Even though numerous students stress over Personal Project (PP) during their last MYP year, it can actually be enormously enjoyable – that is, if you choose the right type of project. I chose to write a novella about a girl who discovered her connection to sharks, and in the process uncovered the vicious practice of shark finning. So those of you who will be undertaking this project sooner or later in your lives, listen up! This article will give you some ideas about what to choose for your PP, things to be cautious of during the process, and even how your parents can help you.
Choosing the Idea
Your project should be about something that you like. People say this countless times because it genuinely is important; you simply cannot work on something that you don’t like for one whole year. So when pondering about ideas for PP, try listing out your hobbies and carefully think about what possible projects you can carry out for each one. For example, if you like cooking, do you want to challenge yourself and learn how to bake a cake, or make your own recipe?
During this process, keep the following two imperative factors in mind: one, that you have to produce a specific kind of product by the end of the project and two, that you must connect your selected project with one Area of Interaction (AOI), which includes: human ingenuity, community and service, approaches to learning, health and social education, environments. You should also decide on an inquiry question which your project should revolve around.
Here’s how I did it for my PP:
Interest: writing, animals
Topic: reading to learn more about sharks
Inquiry question: Why is it important for students to read a lot of books about human and animal interaction?
Product: writing a book concerning a specific kind of shark.
AOI and the connection with my project: community & service – teaching and enlightening the community with new knowledge about the animal.
Note: Notice how I combined my two interests together – you can consider working on more than one of your interests!
TIP: You will have to work on PP while doing school homework, assignments and others, so don’t choose something too complicated that needs a lot of work, unless you are capable of finishing everything.
Working on the Project
The foremost thing to make sure is to manage your time well. Do not ever assume that you have enough time to work on and finish the product, because you don’t. The more you procrastinate, the more you will regret later on. Whenever you have time during weekends and even weekdays, WORK ON YOUR PP. It is important that you finish it bit by bit and not rush, because not only do you have to get the product finished, but also update your process journal, in which you record everything that you do. To leave all this massive amount of work until the last minute is suicidal.
TIP: If you feel extremely lazy or don’t really have time to write an entire entry for the process journal, try quickly listing down a few words that could immediately evoke memories when you see it later. (E.g. if you met with your supervisor and he/she told you that you have to work faster, you could merely write in your process journal the following: Met supervisor à speed up.)
TIP #2: HAVE FUN! Make it fun! PP shouldn’t be a burden but rather an opportunity for you to explore what you love doing.
How Can Parents Help?
Even though Personal Projects are meant to be done completely by the student, parents can still assist their children during the process. They can do this by giving their children as much information pertinent to their project, whether it is from their prior knowledge or something that they picked up from elsewhere.
For example, it really helped me when my sister showed me a news article relevant to sharks she came across. Watching related documentaries, movies and such also enhanced my understanding of my project. So if family members want to help, they can try to look out for information that might be useful for the child’s PP. But remember, learning to work independently is an important and valuable skill that the student has to develop during PP.
About My Project: Sharks
I’d like to share with you some facts about sharks that I learned while working on my PP. Due to the rapidly growing demands for shark fin soups, approximately 73 million sharks are “finned” worldwide ever year that now 26 shark species are critically endangered. The process of shark finning is unimaginable: a shark is captured, all its fins are cut off with a knife while it’s alive and the remaining body is abandoned back into the sea where it suffers a brutally slow death. Often, young sharks that have not yet reached their sexual maturity age are finned, which is another reason why their numbers are plummeting so quickly; they are not reproducing enough.
And though this brutal process is mostly for shark fin soups, did you know that shark fins have no taste, so the soups are in fact flavored with chicken and fish?
During the process of working on my PP, I also learned how so many people were frightened of sharks without knowing them well. Afraid of shark attacks? The truth is, more people die because of hippos, crocodiles, mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, and even falling coconuts. Besides, sharks don’t actually like the taste of humans and don’t usually people that they attack. The reason why they even bite surfers is because the surfers look like seals from below.
We humans are the threat to the sharks and not the other way around. Even though we can’t revive the dead sharks, what’s the point of crying over spilled milk? We can only attempt on making the situation better. So if you pity these poor creatures, please don’t consume any more shark fin soups.
Lauren You (Jung Won) is half Korean and half Chinese, and is currently in grade 10 at Beijing World Youth Academy. Previously, she attended a Korean kindergarten, then a Chinese school in Korea, and later went abroad to Malaysia to study English at a local school and then in a British international school. Her experience of studying in diverse environments allows her to explore the horizon. Lauren enjoys reading and writing and she actively writes articles for her school’s magazine as well as for her school’s newspaper.
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Photo courtesy of BWYA