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by Joshua K '13

Reflections and Advice On the Personal Project

So, what’s there to expect from the Personal Project?
For those of you that don’t already know what the Personal Project is, it’s exactly what its name implies, a personal project. The Personal Project can be thought of as the final test to pass the IB Middle Years Program and receive the diploma. Even though the IB Middle Years Program is no longer available in our school, students are still required to do the Personal Project in order to move onto the 11th grade. Don’t think of it as a drag, however, because it’s not as bad as it seems. Yes, you’re given a couple due dates which you’re required to have completed a number of tasks, but you have a lot of flexibility throughout the course of this assignment. To be specific, you’re able to choose the project topic.
So what exactly is the Personal Project? It’s an assignment in which you select a topic of interest, research it, and create a final product. Of course, it’s easier said than done but overall, that’s what you have to do in order to complete the project. I’ll get into the due dates later on, but first I want to talk about the 3 main components that you will be graded on. First, there’s your process journal where you’re going to record 4 key things:
·      Updates on your personal project.
·      Research regarding your project.
·      Personal reflections of how you or your perception of something has changed throughout the process.
·      Your bibliography.
Next, your final product will be graded. This is arguably the least important factor of your grade simply because it’s based on what you wanted to create, so others can’t really say much about the extent to which you’ve succeeded in doing so. However, it should still be evident of how committed you were to this project based on the final product. Finally, there’s the Personal Statement. The word requirement is between 2500 to 3200, but trusts me, it’s a good estimate to how much you’ll be writing, if not more. The maximum was 2100 words last year and if you ask any person who already wrote their Personal Statement, they’ll tell you how little 2100 words is. The Personal Statement is basically a personal reflection where you:
·      Explain your Areas of Interaction, Guiding Question(s), and inspiration.
·      Discuss the process you undertook to accomplish your tasks.
·      Include evidence sections (important quote, summary, and explanation of its relevance to your project).
·      Get in-depth with reflections on the project.
As for the due dates, I’m not going to tell you every single obligation that’s required of you, since it’s subject to change and it’ll take way too much space. To be brief, you’ll start thinking about the project around the spring of 9th grade. During the summer, you’re going to do preliminary research, or at least continue forming your project topic. Once you come back from summer break, you’re going to have to start creating your Guiding Question for the project and the Areas of Interaction. Around November, you will be assigned to a teacher in this school who will act as your supervisor and oversee your progress. Around late January to early February, your process journal and final product are due, but you can continue working on them because they won’t be factored into your final grade. From February until April, you’ll be working on your Personal Statement and finally give your presentation later in April.
To give you an understanding of how the Personal Project is like, I interviewed a couple students in the 10th grade about the Personal Project. Just explaining the process won’t tell you how it is like, so it’s better to hear the words from the people who experienced it.
The variety of topics that the 10th grade students chose this year was rather diverse. For example, Kei Hyska chose to do her project based on the effects of sleep deprivation. Jessica Koziol’s topic was based on scouting and its impact on her. I did mine on the portrayal of America’s economic greed through its foreign policy. To put it simply, there was a large assortment of different topics that the students chose. The same can be said of the final products as they ranged from a Powerpoint presentation to a documentary to spray paintings.
While many of you are still thinking that this project is a big drag, it really isn’t. Many of the students who got really involved with the project felt the same way at first but during the process, they realized it was a golden opportunity to actually research something they had a great interest in. The people I interviewed had different perspectives on what they believed were the best aspects of the project. Kei said she enjoyed creating the documentary the most because it was an exciting experience for her to put together interviews as well as presenting her research. Barbara Syska had a similar opinion of the project as she said that her favorite part of the project was “actually being able to make my paintings and do the art. I guess that was the entire point of the project, learning something new and having fun with it.” I thought that my favorite part was just being able to choose a topic that I had a deep curiosity about. I wanted to extensively research American foreign policy before since I was interested in the war in the Middle East, but I never really had the opportunity. This project was basically a way to do that.
Like me, many other students felt there were some aspects of this project that were problematic. For one, virtually everybody that I interviewed agreed that the most annoying part of the project was the process journal. While researching our topics kept us interested in continuing the project, having to record and constantly updating our journals unmotivated us to an extent. According to Barbara, “What I didn’t like about the personal project was having to record everything I did, sometimes it was really annoying… It could be having loads of fun and then I’d remember I’d had to go and do journal entries.” In spite of this, it’s still a responsibility the 10th graders must fulfill as they go through the Personal Project and it helps keep track of the progress you make throughout the duration of the assignment.  It’s just one of the setbacks about the project you’re going to have to deal with.
Of course, you should still try to have fun while doing the project because it’s really a great opportunity to learn more about an interest of yours. Maybe you haven’t had enough free time to research more about solar power and its impact on society or perhaps you’ve always wanted to make a clay figure animation. Before this article ends, there are a few tips you should consider while doing the Personal Project:
·      The BIGGEST advice, and the chief recommendation that all my interviewees gave, is that you should NOT procrastinate. Trust me, while I don’t have the exact statistics, I am almost certain that only 7-8 people in this year’s sophomore class did NOT procrastinate. No, this is not an exaggeration because everybody tried pulling everything off at the last minute. While it’s possible to do exactly this, it’s not a good idea. Especially considering the fact that the project and process journal are due around late January, which is when the 1st semester ends, you’re going to have a huge workload to do.
·      Choose a topic you’re genuinely going to enjoy researching. Don’t decide to choose an “easy” topic simply because you believe you have enough information to finish your project within a couple weeks. Since you’re going to have 2 months off during summer break, you might as well spend a little time brainstorming possible Personal Project topics. Donna Karimi remarked, “For me, the most difficult part of the project was choosing my topic because I had 3 different ones in mind.”
·      You should create a schedule of important due dates as well as when you’re going to go out to library to borrow books or perhaps when you’re going to do your interview. I recommend you do this with your friends so at least you’re not completely bored while doing your work.
·      Don’t forget to schedule meetings with your supervisor at least twice a month because they can help you along the way. They’re also responsible for grading you based on your personal engagement, so it’s recommended to keep in touch with them.

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