Phase 1: Posing Real Questions

Updated 1 year 3 months ago

In Phase 0 I chose my topic. The topic I chose was photography of domesticated plants and animals. This is my Phase 1, here I will be asking some questions and gaining some more knowledge about my inquiry project, also posing real questions. For this phase, I will be gathering information on my topic. Firstly looking at what I know, then researching more about it later on.

What I already know/think I know and Where I learned it

I would like to think that I know a handful about the photography of plants and animals, but in reality I know there is a lot more for me to learn. In regards to photography, I have experimented quite a bit by myself. Such as looking through functions, short cuts and what buttons do what. I learned most of the functions from experience, mostly pressing buttons and seeing what they do. Even though I enjoy photography very much, I understand that photography through a professional lens is extremely difficult, and challenging. I have seen many photos of what photographers are willing to do just for one good picture. I learned this from documentaries, and news articles. In regards to domesticated plants and animals, what I know is much less. I know that when speaking of domesticated plants and animals, it generally consists of farms or house pets/plants. I do not know much about this portion of the topic, but the little information I have is from documentaries, and experiences such as past China Alive trips. 

What I Want to Know

Regarding this topic, there are many things I hope to learn. Foremost, I would like to understand and have more experience with cameras. What they do, how they can be used, and information about how they function. Perhaps different styles of photography too. I would like to understand my own style sometime during the trip. For the plants and animals portion of my Inquiry Project, I would like to learn more about what kind of plant thrives during what time of the year. Also how the plants are grown and nourished. I hope to find out more on how animals in XiZhou are kept and raised. I do not know much about domesticated plants and animals and I hope to learn more.

In Phase 3 I did some background research to help me understand my topic more so I can developed my Big Questions later in this Phase.

These are my Big Questions. These Question will drive or "fuel" the beginning of my research process. The words in italics are my possible answers, and they may not be correct. I grouped my questions under some bigger headings to better understand them.

The Growing/Tending of Crops

1. What kind of plants are grown during which season?
I know that rice is usually planted during spring and harvested in autumn. Since there are 10 months of a growing season in Dali, there is a lot of time for plants to be grown. If the temperature is too hot, then crops will not grow, if the temperature is too cold the crops will not grow either. But in Dali, the lowest temperature it gets to in winter is 2 degrees and the hottest it gets in summer is 25 degrees. This temperature is almost a perfect temperature for growing crops.

2. How do you tend to the crops?
I am assuming that it starts out with loosening the soil then planting the seeds, and adding fertilizer. I am expecting to find out that there might not be too many steps or procedures but in the simple steps there is a lot of work that goes into it.

3. What happens if you have a bad year of harvest? (drought, flood, disease)
In America, you can negotiate with buyers about how much money your crops are predicted to sell for, and whether or not they accept that price. Regardless of if you had a good or bad year in harvest, the  price is set before hand. This system is to prevent both buyers or sellers from making too much or too less money. I am not sure about how it works in XiZhou, but since the place we are going is relatively a smaller village, that locals might help other locals out if there is ever a bad year in harvest due to a drought or disaster. 

Animals and Pets

4. Why do you keep pets
Often times, villagers own pets such as dogs to guard houses, and to protect sheep. I am not sure if people in XiZhou have sheep herds but if they do, they might own dogs and Shepard to herd their sheep. Some keep pets such as cats and dogs for comfort and companionship. 

5. How are the animals raised and kept?
They are probably kept in pens or kept in side fences. As to what they eat, they might eat leftovers from the families or they are fed things like grass or gain husks. When pigs are young they can not eat grain husks and can only eat barley or porridge. 

Financial Related

6. Which crops do you make the most profit out of?
Depending on the season and the harvest, different crops have different prices. If certain crops are sold in seasons in which they are not usually harvested, they could have a much higher price. Also you have to look at things such as the money for seeds, fertilizers, machinery, irrigation, and manual labor. In order to earn enough money to be able to have a steady and reliable income, farmers have to be able to pay for their basic needs and the things listed above.

7. How do you earn money while the crops are not ready to harvest yet?
I suppose that while the crops are not ready to harvest yet, one must simply wait and rely on the profit from the last years harvest. And live off of that, if last years harvest was bad and there was not much revenue, their neighbors might possibly help them for a little while.

Being a Farmer

8. What the worst part about being a farmer?
Being a farmer is extremely tiring and very stressful on the body, especially on the back if you are a rice farmer. Another thing is that farming relies almost solely on the weather. And being in the agriculture is extremely risky, because if one years revenue is bad the up coming year could be hard to live by. 

9. What is the best part about being a farmer?
People enjoy knowing that what they are eating is organic and is raised by their self. I think they are always very excited and happy when one year they have a good of harvest and earn a good amount of money. 

10. How did you get into farming/Who taught you?
Most likely they learned it from their relatives and family. They might not have been wealthy enough to afford to get into college or even high school. So they only had the choice of going into agriculture, taking after they parents or grandparents.

More Information I Need to Know

Before leaving to XiZhou, there are some other things I need to know. For example whether or not there are any near by fields or farms, and if they will be willing to share information with me. I want to know which families are willing to let me watch them and learn more about their crops and fields. This way I will be able to focus more on my information and questions instead of struggling to find farmers out in fields. Also I need to learn more about the climate and geography there, and I need more background knowledge on the animals and crops.

Moving On

In this Phase, I posed a few Big Questions to drive my research in Xizhou. Now I am ready to move on to finding helpful resources, this will be found in Phase 2.


My name is Laura L. and I am a student at Shanghai American School. I was part of the Group Superior during the spring of 2017. It was a breathtaking experience consisting of extraordinary and wondrous events. It was one of hardest and best things I have ever decided to do. I've learned many valuable lessons and it was an honor to have been able to attend this program with my fellow peers. The 28 days I spent in Xizhou were life-changing and remarkable. I've gained so much knowledge, of which I will take everywhere I go for the rest of my life.