The Capstone of Middle School

Capstone was an unusual and inspiring project to end my journey through Middle School. From this project, I have learned how severe the air pollution problem is in China today. Air pollution is extremely harmful to our environment and our own body. And if we do not attempt to stop the air pollution worsening. What I have contributed to the community as a result of this project is that I have created a documentary to publicize the harm air pollution causes. I have also interviewed many residents living in the Shun Yi community, which helps raise awareness for citizens through answering my questions about air pollution.

 

I have always thought air pollution was not a problem so severe, and the AQI has become better these years. However, through my research, I have found data demonstrating the growing AQI values over years. And these severe air quality problems do not only exist in Beijing, but also many other cities in China. I have also learned from my interview and surveys that many young workers are already aware and worried about the gradually deteriorating air quality.

 

The Capstone project did not only teach me knowledge about air pollution in Beijing but also skills toward interviews. I was good at interviewing before, but sometimes when it came to sensitive survey questions, I found it awkward to interact with my interviewees in a delightful way. It was a problem in the Hutong trip. However, during the mini trip across the street, I learned to ask sensitive questions in a mild tone, or sometimes even to keep away from even asking them. If I could do this project again, a huge change I would make is that to improve my essay. I would make it a more sophisticated piece of writing and make it more detailed.

 

To the Grade 8 students of next year:

 

The Capstone project requires good time management skills. If you want to make your work with deep understanding, it is essential to make sure to complete your work earlier than the due date, so that you can revise it later on.

 

Take a look at my documentary here!

Control Leads to Rebellion

 

Imagine you are in a room alone, in front of you is a big red button, beside it sticks a yellow sticky note with big red letters “DO NOT CLICK”, you are not told what are the consequences of clicking it. You know that there’s something to do with the button, and it is hard controlling yourself from leaving it alone. This is because of the curiosity in your mind. Generally, people don’t like being controlled. They are born rebellious. When they are told not to do something, it empowers curiosity on the contrary. This was what happened to the story Fahrenheit 451, where the main character fireman Montag, once a loyal society-follower, became a rebellious criminal to the government. The theme of this story is the censorship of government, the banning of knowledge, motivates curiosity and encourages people to seek it.

 

In the beginning, Montag wasn’t quite aware of the deformation of the society. It wasn’t until Clarisse McClellan, a ‘crazy’ teenager who inspired Montag at first. Clarisse is different than others, it seems like that she is open to the world. Clarisse once said to Montag, “So many people are. Afraid of firemen, I mean. But you’re just a man, after all” (11) It was Clarisse who asked Montag “ ‘Are you happy?’ She said” (Bradbury 14) It was also Clarisse who first mentioned the idea to Montag about taking away a book from the burnt houses. This changed Montag’s rigid thought of books; drove Montag into thinking whether if his job as a fireman was meaningful; and whether the society was a perfect one with people receiving extra knowledge. After burning down the old woman’s house and herself, Montag completely changed. Montag felt passionate towards the old woman and wanted to help her. But the old woman refused and chose to become grey ashes with her books. “The fumes of kerosene bloomed up about her.”( 43) From then on, Montag felt deeply about her and started questioning his job. He was provoked from this experience and wanted to give more thought to the present status of the society. Eventually, Montag decided to stop blindly following the orders of the government. “Where the path of kerosene lay like the track of some evil snail” (43) Montag took away a book, The Bible, and started reading, which was something that was not permitted. And discovered all of the knowledge in it, even when it was hard to understand the words in the beginning. As Montag knew more, he wanted even more and became rebellious.

 

Montag started to read more together with the help of another person who supported book reading. However, Montag’s wife Mildred was addicted to technology, being with her ‘relatives’ in the walls was one of her hobbies. Mildred was isolated in her own box and had a false sense of what’s is happening in the society. “Does your family love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart and soul, Millie?” (79) Mildred is a contrast to her husband. After being reported by her, Montag’s idea of rebelling became stronger and is ready for the battle with captain Beatty and the government. When he leaves the destroyed bombed city, he realizes that “It is not burning. It was warming” (147) What he believes now was that the destruction of dystopian society will be reborn of a new, better world. Montag thought “It was a pleasure to burn”(7) at first, but Montag, in the end, escaped the deformed society which was destroyed.

 

One connection is the censorship in China. The communist party has blocked websites for the Chinese people, and established its own search engines and chat apps. Why would they do so? To take control of the people, to stop them from knowing, preventing characters like Montag who was a threat to the government in Fahrenheit 451. There is no liberty in China, what people say and write on the multimedia are all seen from the government.

 

An insightful discovery I’ve found from this story was that the word “god” has appeared several times in the book, often used as an expression before a phrase. “God knows why” (27)

“God, I’m hungry” (22) Fairly, the first ever book Montag has taken home was The Bible. So has Montag discovered the origin of how they speak each day, and discovered the meaning of “religion”?

 

Overall, Fahrenheit is a book with simple words but deep meaning within it. When governments use censorship it may seem to be an easy way to control people. Censorship really works on people, but it is also easier for citizens to find out the flaws of the society. So why not just give liberty.

Twilight: The End And The Beginning

Here is 4 of photos originally made by me. It surrounds the theme of Twilight.

Bitten Hand

Bella’s hand got bitten by James, a vampire tracker who thirsts Bella’s blood. Bella is a human girl, but she has a fragrant scent, attracting vampires for her blood and also trouble. When a vampire’s fangs enter the flesh, so does the venom, and it makes an intolerable pain to the victim. Here, Edward is forced to make a tough decision between trying to suck the venom out of Bella’s body or not. Leaving the venom will make Bella into a vampire, which gives her a body of immortality, but she will have no soul. On the other hand, although having the venom out of Bella’s body will save Bella back to human, Edward fears that he will be unstoppable once he tastes such delicious blood, drinking it all down, which will kill Bella. Edward once promised: ‘“Don’t be afraid,” he murmured, his velvet voice unintentionally seductive. “I promise…” he hesitated. “I swear not to hurt you.”’ (264) Will Edward be able to save Bella and continue this forbidden love?

Edward x Bella

This is a portrait of Edward and Bella in the last scene – the prom where the two talks about their love for each other. Bella and Edward look into each other’s eyes closely. With hearts indicating love in the background, the scene also describes the two main characters’ physical features. Edward is pale with messy hair. His eyes are yellow when he’s no longer hungry, after feeding on animal blood, and he is abler to control his emotions. Bella is with long brown hair and has a pale complexion too, but not as pale as Edward, since she is a human.

The Meadow

The meadow is where the confessions happen. Edward and Bella are holding hands, with the sun beaming on their skin, and the couple tells each other their secret and facts about themselves. Edward shows Bella how he looks like under the sun. “His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday’s hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface.” (260) Shown in the photo too, Edwards hand on the left is shimmering with light. In the meadow, the sparks of their love develop further too.

Baseball

Vampires love playing baseball too! With a thunderstorm as the weather, the vampire family uses the lightning to play a tense and thrilling baseball game. As the Edward and Emmet take vigorous strides through the field on the edge of the forest, and Alice throws a perfect arch of the ball, three human predator vampires approach to them, they soon smell an appetizing, mouthwatering odor of the only human upon them, Bella. However, under the protection and support of the Cullen family, Bella is temporarily safe. The Cullens really agree with Edward and Bella’s love for each other and they try their best to help this relationship lead to happiness. ‘“She’s with us.” Carlisle’s firm rebuff was directed toward James.’ (Meyer, 379) Edward taking Bella to play baseball with the Cullen family was the cause of the following danger Bella encounters.

The theme of Stephanie Meyer’s book Twilight is that forbidden love could be successful with an understanding between the two and a family’s support. “About three things I was positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how potent that part might be -that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.” (195) The lovers seek hope in the darkness of their love. The Vampire Cullen family unites together, and together they help a family member’s lover, human Bella. Also, Vampires are supposed to hunt for humans, but Edward resists his hunger, and Bella isn’t afraid either. The lovers had to understand each other and acknowledge and accept their differences.

A connection between Twilight and another story is The Shape of Water, which is about the love between a human being and a half-fish-half-human creature. The creature is supposed to be for experiments, but when the human falls in love with the creature, the love is faced with many barriers. The two main characters understand each other and help each other in the forbidden love they hold.

Siting: (The baseball in the air)

The Chinese Cultural Revolution Common Craft Video


This revolution was so important, millions of lives were never the same after the revolution, and it even influenced China up till today.  Everyone was brainwashed about Chairman Mao as a god-like figure, whether if people liked it or not. The revolution also established a base for China’s communism. Today, due to the influence of the cultural revolution, many families are scarred. At that time, everyone stopped working and became revolutionary. Some workers no longer had to continue their labor. Students couldn’t receive education at that time, leaving them uneducated. Many intellectuals were repelled. Those who stayed in China were humiliated, others fled to foreign countries. Some were even humiliated to death or killed because of their “bad” background. For example, the girl in the book Red Scarf Girl was a hard-working girl, destined to be successful. But because of the revolution, she was humiliated by students in her school, and because of her “bad” social status, she wasn’t able to enter the High School she’s been longing to enter. With a father in prison, she lived in fear during that time. Her life was never the same, and she left China after. China would’ve become a developed instead of a developing country today if it wasn’t the revolution. What stayed the same, though, was that the end of the revolution did not change a single bit of the communist party ruling China today. Chinese people cannot vote for their desired leader, they are still limited in what they could do politically.

The Journey to a Dream

 

Brown Girl Dreaming, written by Jacqueline Woodson, and the winner of the Newberry Honor, National Book Award, and Coretta Scott King Award, tells the story of the author’s childhood in the form of lyrical freestyle poetry. While facing the loss of family members, a brown skin, and the how people disregard her, she still holds her dream tight. The theme of Brown Girl Dreaming is that her story is like a complicated journey, where every single memory of her brings her one step closer to her dream: becoming a writer.  “And somehow, one day, it’s just here speckled black and white, the paper inside smelling like something I could fall right in to live there- inside those clean white pages” (Woodson, 164). While dealing with the ups and downs of childhood, Jacqueline gains confidence not only from family and friends but also through writing. “Every dandelion blown, each star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight. My wish is always the same. Every fallen eyelash and first firefly of summer… The dream remains. What did you wish for? To be a writer” (313) For every wish, Jacqueline hopes for the only thing – to be a writer. Jacqueline’s story reminds me of Woodrow Prater, the boy in the book Belle Prater’s Boy. The Woodrow’s mother had disappeared from town, and he had to live with his aunt.  People in town talk about him a lot because of his mother, and he had a hard time during his childhood.  But he eventually found himself friends with his cousin, just like how in Brown Girl Dreaming Jacqueline found herself friends with paper and pencil.  My movie trailer represents the theme of the book, while in the beginning the trailer gives descriptions of the memories that the author had encountered, the story slowly evolves and the theme and main point uncovers. I put in the extra sound effects, and the background music to show the deep emotions into the story.

Places Where I Don’t Belong

Imagine living in two places where you don’t fit in. In both places, you were the “odd” one. Your culture never matches the place, and your lifestyles are different. In the book Brown Girl Dreaming, the author, Jacqueline Woodson, describes her childhood in the 60s and 70s, especially when her brown skin color matters a lot during that period of time. Raised in North and South, Jacqueline feels she’s halfway home in both places. In the award-winning book Brown Girl Dreaming, the author, Jacqueline Woodson describes her two homes in a way so descriptive that we can imagine ourselves there. In Brooklyn, she was left out in events because of her religion, and in the South, she was teased of her Northern culture.

 

As a Jehovah’s Witness Jacqueline was confined to many activities and couldn’t find friends with the common language in Brooklyn. In this religion, Jacqueline was restricted from several things to do. “Because we’re witnesses, no Halloween, no Christmas, no birthdays.” (Woodson, 164) The environment that she was in was very different in comparison to the country-side life back in the South. Brooklyn was not a carefree place. With all the bustling streets and busy crowds, Jacqueline experiences an urban life there. “The rain here is different than the way it rains in Greenville. No sweet smell of honeysuckle. No soft squish of pine. No slip and slide through grass.” (165) While at school, teachers put high expectations and pressure on Jacqueline. They thought that her academics were as good as her sister, Odella’s, but Jacqueline had proved them wrong, she disappointed the adults and was forgotten soon. “Everyone knows my sister is brilliant…she is gifted we are told. And I imagine presents surrounding her. I am not gifted. When I read, the words twist twirl across the page. When they settle, it is too late. The class has already moved on.” (169) Jacqueline was trying hard, but her talent was not discovered, and she was discouraged. However, with her neighbor and best friend, Maria, she gained support. And when Jacqueline’s mother crushed her dreams of becoming a writer, she only continued writing and kept practicing with persistence. She finally wrote her first book in Brooklyn, named Butterfly. “And somehow, one day, it’s just there speckled black and white, the paper inside smelling like something I could fall right into live there-inside those clean white pages.” (164)

 

In the South where Jacqueline’s grandparents are, she and her siblings sometimes are left out by the other kids because of their way of living in the North. Children in their neighborhood would refuse to play with them, and students and teachers at school wouldn’t accept them. In the leisurely lifestyle and the relaxing activities, Jacqueline rather enjoys her time with her grandparents, with her grandfather playing the role of her ‘PaPa’. With her rural environment, everything seems closer to nature. “Warm autumn night with the crickets crying the smell of pine coming soft on the wind and the women on the porch, quilts across their laps, Aunt Lucinda, Miss Bell and whatever neighbor…”(Woodson, 98) But with her mother’s demanding rules, Jacqueline often could only watch other kids play outside. And with her Northern accent, Jacqueline was mocked by others. “While our friends are watching TV or playing outside, we are in our house, knowing that begging our mother to turn the television on is useless, begging her for ten minutes outside will only mean her saying no.” (167)

 

This book was relatable to a friend of mine. Her father was from New Zealand, and her mother was a Chinese. The mixture of Western and Asian culture made it uneasy for her. In both places, she was a minority in both places. Technically, she didn’t look alike nor acted alike to the majority of the people in neither of the country she’s from. She couldn’t blend into the society, but she always worked hard towards the problem. I saw how she adapted herself into the Chinese society through advancing her Chinese language speaking, improving skills of using chopsticks. She told me that she was from both New Zealand and China, but she seems to be coming from neither at the same time.

 

Jacqueline’s story illustrates her two major places where she grew up, and neither does she fit in well in the society. As her journey continues, she adapts and thrives in her societies with her writing talent. She also discovered her writing talent within. Brown Girl Dreaming has places with dreams and memories, and they are unforgettable for the writer, and unforgettable by the reader.

 

The places where Jacqueline doesn’t belong to, are the places where her dreams come from and become true.

My Country is Important, But My Family is More

Sergei’s Journal

August 25th, 1939

Age 53

I am relieved, my mind feels released. Yesterday the Non-Aggression Treaty was signed with Germany. I am an old man now, I do not want to fight anymore. I want to spend the remaining years of my life with my family. Perhaps this is the only one thing that Stalin did correctly. I’ve seen the changes in Russia through the years. My older son, Vasily, just turned fourteen today. My family is living just like how I imagined 15 years ago. I need to protect my children, I hope they can have a better life than I do, and escape the fearful life like mine. Now, my family is my everything, and I cannot lose them.

 

Without fighting, I still fear that my family may have been purged. The purges of the party ordered by Stalin began in 1937. Stalin, our leader, was a cruel and brutal man. His favorite quote was “No man, no problem”. My colleague Petrov and his family disappeared. Petrov often complained about Stalin’s tyrannies, and he paid for his consequences. I was lucky enough that my loyalty towards Stalin saved my family from the gulags and blizzards in Siberia. I don’t like Stalin’s plans, but to keep my family safe, I have to follow orders. I understood that Stalin was trying his best to turn USSR into an industrial country, like his Five-Year-Plan eventually turned into a four-year-plan. Peasants suffered, it was not worth it.

 

Stalin was our ultimate lord, and we all were his followers. From 1924, I was hopeful that Trotsky would become a great leader after Lenin’s death. After all, what Lenin said about Stalin, how his personality wouldn’t lead our country to a great cause, I was actually a supporter of Trotsky. But Stalin’s great propaganda and secret police, the Chekas, gave him power and he soon took control of USSR. He even exiled Trotsky. To make the country look well-developed, Stalin even promoted collectivization, the Five-Year-Plan, and the uninterrupted week. In result, there were famines. Stalin caused terror amongst the country. No one ventured to oppose him because against Stalin meant being tortured to death. Back in 1930, the secret police set up the gulags, I once worked as an organizer for executioners there. People worked like slaves, and I thought that it was inhuman that we had to kill a slave every night unreasonably. But I had to tell the executioners to do it. I saw the hopelessness in the slaves’ eyes and their hatred towards us and the government. I wanted to help them, but I showed no mercy because I knew that it was either the slaves being executed, or else it would be me. It was not until 8 years later when my assistant told me that 20% of the zeks died.

 

I was a patriot. I’m trying to support entire Russia, but my family has become my center. I can’t believe the country had turned under the rule of dictatorship. But I’ve chosen to follow Stalin, I’ve become a coward. I knew the Chekas are watching every move I take. I knew that Stalin has been doing things wrong. I am an old man now, I have my own family to protect, I could no longer support the citizens of Russia. Looking back all these years from 1905, I have changed a lot in 35 years. USSR too. The only thing that hasn’t changed was the suffering of the peasants. Where is my passion for them? They are living like slaves while we are enjoying our feast. Even though I am a soldier and I have fought for Russia, the revolution…was not worth it.

Nature and Nurture – What We Are Made Of

Personality is composed of nature and nurture.” (Francis Galton 1822-1911)

This theory by Francis Galton appeared in and was explained in the book The Psychology Book by Catherine Collin, Voula Grand, Nigel Benson, Merrin Lazyan, Joannah Ginsburg, Marcus Weeks. Galton was first interested in the concept of whether abilities of people are either inborn or learned after birth. He was inspired by his relatives, because many of them were gifted individuals, including the famous evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin. Galton was the first person to give the thought of identifying “nature” and “nurture”, the two ingredients to compose the personality of a person. Nature is what is inherited within the person; nurture is what is experienced after the birth of the person, this may be the environment he lives in, or what he learns etc. These two sources differ from each other particularly.

When Galton was doing research towards inherited traits for his book Hereditary Genius, he found that most of the highly talented individuals were often in certain families, certain growing environments. These people’s intelligence was certainly not only from their nature but also from their privileged home environment, which was how they were nurtured. Galton once stated that “Characteristics cling to families.” (Galton, 1822-1911) Many examples are pieces of evidence that support this claim, even including himself, a great polymath grew up in a wealthy environment and was able to receive unusually high education, which was not accessible to most of the people.

Although Galton suggested that both nature and nurture are very important components of a person’s personality, the balance is also questioned. Therefore, Galton’s theory explains both elements are indispensable. First of all, nature may set the limit to how we develop in the world, for example, no matter how hard a person practices, how much he puts effort towards swimming, how well his coach works trains him, if he has no talent towards swimming, he will never become better than the other swimmer who is talented and works hard. Hence, nature limits on how a person may thrive amongst the community. However, it is also essential to realize that even with highest natural gifts may be badly affected by “starved by defective nurture.” (Galton, 1822-1911) For instance, if a person has an extraordinary intelligence, but his family’s condition could not afford the fees for him to receive education, then his gift is completely wasted. Thus, if the talent is not through education, then it has no use upon the person. The debate of “which component is the determining factor” continues even to nowadays. Some people agree that to receive an education is more important than ever, while others think that there’re no gifted people in this world, everyone is fairly treated.

I think Galton’s idea relates to me, I need to thank my family for providing me such a nice source of education by giving me the opportunity to go to ISB. I cannot say that I am talented, but with the knowledge, I am given to learn every day at school, will help me thrive in life one day. With such education, I think it is crucial for all students here to precious it, and we should be grateful and use this chance efficiently.

As a conclusion, Francis Galton’s concept is true and relatable. He devoted most of his life to philosophy, and his theory of a person’s personality is composed of nature and nurture is still influential today. And nature and nurture are both vital components of a human’s personality.

The Catastrophe Of China in the 1900s

It all started in the 19th century when China lost the two Opium wars and the Sino-Japanese war, when China was humiliated and weak. By the late 1890s, a group of ShanDong peasants, patriotic and loyal, started the boxers rebellion by attacking the foreigners, who the boxers thought to be devils. As the rebellion spread to Beijing, the capital city of China, it was supported by the Qing government, and thousands were killed, churches and railroads were destroyed. Then the eight nations sent 20,000 troops to Beijing, facing such strong enemies, the Boxers were defeated, and the Qing government were forced to pay the consequences by the terms of the Boxer Protocol.