From Cooking to Costumes to Coding

A few weeks ago, I was invited to join one of our grade 7 classes as they opened their doors and invited family members and caregivers to come and see their Passion Projects. The classroom was restructured into a circle and students were sitting patiently waiting for their guests. As I ventured from desk to desk, I was not only immensely impressed with their final products, but I was amazed with their depth of understanding of their topics. My competitive side snuck to the surface as I was challenged to a game that one of the students had coded. “It’s just link Pong, Mrs. Bruyns.”   Much to my chagrin, my Pong skills are a little rusty. But the student was very proud to teach me about how to increase or decease the speed to adjust the difficulty.

Next, one of the students took me on a musical journey of his favourite classical musicians from Bach to Beethoven. There were two students whose artistic ability was beyond impressive. Fashion design was a passion of two students ~ one of whom added to their presentation by dressing the part in a decorative tunic. Then there were the chefs, who detailed each step of their culinary creations. One student highlighted their masterpiece with a detailed, aesthetically pleasing online design. Another student brought delicious samples to share with the guests.

Although my task was to be a guest, I couldn’t help but put myself into the place of an educator. I thought about the effective, meaningful assessment data that was undoubtedly gathered during both the production time ~ students were provided with 6 hours ~ and the presentations. Students beamed as they shared their final products and, in some cases, the productive struggle that they went through to arrive at their final project. Those were my favourite conversations. “Tell me what went wrong and how you fixed it.”  As students detailed their journey, I could envision comments for each of the boxes detailed within the Learning Skills/Work Habits section of the Provincial report card.

We often talk about the importance of student voice and student choice. But at times, we stop short of giving students total control of their learning. We allow them to choose between options that we have selected. We provide them scripts to share that we have crafted.

Passion projects, when thoughtfully structured, provide students with authentic choice and voice. I can’t help but wonder how impactful passion projects would be at the beginning of the school year as educators begin to build community and learn more about their students.

As an educator, have you provided your students with the opportunity to complete Passion Projects? I would love to hear about your experience.

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