Phase 0: Getting Started: Topic Exploration and Selection
From March to April 2016, we, the Microcampus O-Group from SAS Puxi, will be spending 28 days in Xizhou, in Yunnan, to explore what it is like to live outside of the busy city of Shanghai. We will be going on a trip, an adventure, facing challenges, exploring the culture of Xizhou, slowing down to see life from different perspectives, and experiencing what it is like to live outside of our 'bubble' in Shanghai. In the Microcampus trip, we will be studying topics about the village in Xizhou, it will be our Inquiry Project. Below is my process of choosing my Inquiry Project topic. I had a lot of choices to consider in the beginning. Afterwards, I narrowed down the list of choices into 3 topics that I was most interested in. After getting feedback from Mr. Tafel, I decided on my final topic, the one that I will be investigating throughout the Microcampus journey.
To start off, I had five questions about the Inquiry Project descriptors, which were later answered by Mr. Tafel- My first question was about the Inquiry Project in general- (1) how much will we be able to change or adjust our topic after we have started the first couple of phases? Also, (2) how specific does our topic need to be? (3) What resources are available to us? (4) Where and when are we allowed to go to interview locals? And (5) will the community/village be small enough so that we really get to 'know' many of the locals (individually)?
These are brief answers to my questions (in order from 1-5): (1) We will be able to adjust our topic and questions based on our new findings in the village. However, we will not be able to choose a completely new topic after we have started our Inquiry Project. (2) We can start out with a more general topic. After we get to Xizhou and get a chance to talk to the locals, we will be able to direct out interest to a more specific topic, based on what we have learned. (3, 4) When we get to the village, we will be able to interview locals to learn more about our topic. Ms. Mai, Mr. Tafel, and the Linden Centre staff, can provide names of local experts about our topics. We will be able to find these people, talk to them, and make connections to learn more about our topic. From Mondays to Fridays in the afternoon (Inquiry Project days), we can sign up for teacher support. (5) In the trip, we will be getting to know about the life in Xizhou. We will be making many connections with the locals in the village.
With my questions answered, I was able to clarify my understanding of what we will be able to do during the trip, what our topic can start out like, and how it will change after the trip starts. Afterwards, I could move on to choosing my topic. I started by reading over the list of Inquiry Project topic descriptors. After looking through it, I decided that I am more interested in photography, local food products/cuisine, healthcare and wellness, fishing, and farming. I also thought that I would like to study how parents believed children should be taught/raised, and the differences between the lives of girls and boys in the village. There were numerous topics that seemed interesting. At the end, I would have to narrow it down, so I would start by eliminating a few topics. To do this, I need to know specifically why I am interested in these topics, and which ones are more important and unique. Photography would be fun, since I greatly appreciate beauty and nature. However, I would eliminate this because I am not sure specifically how it would help me learn more about life and culture in Xizhou. Next, I decided to eliminate local food products/cuisine, too, after I found out that many Microcampus students have studied this topic. I also decided to eliminate fishing and farming because I mostly thought that it would just be fun to try out those activities. The elimination process leaves me with three topics left. Wellness and healthcare would be a great topic to learn more about how the locals treat diseases and illnesses in their own way instead of using modern technology. Parents' beliefs in how children should be raised would be great, too, because it will help me compare the advantages and disadvantages in raising kids in certain ways (there is never a 'right' or 'wrong' way). Lastly, is the differences between the lives of girls and boys in the village, which I would like to learn more about.
The first topic of the three is the differences between the lives of girls and boys in the village. The differences between girls and boys affect our lives greatly, but the way people see these differences and use them to separate our lives affects us even more. Recently, at school, we have learned about how in China, and in Afghan, girls have less rights than boys. I want to know if it is like this in Xizhou, too. How are girls' jobs and lifestyles different from boys'? How is education different for girls and boys? To find out, I would need to research about how girls and boys and treated differently.
The next topic that was in my top 3 choices is how parents believe they should raise and teach their children. I decided not to investigate this topic after I chose the topic that I wrote as my first choice. The last of the top 3 topics, is wellness and healthcare. I decided not to choose this because I was not as interested in it as I was in the differences between the lives of girls and boys in the village. After getting feedback from Mr. Tafel, I decided and confirmed that my Inquiry Project topic will be comparing the lives of girls and boys in the village.
Now that I have chosen my final topic, I can look through the 'final product reporting and reflecting' section of previous Inquiry Projects to gather advice from the Microcampus alumni. Vicky H. (Alumni-B from Microcampus), wrote in her final product reflection, that having a correct schedule and planning ahead was very important before one makes decisions or plans interviews with others. Additionally, Charissa C. (Alumni-M from Microcampus), advised that while interviewing the locals, questions about their personal life (that might be related to the topic) should be left out sometimes, because people might be sensitive to it.
With my final topic decided, and some advice from Microcampus alumni, I have finished Phase 0. In this Phase, I started with many topics that interested me, then I narrowed the list down to 3 topics, and from there, I chose my final topic for my Inquiry Project. Next, I will move on to Phase 1, where I will be continuing my work, and starting my research. Please continue to follow my journey.