From eating disorders to toy guns
Gifted eighth graders do year-long research projects
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Feb 10, 2013 | 3974 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TOP OF THEIR CLASS -- Nine of Woodrow Wilson’s students, eight eighth graders and one seventh grader, are up for the Educational Information Resource Center’s Gold Satori award, given to gifted and talented students who have undertaken a year-long research project. From left: Arlene Mendez, Genesis Osorio, Christian Flores, Isaac Ortega, Cesar Esteban, Emily Fung, Edwin Velez, Lilly Fung, and Grace Lopez.
TOP OF THEIR CLASS -- Nine of Woodrow Wilson’s students, eight eighth graders and one seventh grader, are up for the Educational Information Resource Center’s Gold Satori award, given to gifted and talented students who have undertaken a year-long research project. From left: Arlene Mendez, Genesis Osorio, Christian Flores, Isaac Ortega, Cesar Esteban, Emily Fung, Edwin Velez, Lilly Fung, and Grace Lopez.
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Tucked inside Union City’s Woodrow Wilson School, some of the school’s oldest students have spent nearly a year tackling some of society’s most pressing issues as part of the rigorous Resources Offered in Gifted and Talented Education (ROGATE) program.

The program is sponsored by the National Talent Network at the Educational Information Resource Center in Mullica Hill, N.J. Students at the blue-ribbon school, which is attended primarily by gifted and talented students, may enroll in the ROGATE program as seventh graders. But the most rigorous aspect of the program comes as an eighth grader, when the students are eligible for the Gold Satori award, the program’s highest honor. As part of the eligibility process, the students have to individually form a hypothesis on a topic of their choice, and then investigate and create a research project proving or disproving their hypothesis.

This year, Woodrow Wilson has 26 students participating in the ROGATE program, nine of whom are eighth graders coveting the Gold Satori.

“They’re really inspiring students,” said Assistant Principal Nellie Chapman, one of the program’s advisors. “With the foundation that this program provides, the students are positioned to do well academically in high school.”

Last spring, the students presented their findings to peers gathered at Montclair State University. Each candidate gave a 10-minute oral presentation accompanied by a Power Point presentation. Afterwards, the students each took the SAT. They needed to score at least a 510 (of 800) on any given section in order to proceed through the program.

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“A lot of kids our age are focused on their own problems, not society’s.” - Arlene Mendez, an 8th grader at Woodrow Wilson School

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The final step of the process, which will guarantee a candidate who has satisfied the other requirements, is to write an article describing the student’s research project and have it published in a local newspaper (see Lilly Fung’s essay on eating disorders and the media’s portrayal of beauty, accompanying this story).

Serious topics

“A lot of kids our age are focused on their own problems, not society’s,” said Arlene Mendez, one of the students up for the Gold Satori award.

Arlene’s project, which examines whether an achievement gap exists between school districts funded by the state, and non-state funded districts, is one of the projects meant to raise awareness about a societal issue.

“People need to realize that an achievement gap exists and curriculums need to be revamped,” she said. “Without the standards being set higher for inner city kids, that gap is not going to get smaller.”

Many of the students’ projects focused on education and children’s issues. Emily Fung’s research examined the effect that toy guns could have on a child’s development and whether playing with toy weapons causes aggressive behavior.

“It’s a fake sense of violence, but its still violence,” said Emily. “I hope my essay comes across to parents who might think about how their kids play.”

Another of the projects which looked at violence and children was Edwin Valdez’s. Edwin explained that his uncle, a detective, inspired him to research something crime-related, and Edwin’s own interest in serial killers lead him to form a hypothesis about childhood abuse and mass murderers.

While many of the students conducted their own primary research (Emily spoke to a nutritionist about eating disorders and Edwin met with a psychologist to discuss the links between crime and child abuse), they also learned the ins and outs of secondary research.

When asked what the trickiest part of internet research was, nearly all the students responded, “Not using Wikipedia!”

“Looking for reliable sources was difficult,” said Arlene. “It’s hard to know what’s good and what’s not.”

Growing up

Nearly all of the students said that the Gold Satori were a challenge they are proud to have overcome.

“These were really serious projects, and ROGATE is a pretty strenuous program,” said Genesis Osorio. “I think we gained a lot of maturity by doing them.”

Grace Lopez, who wrote about the cognitive effects of homework on students, said the project taught her academic discipline, a skill that will work to her advantage for a long time.

“I think I learned to be dedicated to one thing for a long time, since we worked on this for so long,” she said. “It seems hard at first but you have to learn to be committed.

****SIDEBAR****

The Media and Eating Disorders

By Lilly Fung


It is true that eating disorders have been around for a long time, but can such diseases so easily influence teenagers in modern days? The portrayal of beauty through the media can suggest that changing your appearance is the only way to be beautiful. As a result of this, many adolescents may feel the need to drastically change their eating habits in order to portray the media’s definition of beauty. The media may seem inoffensive, but the media does truly have a great influence over the lives of modern day youth.

In my ROGATE (Resources Offered for Gifted and Talented Education) presentation, I was able to conduct research that informed me about the link between modern day media and eating disorders. ROGATE is a program by the EIRC that enhances the knowledge of students through detailed research. This research aided in the conclusion of my hypothesis: Images from the media, such as the ones of celebrities and models in magazines or television, can influence eating disorders and affect self confidence amongst teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 15.

Collecting data was one of my preliminary tasks for this research. First and foremost, it was necessary to get primary data. For my primary research, I created a survey and distributed it to teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 15. These questions would be able to help me understand their views and feelings whenever the media portrayed beauty as being thin. One of the survey questions was, “Have you ever found yourself doubting your appearance after looking at an image in the media?” It shows that if some girls may feel even slightly affected negatively by the media, then it is clear that it can affect their self-confidence and, in the worst case scenario, even influence an eating disorder.

The second primary resource that I conducted was an interview with Dr. Donna Gallagher, M.S., R.D., a nutritionist from the Begin Within Center for Nutritional and Psychological Wellness. Dr. Gallagher was one of the co-founders of this establishment. Dr. Gallagher herself went through a fight against an eating disorder and overcame it. She uses her experiences to help others recover from eating disorders. The interview with Dr. Gallagher was the most momentous piece of information because she could give a professional point of view on my hypothesis, the media, and eating disorders.

My interview with Dr. Gallagher consisted of 10 questions that related to the topic of my research. The cardinal question of the interview was, “Do you believe the media can be related to the cause of eating disorders? Why or why not?” Dr. Gallagher responded, “The media adds salt to the wounds, meaning that the media is a catalyst or contributor to self-dissatisfaction, which are cornerstones of eating disorders. Because eating disorders are so complex in origin, there is no one factor that causes them. The media plays a significant role though.” Dr. Gallagher’s response to this question assured me that the media can influence self-confidence and thus, eating disorders.

Another question that I asked Dr. Gallagher was, “What is your opinion on how the media can sometimes portray beauty?” Dr. Gallagher’s response was, “The media portrays beauty in a single manner. Beauty equals being ultra thin and flawless. There is no acceptance of imperfections or diversity.” This proves that the media tends to portray beauty in only a single manner and that can be a great influence on young teenagers. Presently, the media is a broad part of a young person’s daily life. This can be beneficial or harmful.

Extending my research further, I found an article on eating disorders on kidshealth.org, called “Eating Disorders.” The article states that eating disorders can begin or be sparked in really simple ways that may not seem harmful at first, but can later develop into an unhealthy disease. Some eating disorders can begin with wanting to work out until it becomes addictive. Other eating disorders can be sparked by fearing the gain of weight through food. This fear can lead to forced vomiting after meals.

The second secondary source that I found was a website called raderprograms.com. This website had information that agreed with my hypothesis. There were many statistics that proved that sometimes the media portrays beauty in unhealthy ways. For example, the average model is five feet and eleven inches tall and only 117 pounds. This weight and height is 25 percent less than the normal and healthy body weight. This statistic was amongst many other facts that supported the idea that the media can truly influence eating disorders and greatly affect self-confidence.

For the final stages of my ROGATE presentation, I had to decide how the information I collected fit with my hypothesis. After much thought and sorting of facts, I concluded that my hypothesis was valid. Even though I felt that the discrepancies had strong arguments, the truth is that the media’s portrayal of beauty affects many teenagers very strongly in modern days. Due to this, the interview with Dr. Gallagher, and the facts from my secondary sources, I stated that the media is not the only cause for eating disorders and self-dissatisfaction, but it does indeed influence both in many ways. To improve, the media should take into consideration all the factors pointed out in this article. The media should demonstrate that beauty can be portrayed in different ways and rather than influence self-dissatisfaction, they can improve the self-confidence of many youths in the modern world.

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