Advanced Academic Services is part of the Austin Independent School District. This blog provides information, activities, and events regarding advanced academics and high ability children and teens. Smart without compromise. Potential without limits.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Brain Health Series: Part 3: Your Brain, Sleep, and Relaxation

Did you know that not getting enough sleep is not healthy for your brain? New research shows that sleeping less than seven or eight hours a night has been linked to cognitive decline, memory loss, and possibly even Alzheimer's disease.

A sleep deficit can have dangerous implications for your brain, and not just because it makes you sleepy during the day. Parts of your brain are several times more active at night than during the daytime. One of them is a newly discovered drainage system called the glymphatic system. This is a bit like your city's sewage and recycling system. Its job is to clear out and recycle all toxins in the brain. One protein actively recycled during sleep is amyloid plaque. This plaque is the hallmark of Alzheimer's. Alzheimer’s disease is caused by many factors, but one of these may also be sleep deprivation.

A University of Pennsylvania study found that extended wakefulness can injure neurons essential for alertness and cognition, and that the damage to these neurons might be permanent. Other studies have led scientists to conclude that chemicals secreted during the deeper stages of sleep are crucial for repairing the body, including the brain.

One of the chemicals involved in creating memories, acetylcholine, is also developed during sleep and dreaming. Brain cells that produce acetylcholine are destroyed in people who are developing Alzheimer’s disease. So, these people do not dream as much.

Relaxation and meditation or mindfulness has been found to be very beneficial to brain and body health.  Deep relaxation and meditation, when practiced regularly not only relieve stress and anxiety but have been found to improve mood. Deep relaxation has many other potential benefits as well—it can decrease blood pressure, relieve pain, and improve your immune and cardiovascular systems

The brain requires substantial downtime to remain industrious and generate its most innovative ideas. According to Tim Kreider, of the New York Times, "Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,"

Let’s get a good nights sleep, remember to relax, and meditate. do it all for the health of our brains and become better thinkers in the process!


Monday, November 6, 2017

ENCORE conference: Empowering Students in the Digital Age - 11/11/2017

Webb Middle School is hosting its annual ENCORE conference: Empowering Students in the Digital Age on 11/11/2017 from 8:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m..

Webb Middle School is hosting its annual ENCORE conference: Empowering Students in the Digital Age on 11/11/2017 from 8:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.. This year's host is KEYE's Chris SaldaƱa, a two-time Emmy-winning TV anchor. Programming includes workshops for families, a holiday dinner and a screening of the award-winning "Screenagers." Free and open to the public. For information, contact Margaret Bachicha at 512-414-4196.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Congressional Essay Contest - Due 12/01/2017

The National Society of Colonial Dames opens annual essay contest for students in grades 10-12. Information at . Essays due 12/01/2017. Contact Jessica Jolliffe ( 512-414-4690 with any questions.

  • Why did the authors of the United States Constitution give Presidents the power to issue Executive Orders? How did Congress and the Judicial Branch limit these orders?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Texas Young Masters Grant Opportunity - Due 11/05/2017

Applications for the Texas Young Masters program are open to talented 8-11 grade artists to further their studies in their chosen field with a $5,000 grant. Apply at Deadline: 11/15/2017. For more information, contact Juliana Castillo at 512-414-9851 or

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How can a study group benefit you?


A study group can be helpful when you are trying to learn information and concepts and preparing for class discussions and tests. 

Benefits of a Study Group 

A study group can be beneficial in many ways. Here are the most important benefits:

1. A support group can "pick you up" when you find that your motivation to study is slipping. The other group members can be a source of encouragement.

2. You may be reluctant to ask a question in class. You will find it easier to do so in a small study group.

3. You may become more committed to study because the group members are depending on your presentation and participation. You will not want to let them down.

4. Group members will listen and discuss information and concepts during the study sessions. These activities add a strong auditory dimension to your learning experience.

5. One or more group members are likely to understand something you do not. They may bring up ideas you never considered.

6. You can learn valuable new study habits from the other group members.

7. You can compare your class notes with those of the other group members to clarify your notes and fill in any gaps.

8. Teaching/explaining information and concepts to the other group members will help you reinforce your mastery of the information and concepts.

9. Let's face it - studying can sometimes be boring. Interacting with the other group members can make studying enjoyable.

Getting a Study Group Started 

Study groups don't just happen. Here is what you should do to get a study group started:

1. Get to know your classmates by talking with them before class, during breaks, and after class. When selecting a classmate to join your study group, you should be able to answer YES for each of the following questions:

o Is this classmate motivated to do well?

o Does this classmate understand the subject matter?

o Is this classmate dependable?

o Would this classmate be tolerant of the ideas of others?

o Would you like to work with this classmate?

2. Invite enough of these classmates to work with you in a study group until you have formed a group of three to five. A larger group may allow some members to avoid responsibility, may lead to cliques, and may make group management more of an issue than learning.

3. Decide how often and for how long you will meet. Meeting two or three times a week is probably best. If you plan a long study session, make sure you include time for breaks. A study session of about 60 to 90 minutes is usually best.

4. Decide where you will meet. Select a meeting place that is available and is free from distractions. An empty classroom or a group study room in the library are possibilities. AP DIGEST An Advanced Placement Program Student Resource Advanced Academic Services Austin Independent School District

5. Decide on the goals of the study group. Goals can include comparing and updating notes, discussing readings, and preparing for exams.

6. Decide who the leader will be for the first study session. Also decide whether it will be the same person each session or whether there will be a rotating leader. The leader of a study session should be responsible for meeting the goals of that study session.

7. Clearly decide the agenda for the first study session and the responsibilities of each group member for that session.

8. Develop a list of all group members that includes their names, telephone numbers, and email addresses. Make sure each group member has this list and update the list as needed.

Characteristics of a Successful Study Group 

Once started, a study group should possess the following characteristics to be successful:

1. Each group member contributes to discussions.

2. Group members actively listen to each other without interrupting. Only one group member speaks at a time.

3. The other group members work collaboratively to resolve any concern raised by a group member.

4. Group members are prompt and come prepared to work.

5. The group stays on task with respect to its agenda.

6. Group members show respect for each other.

7. Group members feel free to criticize each other but keep their criticisms constructive. This can encourage group members to reveal their weaknesses so that they can strengthen them.

8. Group members feel free to ask questions of each other.

9. At the end of each study session, an agenda including specific group member responsibilities is prepared for the next session.

10. Above all, the positive attitude that "we can do this together" is maintained.

Possible Pitfalls of a Study Group 

A study group can be a very positive learning experience. However, there are pitfalls to be avoided. Here are some cautions:

1. Do not let the study group get distracted from its agenda and goals.

2. Do not let the study group become a social group. You can always socialize at other times.

3. Do not allow group members to attend unprepared. To stay in the group, members should be required to do their fair share.

4. Do not let the session become a negative forum for complaining about teachers and courses.

5. Do not allow one or two group members to dominate the group. It is important that all members have an equal opportunity to participate. The information you just read will help you decide when a study group is appropriate for you and will help ensure its success. (2009). Study groups. Mangrum-Strichart Learning Resources. Retrieved online 6/12/2009 from For educational purposes only. Not for commercial distribution.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Brain Health Series: Part 2: Your Brain on Food

Are you eating the right foods to feed your brain? Brain health is very dependent on a healthy diet. This is true for growing kids and aging adults as well. The brain represents about 2% of an adult’s weight, but it uses 20% of the energy produced by the body. If the energy supply is not adequate to fuel this energy, people may experience a variety of symptoms, including memory or concentration loss, and fatigue.

An appropriate diet is especially important for the brain health of adolescents. During teenage years, the body and the brain undergo many physical changes. What kind of food a teen eats, how much they eat, and when they eat can affect a teen’ attention span, the ability to focus, and memory capabilities. This translates into how well a student learns and performs in school.

Doctors are finding that what's good for the heart may also be good for the brain. Protecting the blood vessels by following a heart-healthy diet also protects the brain. Many of the same cardiovascular risk factors have been shown to be risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet that is low in saturated fat not only reduces the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, but also can also protect your brain cells and prevent memory loss. Eating high-quality foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress.

What types of foods feed our brain the best? Below is a suggested list of brain healthy foods:
• Extra virgin olive oil: This is a healthy source of fat in the diet and can help reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Some studies have linked olive oil with a lower risk of ischemic stroke, cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease.
• Oily fish such as salmon, herring, and mackerel: This is an excellent source of omega-3, which your brain needs to stay healthy.
• Berries and other deep-colored fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, spinach, beetroot, and beans: These foods are high in antioxidants, which help guard against disease by protecting cells in the body and brain from damage.
• Foods containing ‘good fats’: Foods containing polyunsaturated fatty acids like nuts, seeds, fish, leafy green vegetables, and monounsaturated fatty acids found in avocados and nuts may reduce your risk of both depression and dementia.
• Dark chocolate: It contains high levels of antioxidants, although it is also high in sugar and fat. One small piece of dark chocolate per day is enough to get the antioxidant benefit. Green tea is another source of antioxidants.

By the same token, there are foods we should avoid for good brain health. Salty foods, sugary foods and drinks, processed foods, and foods containing trans fats are all bad for our body and our brain health. Let’s all eat a more healthy diet, it’s more than food for thought!


Friday, October 13, 2017

Zilker Holiday Tree Art Contest - Calling all youth artists ages 5-10!

Zilker Holiday Tree Art Contest: Call for Youth Artist Entries

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department is calling all youth artists between the ages of 5 and 10 years old to create and enter an original drawing of the Zilker Holiday Tree for the Annual Zilker Holiday Tree Art Contest. The top three selected artwork winners from each age category, Junior Division (5 – 7 years) and Senior Division (8 – 10 years), will be publicly recognized and the winners will help light the Zilker Holiday Tree on Sunday, November 26, 2017! DEADLINE FOR ENTRY is 5:00 PM on Friday, November 3rd, 2017 In creating an original version of the Zilker Holiday Tree, children may use crayons, watercolors, ink, colored paper, pastels or paint to show us their version of Austin’s traditional holiday symbol. The rules are simple: • Entries must be received NO LATER than 5:00 PM on Friday, November 3, 2017. • Art must show the Zilker Holiday Tree • Only one entry per child o Junior Division: 5 – 7 years old o Senior Division: 8 – 10 years old • Artwork must be no larger than 8½ x 11 inches. (Any art work larger will be automatically disqualified) • Paper thickness only, please! (The artwork must fit into an 8½” x 11” flat frame) • It is very important to completely fill out the entry form, cut it out and attach it to the back of the artwork o Entry form - English o Entry form - Spanish • All artwork becomes the property of the Zilker Holiday Tree Art Contest For more information and to print out the entry forms, please visit The contest information is available in both English and Spanish. Artwork must be delivered or mailed to: Parks and Recreation Department Office of Special Events 200 S. Lamar Blvd. Austin, Texas 78704 If you have any questions, please feel free to call the Parks and Recreation Office of Special Events at (512) 974-6797 or email them at Alternative arrangements for delivery may be made by contacting an event coordinator. To enjoy some of the top three submissions from the winners over the past few years, please visit .

Monday, September 25, 2017

Emperor Science Award Application - Due 10/31/2017

Looking for the Next Generation of Cancer Researchers
Enter the Emperor Science Award program for a chance to work with a mentoring scientist to explore the world of cancer research. The 2018 Emperor Science Award program is committed to helping all students that have a passion for science join the next generation of cancer researchers. Through this award program, 100 winning students from across the country will be paired with a university-level mentoring scientist to collaborate on a cancer research project. Students from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We Are Girls Austin Conference 11/04/17

Join Girls Empowerment Network at We Are Girls Austin
Saturday, 11/042017 at Anderson High School


Apply for an Individual Scholarship for We Are Girls Austin here.

Interested in presenting a workshop at We Are Girls? Apply here.

Questions about We Are Girls Austin? Email

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Brain Health Series: Part 1: Exercise and Your Brain

We all know that exercise is good for our bodies.  But, did you know that exercise is also beneficial for your brain?  Physical aerobic exercise increases blood flow throughout the body including the brain.  As a result, brain cells are better connected and memory and thinking skills improve.

In a study conducted at the University of British Columbia researchers discovered that regular exercise, rigorous enough to increase the heart rate, appears to boost the hippocampus in the brain.  This area of the brain is where verbal memory and learning takes place. 

Other studies have proven that those who exercise are more mentally sharp. These studies have found that students score higher on math and reading comprehension tests after exercising for 20 minutes.  Some studies have found that kids who exercise are happier and have a better positive outlook.  This is because physical activity releases chemicals in the brain that are natural stress combatants.  Thus, physically active kids are better at handling mood swings and their emotions.

In a recent online article published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a panel of experts from the UK, Scandinavia, and North America all agreed that regular physical activity can strengthen brain cells, create more neurons in the brain, and prevent brain tissue loss in older adults.  Further studies have concluded that a daily schedule with more physical activity resulted in students achieving more and having better grades in the classroom.  So, let’s join our kids and increase our physical exercise--it can benefit us all!


Friday, September 15, 2017

Austin Museum Day & Photo Contest 09/17/17

Austin Museum Day is Sunday, September 17, 2017
Enjoy free access to exhibits and activities at Austin-area museums!
Participating Museums:
  • Art. Science. Gallery
  • Austin History Center
  • Austin Nature & Science Center
  • Austin Toy Museum
  • Austin Woman’s Club / Chateau Bellevue
  • Blanton Museum of Art
  • Briscoe Center for American History
  • Brush Square Museums
  • Bullock Texas State History Museum
  • City of Austin Cultural Arts Division
  • Dougherty Arts Center
  • Elisabet Ney Museum
  • German-Texan Heritage Society
  • Harry Ransom Center
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
  • Landmarks
  • LBJ Presidential Library
  • Mexic-Arte Museum
  • Neill-Cochran House Museum
  • Pioneer Farms
  • Save Austin’s Cemeteries
  • Science Mill
  • Sheffield Education Center
  • South Austin Museum of Popular Culture
  • Texas Capitol Visitors Center
  • Texas Dept. of Public Safety Museum & Research Center
  • Texas Historical Commission
  • Texas Medical Association
  • Texas Memorial Museum
  • Texas Military Forces Museum
  • Texas Music Museum
  • Texas State Capitol
  • Texas Wendish Heritage Museum
  • The Contemporary Austin
  • The Williamson Museum
  • Thinkery
  • UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum
  • Waller Creek Conservancy
  • Women & Their Work
AMD Instagram Photo Contest:
Participate in the Austin Museum Day Instagram contest for a chance to win great prizes. The contest is open 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Sunday, September 17.
To play:
  1. Follow @TxHistComm and @austinmuseums on Instagram
  2. Take a photograph at one of the participating Austin Museum Day institutions
  3. Post it to your Instagram (make sure your profile is public!)
  4. Tag the participating institution and #MuseumDay2017
Multiple submissions are allowed. Contest closes at 9 p.m. on Sunday, September 17; submissions posted after 9 p.m.will not be included. A total of 3 winners—1st through 3rd places—will be selected by a panel of judges that include staff from Texas Historical Commission and Austin Museum Partnership. Prizes to be announced. Winners will be announced the week following the contest.
Submitted photos may be re-posted by the Texas Historical Commission and Austin Museum Partnership, and may also be included in future outreach materials from both organizations. Winners of last year’s contest may submit photos, but are not eligible to win this year.