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Eighty-one students in Grade 10 faced the ultimate challenge in their journey as independent learners so far when they undertook their Personal Projects this year.
A mind stretching experience for any 15 and 16 year old, the Personal Project is an eight-month long practical exploration into a topic of the student’s choosing. It is a mandatory assessment that underscores the learning that took place throughout the IB Middle Years Programme - a five year curriculum that ends in Grade 10.
And as a result of this year’s successful crop of projects, budding inventors, artisans and poets have been unearthed.
Among them was Amani Parvathaneni,15, from India whose LED light bulb project is set to have a long-lasting impact at the School. Passionate about the environment, Amani researched the possibility of swapping the School’s flourescent light bulbs for eco-friendly LED versions. Taking it one step further, she put theory into practice and approached the School’s Operations Department to persuade them to adopt her proposal. And to her delight, they are considering it. Explaining why she chose to focus her attention on improving the energy consumption at the School, she said, “UNIS Hanoi is a big institution and I believed they could take the initiative on this and , inspire other organisations to follow their example. Through my research I discovered that Vietnam doesn’t have a lot of LED light bulbs so it would be nice to introduce their use in this country.”
Amani spent her evenings and weekends selling granola bars and other snacks to raise the US$2,500 needed to purchase 400 bulbs from India in the hopes of donating it to the School. In support of her efforts, the Operations Department have agreed to trial 55 lightbulbs in two Elementary School classrooms.
Benefitting others was a running theme for many UNIS Hanoi students who have taken the United Nation’s charge to change the world around them to heart. Years of learning about unsafe iron levels in water spurred Vietnamese student, Gia Han, into action. The 16 year-old who has studied at UNIS Hanoi since she was three years old, invented the Lifestraw for her Personal Project. Designed to filter out toxins in water, Lifestraw brings the iron levels from a dangerous 1 to a very safe 0.6. The product has proved so effective that now a local laboratory, FabLabs Hanoi, hopes to work with Gia Han to turn her prototype into a customer friendly product for sale throughout Vietnam. She said, “I’ve always been interested in ways to improve people’s health. Water is something everyone uses and I think if we can improve the water quality with one small action, we can affect a whole community. That’s how I came up with the water filter idea.”
The simple concept however, proved challenging to realise. She divulged, “In the beginning, I didn’t think my idea would work and I had to test it out five times and I kept failing miserably and I wanted to give up. But then I kept trying and making improvements to my product before it began to work.” Now, Gia Han is pleased she persevered. She continued, “My biggest sense of accomplishment was creating a product and realising that one small change [such as my filter] could benefit everyone in the long run.”
Giving to others held a slightly different meaning for 16 year-old Phuong Le when he launched a cookbook with a twist for the benefit of the UNIS Hanoi community. Entitled ‘My Slice of Hanoi’ the book is a tribute to his passion for different cultures and appreciation of food. He said, “Since I was little, I have loved to cook and experiment with ingredients. I love to create fusion dishes. The Personal Project gave me the chance to undergo the creative process and be risk-taking too.”
Comprising ten unique recipes that included noodles in a French onion soup, taco flavoured Banh Mi and tempura pineapples, Phuong says he learned more than just food combinations. He shared, “I discovered a lot about my own cuisine, but I also learned about food photography and how to write interesting food stories too.”
Stories in poetry form was the topic sixteen year-old Minh Quan wanted to explore. The Vietnamese national who has been a student at UNIS Hanoi for eleven years, opted to find out more about Vietnamese poetry from every era for his Personal Project. It was an exercise he’s wanted to undertake for some time he confessed; “Back in eighth grade, there was a task given to us which involved translating a poem from one language to another. I thought it was fun and I also feel that students like myself [who come from Vietnam], lack knowledge of our own culture and so this was an opportunity to address this.”
As part of his study, Minh chose to translate each poem into English, a process he enjoyed. He said, “I got to see just how vast my culture is and I now have an appreciation of my own language which I’ve discovered is still relatively new and so to this day, new words are still being added. It was also very interesting to learn how sentences are crafted differently in Vietnamese compared to English.”
Personal Project Coordinators, Ms Susan Cizek and Mr Carlo Palusci say the outcome of the Personal Projects were as diverse as its student creators. Carlo further remarked, “In all, the projects submitted touched on social and cultural issues, service learning, human rights and tolerance, environmental issues, sports and technology. From high-tech creations to visual presentations, this year’s Grade 10 class has truly inspired and promoted the spirit of creativity and innovation in our global community.”