Heidi Weber is the gifted intervention specialist at Loveland Elementary School (LES) teaching reading. She recently put together a “Passion Project" for her student to explore independent study… and we couldn’t wait to talk with her about it!
Loveland City School District (LCSD): What do the Passion Projects encompass?
Heidi Weber (HW): Our passion projects were intentionally very open ended. The goal was to have students select a topic that was an area of interest to them. While I gave them a brief overview on research, note-taking, Internet searching and safety tips, and source citation and bibliography basics, the format was extremely flexible and students were encouraged to share what they learned in the way that interested them. By keeping the format flexible the students were able to be extremely creative and exceed expectations.
LCSD: Why did you make this decision to use this method?
HW: Since I have 62 students and only get to meet with them for one hour each day, we didn't share our projects with traditional presentations. Students were given many options on how they wanted their project to be displayed in a virtual museum. If they created a poster they could choose to present it while we recorded video, share information through an audio recording, or simply included a photo. They were able to add anything additional to the project that they wished as well. The advantage to a virtual display was that students could share their project with family near and far, and students could view projects from those they do not see in class.
LCSD: How long have students been working on this?
HW: I first introduced the projects to students right after Thanksgiving and they began selecting topics and gathering initial information before winter break. Unfortunately, the many snow days slowed down the progress, however, students began turning in projects by the end of January. It took a great deal of time to collect them all, have students select how they wanted them to be shared, and get them uploaded to the site.
LCSD: What do you see as the takeaway for students?
HW: When I introduced the projects to the children I reinforced my goal to instill a love of lifelong learning. I believe we as adults have interests that we pursue and research all the time. One example I used with the children was how a family will do research about a vacation destination. They will look into places to travel, where to stay, how to get there, attractions in the area, and much more. This is what I consider informal research but very practical research. I also used the example of when I'm reading something in the news and it generates an interest in something that I feel compelled to learn more about. That's what I wanted for my children: to enjoy the process of doing research in a meaningful way. To get a spark of interest that drives them to learn more. In terms of the presentation and the sharing of the learning, I wanted my students to express themselves in their areas of strength. (My fourth graders started a book study on “multiple intelligences” so they have become familiar with their unique talents and gifts.) Therefore the best part was the process of sharing… creating the final product!
LCSD: What have you learned as a teacher?
HW: Seeing the excitement in my students as they explored a topic they were interested in was priceless! I learned that flexibility encourages creativity and “out of the box” thinking! But most of all I learned how the power of “passion” ignites the power of learning!