7th Grade Projects

Convincingly Supporting Claims - Science
Kings, Kipchaks, and Technical Writing - World History

Greatest Growth

Of the many projects I have done this year, I have only written about two. As a result of this, I have grown in many areas not mentioned at all in the following reflections. Of the many ways I have grown this year, I have chosen these because they are the ones (resulting from projects) that were most obvious to me. In addition, they are the areas of greatest growth (resulting from projects). However, of the two, I think I grew most in World History during the Game Board Project. In this project, I grew in my ability to communicate well as well as in my technical writing skills, both of which are immensely important and useful. I think that my growth resulting from the Board Game Project was greater than that resulting from learning how to better support claims because the contrast between my abilities before and after completing the projects is comparatively larger, as you can see if you continue reading this page.

Convincingly Supporting Claims - Science

The Greek philosopher Aristotle illustrated reasoning and proof with this syllogism: “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.” However, not all statements are not so easily shown to be true. The hardest statements to prove require the most persistence to support. To persist at something, you must keep trying to accomplish it, to not give up no matter how difficult the task may be. Often statements that are difficult to prove – one that comes to mind is the proof of Fermat’s last theorem (at one time considered the world’s hardest mathematical problem) which was not proven for over three hundred and fifty years after it was first formulated – require much persistence in that many paths of logic must be tried before a satisfactory one is found. This year, I have become more persistent, which has helped me to become more skilled at using claim, evidence, and reasoning to support a claim convincingly.

One thing that shows how I have become more persistent and resultantly could more convincingly support claims is when our class learned how to write scientific explanations in science. At the time, we were learning about chemistry. The main things we studied, though not the only things we studied, were substances, chemical reactions, and chemical properties. A substance is a material that is made up of only one type of atom or molecule throughout, a chemical reaction is when two or more substances interact or one substance decomposes to form (a) new substance(s) with different properties, and a chemical property is a specific identifying characteristic of a substance that cannot be physically changed. While we were learning this, we were also learning how to construct a convincing scientific argument using claim, evidence, and reasoning. My teacher explained what she would be looking for by assessing examples of scientific explanations in front of the class and then having us assess more examples per the criteria she had detailed to us. This gave me a good idea of what constituted a good or bad scientific argument, but as you will see, it did not completely prepare me to write one of my own. Shortly after this lesson we were given an assignment: to write a scientific explanation stating whether two stones (with listed properties) were the same substance. I got a B on this assignment because I did not explain why what I had said about the stones and their properties related to the claim I had made. This shows that I was having difficulty with supporting an argument using claim, evidence, and reasoning. Later in the chemistry unit I wrote other scientific explanations on such topics as whether acid rain produces new substances and whether the electrolysis of water was a chemical reaction. These were not graded or critiqued by the teacher for content, however, and were entirely for practice.

This practice was, however, very beneficial to me. It helped me to become more persistent in my writing. To see this, consider my first scientific explanation. I did not explain why fully enough. Improving on that would necessarily involve more writing, because there would be more explanation. More explanation of why something was true required more persistence because you must think about what you are saying is true, convince yourself it is true, and then transcribe the mental process by which you know it is true. This requires persistence because often it is difficult to explain why it is fully true and often – this is the problem I encountered – you assume that the reader understands something that you have not explained and they must understand it for your argument to make sense. To make sure that I did not do this in future scientific explanations, I developed a method of ensuring that I did it properly: I explained everything whenever it was possible that someone my age would not understand what I was talking about and I read over my writing afterward to make sure it made logical sense. I had to keep trying and repeating this until I was successful, and not infrequently I had to revise my work and keep trying to make sure my argument was fully satisfactory. The fact that this made the process of writing a scientific explanation more difficult and time-consuming shows that it required more persistence, and practicing this not only improved the quality and convincingness of my scientific explanations but made me more persistent.

At the end of the chemistry unit there was, inevitably, a test. This test would of course encompass all the unit’s content to assess how well we had learned it, and since we had learned how to write scientific explanations during the unit, I expected to be tested on my ability to do so. The last question on the test required a scientific explanation. Perhaps coincidentally, this scientific explanation was to state and defend whether two stones (with listed characteristics) were the same substance. I did this successfully, as evidenced by the fact that I received a 100% on that section of the test. The argument correctly states that the stones are not the same substance and clearly explains why, based on the given information, this must be the case. The fact that I was not able to successfully do this at the beginning of the unit but could at the end shows that I became more persistent because writing a good scientific explanation such as the one on the test requires more persistence then writing a mediocre one such as the one I wrote at the beginning of the year.

This year, I have improved in my ability to support an argument due to my growth in persistence. I did not at first do particularly well in this area, but I did eventually improve due largely to practice. This growth in persistence will be beneficial to me in the future in many ways. For example, I will begin learning Chinese next year, as will all students in the eighth grade at my school, which I am sure will require copious amounts of persistence. I am sure, though, that I will encounter many other challenges throughout my life, the overcoming of which will doubtless be aided by being persistent. This experience will help me with them because it has helped me become more persistent.

My first written scientific explanation. Graded scientific explanation on test.

(Left) My first written scientific explanation. (Right) Graded scientific explanation on my test at the end of the year.

Kings, Kipchaks, and Technical Writing - World History

June 16, 1887, was a bad day for Frank Primrose. The Philadelphia wool dealer telegraphed his agent in Kansas to tell him that he had bought 50,000 pounds of wool, but due to an error in transmission, the word bought was replaced with buy, an error that lost Primrose $20,000. Bad instructions do not always produce such undesirable effects, but rarely do they produce desirable ones. Confusing instructions can result in frustration and often waste the time of anyone who tries to follow them, and erroneous instructions (such as ‘buy 50,000 pounds of wool’) can have terrible results, especially if not carried out correctly. The generation of useful, clear instructions (also known as technical writing) is an exercise in communication, as communication is the imparting or exchange of information – in this case, the imparting of information. This year, I have become better at technical writing because of my growth in communication.

It is easy to see how I have grown in communication and, consequently, technical writing through the Middle Ages Game Board Project I did in World History. In this project, students were put in groups of three or four and tasked with creating a board or card game that demonstrated the feudal and manor systems. The feudal and manor systems together represent the entire political, economic, and social structure of the middle ages. The feudal system was based on the exchange of land for services, and created a social structure of lords and vassals – the former providing land, the latter services – that lasted for hundreds of years. The manor system was the extension of the feudal system to the proletarian peasants, who were given protection rather than land for their services. We began by brainstorming our game, and that brainstorm is one of the things that shows how substantial my growth in communication was. I, in the brainstorm, attempted to explain the rules of the game we would make, how it would be played, and how it would contain all required items on the rubric. This attempt, had it accompanied the actual game, would not have helped anyone to play the game correctly due to its being unclear, imprecise, badly organized and (due to my poor handwriting) nearly illegible.

The instructions did not stay in that state for long, however. I was given the task of writing the instructions. This meant explaining in a clear and precise way a somewhat complicated game (an exercise in technical writing). The task was made more difficult by the ever-increasing complexity of the rules: rules were added to accommodate items on the rubric, to make the creation of the board and pieces easier, to resolve disputes between group members, or just for fun (for example, we detailed what to do if your land was invaded by Kipchaks). In addition, I had to be sure to define a list of terms (including but not limited to: feudal system, manor system, king, noble, lord, knight, vassal and peasant) throughout the instructions. The instructions did all of that satisfactorily, and this is evident because our group received a 98% (rounded to the nearest percent) on the project. If we had done badly on the (substantial) portion of the project that was the instructions, we would not have received such a good overall grade. In addition, you can tell that we did well on the project and that the instructions were clear because other kids could play our game. The fact that the instructions were clearer shows that I got better at technical writing: my first attempt to explain how to play the game was hard to understand, but my final instructions for the game were clear and usable. The difference between the two shows my growth in technical writing. However, the difference in clarity between the two also shows that I got better at communication. This is because communication is the impartation of information. The explaining of how to do something is the impartation of information, so if I grew in that I grew in communication.

Through the Middle Ages Game Board Project, I became better at communication and resultantly better at technical writing. I did not do very well at this at first, but eventually I wrote a clear, helpful, and useful set of instructions for how to play a board game. My growth in communication and particularly technical will be useful to me when I am doing peer tutoring or helping other students with their work, because I will be able to explain how to do things more clearly. Moreover, I will be able to more clearly express my ideas and why I think the way I do, which could be useful in a variety of situations.

The brainstorm, (my initial attempt at explaining the rules of the game).

The brainstorm (my initial attempt at explaining the rules of the game).

The final instructions for the game

The final instructions for the game.