Last year, I introduced Passion Projects to my grade 8 students, and it was a huge success overall. Students were engaged in learning something they found personally motivating, organizing their time, reflecting on their progress, and problem solving throughout the whole process.
This year, I am excited to relaunch this project with a new group of students. We are on week 4, and there are some projects that I am really excited to follow. While there are some very strong plans in place, several students are definitely just "going through the motions" rather than really investing their time in something that they find personally rewarding. I am struggling with how to help them realize that their individual interests are valid and deserving of attention.
It's so sad to me that there are students who can't even identify something that makes them feel passionately - or if they have an idea, it is sad that they don't believe that it will be an acceptable one for this project. What is happening that students don't believe their interests and passions are valid? And how can we as teachers address this issue? It's not enough to give them artificial choices within the classroom, we have to help them to invest in learning in ways that will be sustainable outside of the school environment.
Every week, the day before we work on Passion Projects at school, students fill out a check-in page so that I have a sense of who will need support to move forward. Yesterday, four of these pages stood out to me.
|This student got a "yellow light" last week because their peers did not think they had a solid enough plan. I'm glad to hear that he feels back on track this week!|
|This student received a "yellow light" from their peers last week and has really turned it around. They have come with an idea and a new sense of purpose after a conference with me last week.|
I think I made a mistake this year during the roll-out of Passion Projects. Because I had already done a project last year, I had more materials to share with students than I did in Year 1. My project last year was to work at learning Spanish, and I shared that project with my students this year. I now have 4 students (out of 19) who are learning a language as their Passion Project. I'm not certain that it is because I presented them with my project from last year, but I am concerned that I may have inadvertently swayed them in a direction they might not otherwise have take. This is something that I need to consider for next year when I introduce the project again.
Random other thoughts :
We are currently undergoing a curriculum realignment for middle school that will be piloted next year in several schools in Nova Scotia. From what I'm hearing, one of the major components of the realignment is to integrate more project-based learning. Depending on the supports that are put in place, I think this could be a good direction for middle school education, and this model lines up well with what I have been doing in my classroom for years.