Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Passion Projects


I am always looking for ways to inspire my students and promote learning in my classroom. The biggest obstacle I often face is school itself. Whether its curriculum, rules, schedules, standardized tests or the host of other things that get in the way of inspired learning, there is always appears to be some obstacle. The past two years I have been fortunate to offer my students a day of unfiltered learning that was driven by their passions and interests in the form of Innovation Day. For me, it always kind of bothered me that this day only happened one time during the school year. I wanted a way to have this notion of learning exist in my classroom more regularly and this year I am giving something new a try.

Two weeks ago I introduced my students to something a colleague and I are calling “Passion Projects”. We committed a day a week (which is a class period in a junior high setting) to allow kids to work on these projects. To start, we asked our students what they were passionate about. What did they want to be when they grew up? If they had unrestricted time and resources to learn about something, what would that be? As a class we talked through the answers to these questions and started designing projects and learning activities based on their interests. Below is the first list of topics that was generated by my students during their first brainstorm.
  • Music
  • Environmental impacts on testing
  • Entertaining
  • Ocean
  • Building
  • Website design
  • Interior Decorating
  • Fishing
  • Photobooks/Photography
  • Acting
  • Writing
  • Engineering
  • Dinosaurs
  • Dancing ballerina
  • Cooking, chef
  • Perform-drama-skits
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Marine biology
  • Animals
  • Basketball
  • Swimming animals
  • Game design
  • Meteorology

Now some of these we are working with and creating into “doable” projects within the parameters of our school day and physical space. Outside of that, I have given them very few restrictions. One requirement I gave them is that I want them to keep a learning journal in some form to reflect on their learning. The other thing I asked them to do is share their work with their peers a few times over the course of the year. I told them I will provide feedback and guidance but never a grade or evaluation.

My goal is for students to pursue something they are passionate about and may never get a chance within a school to study. One way I hope to further inspire them is to use my social media “superpowers” to connect my students with some experts or professionals in some of the above topics. For example, I am already working on connecting my young meteorologist with one of the stars of Discovery’s show Stormchasers. I truly want to inspire these kids to think outside of the box and find something to be passionate about. If are or know somebody that is connected to one of these fields please leave me a comment as I would love to talk with you.

I look forward to sharing this journey with my students and sharing their successes and spectacular failures along the way.