Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Passion Projects: A Win-Win

What are you passionate about?  This is the question that I have been asking my students for the last couple of weeks.

I service the gifted and advanced students on our campus and I absolutely love my job.  In one of my previous posts, I shared that we were diving into innovation projects.  We have just finalized our project ideas and have started talking about the process.  These projects are being done by my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade gifted students.   This is a multi-age classroom and it's fun to see them working together to come up with meaningful projects that are passion-driven.  Below is a list of the projects that my students will be working on:

Raising $ for Cancer – Organizing a 5K for our community in order to raise money for local cancer organizations 
School Publicity – Finding ways to get positive publicity for our school as well as creating a school newspaper 
Animals Being Euthanized – Hoping to work with the Humane Society to find a solution to so many animals being euthanized
Technology in Classrooms – Working with teachers to provide suggestions about how to integrate technology into their classroom
Snakes – Organizing a presentation on snakes to explain that they are not always bad
Hunting Safety – Creating ways to educate others about hunting safety
Ice Cream Flavors – Creating new ice cream flavors and sharing with others
Hospital Improvement – Working with local hospitals to find ways that we can help improve hospital stays for others

As you can see, some of these projects are very ambitious.  One of the major requirements for each project is that students must collaborate with an expert outside of our school.  While some of these projects will turn out great,  some will fail.  And that’s okay.  Failure is something that students need to experience.  I believe that this will be a great way for students to engage in meaningful activities while learning important skills.   Ultimately, my goal is for them to become innovative, creative, and reflective learners.  

In addition to these projects, the advanced learners that I see each week for each grade level (1st - 5th) will be working on Passion Projects during our Genius Hour.  After doing lots of research and visiting The Genius Hour Website, I decided that I wanted all of my students spending some of their time each time we meet working on something that they are passionate about.  I have these students for three hours every other week.  Our first hour of class will be dedicated to such projects.  Some of my favorites so far include:

QR Codes for the Library - One of my students that loves to read will be making book reviews for the Bluebonnet Award books and using QR codes to display her reviews in the library.
Fashion Design - This student will create a blog where she will give fashion tips and information to other students her age.
Robotics - This student will study how to make a robot and will then do so using everyday materials that he finds at school and around his house. 
Cartoon Creation - After researching how cartoons are made, this student hopes to make his own cartoons and post on YouTube.  
Video Games Around the World - This student will use Google Maps to create a visual representation of the different video games that people play all over the world.  

My students will begin blogging soon about their projects and I am excited to see their reflections as they share their progress with an authentic audience.  We spent some time today making meaningful comments using Accountable Talk.  I was very pleased with their ability to come up with comments that were appropriate and engaging.  

My favorite thing about all of these projects is that they will incorporate multiple subject areas. Students will be doing what they love while still using math, science, ELA, technology, and social studies.  What more could a teacher ask for?  The students will be invested in their learning while learning the skills that need to be addressed.  It's a win-win for everyone involved!

If you have not heard of Genius Hour or Innovative Classrooms, please check out the following websites and blogs.   You owe it to your students and yourself to try something new and exciting. What a great way to start the New Year!

The Innovation Teacher - Don Wettrick
Genius Hour Website - Chris Kesler
Engage Their Minds - Terri Eichholz
Runde's Room - Jen Runde

Please feel free to comment below to share how you use Genius Hour or ask questions about how you can make this work in your classroom.


  1. Andi, what a great comprehensive post - It could rope many teachers into doing passion projects! I love the "accountable talk" - I've never seen that! Although I'm flattered my blog is one of your resources, I think the LiveBinder would be a better one: It has THIS resource in it now, as well. The blog is just me rambling to reflect, usually. ;-) Thank you for sharing this post on the hashtag - I hadn't seen it before this morning. Enjoy the messy learning!!

    1. Thanks so much Joy. That means so much coming from you. I will definitely update the link to include the LiveBinder...didn't even think about that. Thanks for adding this to your list. I appreciate it! I have learned so much from your LiveBinder as well as your blog. Thanks for doing what you do and teaching has forever been changed! :)

    2. My teaching has forever been changed, too... For sure. Phew! What a great journey we're on!!