Skip to main content

Release The Passion

Yesterday was the second year I've introduced the idea of a passion project to my AP students after hour AP test has been administered.  I have to say that although last year was a success, this year feels infinitely more exciting.  Why?  I think we had a better kick-off/brainstorming day than we did last year.

I have to thank at Denise Krebs and Gallit Zvi  at The Genius Hour Guidebook and Don Wettrick at The Innovation Teacher for their tremendous ideas and resources.

First was defining the purpose of the passion project. It is a matter of framing the project time as time to for learners to do something for themselves, not time to create something for their teachers.  Compliant students are very quick to see this as a task to be completed rather than an opportunity for themselves. I ran into that in a handful of situations last year, and it really bothered me.  I wasn't prepared for it. I didn't realize that many times, students aren't comfortable exploring what they really care about within the walls of the classroom. Also last year, students had a hard time defining what they actually liked or were interested in.  This was equally as troubling.

In introducing the concept, I framed the "why" of a passion project.  At the end of the day, we all have lots of demands.  So when we have some free time, we may choose to just do something that doesn't require high brain engagement in order to relieve some of that stress.  This project is intended to all students to claim some time to engage their brains in something they want to.  While the topic of exploration is wide open, there are reflective frameworks that will be put in place to guide the process.  This inquiry framework is something that I hope to instill as valuable to my students.

One key to a passion project is that in the overwhelming majority of them, they are personal.  Students need to own their passion.  I firmly believe that every student is passionate about something.  When we give them this space and time for personal exploration, we can't let our students have a passion for riding on the coattails of others, taking shortcuts, or simply cheating. Just think where that will take them in their lives and where that we leave our world.

So, after a brief introduction to the why, I solicited ideas for what students were already interested in via Pear Deck. I specifically told them that it didn't have to relate to physics. Here are some of the responses I got in a crude word cloud.

Then I asked students what is something they knew little about and wanted to learn more about. Here are the responses I got in another crude word cloud.

I told students that they shouldn't stop brainstorming with one idea.  They worked during class to think of 5 things they already knew they liked and were already a part of their lives and 5 things that they wanted to learn more about or learn to do. By then end of the process, many students had a handful of possible ideas while others had a narrow focus on their perfect idea.  But, not a single student hadn't identified a long list of things that they were passionate about or curious about which was great to see.

The conversations were great to hear.  Hearing students talk about their interests can bring a big change in atmosphere (I realize that not every student is passionate about physics). The excitement was evident.  Not because there was only a month of school left or the AP exam was over, but because they came up with an idea that they couldn't wait to explore in class.  

I look forward to tracking more about their progress over the next weeks.

Popular posts from this blog

Waves of Innovation in Elmbrook Part 1

As a part of a graduate project, I am looking at innovations in education within my school district, Elmbrook Schools. I am specifically focusing on those looking to provide learners with more ownership over their own learning (a.k.a. personalizing learning). I've completed 4 interviews so far.  I had no intention of sharing them via this blog.  But, I think the stories and insights of these educators really are important for all.  They were vulnerable in a way that shows their passion for what they are undertaking.  They want the best for all learners not simply students, but educators who may hear their words.  So, please take the time to listen to their stories.  

In this video, Jeff Ortman a teacher in his 22nd year, discusses implementing strategies to give students ownership of their learning in his high school English classroom.  He discusses why he wanted to change his learning environment, his first steps to bring change, how choice and feedback are key to his classroom, a…

Can I Believe These Numbers?

Our union put out the results of a recent district survey.  The number of those who responded to the survey was low in comparison to the total number of certified staff. But the number and comments related to personalized learning struck me as troubling.

Based on this data, over half of the district staff polled are not onboard with the district's vision for personalized learning.  I would argue that not knowing the district vision for personalized learning is synonymous with not understanding what personalized learning is. The mission of the Elmbrook School Districtto inspire every student to think, to learn and to succeed.  By personalizing learning, we hope to achieve that mission.
I begin to question have we put the phrase before the meaning?  Have we thrown out this word without intention?  Have we made it to much of another thing to do rather than a method to achieve our shared vision.
These numbers shake me to the core.  After the recent presidential election, I realized I was…

How to Personalize Learning Part 3: Knowing How a Classroom Learns

Now, it may seem contradictory to state that teachers should create a classroom learner toolkit.  All individuals in our class have their own profile. We can’t simply design on blanket profile for the class.  That is very true.  That’s why Bray and McClaskey take a different approach to what a classroom learning toolkit looks like.  It is a 3-step process Class Learning Snapshot Preferences and Needs Class Learning Toolkit

Class Learning Snapshot In this model of designing tools for a whole classroom, the authors first recommend the teacher identify 4 learners who are diverse.  The Class Learning Snapshot records the specific strengths, talents, interests, and challenges of those four learners. If a teacher could meet the needs of these diverse learners through UDL, the needs of the other students in the class would probably be met.

Student Strengths, Talents, and Interests Challenges 1 It's easier for me to understand content when I am taught by a teacher and then am able to get informati…