Woodstock | Exploring the Bigger Question. Woodstock Symposium and Inter Disciplinary Projects. Part I
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Exploring the Bigger Question. Woodstock Symposium and Inter Disciplinary Projects. Part I

Festival of Ideas

07 May Exploring the Bigger Question. Woodstock Symposium and Inter Disciplinary Projects. Part I

Every year, at the Festival of Ideas, 11th and 12 Graders are given the opportunity to explore (read, research, question and present) their stance on an issue of their choice.

They publicly present their work based on the supportive findings or justify a complete turnaround of views at their presentation. It’s a time for hard-nosed assimilation of facts and analysis, a test of grit, a passage of discovery, and an opportunity to rethink and reassess. Summed up, it’s a college preparatory exercise. Non-academically speaking, it’s a self motivated lesson in growing up. 

Melanie Reichwald, Head of the English Dept. is overseeing the projects along with Jonathan Seefeldt (HS Coordinator) and Meredith Dyson (English Teacher). Presentations are scheduled from May 21-26.  Amy Seefeldt (Dean, Academics) is helping to administrate the Festival of Ideas, as well as working as a secondary advisor for several students’ projects in both grades. We bring you the Festival of Ideas in three parts. 

Melanie describes the Grade 12 project

“The project helps students think deeply about an essential question that concerns them about the world. Some choose a big question related to something like gender, inequality, or religion, whereas some focus on more topical issues. Once students choose their questions, they read a piece of literature of their choice… a novel, a book of poems, a play, etc. They have to see how that literature answers their question, as literature gives us a certain kind of knowledge. After looking at literature, students begin to do scholarly research. They write an annotated bibliography, and find research that responds to their question from different academic angles. This process helps the students learn what experts from related fields know about their topic. Finally, after both of these pieces, the students reflect on what they’ve learned and where they stand in relation to their question. Did the process open up more questions for them, or help them find a definitive answer? Are they now interested in a new topic? During the Festival of Ideas, students take what they learned and share it with other people. Last year the presentations were more formal but this year they have more options. Some students may give a poster presentation, perform a skit, or create a video or an art piece.”

Grade 11 project

“For this project, students pick a controversial topic to explore. They write a research question and then argue a stance in response to the controversy. They craft a seven-page, researched argument in response to their question. It’s a cohesive final paper versus the three components of the senior project. Grade 11 students also perform a TED talk in which they condense their researched argument into five minutes,” says Melanie.

Some Research Questions posed by Grade 11 Students

• Are people becoming lazy in their thinking? Is free thinking a dying idea?
• Can humans really step back from society and achieve a third person perspective on the world? Should people ban serious violence from entertainment?
• Difference between uni-cultural and multicultural relationship between mass psychology and uni/multi-cultural. Why do people act different when put in a group?
• Why will there not be a next Dalai Lama? 
• How do the labels that the media give terrorists groups change our views of them?
• Should religion be involved in politics?
• Is the “Malthusian Theory” true?
• Should abortion be illegal or legal?
• Is the rise of Hindu nationalism leading to the loss of secularism in India?
• Should factory farming be banned?
• Should countries in Asia use the common currency?
• How should a business function ethically in today’s global economy?
• Has Putin bettered Russian economy as well as its politics in contrast to former Russian leaders?
• Who ultimately has the right to decide whether or not a patient should receive a potentially risky medical procedure?
• Are religious texts the only means for moral truth?
• Why are the women to be victimized or blamed when a woman is raped? Are the laws for rape fair and justified?
• Are tests like the SAT/ACT actually an accurate measure of learning in school?
• Is it okay for high school and college students to take supplements to enhance athletic performance?
• Is fracking a good way to respond to the oil crisis?
• Why must the world of education take steps to change the system to those of northern Europe?
• Why is there such little involvement of women in politics, specifically in Nepal? What can be done to change this? What countries can Nepal model themselves after in order to better women involvement in politics?

Next week: Part II

Shikhar, Grade 11 and YeonSol, Grade 12 tell us what it’s all about from a student’s perspective.

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