Updated 3 years 5 months ago
On September 10th of 2016, 11 Shanghai American School eighth-graders traveled all the way from Shanghai to Xizhou. I along with 10 other students called ourselves the Quicksilver Microcampus group, and we are staying in Xizhou for 28 days. Before we left our 'bubble,' we had to choose a topic of high personal interest to study.
I chose to study the local plants and insects. I chose this topic because I just generally love plants and insects. I love observing small life, and biology was my favorite and top scored unit in science class in 7th grade. In general, my sources were the locals in Xizhou. The most interesting information came from Mr. Duan, Mr.Zhao, Mrs. Dong, Ms. Lin, and Ms. Kang. I chose these sources because when I was having a conversation with them, I felt like I was more of having a conversation with them than asking questions, and all of the information is so interesting that I can memorize it without looking at notes.
The kinds of questions that I am trying to answer are my 10 big questions in Phase 1. These questions are to guide me through the process. Since most of them require more expertise, many of them were not answered, but I still learned so much from the point of view of the locals, instead of experts. I also came up with a thesis statement in Phase 4: In order to study my personal growth as a Microcampus student, I must consider where I was at the beginning, middle, and end of my journey.
Sharing My Learning:
I made a video about my personal growth at Microcampus. To view, please see the attachment above or use this link.
There are numerous things that I took away from the inquiry project experience. For example, I took away all the knowledge shared with me from my Phase 3 work. There was some really interesting information. As mentioned in my video, Mr. Yang shared his observations of the Butterfly Spring in the past with me. The information Mr. Duan shared with me was also very interesting. How the wildlife has changed after the reform and opening was so shocking. From my inquiry project experience, I have also learned how to connect and interact with people way better than in Shanghai. I think that this will be very useful later in life too.
My topic did change during the course of my study. Before I arrived in Xizhou, I wanted my project to be more of identifying the local plants and insects, but I realized that it requires more experts and the identification has already been done by them. Then, there was a time where I was receiving so much historical information and I wanted my project to tell time. The problem is, all my other information will be ignored. Instead, I decided to study my own personal growth during this process.
The most difficult part of my research was connecting with the locals here. I was always shy with strangers, so that kind of stopped me from asking follow-up questions or even just going up and talking to people. I also think that another really difficult part of my research was looking for the right people. I wanted to talk to different people so I can also hear different knowledge or experience from different people. There was a time where I was getting some of the same information repeatedly.
My 'a-ha' moment happened when I was writing my script for my video. Before that, I have never really noticed how much I have changed during this process. Just like I said in my video, I can now make connections with locals like making friends. When I was in Shanghai, I was terrified of strangers. I always thought that it was awkward to talk to strangers but now I feel like it is a piece of cake. That was probably my biggest 'a-ha' moment.
This project has definitely helped my understand my topic better. For plants and insects, I never knew that people in the past would chop down so many trees that there were countless bald patches; I never knew that spraying chemicals in the fields would lead to the endangerment of so many insects; I never knew how badly people has impacted the environment even in a place like this. I cannot imagine what Shanghai was like countless centuries ago. For personal growth, I understood better who I was as a person. I understood the importance of making connections and the inevitability of the awkwardness of the first conversation.
This project helped my connect with the community more than ever. Phase 3 was the key to making connections. Before Phase 3, I just walked down the streets talking to my buddies. Now, wherever I go, I would smile, nod, make eye contact, or even say 'hello' to people on the streets. Phase 3 really helped my step out of my comfort zone and connect with people around me. When I grow up, this will be useful for making friends or just making people have a good impression on me.
This project helped my better understand myself as a person. As mentioned in my video, I learned that if I try hard to do something, I will succeed. I also learned that if I have a goal, I can achieve almost anything I want. I never really truly understood my personality until Microcampus, I used to be stuck in this bias of who my parents think I am. I always focused on fixing what my parents think my flaws are. Now, I know who I am. I used to think that the personality of someone is simple, like if you are nice, honest, enthusiastic or something. I finally understood how complicated my personality is.
I have also understood myself better as a learner. Throughout the process of my inquiry project, I realized that I am not as 'dumb' as I thought I was. I understood which was I learn best and my ability to take in information. I learn best when I am in a quiet environment where there are not that many distractions. I also realized that after a long period of work I need to re-adjust my focus. I also learned that if I am interested in a topic, I can gather so much more information than I need.
If I could go back in time to the beginning of this project, the one advice that would have helped me make it a better experience it to do my work. Before coming here I thought that if I made a mistake or dome something wrong, Mr. T would save me. I came to Microcampus unprepared with my work, so I started behind. If I were to have done the work that I was supposed to, then the first few days of Microcampus would be so much less anxious.
If I were to continue this research project, I will take it in a new direction. I would probably go into just focusing on the history of the changes that happened to the local plants and insect. Maybe I could change 'plants and insects' into just 'local wildlife' in general, so I can also study about the local animals. Other Microcampus students could build on this by researching on also the animals here. They can also separate it into two different sections: wild and domesticated/cultivated.
There were so many people that were helpful during this research process. First, I would like to thank Mr. T and Ms. Mai for being the most incredible teachers ever. Without them, there will be no Microcampus, and I would not be able to have this life-changing experience. I would also like to thank all the other 10 Microcampus students that came with me on this trip: Amelia, Casey, Harriette, Ella, Isaac, Griffon, Yisu, James, Norman, and Bill. They were incredibly supportive and fun to be with. They make up a huge fraction of my epic experience. Another group of people I would like to thank is all of my contacts that I have had conversations with. Without them, my project would be nonexistent. Lastly, I want to thank everybody back in Shangai who has supported me throughout this process. My family and friends have been unbelievably supportive by commenting on my work. 
Being in Microcampus is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My inquiry project has made me realize who I really am. I have had the best time ever doing this inquiry project and it is something that I will never regret. I have learned numerous life lessons and have developed countless good habits. I cannot believe how far I have gone with my inquiry project and I am incredibly proud of it.
My name is Maggie and I am 13 years old this year. I was born in Shanghai and have lived there for 13 years. 8th grade is my ninth year at Shanghai American School. Xizhou is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and Microcampus is a life-changing experience that I will never forget.