Every student at the Junyi School of Innovation partakes in the three-year long graduation project. It is a project that allows them to explore their interests in-depth in which they will present to their peers in the 12th grade. Beginning in the 10th grade, 10th graders are supported to first identify their topics of interests. Through curiosity and research they earn knowledge, experience, passion, and inspiration. Students are encouraged to ask questions, explore, apply their learnings from class, reflect, modify, and improve their works. They learn to bring their ideas into reality.
March 2022, each with a 20-minute time limit, 46 graduates presented their projects to fellow high schoolers. Not only were the projects a direct outcome of their three-year exploration, Junyi believes it is the most valuable gift graduates could gift themselves before embarking on their new journeys. The graduation presentation is a requirement to graduate from the school. Each week, students are asked to delegate self-learning and exploration time to work on their projects. Students also take the initiative to discuss their progress with their teachers. The role of the teacher is to guide students without interference in opinion, and to give students the space to determine their own learning direction. This collaboration is the key to the project’s success.
Self-directed learning develops into a career path
Hanna Chien-Hua Wang comes from a family of farmers. When the project was first assigned, she immediately knew what her topic would be – farm marketing. Wang said, “My father grows the most beautiful fruit trees. It is not only during the harvest season that he enjoys his work, he deeply believes that the process of growing a tree is his contribution to the society and environment. Because his expertise is in farming, after harvesting the fruits, many are left unsold. I want to help solve this issue by creating a marketing plan for our farm.”
Wang once brought two cases of her father’s pomelo to share at school. Teacher Hsin-Hung Chuang remarked, “The pomelos are delicious – why aren’t they packaged better?” Thereafter, he gave her a book on farm marketing, and suggested her to make jam out of the unsold ripened fruits. “After a few days, Wang brought homemade jam for me to try. I was particularly impressed by her drive to take action.” said Teacher Chuang.
Wang read the book cover to cover, and it eventually became the book she would refer to frequently in her process of developing a marketing plan. Wang said, “From the book, I learned that it is okay to not succeed in the beginning, and to take the time to figure out what success looks like for our farm. I was inspired to identify the unique selling points of our farm to set us apart from others. I learned to use marketing to solve our problems. To tackle the issue of unsold ripened fruits, we developed 16 processed food products.” Wang also followed the book’s suggestion to get involved in the local farmers’ market which she built the courage to set up a stall. She aspires to create a platform to help uplift small farm businesses for them to earn fair income. In Wang’s college interview, she proudly presented the brand and products she created for her family’s farm. She was instantly accepted to the university’s marketing program. Through the graduation project, a future career path was inspired.
Passion inspires diligence and persistence
Andrew Hsien-Cheng Chu’s chosen topic was his journey to master the guitar. Teacher Chuang said “Chu is passionate about music. He exposes himself greatly to different types of music. He even asked if I would form a band with him – which I did, and we performed at the Tiehua Music Village. It takes an entire week for him to hone eight bars which can feel repetitive and boring but he does it with patience.” Several students at Junyi are skilled at guitar playing, some even requested to perform at school events; however, Teacher Chuang feels Chu’s dedication, though not necessarily recognized by peers, is valuable and worth praising.
Interest turns to passion
Josh Chia-Hsiang Chiang who has a love for Japanese anime and manga made this his chosen topic. In grade 11, Chiang remade the book, “The Missing Piece”, into a film using stop motion technique. It was then that he discovered his strengths and his confidence grew. Teacher Wan-Yen Hsu said, “The final product of the anime is short but it took a lot of heart and effort on his part to create it particularly because the stop motion software was in English. Though he experienced several failures in the process, he persisted on in his goal to create a high quality production. I can see his confidence flourish from the experience.” In Chiang’s 12th grade, he produced a 3D film for an online course – a total of 24 seconds took three months to produce. Chiang said, “In life, there will be times where the amount of time committed versus the outcome are not equal, but never give up until you find your passion.”
Dare to be unique
Neona I-Chieh Yang’s topic was on the relationship between dreams and stress for female adolescence. When Yang first explored the connection between stress and the subconscious mind, she approached it with a survey examining patterns of peers that dreamed regularly. Yang believes that whether positive or negative, every dream has its meaning. In her findings, she identified several categories of dreams from stress about the future, desire to warning from the subconscious. When Yang first pursued her topic, she questioned her decision – while others’ topics could define clear results, hers would be open-ended. Teacher Chuang said, “Though your topic is rare, your findings will benefit some of your peers.” After receiving feedback from other students, she was reassured that her findings did benefit some. After graduating from Junyi, Yang plans to major in anthropology and minor in psychology. Friends have always known her to be one that supports them in their downs; she hopes to be a positive contributor to society.
“We are all connected to the land” – creating awareness through performing arts
Demi Yun Tai chose land identity as her topic with emphasis on the current situation in her village, and how her own awareness of the topic grew. She expressed her findings through a range of performing arts.
Tai’s presentation started with a black and white film. It shows her watering a plant with water, coffee, beer then ending with her pouring a bucket of water into the overflowing pot of the now dead plant. Next to her, an excavator which she operates to dig a hole deep enough for a person to lie in. She walks into the hole, lays down, and the film ends.
Tai, from the Paiwan tribe, grew up in Taitung. She said, “Because of my father, I have always had a deep relationship with the land. He often brought me to the mountains and village to remember my roots. I grew up with the Pacific Ocean view yet it is only in the last few years that I truly appreciate its beauty, or consider the village situation – what the village faces in terms of crisis as well as cultural preservation. The situations that we have grown used to does not equal ignorance, but they can slowly develop into ignorance.” She asks, “How much of the environment that you live in each day do you notice?” Tai aspires to create awareness through the arts. She sang a folk song that paints the beauty of Mount Kavulungan, and concludes, “You exist in the world, the land is connected to us all.”
Have the courage to be yourself
Teacher Chuang and Teacher Hsu both observed that the 2022 graduates share the motto of being oneself. Teacher Hsu said, “They are independent in their thinking, do things their way rather than what’s expected by others.”
This year’s topics were particularly diverse and expressed the individuality of each student. Teacher Hsu said, “When students share with us the topics they wish to pursue, we are slow to agree or disagree even if we foresee that the topic may not sustain. Because we want to encourage their interests and curiousity, we give them the space to decide rather than to follow our direction. Our role is to guide them into coming to their own decision.” Teacher Chuang followed, “At this age, it is essential for us to be the protectors of their imaginations even if it means the outcome could have improvement. I always respect their direction.”
To learn about oneself and the world is lifelong.