On March 4th, 2017, 6 eighth-graders from Shanghai American School traveled to XiZhou to stay for 28 days. We came to XiZhou to experience the outside of the "bubble" life. Before departure, we named ourselves the Superior Microcampus Group. We also had to choose a topic of high interest to study while we are out here.
I chose to study legends/stories on the local food in XiZhou. I chose this topic because I like food and stories. Combining the two topics will allow me to learn something different from the other topics Mirocampus Alumni have done. I always love a good story, whether it is reading one, writing one, or talking about one. Food is part of most people's everyday life. Most of do not see the value of food, though. They see it as something tasty or a something they have to eat so that they can survive. I feel like people should learn more than just eating food keeps us energized and alive. They should learn the values and history of the food. (For more information, please see Phase 0.)
The most interesting information is from Ms. Zhang, Ms. Yan, Ms. Zhang, and Ms. Duan. Most of my sources are either locals I saw when walking past, websites, or Microcampus Alumni work. I also talked to locals that my 3 to 5 teacher's recommended. Most of them were Mr. T, Ms. Mai, Ms. Zhao, and Ms. Song's friends or locals they know. All my sources have helped a great deal during the whole process of finding information. (To see all my sources and information, please see Phase 3.)
I chose these website sources due to the relevance and reliability. I knew the Microcampus Alumni work was trustable. For the other sites, I checked their sites for reliability. For the locals, I mostly went to restaurants or XiZhou Baba vendors. They were all very open and willing to talk to me. If they were busy, I would not talk to them because that would distract them from their work and do the opposite of what I came to do, to make a positive impact. (For more information, please see Phase 2.)
I was trying to answer questions related to my topic. I made questions that would guide my research in Phase 1. They were clearly thought out after doing some background research in Phase 3. Since I went a slightly different direction when I got to XiZhou, some questions were not answered. In Phase 4, I made a thesis statement for my final topic: In order to write a children's picture book about Ms. Zhang and her experience with XiZhou Baba, one must consider her life as a kid, young adult, and middle-aged adult.
Sharing My Learning
I made a storybook about Ms. Zhang's life of making Xizhou Baba. Please see the attachment above or click this link for the narrated English version of the book. Please click this link for the narrated Chinese version of the book. There is also an attachment of a pdf version. Both Chinese and English versions are on that same pdf. Also, a video can be found here: https://youtu.be/eRCnu9iANXk
From this inquiry project experience, I had countless takeaways. One takeaway was the information and connections I made in XiZhou. In Phase 3, it shows the information I learned about this place and the food here. I based my story on Ms. Zhang who was really nice to me and told me about herself and her family. Not only that, she had offered many kinds offers to me and taught me about XiZhou Baba. Her family is also very welcoming to me, they had also contributed to my final product. Even though I based my story on Ms. Zhang, lots of other locals had provided me with the knowledge that will stay with me for a long time. It does not seem like they contributed to my final product but they did by giving me knowledge about XiZhou Baba and just helping me become more narrow and confident in my project. Another take away from the inquiry project experience is the connections I made with our Microcampus teachers. When we went out to talk with locals, we would go with a Microcampus teacher. Walking there was the time I got more familiar with my Microcampus teachers. We would talk most of the way to the place I needed to go and we would talk on the way back too. One more thing I learned is to finish my work and do not procrastinate because it will pile up and lead to a whole ton of work when it is near the due date.
Yes. Before I came to XiZhou, I wanted my project to focus on the origins of different kinds of food in XiZhou or stories about foods ate on festivals. When I arrived, I started to want to focus on XiZhou Baba because it sounded very interesting. In my questions from Phase 1, I included a wide range of questions about some of the famous local foods and festivals. I did not exactly know what Er Kuai, Er si, and XiZhou Baba were before I came. I did not find any pictures either so I could only guess based on descriptions I found on a few Microcampus Alumni's projects. Therefore, when I arrived in XiZhou, I wanted to focus on XiZhou Baba. It had of stories that interested me.
The most difficult part of my research was the awkward pause when I did not know what other questions I need to ask. I would stand there watching them do their work for a while and try to think of a question then. Talking to more and more people helped me overcome that awkward part of a conversation. I would know what to ask and I would think of follow up questions faster. Also, later on during the process, I would know when I got enough information so there would not be that awkward pause again. Now, I would say "hi" to the locals pretty often and sometimes I would go and chat with them. Now, I am much more comfortable with talking to different people and dealing with awkward situations.
One "a-ha" moment I had was when I had my hangers and hooks (See Phase 4 about what Hangers and Hooks are) talk with Mr. T about my inquiry project. I told him that I wanted to do a storybook but I did not know how I would use the information to make a storybook. I chose to do a storybook as my hanger because my general topic was XiZhou Baba. He gave me a few suggestions of how I could use the information I got and make it into a storybook. One of the suggestions he gave me was to write about a person when he/she was young and would watch her mom make XiZhou Baba, then when he/she was older and making and selling XiZhou Baba on his/her own, then when he/she was watching his/her son make XiZhou Baba. That a-ha moment made me realize what exactly I needed to do for the next few days.
This project helped me understand my topic better because it told me about a story of a girl to a grown up women who saw her mom make XiZhou Baba, then started to make it herself and in the end, watches her son make XiZhou Baba. It was not exactly the same as my original topic but I how I used the information I got to write this storybook. It helps me see the locals lifestyle in a different view. I got to see the whole iceberg, not just the top. I got to see how Ms. Zhang makes her decisions, how she learns, and her thoughts. I also learned more about the village. I also learned more about XiZhou Baba through making this book because when I was making it, I reflected on all the things I learned from not only Ms. Zhang even though she is the main character in my story. I learned about the origins, changes, and how XiZhou Baba is passed down. I never even heard of XiZhou Baba before Microcampus. These connections and conversations helped me understand my topic so much better.
This project helped me interact with this community so often. I would talk to so many people every day. I would learn more about each person I talk to, personally. Phase 3 helped me interact the most the community here. We had to go out almost every day to talk to the locals. It was very interesting because sometimes I would receive all the information I think I need for the day and we would just chat. I felt like I got to know so many people that way. It got me more open and less shy around the locals. I also learned how to interact with them and how I should talk to them. Now, when I walk down the streets and around in SiFang Jie, I would always say "hi" or "hello" to them. This would help me not only connect with the village now, I would learn a life skill to learn to make good impressions for strangers and learn to talk to strangers without showing that I am nervous.
This project helped with personal growth. I learned many things about myself and how to improve what I do. One thing I learned is that when I try hard to accomplish something, I will accomplish it. No matter how hard it is, as long as I push through the hard times, I will be very impressed with what I accomplish at the end. There were times where I wanted to give up but I did not. I pushed through and completed the task on time and in good quality. I also learned that I should not procrastinate and always do my work early. There were times when I felt rushed and it was because I was procrastinating before. I also had group mates who got really stressed because they had so much work to rush through because they were not doing it earlier on. The more we procrastinate, the more stressed we will be near the end of the project or task. The workload will slowly pile up and be all thrown at me in the end if I do not do my work early on in the process. Lastly, I learned how to communicate with people. In the beginning of the trip, I was shy and nervous to talk to these people but after a few conversations, I got better and now I feel like I have learned to talk openly and calmly with people. I can talk to people without an awkward pause and I could make friends with many of people easily.
This project helped me know myself as a learner. I learned that I need to work hard and be dialed in to create work that I am satisfied with. When I am dialed in, I can finish work very fast and efficiently. This is a learning skill that will stay with me forever. Without it, I would take hours and hours to do my work. I would then rush my project at the end. It happened for one of the phases and I learned that I need to stay dialed in or else it would happen again. I also learned not to procrastinate. When I did procrastinate on this trip. I was rushing and working extra time near the due date because it was not finished.
If I could go back to the beginning of this project, I would say that remember everything Mr. T said before the trip and when we just arrived. Most of us broke a few rules of the box within the first day because we keep forgetting what Mr. T said. Everything Mr. T says has thought and reason behind it. On the 6th day of our trip, we had a serious talk with Mr. T about the box and holding each other accountable for the box because we were slowly falling apart as a group. We would do our own work and not care if others did their work or not. That would work inside the "bubble," but now we are not inside the "bubble" so we have to hold each other accountable of the box. That day made this trip so much more fun and taught us all something about the outside the "bubble" life. One other advice is to think through everything one does. Do not forget anything and think everything through twice before taking thoughts into actions. Sometimes we do not think about the bigger picture or Mr. T's advice on our first thought. After thinking it through, one will remember these things and know if one should do it or not.
I think they can talk to more people and have a deeper even more meaningful project. We could reflect on what information we have and go into more depth about a topic. Personally, I would go more into finding out who was the longest XiZhou Baba shop here. It is confusing about which vendor was here the longest because there are many different opinions on who was here the earliest. I would also try to learn more about the founder of XiZhou Baba. I only know her name and a bit about the founder of XiZhou Baba. I would like to learn more about Yang Tao Wen. Maybe also go into more depth on the origin of XiZhou Baba. I would also try to figure out how some of these XiZhou Baba vendors are related because 2 vendors both said that their great grandma was the founder of XiZhou Baba and her surname is Yang. It would be much more in depth about XiZhou Baba if I would continue on with my research.
There were many people I would like to thank for the help during my research project. First of all, I would like to thank all the teachers especially Mr. T and Ms. Mai for organizing this memorable trip and helping me with teacher support. Without them, I would never have had this unique, life-changing experience. I would also like to thank Ms. Song and Ms. Zhao for their support and help throughout this whole trip. I would like to thank all the Microcampus students who made this such a unique and memorable trip: Angela, Laura, Nolan, Nicole, and Barton. They were all very supportive, kind, and fun throughout the whole trip. I would like to mention a few special locals: Ms. Zhang, Ms. Yan, and Ms. Yang. They were all very kind and welcoming when I came to talk to them. They all gave so much interesting information. They also guided me towards this final product I am making. Big thanks to Ms. Zhang for letting me write a story about her life and sharing information with me. I would also like to thank Mr. Linden, Ms. Linden, and Bryce. They were very welcoming hosts. If they did not let us stay, this trip would not be possible. They are very kind to us and very supportive of what we are doing. The Linden Centre and BaoCheng Fu staff, who were also very kind and supportive. They would help us when we need help and welcome us when we visit the Linden Centre. I would like to thank Mr. Zhang, our service learning partner for being so kind to let us film him. Lastly, I would like to thank my family, friends, teachers, and coaches back in Shanghai. My family paid 16,000 rmb for me to be on this trip, they support me and whatever decision I make because they trust me. My friends for always being there for me and supporting any decision I make. My teachers for supporting me and helping me catch up with school work while I am on this trip. Lastly, my coaches for not worrying about me leaving for a month and not swimming. Also for my coaches to support me going on this trip and for me to know that I can come back with them there welcoming me back to training. A very special thanks to everyone, this trip would be impossible without any of these people.
Microcampus is a one time, life-changing experience. I can explain how much I appreciate this trip and what it has created for me. This trip was full of ups and downs but learning to push through and not give up was a great experience. This is something that I would never experience in Shanghai. I feel like I learned so much more about myself in the past 28 days than I have in a course of a year. I am very glad and appreciative for Mr. T and Ms. Mai who worked so hard to lead this profound trip, also helping us along the way. My inquiry project helped me discover who I am and how I can be better. I learned from this trip so many life long skills and lessons. This trip has been a wonderful and unique experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.