It had been a goal of mine to bring student passion projects into our classroom, but I was having a struggle trying to figure out what was the best way to do it. So, I began to do my research. I am one of “those”. I like to find out what I can about new practices, ideas, etc. before attempting.
I watched a colleague, @meaganhparrish do a project with her students; she was a great sounding board as well as a resource. I spent the summer reading Empower & Launch by @spencerideas & @ajjuliani, Shift This by @JoyKirr, & watched an interview with @paulsolarz. The most reinforcing thing that I found from all of these resources & authors was that I could take “baby-steps” during this process.
How we started:
I chose to team up with one of our enhancement teachers, @tprince423. She was interested in joining this journey with me. We selected one day a week that would be protected, no matter what for our passion projects. Next, we found a time that worked with both teacher’s schedules. Passion Tuesdays emerged! We agreed to meet every Tuesday for 45-50 minutes. My class would travel to Mrs. Prince’s classroom to work on our projects. Her classroom is housed in the media center & she has access to some additional Chromebooks, so it just seemed logical.
Our next step was to sell passion projects to our students. We started by asking the class, “How would school be different if you could learn whatever you wanted to learn?” This was followed by small group discussions & whole class share-out. Then students created a brainstorm list of things they enjoy or that they are interested in. This list will assist in future passion project ideas. Each student has a notebook that is solely used for passion projects. (Due to the fact that we are working with third grade students, these beginning steps were modeled.)
After igniting interest in the children, I sent home a letter to our parents. This letter shared information about the passion projects & upcoming PBL projects. I also asked them to please complete a survey if they would like to be a part of this endeavor. The purpose for this is to keep communication lines open as to begin building a network of an expert pool for students. The survey is a google form which is embedded on our class webpage.
Developing Essential Questions
To be quite honest, I have found this to be one of the most challenging things to be doing with the children. I googled and I googled, but I could not really find anything that assisted in showing or explaining essential questions to my students. Maybe my take on passion projects is different that others, but I believe that there must be an essential question to drive the project. Otherwise, it is nothing more than a plain old research project. If a student can google the answer to his question, then it needs to be revised.
Our class drafted some essential question starters to assist in the development of their questions. We put these starters on a wall in our classroom, that way we are able to utilize them for other projects as well.
–I wonder… —Why…
–What if…. —How…
Students record all ideas in their passion notebooks. They have a page for their first selected project. Their essential question is recorded here. I have a vast range of interests as well as talents in my class.
Some of questions are quite intriguing for 3rd grade students:
–How has the gymnastics vault table changed?
–How do rainbows work?
–I wonder if different liquids affect plant growth?
Students used their essential question to complete their project proposal. Here, students determined materials needed, supports required from Mrs. Prince & myself, ending product and how they planned to share what was learned. Proposals were to be submitted prior to beginning projects. We wanted the children to have a goal or plan in mind.
We spent several weeks supporting students while they researched and created, developed, or constructed their projects. A date was set for them to begin presenting. Some upperclassmen had agreed to be our audience. Excitement filled the air the day we began our presentations. It took us three days to finish because we presented about 30 minutes each day.
Reflection & Feedback
Immediately after each presentation we share two things students do well and something to try differently next time. Students who presented a passion project as well as those who were an audience member gave feedback or reflected using @Flipgrid.
The children love Passion Tuesday! They are always thinking of a new project. Learning and a passion for learning is alive and well! I am so glad that we began this journey, baby-steps and all.