For 28 days, 6 students from eighth grade headed out to the village of XiZhou to study a personal topic of high interest. The topic that appealed to me the most at the time, was plants and animals. After some feedback from Mr. Tafel and some thought, I settled for the topic of Domesticated Plants and Animals. After a few days of inquiry field work, I narrowed my topic down to in house and backyard gardening. Many of us decided to come to this trip because we wanted to step out of our comfort zones and experience things that we would not be able to experience back in shanghai.
I chose this topic under the influence of my brother. As a child I have always been fascinated by plants and animals. My brother was like a role model to me and he would take me around looking at things in the neighborhood, which sparked my interest in nature. As a girl who grew up in a big city, I did not have as much interaction as I would like with the natural world. I saw this opportunity as a chance to expand my knowledge in plants and animals.
In general, my sources were primarily introduced to me by Mr. Tafel. Some of my sources include, Ms. Yang our chef at BaoChengFu, Ms. Yang the gardener for the Linden Centre, Ms. Zhang the cheese maker, Mr. Du the antique dealer, and Bryce. Mostly my sources were people that had backyard gardens or had past experience with farming or gardening.
The reasoning behind the selection of these sources was that they all have had experience with backyard gardening. After talking to some of these contacts, I received an abundant amount of information and connecting with the people gave me a sense of belonging and happiness. When being recommended sources, I mostly looked for whether they had experience with plants and animals and if they could offer valuble information.
The kind of questions that I am trying to answer revolve mosty around how the plants are tended to and how plants are cared for differently in XiZhou compared to big cities. Some of my questions focus on how the plants are cared for and how they are grown. Some other questions are centered around the gardener themselves and how they feel about the things that they are doing. I am mostly trying to find out about how backyard gardens are done and managed in XiZhou.
My thesis statement of my Final Product is; in order to investigate the viewpoints on why one would garden in their backyard, one must consider the personal satisfaction, the physical health benefits, and the benefits for the environment.
Sharing My Learning
I have embedded my Final Product above, or click here to view.
In my inquiry project experience, I learned many valuable and life changing lessons. Not to mention the bushels of information i received from my local contacts. Before I came to Mircocampus, I was always worrying about what people thought of me and was always trying to be heard in the loud hallways. In Shanghai I was rarely aware of the voices around me and the volume. But upon arrival, the first thing I noticed was the silence and the quietness of XiZhou. It took me a few days to tone down my normal voice level to a suitable amount in XiZhou, but after that I adapted pretty well. In Shanghai, it was a struggle to be heard, but in XiZhou every word someone said could be heard from 10 meters away. Realizing that I found that I do not actually truly enjoy having all the attention on me. I have learned to love just watching and listening to other people talk instead of insisting being in the conversation. I have become more confident in the way I speak and how I approach people.
Throughout the course of my study, my topic changed from being domesticated plants and animals to in house and backyard gardening. The reason for this change is that when I was gathering information, most of it that I received was related to plants instead of animals. Also I did not notice beforehand but my ten big questions in Phase 1 were mostly about plants already. Another reason is because the questions I asked that were related to animals all resulted in simple answers that did not give much depth or insight. I realized that there was not as much to ask about animals as there was plants, as a result I focused my inquiry project down to in house and backyard gardening.
One of the most difficult parts of my research was asking follow up questions. I had handfuls of questions prepared, but I found that I sped through them pretty quickly. I only realized that after I finished asking the questions and it was almost as if it was too late to ask follow up questions. There were long pauses and I felt that the transitions did not flow very smoothly. I got better at dealing with long pauses later on in the process, but many of my questions felt sudden to me, and unrelated to previous topics. I was too focused on remembering what he was saying instead of continuing the conversation which resulted in some vague and shallow information.
One of my major discoveries happened when I went out for local contact information with Mr. T. I was looking at the way he approached the people. I noticed that he did not simply go up to him and start asking questions. At first he had a normal conversation about the weather and just simple small talk, later on slowly slipping in questions so that it did not come off as too abrupt or sudden. Mr. T asked me to introduce myself first, and so I did. And even though I had just watched Mr. T have a natural and calm conversation with Mr. Du, one of my local contacts. I still managed to come off as sudden and abrupt. On my way back to BaoCheng Fu, I thought about it often, and came to the conclusion, that I had not thought about what I was going to say, and at the same time I thought about it too much.
By doing this project, it was much easier to receive information because mostly everything was planned and everything was already lain out. Since almost everything was planned before hand and all we had to do was decide who we wanted to talk to and what we would ask them, the process was much easier than having to do everything by ourselves. When out with some of the teachers, they would help us with follow up questions. This helped with receiving addition information I did not know that I needed. By having this project in place, I learned so much more than I could have if I were on my own. With the help of this project, I had a reason to listen and work hard when out doing field work.
Interacting with the community was also much easier with the process of the project. Also with the support of the teachers. At first I thought that I could go out and do all my field work alone without any teacher support. But at the end of field work, I realized how valuable it was to have the teachers there with us. I realized that the reason the teachers had us sign up for teacher support every single day, was to give us moral support and also to make things easier by slightly breaking the ice for us and urging us to do what we think we should. Not to mention simply supervising and keeping an eye on us. Having conversations as part of the project helped me in the sense of practicing for daily conversation with the people in the village.
During this project, I had a major discovery about myself. In shanghai I used to think that it was the people around me that made me negative, but coming to Microcampus gave a little bit of insight to that. I found that the reason I feel as if I am not adequate enough or that I cannot do something is all because of me. It is my own thoughts and mentality that brought me down. And my peers served almost as an audience, their reaction fueled my negativity which I did not realize before at all. If I were alone I would be able to contain my thoughts and think them through alone without an "audience". At Microcampus everything depended on me, and the choices that I made for myself. With all this time to myself, to work and do what I should be doing, I thought about myself very often. I noticed habits that I had not noticed before. With the help of this project, I have learned about myself more than I ever have.
In regards to myself as a learner, I did not learn many new things about myself that I did not already know. The way I am as a learner just has been proved many times throughout the trip. As a learner, I have noticed that if there is something to motivate me to work, such as peer dependency, or something tangible that I want, I can work well and produce a good product. But rarely are there times when I can motivate myself to work, just for the sake of working. If I want to do something, I can do it exceptionally, but when there is no drive, it takes a great amount of mental will power for me to do as well as I know I can.
If I could go back to the beginning of this trip, I would tell myself that it does not get easier as the days go by. Just because it is almost over, does not mean that less effort is acceptable. And I would tell myself that when Mr. T says that consistent and steady work is needed, listen extremely well, because consistent and steady work truly is needed. Hard work is not just a onetime thing, hard work is being steady with the work load, it is being dialed in all the time, it is having discipline and self-control. Everyone had self-control and discipline inside them somewhere, it is just the mentality that is in the way of showing self-discipline. And being disciplined does not mean beating oneself up for each mistake that is made, discipline is doing the right thing all the time even when it is thought it is not needed. How any situation or challenge is handled depends almost all on the mentality that is used to face it.
If I or anyone else were to continue on with this topic, a few different ways that it could be approached are either, focusing more on animals, focusing in on the people, or even expanding on the topic and looking at the bigger picture. One could possibly focus in on the fields instead of just backyard plants and animals.
I would like to give thanks first of all to all of the teachers that helped with the process. Individually, Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai, Ms. Zhao, and Ms. Song. I truly owe most of this wonderful experience to this great team. I would also like to thank all of my local contacts. Who are Ms. Yang, Ms. Yang, Mr. Du, Ms. Yan, LiangXiaoLong, and Bryce. Not to mention all of my peers and my family.
Overall Microcampus has been an extraordinary experience, learning about things I have always wanted to, and getting to be part of something I never thought I would be able to. I have learnt so much about the people here and about myself. Not only has this been one of the most life changing experiences, it has prepared me in ways that I probably do not even comprehend at this time. At times it was tough, but nonetheless worth it.