are able to find more success when focusing on just one course at a time, rather than the full six class course load.


Many students who are between the ages of 16 and 20 choose to attend one of our brick and mortar alternative education schools. This student population includes students that are teenage parents, potential dropouts, have been expelled from their traditional school, or have been court-ordered by the juvenile detention systems. Our alternative education locations offer various skilled trade courses where students can graduate with a certificate of completion to help them obtain employment right out of high school. While there is increased security at these locations, they are also staffed with caring employees who encourage students to complete their education and get on a better path for their future.

Parents with students in grades 6 through 12 will often contact us requesting information about our virtual school, My Virtual Academy. MVA partners with school districts throughout the state of Michigan, offering a fully online option for students. This appeals to a wide variety of students, including those looking to graduate early, students who struggle with mental or physical illness, teenage parents, students who do not feel safe in their traditional school due to bullying or students who have to work full time in order to help support their family.  We have students who are pursuing their passion, such as the theater or gymnastics, and choose online schooling to work around their schedules. Some parents even prefer their children attend a virtual school based on their cultural and religious beliefs.

In addition to the several different educational programs Back on Track offers to help meet the different learning needs of our students, we also offer a variety of learning experiences and instructional approaches. Our highly qualified, certified teachers ensure that the curriculum meets all Common Core Standards. Teachers have the ability to offer students different types of assessments based on their instructional needs, and offer in-person tutoring in addition to daily online tutoring. Students receive one-to-one instruction, with teachers contacting them a minimum of once per week, as well as participating in whole group activities in our weekly live sessions.

Untitled design (9)

While there are some obvious limitations to virtual and alternative learning, the many benefits often make Back on Track the best option for many students.

The 3 Biggest Reasons YOU Should Care About Math

By Nick Denault

♫ Money Money Money… MO-NEY! ♫

Did you know that studies have shown, that students will ultimately earn around $2,000 more PER YEAR for EVERY B or higher they achieve in one of their high school math courses!  Warning – Math ahead

2,000 x 4 H.S. Math Courses x 30 years of working…. = $240,000

That’s almost a quarter of a million dollars MORE in your working lifetime!

Think about it!  In every career path – from a job at Subway to a career in Sports Management – think of the hardest jobs in that path!


A Subway employee lets the register do all the work but the manager is responsible for balancing that register, assigning employee hours to keep the business profitable, and managing the stock counts for the store!  And a manager makes significantly more money for these responsibilities!

Want a job in sports?  Well the receptionist in the sports management department of a professional organization makes significantly less than the executive in charge of salary cap!  They are responsible for plotting player salaries and bonuses to be within “legal limits” not just for the current year, but for YEARS down the road!  Check out this interview with the Arizona Diamondbacks MLB team AGM!

A.)  Do you believe everything you see/read?
B.)  Do you consider yourself a “good” problem solver?

In today’s society, with social media inundating us at every turn, it is easy to get lost in the information.  There was actually a petition going around for us to ban dihydrogen monoxide in America!  Could you imagine?!?  ….have you Googled those terms yet?  Well, in math we associate the prefix “di” to mean “two”.  Dialogue (two people), divert (two paths) etc.  We also associate the prefix “mono” with “one”.  Monologue (one person), monopoly (one owner), monocle (that cool one-piece glasses thing that goes over one eye) etc.  Even without a background in math, we should know the background of these prefixes.  Imagine being fooled on a larger more complicated question.  Are all vaccinations dangerous?  Will climate change hurt us and can we fix it?  Or imagine not knowing how to calculate things that are guaranteed to impact your daily life.  How do I calculate how much interest I am paying each month on my credit card?  If the government raises the “mils” in my city, how much more in property taxes will I pay each year?  How much will my next hourly paycheck be and how can I figure out the percentage of the taxes that are taken out each pay period?  How much do I have to make each week before taxes to pay my monthly bills after taxes?

“Four out of five dentists choose our toothpaste!”.  That’s seems incredible.  Do you know what percentage this is?  Do you know how many dentists were sampled?  Five?  Ten?  Three-Thousand?  I was in a classroom once in which 3 students shared the exact same birthday.  Does this mean 3 students in every classroom are likely to share the same birthday?  Why or why not?

You only have a couple of options in this life:  let people who understand how to manipulate numbers take advantage of you, learn how to work with numbers well enough to work with them yourself, or stop reading this and then stop caring and then go back to your video game….but this means you are in that first category…sorry.

Do you consider yourself a good problem solver?  Congratulations!  I do as well.  But make no mistake, there are smarter people than you and I out there in the world.  And they often like to create problems for everyone else.  We all look up to those we think are better at something than us.  Pro Athletes, Actors, Politicians, Artists…  They may be better than us because they are talented, but they have outworked everyone else they have met along the way.  And if we put all of our eggs in one of these baskets and knowing full well that 99.9% of the baskets do indeed break, we have no one to blame but ourselves for our failures. Do we not owe it to ourselves to be well educated?  There is nothing more frustrating than losing an important battle not because we are not smart, but we simply lack the education needed to show the world how smart we truly are.

Great news though!  Want to be a better problem solver?  Most of us are doing it already!  Having a great understanding of words allows us to get our point across better so reading and writing are critical.  Play video games or apps?  These are scientifically proven to be GREAT at boosting problem solving skills!  But video games don’t end the conversation.  Studies show that being above average with playing video games only helps your overall real world problem solving ability when paired with average or higher reading and math scores.  It is one half of a puzzle.  Education is the other half.  Games like Tetris allow you to problem solve in 2D and games like Portal allow this in 3D! (Tetris come from “tetra”, a prefix meaning “4”…4 squares in each shape).

Algebra is just problem solving.  And it’s like any job you will ever have.  Learn the rules, apply the rules to the problem in front of you, achieve the simplest solution possible that solves the problem.  Close your eyes and imagine football…it’s rules…the problem…either score or stop them from doing so.  Now replace it with 2x+3+6x=19.  The rules of Algebra never change.  The solution is right there for the taking.


Suffer now…happy later.  Choosing a career.

Many of us have heard, “Find a career you love doing, and you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life”.  Although many of our careers – even if we are right where we want to be – will still require a great deal of “work” this quote helps us remember that we need to set up the life we want to live.  A quote that has stuck with me my whole life, is one that was given to me by my costuming professor when I was in college for Theatre.  (That’s right…a math teacher with a theatre degree as well!).  It was, “Quickly, Cheaply, Well-Done…Pick Two.”  It means that in life, there is no way to have it all.  You can apply this to simple examples and you can apply it to life.  How does math fit in?  Well we have already covered a little bit of the financial benefits, but think about the emerging industries in America.  Nearly every single one involves math!  Coding?  You have to take up through Calculus.  Engineering?  You really WILL need to know how far the tree is from an adjacent building and it’s angle of elevation.  Business Owner?  You have to know where the money is coming in, and where it is going out or more people will try to take it out.

If you do not want math to be a large part of your life, I can sympathize and understand.  But the better you are at math, the more of your financial future you will control.  If you do want math to be a part of your life because you either enjoy it, or you know how much it can benefit you down the road check out the website listed here.  Take a look at the highlighted sections?  Hard to deny the benefits, huh?  And all it takes to head in this direction is time and effort.  But we are all aware, that nothing in life worth doing….is easy.


Let’s Take a Trip through Time: Significant Historical Events

In our My Virtual Academy Social Studies curriculum, we offer a broad range of classes for our high school students that cover significant events, both past and present. Each of our social studies teachers would like to share an event from their specific course, that they feel is especially important for students to understand and dive further into. These Events include the Industrial Revolution, Civil War, World War 1, Roaring “20’s, and the 2013 Government Shutdown. Class is in session!

Industrial Revolution

-Mr. Jacob


In history there are many significant events that have shaped our world into what it is today.  Revolution, when bellowed, is a word that invokes a sense of uprising or call to action for many people.  The word has many meanings but has been used most synonymous with the overthrow of an organization or governing body.  The Industrial Revolution, however, is different from the typical revolution; it is more about significant change than it is an immediate correction that is fueled by politics.  For tens of thousands of years humans hunted, gathered, farmed and made products by hand; they used very few tools to accomplish these tasks.  The Industrial Revolution was a major shift in how we made everyday products.  By mechanizing we were able to mass produce items like clothing, furniture, tools and automobiles.  In about 200,000 years’ time modern man had not seen massive change, until the Industrial Revolution.  In the span of the last 200 years we went from horse riding for transportation to using rocket ships to go to our moon; it’s quite amazing.


The Civil War   

-Mr. Thomas


Is the United States one nation, indivisible or is the United States a collection of linked but separate states?

The Civil War was the most deadly and arguably the most important event in the nation’s history. There are few events in American history that have changed our country like the Civil War. The Civil War was fought from 1860-1865, but there was sectional tension building up from as early as 1857. Slavery was the root cause; however the tension spanned across America socially, politically, philosophically, and economically. Some historians may argue that everything leading up to the Civil War was caused by the Civil War and everything after was caused by the Civil War. Almost every part of American society was fundamentally changed. Americans killed Americans until the death toll reached 600,000 people, about 2% of the nation’s population at the time. The war changed the way the Americans viewed their own nation and it answered many of the fundamental questions that Americans had at the time: free or slave, one or many, united or divided.

U.S. Involvement in World War I?

-Mr. Parmentier

For the most part, the United States did everything in their power to stay out of the fighting in Europe when war broke out in 1914. Most people in the U.S. didn’t feel the need to risk American lives for a war that was so far away and, in theory, didn’t cause them much concern. European countries were fighting for political and military positioning; an issue the U.S. didn’t want to interfere in due to our business and military alliances with both sides. Despite an attempt to block our trade, and the sinking of the Lusitania, which killed 128 Americans, we remained neutral. However, our position would change in January 1917 when we received word that Germany had sent a letter to Mexico promising to help them invade the U.S. once they were victorious in Europe. Upon receiving the ‘Zimmerman Note’, the U.S. and its citizens were in full support of going to war. The U.S. would help the Triple Entente defeat Germany and it’s Triple Alliance, thus, laying the foundations for WWII in the 1940s. Here is a copy of the actual note sent from Germany to Mexico.



The Roaring ‘20s

– Thomas Stedman

            In the decade following the conclusion of The Great War, America experienced a time of unprecedented success and prosperity.  By contributing to an Allied victory in WWI, America proved that it belonged as a world superpower, used its newfound success to make important financial, cultural and political contributions that can still be seen today.

Improvements in technology opened the door for new jobs in manufacturing which raised wages and created a middle class.  With more time and money, Americans were able to spend their income on recreational items such as automobiles, radios, and movie tickets.  Despite a federal ban on the production, transportation and sale of alcohol, jazz clubs and speakeasies thrived.  The passing of the 19th amendment allowed women to vote for the first time, altering the traditional views that Americans had on the role of women in society.


Image Courtesy of headsupdetroit.com “Woodward Avenue in 1917”

            Although the “roaring twenties” are often remembered in a positive light, there were a lot of growing pains and racial tension during the era as well.  The resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan intimidated and negatively affected the lives of immigrants and African-Americans.  The spending and extravagance of the decade came to a screeching halt with the bank failure of 1929, leading to the Great Depression.

The ‘20s are a fascinating look into the imagination, willpower and creativity of the American people.  Within the span of 10 years, the country had completely changed the status-quo and paved the way for even more radical changes in the way of life after World War II.

 2013 Government Shutdown

-Mrs. Olind


According to the Constitution, the responsibility for funding the government (passing the budget and paying the bills) falls on Congress. If it doesn’t perform this function, different government-run places and processes, including passport requests, issuing checks to government employees (Congress not included), and mowing the lawn and changing the trash at national parks and monuments, stop. In 2013, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) had been a source of conflict between Republicans and Democrats in the government, and Congress was fighting about whether or not to continue Obamacare and fund the programs within it. As a result, the Senate and the House did not pass the Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund normal government programs past September 30, 2013 (the end of their budget year); because of this, the Federal Government partially shutdown, meaning that essential government functions (mail, payment to the military, etc.) continued, but others stopped. The shutdown lasted 16 days, and 800,000 federal employees were furloughed, meaning they didn’t receive a paycheck during this period. On October 16th, 2013 Congress finally passed the CR to start things back up again, but the shutdown cost the economy 24 billion dollars when all was said and done.

More information aimed at high school students: Dogo News: Fodder for Young Minds

(Material drawn from Forbes.com and CNN.com)

When I say the word Scientist, what do you picture in your mind?

The science department here at My Virtual Academy posed this question to our online high school students. We asked our students to draw a picture of what they think a scientist looks like. Not surprisingly, most students drew a white male, with crazy hair and wearing a lab coat. Basically, a drawing of Albert Einstein.  Most people, not just our virtual high school students, tend to assume that all scientists are white and male. Few people can name a famous woman scientist. That is because we, as a society, fail to tell stories about women in science.  We reinforce the impression that few women have patented inventions, derived important mathematical equations, or contributed to scientific discoveries in any way. This lack of recognizing visible female role models can discourage young women from pursuing a career in science.

scientist 1    scientist 2     scientist 3

This month, the Science department at My Virtual Academy has decided to spotlight women in science. We believe it is important to show our students, especially our female students, that a career in science is an option for them after they receive their high school diploma. By showcasing women in science, we hope to peak the interest of our female students and inspire them to think about a career in science.

 ~Mrs. Goodman (Chemistry, Biology & Physical Science Teacher) would like to recognize:

Mae Carol Jemison : Chemical Engineer, Physician, Astronaut

 goodman science

Mae Carol Jemison received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University in 1977 and a doctorate degree in medicine from Cornell University in 1981. She has a background in both engineering and medical research.

Dr. Jemison joined NASA’s astronaut training program in 1986 and was the first African American woman to travel to space in the Space Shuttle Endeavor on September 12, 1992. During her eight days in space, she conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew and herself. In all, she spent more than 190 hours in space before returning to Earth on September 20, 1992.

After leaving the astronaut corps in March 1993, Dr. Jemison accepted a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth.

~Mrs. McCoy (Biology, Marine Biology MVA Teacher) would like to recognize:

Hedy Lamarr: Co-Inventor of Spread Spectrum Technology

mccoy scientist

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could live without my cell phone!  If you feel the same way, take a moment and say “THANK YOU, HEDY LAMARR!”.   Back in the 1940’s, Hedy and co-inventor George Antheil received the patent for a “Secret Communications System”.  It was an anti-jamming device used in radio-controlled torpedoes by using something called frequency hopping.  In the most basic way to explain it, if someone had encoded a message in frequency waves, only someone with a receiver could decode it because the message would be “hopping” all over the place.  But what also happen is that it could be buried in multiple messages much like we use cell phones, etc.

While her invention was not used during WWII, it was used on blockade ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  When the rest of the world caught up to Hedy’s invention, it was used everywhere from military communications, GPS, faxes, any and all wireless communications including cell phones and so much more.  Because of the importance of her invention of “Spread Spectrum Technology”, she finally received recognition for the “beauty” of her invention in 1997 when she and George Antheil were awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award.  Later in 1997, Hedy Lamarr was the first woman to receive the BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Bronze Award (the equivalent of winning an “Oscar” for inventing).

While Hedy Lamarr has since passed at the age of 86, her life is now celebrated and the history of technology is giving her the much earned recognition that she deserved.  It is with a sigh of relief that we can all enjoy the fact that this great inventor was able to live long enough to see her hard work be utilized as she envisioned AND receive the accolades that she so deserved.

~Mrs. Premcevic (Biology and Earth Space Science MVA Teacher) would like to recognize:

Sara Volz, 20 (MIT Chemistry Major, co-author of two papers on CRISPR)

premcevic scientist

At the young age of just 17, Sara Volz invented a process that increases the amount of biofuel produced by algae to win the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search. Sara claimed the $100,000 grand prize with her project, which uses artificial selection to pinpoint which organisms are churning out the most fuel. This new method not only helps to bring down the overall cost of algae biofuel, but it was developed primarily in her bedroom under a lofted bed! In 2014, Sara along with her professor and a PhD student, discovered how to turn one specific protein on and off in a cell which in turn, can one day help cure diseases. Sara is currently at MIT researching genome editing using a tool called CRISPR. CRISPR is like scissors for DNA that cut out bad genes and replace with good ones. Sara’s work demonstrates how a young woman who is fascinated by science can have a real impact on society.

~Mr. Hardy (Chemistry and Math MVA Teacher) would like to recognize:

Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski- Currently earning her PhD at Harvard in Physics)

hardy scientist

She’s been called “the next Einstein” by her professor at Harvard University, but her name is Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski. Born June 3, 1993, she is a former MIT graduate, and current PhD candidate at Harvard University.

At the early age of 5, Sabrina Pasterski made the decision that she would like to one day build spacecraft. At age 9, she began learning how to fly airplanes, flew her first solo flight in Canada in 2007. By age 12, she had begun building her own airplane in her garage at home in Chicago, IL. Sabrina Pasterski graduated from the Illinois Mathematics & Science Academy at age 17. She completed her undergraduate degree at MIT in just 3 short years with the highest GPA possible. Today, Sabrina Pasterski is in her final year at Harvard, where she will earn a PhD in Physics. Her work in Physics involves mass and radiation of particles, and using quantum fields to advance the current understanding of black holes and gravity. Her work has been cited by Stephen Hawking. At age 22, Sabrina Pasterski has job offers from the likes of aerospace company Blue Origin (founded by Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com), and NASA. Her career will be an intriguing one to follow, as she may very well be the one whose life work eventually takes mankind beyond our solar system out to the far reaches of the universe. Sabrina Pasterski has her own website (PhysicsGirl.com) where she posts information about her interests and her work.

~Mr. Fouladbash (Chemistry and IPC MVA Teacher) would like to recognize:

Dr. Jennifer Dounda: Professor of Chemistry and Cell Biology

joe scientist

Jennifer Dounda is an American Scientist and a renowned professor of chemistry and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley.  Since the early 90’s, Jennifer Dounda has been making progress in trying to technologically manipulate human DNA in order to remove disease from the human genome.  Within her work, she created CRISPR – way of performing a so called ‘Genome Surgery’ – in order to perfect the DNA of an organism.  This method was recently used in a set of subject animals (female macaque monkey twins) and have proved successful in gene manipulation.  This work by Jennifer Dounda and her CRISPR technique shows great promise for the future, for if we can change the code by which we are built, we can program the human body for perfection!


Reading: Reach Endless Academic Dreams

The importance of reading has always been a great necessity since the beginning of time. Mankind originally created a means by which to communicate with one another in the form of print, most commonly known as Egyptian hieroglyphics.

In today’s society, children must be exposed to print in the earliest stages of life. Mothers read to their unborn children to set the precedence for the fundamental successes of educational development. Just think about the service we could provide to our children if everyone adapted to the idea of reading to their children even before they are born. It would be like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly!


We are very fond of Carl Sagan’s quote: “One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children.”

As educators, we understand the importance of reading to children of all ages. We believe that the more exposure a child has to reading at a young age, the more likely they are to enjoy it and become avid readers as adults. It’s become a new tradition for expecting parents to request that guests attending their baby shower bring a book instead of the traditional card to add to their baby’s bookshelf. We start to accumulate books even before our children are born. It’s never too early to start reading to our children and influence them to become readers themselves!ChildrenAt My Virtual Academy, reading is integrated cross-curricular throughout our students’ online education. Both our online high school and middle school students are actively engaged in various reading activities within our clubs, weekly live lessons, monthly thematic units, and our daily virtual lessons. It is our goal to instill the value of reading into our students on a daily basis.

book club

We encourage and challenge you to spread your wings and immerse yourself in the exciting world of literature!!


The Role of District Advocates in My Virtual Academy

My Virtual Academy provides tuition free online schooling for middle school and high school students throughout Michigan.  At My Virtual Academy we strive to support students and families throughout their educational experience. One way we provide support is through our District Coaches/Advocates. They are a support team committed to student well-being and continued success.

Below gives you a brief snapshot of each District Coach/Advocate and how they view their role at My Virtual Academy.

Mrs. Benacquisto

  1. I approach my students with the intent to make a meaningful connection, my first question is “Why did you choose My Virtual Academy?” I have students who have an illness, children, mental issues, legal issues, social issues, issues with authority figures, anger issues, and one who is starting a singing career.
  2. My approach to each student is different, although I say one positive thing in every conversation.
  3. I have found shelter for students, and food pantries; I have tried to teach students how to talk to probation officers and case workers. I listen when they cry about the pressure they feel from the world around them, some students have so little and no adult to lean on. I have had students cry when I tell them “I am proud of you”.
  4. I teach students to take responsibility for their actions, not everything is someone else’s fault. I help make schedules so the student can stay on pace, or catch up in their classes.
  5. I make sure my students contact their mentor weekly, and know about state testing.


Mrs. Clark

  1. Being a consistent person in the student/parent’s life is huge.  A  lot of our families do not know what consistency is, and to have someone they know they can count on to ‘check in’ on them is invaluable.
  2. It is important that we are here to talk about school related issues, but also other accomplishments/issues.  School is just a fraction of their life, and as a coach we can focus on other aspects of their life too!

Mrs. Gibson

  1.  Providing consistent weekly communication to cultivate a relationship that is both caring and stable is crucial.  We are here when they need to vent frustrations, as well as positive aspects of their lives in and out of school. We are able to support students by providing assistance in the form of tech support, internet installation and reminding them of responsibilities such as: contacting their mentor, attending state testing, and answering any questions they may have with regard to, but not limited to their education.
  2. We encourage not only academic achievement, but continued success in various ways. We can help students form realistic attainable personal, and educational goals.
  3. We are able to recognize students for their hard work, dedication, and positive contributions for themselves and society. We are one of their biggest cheerleaders.
  4. We help students learn to balance their academic and personal life.

Mrs. Madigan

  1. Weekly Communication-It’s important to be able to talk to my students on a regular basis so I know what is going on with them. If I know what’s going on, I can make better suggestions on how I can help them. For the students I don’t get to talk to, I keep reminding them that I am here for them if they need me.
  2. Sense of Humor-I think it’s important to joke with the students sometimes. Most students usually hear negative things (usually because they aren’t working like they should be). If I can remind them about the importance of school, but sometimes depending on the situation, still be able to lighten things up, it leaves the students feeling a little better or more positive about where they are at in regards to school.
MVA Student

Mrs. Pauls

  1. We serve as a support system for the students.  We help to get them back on track and check in on them to see how everything is going.  If they haven’t been working in their courses, we find out why and then we try to help them get back on track.
  2. We try to learn more about our students: Why did you choose to switch over to MVA?  What kind of sports or hobbies are you into?  Do you have a job outside of school?
  3. We want our students to trust us and to feel that they could talk to us if they need anything.

Mrs. Peck

1)  I feel that our relationships with the students make them feel more confident in themselves, and thus they are able to complete more classes/courses.

2) We go above and beyond by providing families with resources that lead to housing, food, help with bills, etc, thus enabling them to focus on school once again.

3) Our weekly calls and contacts show the students that there are people out there that care and believe in them when many other adults have failed.

Mrs. Powell

1.Weekly contact with students is key. Providing a consistent, stable connection reaching out to students to check on their status (education, mental health, well being).

2.Scheduling-I like doing this when students are looking for alternatives and it allows the students to approach completing courses in a more manageable way with less stress and a structured plan.

3.Schoology Posts for Fun-I like to post “National (blank) Day” and have students respond. It’s another connection from me to them, it encourages students to share more about themselves, and it promotes interaction among their peers.


Ms. Vahovick

  1. We reach out to our students with a smile on our face and in our voice when we call them.  They need our sincere interest and caring.
  2.  We are an advocate for our students.  We help them see what it will take to complete this semester, this year and graduate.  How many classes?  How many hours, how many assignments per week, per day….
  3.  Sometimes we support the parents, too.  If we can help the parents understand, then we may be able to get through to the students

The District Coach/Advocate role provides support staff to work with students in various capacities, and supplies community resources to online students and their families.  This is only one way we, at My Virtual Academy, support our students and encourage continued success.

What are your English Teacher’s Favorite Books?

Hello from the My Virtual Academy English Department. Since March is reading month, we wanted to share with you some of our favorite books.


Charlottes WebMrs. Trost (English IA/B, English IVA/B)
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

This book stars a young pig, Wilbur, whose purpose on the farm is to become a meal on the table. With the help of his barnyard friend, Charlotte- a barn spider, Wilbur is portrayed to be an extraordinary pig. I loved reading this book when I was younger and enjoy reading it with my boys. This is a book that even entertains me as an adult. We all have to remember that we aren’t as simple as we sometimes seem.


Mrs. Schultz (English IIIA & IIIB)
Digital Fortress by Dan BrownDigital Fortress

This novel is a fast-paced suspenseful thriller dealing with the struggle between human intelligence and machine. The United States National Security Agency’s code-breaking supercomputer discovers a code so complex that not even it can crack it. The main character, Susan Fletcher, is called in to help break the code. What she discovers shocks her and could crush U.S. intelligence as we know it.

“Everything is possible. The impossible just takes longer.” ― Dan Brown, Digital Fortress


The Last LectureMrs. Fisher (English IIA/B, Psychology)-
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch was a Professor at Carnage Melon University. He was diagnosed with cancer and did not have much time to live. This short book tells of his incredible final lecture given to students. His words of inspiration talk of following your dreams and not giving up! I have read this book a number of times. It always motivates me to aim high and have a positive outlook on life.

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” —Randy Pausch


Mr. Ellis (English):
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby

If you like action-packed love stories set in the Roaring Twenties, you’ll LOVE The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This story has everything! Race-cars, gangsters, lavish parties at giant mansions, hopes, dreams, love, unrequited love, intrigue, dysfunctional relationships, symbolism, fights, old money, new money, people who are not who they say they are, people who aren’t sure who they want to be, liars, cheaters, twists, turns, and a bittersweet ending! WOW!!

This book is often read in high school (including here at My Virtual Academy) and is one I have both read and taught many times. I find something great about the book each time I read it!

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

DaemonMs. MacKinnon (English, Health):
Daemon by Daniel Suarez

The book I would recommend is “Daemon” by Daniel Suarez. A genius computer software company owner creates a computer program that takes over and runs the world after he dies. The program anticipates every possible move made by any person, company or government that tries to destroy it. It uses men’s fear, greed and desire for power against them. Something like this could never really happen…..could it?


Ms. Scarzo (English, Health, Music Appreciation)
Oh The Places You’ll Go By Dr. SeussOh the Places You'll Go

This children’s book is a guide to the journey of life. It is a very inspirational book that is a reminder that you can be what you want to be with a little bit of hard work. Of course, things don’t always go as planned but the book encourages readers to go out and make things happen. I received this book from one of my teachers when I was a Senior in High School and I still have it and read it to my boys today.