Students Love Passion Projects! Why? It's Their Own Passion Product So They OWN It! Here's A Great Idea From Learner's Edge Blog™

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   Your RE@LBloggers chanced upon this fine blog from Learners Edge:  7 Steps for Keeping Students Engaged After Spring Break.

If you elementary teachers out there are looking for projects that your students will both enjoy and remember here’s some great ideas from Marcee Harris. If you are a secondary teacher, many of her suggestions will work there too. 

-H82yYjP_400x400Ms. Harris is the Evaluation and Curriculum Specialist with Learners Edge. She is a veteran elementary teacher with a passion for engaging teachers conversations about equity, and working to transform education through technology. In addition, Ms. Harris tweets useful tips and ideas on her Twitter page. Just click on her photo to the right.

We suggest bookmarking LearnersEdge.com and following Marcee’s tweetsWe particularly like her ideas of “collaboration and evaluation.” It’s what we at RE@L call “Hands-On, Heads-On, Team-Based” learning. In short, it’s real world work.

Here are Ms. Harris’s Passionate Project ideas:

     “Spring Break has come and gone and you’ve (barely) survived the testing season. Summer vacation is near, but the countdown is still in the double digits.  Your students are restless and so are you. What do you do?! How about introducing an activity that sparks joy and intrinsic motivation in your students. One that allows them the freedom to explore areas of personal passion and encourages creative thinking. Something that combines fun and learning.  How about Passion Projects?! 

Unknown-1The Passion Project movement has morphed over decades from a workplace approach to cultivating innovation among employees at 3M to something called 20% time or Genius Hour at Google.  It’s now a popular practice for schools to infuse personalized learning and creativity into their curriculum. Students spend at least one hour each week researching an area of personal interest and designing an engaging multimedia product to be shared with others.   

When I first introduced Passion Projects to my third graders, I didn’t really know what to expect…I had a rudimentary plan, so I just jumped in!  Within minutes, I could see my students’ eyes light up with excitement at the prospect of pursuing something they loved. They were eager to get started. As time went on their enthusiasm for learning continued and I navigated my way through the challenges that surfaced. In the end, my diverse group of students was able to discover more of who they are and what they’re capable of, all while addressing important curriculum standards. A win-win for student and teacher! 

So as you find yourself struggling to keep your students engaged this Spring, I suggest finding some time to squeeze in Passion Projects.  To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of essential steps and resources.  With our Getting Started guide and your students’ passion for learning, you’ll find the summer countdown flying by in no time! 

Kids-BuildingPassion Projects–Getting Started  

Timeline: One hour each week or 2x per week for 30-45 mins, Projects span several weeks 

Evaluation: Not graded, but students can self-assess through ongoing reflections 

Collaboration: Students start with an individual Passion Project, although some may choose to collaborate 

Technology: Can be done with or without technology 

Grade Level: All Grades 

Subject: Interdisciplinary 

UNIT PLAN 

1. Project Introduction (1-2 sessions)

Gather students to introduce the idea of exploring passions.  Share inspirational videos and build excitement by outlining the project components.  Allow for Q & A, and leave students thinking about areas of passion they’d like to explore further. 

2. Brainstorming (2-3 sessions)

UnknownStudents begin making a list of their passions.  Use sticky notes on the wall or digital tool such as Padlet to collect and display student ideas. Search #geniushour and #passionprojecthashtags on Twitter for tons of great project ideas. 

Questions to help students generate ideas: 

  • What do you get excited about? 
  • What are you good at? 
  • What problem would you like to solve? 
  • What do you read about? 
  • What do you secretly dream about? 

3. Narrowing the Focus (2 sessions)

Now it’s time to narrow topics to one essential question (one that can’t just be Googled!).  Students begin to think through the process of doing research, gathering information, and how they’d like to share this information with others.  To make sure all students are ready to begin, teachers can confer one-on-one or require a written project approval. 

Unknown4. Do the Research 

Over several sessions, students conduct research to answer their essential question and take notes.  Traditional notecards work great, however, there are many apps and sites that work well for note taking such as PadletGoogle Keep, or Evernote. Since the research process can vary by student and so much learning happens along the way, we suggest students keep a journal record of their daily observations and accomplishments. 

5. Communicate and Create (several sessions as needed)

Start with a brainstorming session to tease out all of the options for representing student work.  Ideas include traditional posters, articles, and essays, as well as demonstrations, events, performances, models, web pages, and digital presentations/visuals.  When students have made their choices, make a list of materials/resources needed to continue.  

lYw4WUge_400x4006. Share (1-2 sessions)

Schedule time to celebrate and share student learning!  Keep the sharing simple with a gallery walk in the classroom, invite parents to join in or plan a big “Share Fair” event. Projects can also be recorded and viewed via a class website or social media site.   

7. Evaluate (1 session)

While Passion Projects are not graded, this is a great opportunity for your students to self-evaluate their process and product.  Guide your students through the process of identifying accomplishments, obstacles, and takeaways with a reflection tool such as this questionnaire by VVE Passion Project or this Self-Assessment Rubric. 

More Passion Project Resources 

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RE@L loves to see blogs like this one from Ms. Harris. Especially those which have a list of additional resources like this one.

They provide teachers with new and powerful ideas to improve student interest and learning!

Yes, more are needed. And, more are coming from our own RE@LBlog. 

It’s not long until school’s out. Let’s make these last weeks powerful and memorable learning experiences.

Remember: The greatest gift a teacher can give a student is learning how to learn. It keeps on giving….

Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.