Category Archives: passion projects

Passion Projects!

Screen Shot 2017-02-18 at 2.00.21 PM.pngIndependent study projects offer students a great deal of choice in their learning. The challenge however is when do I fit it all in? Since Passion Projects focus primarily on research and presentation standards (which fall under writing and speaking/listening standards), they are not part of the curriculum that I am responsible for. For this reason, I do not include these as part of the in class work we do.

Needless to say, they hold so much value and in the past students who have taken the initiative to do one have found them to be VERY rewarding! Check out our Green Room Virtual Museum to see! (note that some projects load VERY slowly!) Here are a few where video was used in sharing what was learned as it is a popular choice:

Please note that Passion Projects are intended to be done independently and at home. (If a student wishes to use Green Room resources or materials they will need to schedule a time during their recess to come in and work). Class time will not be devoted to these projects, however I will be virtually available for students to ask questions so access to their school Google accounts from home is a must.

To be eligible for a passion project as a 3rd grader, students must have earned at least a “Level 5” responding to text badge and must sign a contract. 4th graders are always welcome to do one on their own!





A “passion project” of my own…

I tell the children I work with that I am passionate about learning. There are things that “light a fire” inside of me and drive me to want to discover, explore, research, and investigate. As adults, we conduct informal research all the time… when we plan a vacation, we search for travel related information. When we see a doctor and receive a “diagnosis”, we hunt for more info about it. We read labels on the products we buy; we choose service providers carefully. What ever our pursuit, we are essentially doing research.

While research can be necessary and important, it can also be for fun. For this reason, I invite my students to do their own “passion projects”. Learn more about any topic that you find interesting and want to know more about. Passion is what drives us to learn!  Setting up a fantasy football team? That’s a passion project! Collecting dolls and creatively displaying them? Passion project! Reading a book about something you are curious about… passion project.

This summer I explored many of my passions; they all pretty much happened to be centered around teaching but still I did research, investigated, experimented, and discovered some new and exciting things.  While I had many pursuits, my main “passion project” was learning more about Google Apps for Education (GAfE) and obtaining my Level 1 Google Certification.  Through this process I worked through 13 self-paced units and then took a 2 hour online “test”.  What excites me the most about this however is what changes it lets me bring into our classroom!

While 3rd graders will get off to a “paper-pencil” start to instill structure and routine, my 4th graders are going to jump in to a more “digital” and blended classroom. With our own Chromebooks we have regular access to GAfE.  Here are some of the highlights that I will share with students when I start seeing them regularly: Using Your Chromebook to “Show what you have learned” , 4th Grade Expectations, and  Sample Stations with Google Apps.

Stay tuned to learn more about how the 4th graders and I are going to use Google Keep as a tool to set personal goals, create personal checklists, and self-monitor time on task!

Multimedia producers

I have been teaching the children that they are “consumers” of information but can and should also be producers. Simply put, we learn best by “doing” or creating:

Cone of Learning

When children process what they learn and create something new to share with others, they are most active in their learning. I’ve always had students “showing and telling” in different formats but technology provides outlets that are highly engaging. Of course the act of creating or process contributes more to the learning than a finished product, so even if my students do not develop a polished presentation or top notch piece of work, the process of creating alone worked their brain at the highest levels.

So to facilitate the process further, we obtained a Mac Book for student production use (especially with GarageBand and iMovie) and then I supplemented with some special tools: Green screen, photography lighting, and video camera.  So far 4th graders are putting these tools to use as we figure out the best ways to use the tools.  3rd graders have been exploring other production options.

Green screen 1 Green Screen 2 Green Screen 3 Green Screen 4

More Passion Project information

The Passion Project is very open ended and I have made the offer for students to see me during Tiger Time on Fridays for any help. Research objectives are not part of the reading curriculum (but rather writing and in science/social studies content); I cannot give much class time for this.  (As I am only the reading teacher of record).  This is why however that I have no specific requirements for the project.  The packet I gave the students isn’t something to go through step by step.  Just a collection of things that could be useful if needed. If I had more time with the children I could take them through set steps; unfortunately I do not so I hope to introduce them to different aspects.
I am still working on more modeled helpful tools to share.  So far, I’ve shown the children how they can “fish for facts” (take notes), how to determine importance and look for bibliography info (just to introduce them to what it is and why it will become important; I am not requiring a formatted bibliography), I’ve also introduced the children to some researching online basics using Google Docs (again not required; just want to show the children some basics.)
My goals are:
To enjoy learning about something of interest
To share that learning in any way that the student enjoys
To introduce students to some research basics
Something else to consider. This project gives students flexibility to explore and try with no risk. Rather than give students a step-by-step guide, I want them to discover, explore and try things. Encouraging this helps develop problem solving skills.
The bottom line…the passion project is designed for self-motivated and driven learners to take advantage of.  Students who are not as driven can still enjoy learning about something that interests them and can share what they learned in some way.  If I put limits on this, I don’t get some surprising and extremely creative results!

Digital Learning Day!

February 5th is Digital Learning Day.  The weather doesn’t care because we are all at home, hopefully warm and safe with power to use those devices.  I had hoped to celebrate this day IN CLASS WITH my children…yet what better way to celebrate than connecting from home digitally!

On our last “weather cancellation” more than 20 students and I had online conversations using and a few of us used the Ask 3 app to engage in discourse.  Since then many are set up on Edmodo and can log in and “rank and reason” as they sort 8 words and justify their ranking for those words:  Rank and reason

Of course students can also continue working on their Passion Projects (plugged or unplugged) to be displayed in our new VIRTUAL MUSEUM:

And don’t forget!  Many still need to complete their Intro to Computer Science series or they can find an individual “Hour of Code” lesson.

There are many ways my learners can celebrate Digital Learning Day from home!  I can’t wait to hear (or see) what they do!

From the email to the parent group: 

Today is Digital Learning Day!  I had hoped to celebrate AT school with the kids, but…  I’ll take at home sharing as a great alternative!
There are many ways your child can celebrate with me today!
(1) We have 4 discussions available
(2) Ask 3 app (I have a few and there are a few student created ones)
(3) Edmodo (for those I created accounts with at school…if they remember the username they told me or put in)
(4) Work on Passion Projects (plugged or unplugged) because these will go on display in our virtual museum.
(5) Create a squiggle (they know what this is) and type a story about it to email to me.  (Many are doing this in the classroom with the Chromebooks)
(6) Do an App Evaluator (sent this in an email last week)
(7) Create an “audio response” instead of writing a reading response letter this week
So many possibilities…of course I am sure many will be “plugged” in for some R & R too, but I hope they can be encouraged to include some “digital learning” into their day!

Passion projects due soon

First let me say RELAX!  I hope to have the children wrap up passion projects in the next two weeks, but am not rigid on a set due date.  Let me review my goals for these projects:

  1. These are not full-on research projects. As an eager learner, I find something that sparks my interest (or speaks to my “passion”) and I search and hunt down information about it because I am intrigued and want to simply know more.  It is like a hunt to quench my need to know.  That is what I want this to be about.  I want the children to seek out information on something they are interested in.  We do research all the time as adults sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of desire.
  2. There will be plenty of assigned, structured projects for the children to do (some are already now.)  Passion projects are all about choice.  In the process, I have exposed the children to some research protocols and tips but I have not required they follow them.  It goes back to #1 and the fact that I have 62 students with a wide range of interests and “intelligence” strengths.
  3. Sharing of what they learn should be fun and exciting. We learned about multiple intelligences so I hope the children play to their strengths and find a creative outlet for it!
  4. We will not be having official presentations.  I only get the kids for 1 hour and still have tons of curriculum goals to meet.  I will let the kids use the iPads or video camera to record each other sharing. Then I would like to create a virtual museum of all of their efforts.  If they choose some type of display, then we record them sharing it.  If they choose to use an  app to create a presentation, then we share that.  If they write a report, then they read it for us.  Honestly I have no idea what to expect and know that they will surpass any expectations I might have if I leave it wide open for interpretation!  NOTE:  NO last names on finished projects!  If our goal is a virtual museum we will want to post it online and for security reasons, we only want to use first names!

In order to give any help that may be needed, I will devote Feb. 5th, 6th, and 7th class time to let them work on their final project sharing/presentation.  Hopefully everyone will be finished by then…if not, we are FLEXIBLE and will work it out!