Passion Projects. You hear our students talk about them all the time. It is one of those Aveson vernaculars our community grows to embrace because we do them throughout the K-12 experience. Why?
One important component of Personalized Mastery Learning is allowing students to determine what is relevant in their learning process. Learning is optimal only when the topic is exciting and of importance to the student. Learning outcomes, such as writing an argument or interpreting data charts, can be uniquely approached, with meaningful and relevant student-developed projects. Mastery, the knowledge or skill that allows you to understand, use, or do something very well, is not only possible but attained when relevance is a shared responsibility between teacher and student rather than solely determined by a teacher trying to present a one-size-fits-all topic to an entire class.
The Passion Project experience looks similar to other research projects, though each component of the project offers choice in how to approach it. To assist with such an undertaking, our advisors help students identify genuine topics of interest, derive relevant driving questions, conduct research, examine multiple perspectives to reach an informed position, take action, present to authentic audiences and reflect on the entire experience (a piece that is often lost in traditional classrooms.) Parents are encouraged to support students with their research and Take Action piece by initiating interviews, visiting libraries and providing resources to help the students see their visions through to completion.
Along the way, students may not even realize which outcomes they are mastering. They are caught up in the passion of it as they dive into their research and form networks of support along the way. These are skills often not mastered until higher education. But even third graders at Aveson are learning essential steps: how to brainstorm their ideas, develop research questions, find resources via technology, think about people or organizations to create a network that can support the research, interview someone, examine and evaluate different perspectives, organize and cite sources used in their research, and create novel solutions in the topics they pursue.
Perhaps most important and specific to Aveson is the metacognition: the reflection on the process. Students are asked to identify their strengths and weaknesses, evaluate their growth and realize which outcomes were met proficiently. They are also asked to consider their self efficacy. When and how did they collaborate? How did they work on their own? Did they stick to deadlines and manage their time well? What are the implications of their new learnings? What will they explore next? Through genuine reflection, students learn more about who they are as learners, not just about their topic.
“I have seen my students flourish and find their voices when doing their passion projects. It is definitely a journey with bumps along the road, but there is nothing better than watching their confidence rise as they come to completion. They inevitably look back and reflect upon how much they have learned and accomplished.” –Kendra De Felice, 3-5 Independent Studies Advisor
Knowing how you learn, as well as learning about something passionately — that is why Aveson is very passionate about their passion projects.