Passion Projects

Students choose their passion to research and build a presentation/model.

Photo of Hayley MacDonald
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Photo of Michelle Fontenot

Love this idea! My 5th grade science teacher let us do something similar to this, and I still remember how empowering it was to research a topic I was passionate about, create a model, and present to my peers. The information gained about the structure and function of the eye helped me emotionally process the surgery my mother was undergoing at the time to repair a detached retina. You never know what personal connections your students will make when you leave room for student choice!

Photo of KRISTIN Nash


This type of thinking is what I feel really helps to anchor kids to their learning journey.  I am wondering what types of supports kids would need to get started since this type of thinking, and action, may be new to them.  What are your thoughts?

Photo of Mark Carlucci

This is a great idea, and something I have been trying to implement in my high school classes.

Over the past 2 years I have devoted at least one day a week to students working on a project of their choosing. I have encountered varying degrees of success. 

The first problem that I always find is lack of passion. It's far too often that I find students that have become so trained to do what the teacher says. When you give them the opportunity to make their own decisions as to what to do, they have no idea how to make a choice; even when presented with possible ideas.

The other issue that I tend to run into is getting the students to take the lead. With some many different projects, even with students working in groups, it is difficult to spread myself over all the groups to keep them focused and moving forward. 

I wonder if there is a better way to help the students develop their passions and move forward with them. Could make larger groups, or work on multiple whole classes initiatives? How do we break the training of do what teacher says?

Photo of Lisa Yokana

i struggle with this with my high school students. I feel passion and curiosity have to be nurtured in our type of students. But even when they've worked for a whole year on scaffolded projects they still have trouble. I'd love to hear others' thoughts on how to do this with high school students!

Photo of Mark Carlucci

It would be interesting to compare elementary and secondary experiences in this type of activity.

In my limited experience with elementary, it seems to be much easier to maintain interest and create passion within the students. But this comes from working with students for 1 and 5 days. 

Also, with the differences in elementary and secondary classes, does the ability to devote more time to an activity in elementary, without having to move on to the next class make a difference? At my school we have 75 minute classes, but after setting up and clean up, we really have 45 to 60 minutes of work time. Do we need to adjust schedules? Make them flexible in high school?

What if these projects where cross curricular and spanned multiple classes/subject areas?

Photo of Grace

I love the idea of these sorts of projects spanning multiple subjects. Very cool. Mark -- I read your earlier idea. I was learning about how High Tech High does these sorts of projects the other day. I wonder if there's a way to give them boundaries around the project that would help them choose a topic and then feel passionate about it? 

Photo of Michael Schurr

Hayley! Love this idea! We do passion projects ever year with our students in 3rd grade. I love how passion projects require students to find something about which they are truly invested. How do you envision the connection between students passions and STEM looking? I'd love a window into your thinking!