Phase 2: Finding Helpful Resources

Updated 1 year 2 weeks ago

I am now in Phase 2 of my Microcampus inquiry work. I just finished Phase 1, which helped me to identify some of the major questions that I need to answer in Xizhou. In Phase 2, I will be looking for helpful resources to help me make my ideas better. 

When researching, I used a large variety of different keywords to try and gain access to information that would be useful. I wanted to start out from a broader spectrum, so I searched up Farming in China to give myself an over-arching idea of Chinese farming rituals. As I moved forward in my learning process, I started to narrow down my searches using keywords such as Yunnan Farming, Yunnan Agriculture, Xizhou Farming, and Xizhou Farms. I used these keywords because they were specific to my topic and gave me good sources and information to boost my learning. 

I knew that my information was valid because most of the articles were from our library database resources, which has many articles with credible information. I also found a lot of information from previous Microcampus alumni which proved to be credible and very useful. My research on the Lake Erhai Protection Ban mostly came from sources provided by Mr. Tafel, so I knew that I could trust the information it gave me. For the other articles, I just had to use the C.R.A.P (Currency, Reliability, Authority, Purpose) test, which is a method that we learned in 8th-grade science this year to ensure that the information we use is reliable. 

In most of the articles that I found, there would be a section of the article's cited resources, so I could go into them and look at the reliability of those sources. In other articles, there would be the name of the author who wrote the information, so I would look into his credentials to make sure that the information is credible. 

The two experts that I decided to reach out to are Youyong Zhu and Sugato Mukherjee. Youyong Zhu's contact information is yyzhu@ynau.edu.cn and Sugato Mukherjee has a website where you can directly message him from. Youyoung Zhu is a plant pathologist and graduated from the Plant Protection Department of Yunnan Agricultural University. He has won countless scientific awards and has taken on many roles in the Yunnan Agricultural University, such as an assistant, lecturer, vice-director, director, and most recently, a professor. I believe Youyong Zhu is a good and reliable person for me to reach out to, because of the immense knowledge he has regarding the topic of farming in Yunnan. I believe I could get many valuable tips from him. I also chose to reach out to Sugato Mukherjee, because he is the author and photographer of an article that I believe to be useful to my knowledge about farming. I wanted to contact him because he must have had an experience of observing farms and farmers in Yunnan and probably has a lot of research that he did regarding the topic. Sugato Mukherjee's works have also appeared in publications worldwide. These are the two experts I have chosen to contact. A sample of the message that I sent them is below. 

Dear Professor Zhu and Mr. Mukherjee,
My name is Alan and I am an 8th grader who goes to school at Shanghai American International School. Along with 15 other classmates, I will be traveling to Yunnan for a month. We will be spending our time in a village named Xizhou. During our time in Xizhou, each student will be researching and studying one topic of our choice. We will be exploring around the village and will be hosting interviews with the local citizens. The topic that I have chosen is farming. I find your work regarding the topic to be very helpful, and I decided to contact you to ask for feedback on the work I've done so far. I would really appreciate it if you could give me some feedback and other readings. I have created a list of 10 questions that I want to focus on throughout my learning process in Xizhou. If you could look over them and give me some general suggestions, that would really help me a lot.

Here are my 10 questions:

1. Has farming been implemented into the daily lives of Xizhou residents?
2. Is farming a hard way to make money in Xizhou? Are there any challenges?
3. Is there a process for growing crops in Xizhou?
4. Do farmers keep a pattern of consistent farming rituals every year? Is so, how do you keep track of everything?
5. Are there any changes in weather throughout the year and how do farmers adapt to the changes?
6. Which crops do farmers enjoy farming the most and why?
7. Do farmers use tools when they work in the field?
8. Has the Lake Erhai protection ban had an effect on farmers and farms?
9. Is it the first time something of that sort has happened before?
10. What do farmers think about the future of farming in Xizhou?
The link to my project work is here: http://www.sasmicrocampus.org/projects/blogs/18172/students

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my message, and if you could give me some feedback and advice, it will be a huge help to me. 

Sincerely, Alan.

Status: I have not gotten a reply from either of the experts yet. 

Another aspect of finding helpful recourses in Xizhou is by participating in 3-to-5's. A 3-to-5 is basically a 3-5 minute conversation with 3-5 adults within our community to help us gain helpful information and resources that will help us on our journey in researching and investigating. I have conducted five 3-to-5 interviews and learned a lot of information by talking to them. 

Ms. Braverman

  • Is friends with an organic farmer in Xizhou near the mountains, and will help me contact him 
  • Get to know a lot of people around the community, and ask them questions about farming

Ms. Wang and Mr. Yang

  • Majority of farms are owned by the government because of Erhai Protection Ban
  • There is a small village that is not too far away named Shen Jia Cun, and they have many citizens that grow and sell their own food
  • Mr. Yang knows some people that he can contact to help me with my investigation

Ms. Mai

  • Many people in the Wet Market grow their own products and sell them, so communicating with them may help me find resources
  • Mrs. Yan, our gardener at the Linden Centre, has her own farm that she grows vegetables in. Talking with her could help me find some information on the process of farming

Mr. Zhao

  • Mr. Zhao has his own small family farm. He plants small vegetables to support his family
  • His land is not big, it is just a small plot of land, but it is enough to plant crops and feed his family
  • He also recommended Shen Jia Cun to me and said it is a good idea to go there because it has more variety in crops and more land that they farm in

Mr. Tafel

  • Many members of the Linden Centre staff have cultivated their own small plots of land for farming
  • Mr. Du the antique dealer has his own garden, a possible place to visit
  • Yang's Guest House has a small piece of land for plants

After having five 3-to-5 conversations, I have a lot of contacts and possible resources that I can investigate to gain information on this topic. When it comes to farming, everyone has their own unique story and perspective, so I should have no problem with getting enough information. Also, the current people I have listed as my resources right now could suggest more people for me to talk to, so I will definitely have enough information to get me through the process. 

If I were to look for books on my topic at the Linden Centre, I think I would look for books relating to different varieties of crops that are frequently grown in Xizhou farms. It would be a good idea for me to learn some of the ranges in crops that are frequently grown in the area. Also, maybe it will be smart to learn a little bit about the history of farming because there are probably many things that changed throughout the years. 

I will try my best to talk to all of the contacts that have been suggested to me. I will post the information that I learn from my resources in Phase 3 of my Microcampus work.

My name is Alan Z, and I am a 13-year-old eighth grader in SAS Puxi. I was born in the US, and right now I live in Shanghai. I am so happy that I got to be a part of the Microcampus program. I was in Xizhou for 4 weeks, and I am really grateful for everyone who helped me throughout my journey.