Imagine a group of 30 parents and teachers sitting around a room with some chart paper and a marker, trying to answer the question, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if our children and students attended a school that…?” A bunch of ideas are kicked around, lists form and are taped to the walls around the room, until finally someone has an idea that makes everyone in the room pause. "How about a school based on Universal Design where half of the students had IEPs?"
This clearly stirs some excitement in the room, and a flurry of activity evolves around the idea of an entire school that was designed in a way that students with disabilities are completely integrated with the whole student population. Eventually, this UD school attracts parents and teachers from all over the area who share a passion for inclusion. They are excited to work in, volunteer at, and send their children to this innovative environment.
In another community, a group of parents and teachers ponder the same question. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if our children and students attended a school that…?” A buzz fills the room when a teacher describes the concept of STEM and creating a school that completely supports the development of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. But this is more than a magnet school, this is a school where having a passion for STEM is a requirement, whether you are a teacher, administrator, student, or parent. Every single weekly meeting is based on developing innovative projects and curriculum.
In yet another community, a similar meeting is taking place. It turns out that many of the parents in the room work in construction, factories, and restaurants. A parent and a teacher are talking about the Maker Faire that they attended last year, and the parent says, “Wouldn’t it be awesome of our kids attended a school that designed and created things to enter in Maker Faires?” Someone says, “Wait, can we actually do that? Would they let us have a school where we could teach the curriculum by making things?” Once a passionate staff of teacher-makers are united, the school puts on its own maker faire every two months with the help of the parents, and the students enter their projects in the city-wide Maker Faire at the end of the year.
Not far away, another community gathers to answer the question. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if every student in the school could fluently read and write in THREE languages?”
This clearly stirs some excitement in the room, and a flurry of activity evolves into planning committees, promoting future meetings, researching educational models, and looking for other experts. After some growing pains, this trilingual immersion school attracts teachers from all over the state who want to work in this innovative environment. There is a long waiting list for parents who want to send their kids to this school, and are told that the district is going to open a second language immersion school next year to accommodate the demand.
This is how passion-sourcing begins. Identifying a community’s passion, and then bringing in others who share the same passion to the same school. Once these teachers, parents, administrators, and students get together, they can’t help themselves but become excited about inclusion, STEM, Maker Faires, Language Immersion, or whatever the passion may be, and create something great. These are more than Magnet schools, these are Passion-based community schools, environments that designed to foster innovation. Teacher no longer create lessons based on their passions in isolation. Instead, the potential is unleashed. Ideas are exchanged spontaneously during lunch and in the hallways, after school during happy hour, and every PD opportunity is relevant and innovative collaboration.