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.