1. Between Nohthing and Being

    March 2, 2024 by Koko K.

    Driving Question:

    How does Japan’s culture perceive the concept of “existence”?

    Project Summary:

    Koko K., a Grade 10 student at TGs from Japan and Singapore, undertook a personal project titled “Between Nothing and Being.” This project explored Noh, a traditional Japanese theater form dating back to the 14th century. Through her research, Koko discovered that Noh theater requires an actor to possess inner solitude and concentration, allowing them to transcend their body and achieve a unique state of presence and groundedness.

    Her project delved into the Japanese cultural concept of existence, using Noh and the pine tree (matsunoi), a symbol of eternity and longevity, as central themes. She examined how Shinto, which emphasizes the worship of nature and inanimate objects, and Buddhism, which focuses on change and impermanence, shape Japanese views on existence.

    Koko engaged with multicultural literacy through this project, rediscovering and appreciating her Japanese culture. Her research included analyzing and reflecting on books about Shinto and Buddhism, attending Noh lessons with Kinue Ooshima Sensei, and studying Noh routines. She also compared Japanese concepts of existence with Western philosophical ideas from thinkers such as Victor Frankl, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Aristotle.

    Koko concluded that Japanese culture perceives existence as a balance between Shinto’s eternity and Buddhism’s impermanence. In Japan, the worship of kami (gods) in nature symbolizes eternity, while the frequent natural disasters and seasonal changes emphasize the impermanence of life. This cultural balance is reflected in the construction of buildings like shrines, which are designed to be periodically destroyed and rebuilt.

    In her final summative product, Koko aimed to manifest this concept of existence by performing the Noh routine “Yuya,” striving to achieve neutrality in her physicality and mentality. She reflected on her learning process, acknowledging the need for better time management and a more chronological approach to her research.

    Overall, the project deepened Koko’s understanding of Japanese customs, values, and beliefs, helping her to embrace her Japanese identity with confidence.

  2. Animal Minds

    December 3, 2023 by Shangrila X.

    Driving Question:

    How can I collect and analyze behavioral data to inform if species can survive and thrive in an artificial environment?

    Project Summary:

    Shangrila X, a Grade 10 student from TGs, undertook her first personal project around the topic of animal psychology and behavior. Initially inspired by Australia’s wildlife, she adjusted her project to study animals at the Melbourne Zoo, due to the lack of accessible wildlife in the urban area where she was studying.

    Shangrila’s project was motivated by a childhood memory of seeing a gorilla in distress at a zoo, which made her want to better understand and improve animal well-being in captivity. She utilized ethograms, which are tools for categorizing and defining animal behaviors, to observe and record the actions of zoo animals. Her primary subjects were a Silverback Western lowland gorilla named Otana and Asian elephants.

    During her observations, Shangrila noted a significant amount of inactivity in Otana, which she initially found concerning but later attributed to a possible midday rest period. She also observed stereotypic behaviors in the elephants, which are indicators of poor welfare in captive animals. The elephants often gathered at the edge of their enclosure, suggesting they were seeking interaction and stimulation.

    Shangrila found that her data was insufficient for drawing scientific conclusions but emphasized the importance of public interest and involvement in animal welfare. She suggested that zoos have improved over time but acknowledged that they can never fully replicate the natural environment for animals. She proposed the use of technology, such as VR, to provide educational experiences about wildlife, potentially improving both public knowledge and animal care practices in zoos.

    Overall, Shangrila’s project highlighted the complexity of animal psychology, the limitations of zoos, and the potential for technology to enhance education and animal welfare. She concluded with a hopeful outlook, believing that increased awareness and involvement can lead to a better future for zoo animals.

  3. Search & Rescue

    by Keetah B.

    Driving Question: How can I improve my diving skills through the SSI Stress and Rescue Course and apply them to the artistic practice of jewelry making to create jewelry inspired by the ocean?

    Project Summary:

    Keetah’s project “Search and Rescue,” creatively combines her passion for rescue diving and jewelry making. Her journey began with her first diving experience, which was life-changing despite initial struggles with focus and awareness. This inspired her project goal: to improve her diving skills through the SSI Stress and Rescue course and apply these skills to create ocean-inspired jewelry.

    The first part of her project involved taking the stress and rescue course to enhance her diving abilities, specifically focusing on identifying and managing stress in underwater and above-water situations. This included completing an online course with extensive note-taking, pool diving sessions to reinforce basic skills, and an open water dive where she successfully applied her new skills in real-world scenarios, demonstrating improved awareness and ability to assist others.

    The second part of her project combined her newfound diving skills with jewelry making, inspired by a conversation with her instructor about underwater treasure hunting. She decided to create jewelry from materials found in the ocean, using a wire wrapping technique that suited her aesthetic vision. After some trial and error with materials, Keetah crafted her final pieces using sea glass, seashells, and other natural elements, completing a project that symbolized her love for the ocean and her growth as a diver.

  4. Aboriginal Art

    by Maya G.

    Driving Question:

    How can I showcase my understanding of aboriginal culture through my own original aboriginal inspired art piece?

    Project Summary:

    With a deep admiration for Aboriginal art and a passion for creating art herself, Maya G. undertook a personal project on the topic of Aboriginal art, exploring the fine line between appreciation and appropriation.

    Maya’s project was driven by the question of how she could showcase her understanding of Aboriginal culture through her own Aboriginal-inspired artwork. Despite reaching out to various museums, artists, organizations, and communities, she received no responses or insights from them. This lack of external input underscored the importance of recognizing two critical points: first, that her art was not truly hers but the work of Aboriginal people and their culture; and second, that her artwork was not for profit but solely for her own educational purposes.

    To create her piece, Maya engaged in several steps. She visited museums and cultural sites in Melbourne to understand how Aboriginal people create and talk about their art. She then focused on three main components: storytelling, symbols, and outlines and drafts. For storytelling, she chose to depict her family history, which was personal and meaningful to her. In terms of symbols, she researched and incorporated various Aboriginal symbols used to represent maps, dreamtimes, and real places. She then created multiple drafts to accurately represent her family’s history, ensuring the final product was both colorful and meaningful.

    Maya’s final artwork depicted her family lineage, with generations represented and significant symbols integrated to show the passage of time and the presence of her ancestors. She included the Sun and Moon to symbolize the passage of time and stars to represent deceased family members watching over her. Despite the personal significance of the piece, Maya concluded that it should not be considered Aboriginal art because she is not an Aboriginal artist. She emphasized that non-Aboriginal creations labeled as Aboriginal art undermine the authenticity and cultural heritage of true Aboriginal art.

    To symbolize her understanding and respect for Aboriginal culture, Maya ultimately chose to destroy her artwork. This act was a statement against the appropriation of Aboriginal art by non-Aboriginal artists, reinforcing the importance of preserving the authenticity and cultural integrity of Aboriginal art.

  5. Why Plastics?

    July 1, 2023 by Sigurd R.

    Driving Question:

    How can I further understand the past, present and future of plastic through scientific tests, research, and inquiry, including and relating to the chemistry behind plastics?

    Project Summary:

    Sigurd R.’s project challenges the commonly negative perception of plastics by highlighting both their detrimental and beneficial aspects. He begins by acknowledging the environmental harm caused by single-use plastics, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the danger to sea life. However, he shifts the focus to the often-overlooked positive uses of plastics, particularly in the medical field where they are essential for procedures like open-heart surgery due to their sterility, versatility, and low cost.

    Sigurd also explores the historical use of plastics, noting that early forms of plastic-like materials, such as rubber, were used by the Mesoamericans as early as 1600 BCE. This historical context sets the stage for a broader discussion on the definition and perception of plastics. He argues that plastics are diverse and not well-defined, encompassing a wide range of materials beyond the common single-use items.

    He emphasizes the versatility, durability, and affordability of plastics, which make them invaluable in numerous industries, including automotive and food transportation. Sigurd acknowledges the environmental issues associated with plastics but argues for a balanced perspective that recognizes their essential role in modern society.

    Lastly, Sigurd touches on the future potential of plastics, mentioning innovative uses like conductive polymers. He cautions against a blanket rejection of all plastics, suggesting that doing so could hinder technological and scientific progress. His ultimate message is to encourage a nuanced understanding of plastics, recognizing both their benefits and their environmental impacts.

  6. Foodstainable

    June 13, 2023 by Andrea D.

    Driving Question:

    How can I reduce food waste, help dog shelters, and start a campaign in Peru and Oman by creating dog food?

    Project Summary:

    Andrea D, a Grade 11 student from Peru, observed the plight of stray dogs and the immense food waste generated each year. With over 300 million stray dogs globally and six million in Peru, many of which forage in garbage dumps, she saw an opportunity to tackle these issues simultaneously.

    In 2021, it was reported that half of Peru’s food was discarded, and Andrea realized that this wasted food could potentially feed countless stray dogs. Motivated to make a difference, she founded “Sustainable Kibble,” an initiative focused on creating dog food from food waste.

    Through extensive research, Andrea discovered that many commercial dog foods contain harmful preservatives and artificial colorings, which can cause health issues like allergies, high blood lipid levels, and cancer. She found that natural preservatives such as cabbage and beets not only preserve food but also provide natural coloring and make it more appealing to dogs. Additionally, papaya seeds were identified as an effective natural dewormer.

    Andrea experimented with different formulations and flavors, even testing the kibble on her own dogs to ensure its effectiveness. Her research, which demonstrated the viability of using natural ingredients in dog kibble, was documented in a paper she encourages others to read.

    To broaden the impact of her project, Andrea created a multilingual website (available in English, Spanish, and Chinese) where people can access her research, donate, share information, replicate the project in their communities, and purchase affordable dog food. Her ultimate goal is to establish a non-profit organization funded through donations and sales, with profits used to sterilize stray dogs to help reduce the stray dog population.

    Andrea’s vision is to feed and deworm stray dogs while reducing food waste, fostering a compassionate community, and promoting sustainable practices. She invites everyone to join her in making a positive and lasting impact on both the environment and the lives of stray dogs.

  7. On the Other Side of the Bay

    December 1, 2022 by Yosef M.

    Driving Question:

    How can I plan and give a tour of “The Other Side of the Bay” (South Mumbai)?

    Project Summary:

    Yosef M. from Mexico, inspired by his classmates’ interest in exploring southern Mumbai, organized a guided tour for his first personal project. This tour provided a small group of four or five people with the opportunity to experience and learn about various aspects of the city.

    To ensure the tour’s success, Yosef undertook extensive research and planning. He investigated how to effectively organize a tour, set criteria for selecting the best locations, and devised a budget. Additionally, he prepared himself to speak publicly about the sites they would visit, ensuring that he could provide informative and engaging commentary.

    The tour was divided into several thematic sections. The first section focused on history and culture, with visits to significant landmarks such as the Gateway of India, Flora Fountain, Davidson Library, and Bombay Court. These locations offered insights into Mumbai’s rich historical heritage. The second section explored art and architecture, taking the group to various art museums, a highly expensive private residence, and areas showcasing vibrant street art. This part of the tour highlighted Mumbai’s diverse artistic and architectural landscape.

    In the third section, Yosef aimed to provide an understanding of the city’s transportation system. The group experienced different modes of transport, including the metro, auto-rickshaws (tuktuks), taxis, and public buses. This segment emphasized the sustainability and efficiency of Mumbai’s transport network. The fourth section focused on entertainment and hospitality, featuring visits to the Taj Hotel, Phoenix Palladium Mall, and the successful Chayos chain. This part of the tour showcased prominent hospitality and entertainment venues in the city.

    The fifth section highlighted Mumbai’s religious diversity by including visits to a mosque, a synagogue, a Buddhist temple, and the Marathbas temple. This segment underscored the city’s multicultural and multi-religious fabric. The final section examined urban planning and infrastructure, with stops at the Worli Sea Link, Marine Drive (Queen’s Necklace), and the ongoing Mumbai Coastal Road Project. These locations illustrated the city’s architectural landmarks and ongoing efforts to improve urban mobility and infrastructure.

    Despite some logistical challenges, such as last-minute changes in attendees, the tour was a success. Yosef’s enthusiasm and thorough preparation ensured a rewarding experience for the participants. Following the initial project’s success, Yosef continued to organize tours, expanding to additional sites like Mahatma Gandhi National Park, various temples, restaurants, and churches. This ongoing initiative demonstrated Yosef’s commitment to fostering curiosity and exploration, significantly extending the project’s impact beyond its original scope.

  8. Spice Hazard

    July 21, 2022 by Saffron B.

    Driving Question: How can we improve our spice tolerance through a mixture of science and cultural understanding?

    Project Summary: This project was a dive into the science and Mexican cuisine and culture. Saffron and Santiago researched many different kinds of chili peppers before deciding on five local peppers that they and a group of volunteers would be eating to increase their spice tolerance: costeño, pasilla, jalapeño, chiltepín, and habanero. The pair recorded themselves doing so to share their findings.

    Student Reflection: “Working on this project was painful, but it was so fun and totally worth it. I learned that eating spicy food can make you feel like you’re being stabbed and yet fill you with a rush of adrenaline, and to be able to share that feeling is simply amazing.” – Class of 2024 student Santiago D.

  9. Leftism Through Zines

    by Ella M.

    Driving Question: How can we represent the evolution of leftist movements in Mexico through a zine?

    Project Summary: Ella and Luiza’s project is about the evolution of leftism in Mexico, especially in the region of Oaxaca. They explored the Mexican Revolution, the Feminist Movement in Mexico, and the future of Indigenous leadership throughout the term, which cumulated in a final zine showcasing their learning.

    Student Reflection:
    “I loved this project. Truly, I cannot describe how proud I am of this Zine and the work Luiza and I accomplished. Also, there is no way to describe the joy and relaxation of sitting cutting out magazines for hours on end; it is the best thing ever.”- Ella M.

  10. Photography Oaxaca

    by Raf W.

    Driving Question: How can I create a photo album capturing the true essence of street art in Oaxaca City?

    Project Summary: Raf’s personal project is about photography and photo editing. His project aimed to capture the essence of street art in Oaxaca. Due to the fact that Oaxaca has an abundance of incredible street art, Raf felt it was of high importance to capture this beauty using photography and exemplify it using Photoshop. You can see the pictures Raf has taken and edited below, which hopefully provide a sense of Oaxaca’s beauty.

    Student Reflection: This project gave me the time to just pause amongst all the craziness in a term. When taking photos, I felt relaxed, and that I was really appreciating Oaxaca for what it was. I learned that if we don’t pay attention to the small details of a given environment, we might miss its beauty.

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