Photo by Katherine Leszczynski Anthony Velasquez discusses his love of working on small motors while Dylan Burke, right, looks on during Ralston Middle School’s Passion Project Fair on Thursday afternoon. Students went in 20 minute shifts to tell other students about their subject of choice.
POSTED: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2015
During the school year, students have to learn what is in the curriculum with little freedom.
Seventh-grade teachers at Ralston Middle School decided to give students the freedom to learn about anything they wanted. They called them “passion projects.”
Christine Redemske, a seventh-grade math teacher at Ralston Middle School, discovered during her downtime that schools around the country were doing passion projects.
“It was just during the summer time,” Redemske said. “I saw other schools doing something similar.”
While out to dinner with fellow teachers, Redemske shared the idea of letting students pick any topic they were passionate about and conduct research about it.
“I said ‘What do you guys think about this?’” she said.
The idea of passion projects caught on. The school held a Passion Project Fair on Thursday afternoon.
The lead-up the fair took months of work, starting in September.
“We had a half day where the kids got to brainstorm and figure out what was really their passion,” Redemske said.
From then on, students were given an hour a week to research and work on their passion projects. Students displayed their projects in many different styles, using laptops for videos and slideshows, poster boards and props.
On the day of the fair, students had to have a presentation ready for students, teachers and parents to see.
“They had to have something to show,” Redemske said. “We also had them prep some talking points in case someone came up to them with questions.”
Chloe Bartlett, a seventh-grader at Ralston Middle School, presented a project on her roots.
“I chose family history,” Chloe said. “I spent a lot of time with my grandma and her grandpa came from Ireland. She told me the same stories he told her and I found them interesting.”
Chloe researched her heritage and created a family tree as her visual aid.
“It came out beautiful I think,” Chloe said.
Redemske said many students were nervous about the project. However, they were surprised to learn that the pressure of getting a good grade was unnecessary.
“Nothing was graded,” Redemske said. “We told them that this is learning for the sake of learning. School does not have to be about entirely what you have to learn about.”