1. AI Journalism

    August 31, 2023 by Santiago D.

    Driving Question:

    How can AI be applied in investigative, opinion, and solutions-based journalism in the context of digital communities in Bosnia?

    Module Summary:

    The “AI Journalism” module explored the intersection of artificial intelligence and journalism. The module aimed to understand the capabilities and limitations of AI in news writing and its impact on current events.

    Students investigated the origins and evolution of journalism in their home countries and Bosnia, comparing human-written articles to AI-generated content. They examined various types of journalism—investigative, solution-based, and opinion—and learned how AI can be ethically and legally integrated into these fields.

    The module included excursions to notable sites like the Al Jazeera Balkans, the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Sarajevo Film Festival. Guest speakers provided insights into wartime reporting and modern journalism challenges, emphasizing the irreplaceable human element in storytelling.

    Through practical experiences and reflections, students created their own articles, juxtaposing them with AI-generated pieces to discern the unique human touch in journalism.

    For instance, senior student Santi D. created an article titled ‘Unraveling the Web of Deceit: Serbian Media’s Role in Spreading Fake News During the Yugoslav Wars,’ which examines the impact of misinformation during the 1990s conflicts in the Balkans. The article outlines how the Serbian media played a crucial role in shaping public perception and exacerbating ethnic tensions through the dissemination of fake news and propaganda.

  2. The Little Frog’s Dilemma

    June 13, 2023 by Samara M.

    Driving Question:

    How can I use my personal life experiences to write and illustrate a children’s book that explores the topics of race, culture and identity?

    Project Summary:

    Samara M., one of our senior students, shared a deeply personal project inspired by her multicultural background, having lived in Kenya, China, Malaysia, and Tanzania. Despite loving books like “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” and “The Gruffalo,” she felt a lack of stories that reflected her unique experiences.

    Identifying as a third culture kid, Samara highlighted the challenges and feelings of isolation that come with this identity. To bridge this gap, she created a children’s story that resonates with the third culture experience and beyond.

    Samara conducted research across schools in Kenya and Tanzania, revealing a significant underrepresentation of black characters in children’s books. Motivated by these findings and Susan Sontag’s belief that stories shape our world, Samara wrote “The Little Frog’s Dilemma,” a tale set in a pond divided into four regions, each with distinct skills.

    The protagonist, a frog with parents from different regions, embodies a blend of these cultures but struggles to excel in any single skill. Despite initial failures in dancing and magic, the frog’s unique croak, a metaphor for its mixed identity, ultimately earns it the honor of performing for the queen.

    Through this story, Samara aims to reflect diverse experiences and foster connection. She encourages everyone to embrace and share their personal narratives, believing they have the power to ignite empathy and break down barriers.

    Samara’s hope is that “The Little Frog’s Dilemma” will resonate with readers and become a cherished story, inspiring others to create bridges through their own unique tales.

  3. English for Afghan Women

    by Mehdia S.

    Project Summary:

    Mehdia S, a senior student from Afghanistan, embarked on a mission to support women in her home country facing severe restrictions on education and social participation imposed by the Taliban since their takeover in August 2021. Recognizing the critical impact of these bans, which have left millions of girls without access to schooling or higher education, Mehdia launched the “English for Afghan Women” program to enhance English language and soft skills among Afghan girls.

    Far from Afghanistan, Mehdia found a way to contribute meaningfully by founding the English language program under the Afghan Youth Empowerment Camps, an organization she co-founded in 2019. This program, initiated from September to December, focused on developing reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills to elevate students’ proficiency from beginner to intermediate levels.

    The program attracted around 300 applicants, from which students were selected based on their academic needs. Mehdia and her team organized classes, assigned tasks, and provided weekly feedback and quizzes to monitor progress. The initiative also involved recruiting volunteers who received letters of recommendation for their contributions.

    The project concluded with the distribution of certificates to participants, marking the successful completion of the program. Through this initiative, Mehdia aimed to empower Afghan women, believing strongly in the transformative power of educating women for the broader societal good. As she noted, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual; but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”

  4. The Farafina Tales

    by Yeli K.

    Driving Question:

    How might I promote gender equality to a young population using traditional African tales?

    Project Summary:

    Yeli K, a senior from the United States, has written a children’s book titled “The Farafina Tales” aimed at promoting gender equality in West Africa. The book addresses critical issues such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, and violence against women, which are prevalent in countries like Senegal, Guinea, and Liberia. Through interviews with experts across the continent, Yeli K identified factors contributing to these issues, including lack of legislation, ineffective law enforcement, negative cultural perceptions of women, and lack of economic opportunities.

    Inspired by a study showing how children’s literature can shift gender perspectives in Rwanda, Yeli K sought to promote gender equality among young West Africans through literature. This led to the creation of a 30,000-word novel manuscript for 8 to 12-year-olds, which won a Scholastic Gold Key for the New York region and a National Silver Medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing competition.

    The story follows a 13-year-old girl named Mariama, who, with the help of a secret society of African heroes, saves her school from developers aiming to turn it into a mall. To write this book, Yeli K undertook a 150-hour course on writing for children, receiving a distinction. This was followed by detailed world-building and character development, guided by feedback from mental health and gender-based violence experts, children’s book authors, mentors, and the target audience of children.

    Yeli K wrote 1,000 words daily during November, utilizing National Novel Writing Month resources and community support. After completing the initial drafts, the book was distributed to eight children aged 8 to 12 in Lagos, Nigeria, for critical feedback, which was incorporated into the final draft.

    Through this project, Yeli K aims to inspire young people globally to use art to ignite profound social changes, demonstrating the power of literature in addressing pervasive societal issues.

  5. Leftism Through Zines

    July 21, 2022 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.

  6. Al Khail

    July 18, 2022 by Bido H.

    Driving Question: How can we model a clay sculpture inspired by Mexican beliefs and religious syncretism (the merging of different beliefs) to represent a fusion of our personal beliefs and values?

    Project Summary: Bido calls his sculpture “Al Khail,” which means horse in Arabic. It is intended to show a fusion of his values and beliefs. The wings are a symbol of freedom, ambition, and a representation of spirituality. Al Khail is inspired mainly by nature.

    Bido’s belief in “Kama Tudeen Tudan,” meaning “Good Karma,” is represented by the birds on the top of the horse and inspired by the Old Man’s Beard plant grown in Oaxaca’s cloud forest.

    Both the plant and the tree live together and are kind to each other as part of the mutualistic symbiosis relationship. Similarly, the horse was kind enough to let the birds live on top of him; it turns out the birds feed on the little creatures on the horse’s body, creating a mutually beneficial relationship that started with an act of kindness.

    Student Reflection:
    “I had a limiting belief before starting this module that I’m not very artistic — the first time I experimented with clay I found it very difficult; however, I dedicated time to experimenting with different techniques and used digital art and 3D modeling to help create my sculpture. I learned that just by accepting something and working hard for it, we can really achieve more than we expect.”

  7. El Camino 

    by Lucas B.

    Driving Question: How can we model a clay sculpture inspired by Mexican beliefs and religious syncretism (the merging of different beliefs) to represent a fusion of our personal beliefs and values?

    Project Summary: Life is seen as a transitory stage towards something greater for many belief systems. “El Camino” – meaning “The Path” – represents a merger between the Zapotec and Catholic belief systems in Oaxaca, and the most important one in the construction of Lucas’s faith, Buddhism.

    The upper part of Lucas’s sculpture symbolizes the Zapotec’s way towards Mictlan, a place of eternal peace, which consists of a nine-level journey that takes four years to complete. The cross on the opposite end is an element of the Christian faith that embraces the challenges that ultimately become our passports to sanctification. In the middle, they meet to become one, referencing both the syncretism in Oaxaca and the end of duality – a Buddhist concept of spiritual enlightenment.

    Student Reflection:
    “Over my weeks in Mexico, I could explore in-depth the values of the belief systems that gave birth to Oaxaca’s unique syncretic landscape. As I appreciated the elements of these highly different cultures, I was able to see a multitude of symbols that resembled my own faith everywhere. The final sculpture I constructed is an embracement of both my learnings and some of my most foundational beliefs about life and the universe.”

  8. Qandeel-e-Zeist (Light of Life)

    by Minahil M.

    Driving Question: How can we model a clay sculpture inspired by Mexican beliefs and religious syncretism (the merging of different beliefs) to represent a fusion of our personal beliefs and values?

    Project Summary: For her project, Minahil created a sculpture of Qandeel-e-Zeist (Light of Life), which embodies the values and beliefs that guide and enlighten her life.

    Minahil’s project blends Zapotec symbolism, the Chinese Yin and Yang, Quranic verses, Urdu poetry, and personal emblems that convey how different cultures, people, and places have shaped the person Minahil is today.

    The treasure chest represents her beliefs and values and highlights how the elements in her sculpture are invaluable to her. Leaving the treasure chest open expresses the importance of being open-minded. It further indicates how her values and beliefs are changing.

    Student Reflection: “Everyone in the world has a set of values and beliefs that guide and enlighten their lives. Through this module, I learned about my own values and beliefs in-depth, developed a greater understanding and appreciation of the personal values of indigenous cultures in Oaxaca, especially the Zapotecs.”

  9. Journey to Monte Albán

    June 16, 2022 by Alex N.

    Driving Question: How can I preserve a part of Zapotec history and give it a new life in the form of VR experiences?

    Project Summary:

    Aarushi and Alex’s video focused on the Central Valley of Oaxaca and the civilization that emerged known as the “Be’ena’ Za” or “The Cloud People.” The Be’ena’ Za thrived and became one of the largest civilizations in Mesoamerica, and today they are known as the Zapotec.

    Alex and Aarushi introduce viewers to the world of the Zapotec through a VR experience. Their video takes you back in time on a journey into the magnificent city of Monte Albán. The pair invite you to embrace the wisdom of the Zapotec through astrology, religious, and ancient beliefs.

    Student Reflection: This module was really exciting for me. I learned a lot of new things and added multiple new subjects to my skill set. This module was also extremely challenging since I had no real prior knowledge about virtual reality or archaeology, but because of our excursions and guest speakers, I was able to create a video VR experience which I am extremely proud of!”- Aarushi A.

  10. Language Death in Oaxaca

    by Zoya A.

    Driving Question: How can I use video to present my investigations (SPEED factors) into the lives of the Zapotec people of Oaxaca, Mexico?

    Project Summary: In this project, Zoya looked at the lives of the Zapotec community in Oaxaca, and how their lives are impacted by their exposure to Spanish. Her film explores the different aspects of Spanish language exposure (in education, economy, and stigma) and what it meant for the Zapotec people, with a question left to the audience: What does the future look like for the Zapotec?

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