So last year we got rid of traditional homework in our upper elementary grades, and we replaced it with inspiration projects instead, as a way for kids to bring their passions and learning to life. We still ask kids to read every night with their families, and we still personalize some home learning for students who may need a little extra support in one area or another, but other than that it’s all about passions, sparks, and inspirations…and it’s been awesome! With this structure, we wanted to create an opportunity for students to lead their own learning, and to engage in experiences that truly get them excited about school. It’s been super successful so far, and after a few tweaks and some thoughtful reflection at the end of last year, we are starting to see some incredible results.
One of the pleasant surprises that we’ve seen out of this switch has been the involvement of parents in the learning process. In many ways, these inspiration projects have brought families closer together as mothers and fathers spend quality time with their kids as they research, create, design, and dig deep into their passions. It’s also beautiful to see the parents arrive at school with their child when it’s time to present, and to see how proud and impressed they are with the level of rigor that often accompanies the presentations. So far I’ve been blown away with many of the projects that have been showcased, and here are a few examples that quickly come to mind of what’s been on display.
- Written their own books
- Written code to create functioning robots
- Baked amazing meals and pastries
- Designed small hydraulic machines
- Built lego aircraft carriers
- Written their own songs
- Painted beautiful works of art
- Designed their own clothes
- Built a working volcano entirely out of chocolate (with hot chocolate lava)
- Directed a short film with movie maker
- Built and set off a mini rocket
- Come up with inspiring gymnastic and hip hop routines
- Learned how to play a new instrument
- Built an entire city out of lego
- Designed a futuristic community using Minecraft
I’m really excited as I write this because this week we have our first inspiration project fair for our community on Tuesday morning, where students will bring in their projects and showcase them for their peers, as well as for the parents during our student goal setting conferences this Wednesday. It’s going to be thrilling to walk around and to listen to our kids talk about the passions in their lives, and to see them get excited about learning. It’s also very cool to see their faces light up when they realize that they are also inspiring others!
It is a remarkable thing to see young people so engaged in their learning, and they never fail to impress me beyond measure…these projects always seem to exceed my expectations, which is arguably the best part…kids always inspire when they are given a chance to bring a passion of theirs to life. We are now thinking creatively about how we can bring this kind of approach into the Middle School through our iLEARN initiative (Professional Learning Communities for students), and it’s all very exciting. Let students loose and watch them blow you away! Anyway, this week is going to be so much fun, and I’ll be sure to send out some photos for you all to see what the kids have come up with this time around. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week –
I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious – Albert Einstein
Video About Bringing Passion to Life –
Student Passion Projects –