As school begins to wind down, my wife and I, like many parents, scramble to figure out how to keep our boys engaged in learning rather than allow them to zone out in front of screens all day. Granted, our boys will more than likely spend an exorbitant amount of time gazing into the mesmerizing, soft glow of computer, Nintendo 3DS, iPod, and television screens, but we do what we can to foster engagement and responsibility during the summer months.
A movement that began in software companies like Google has recently leaked into the classroom. However, this trend does not have to be limited to schools or the workplace. Something this powerful can be introduced easily into the home.
A Passion Project is an activity that caters to the individual’s interests. It involves research, planning, and creativity. It can be anything so long as it draws from personal interest. In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink suggests people are driven by three key components:
Autonomy – The ability to govern oneself.
Mastery – The path to get better at something.
Purpose – To develop a transcendent meaning to something.
When all three are satisfied, people feel empowered to be creative (2009).
In her book SHIFT THIS! Joy Kirr describes it as “authentic, student-driven, and inquiry-driven… (and) helps cultivate lifelong learners” (2017). Passion Projects can help your child learn how to learn and potentially pave the path to an exciting career or long-term hobby.
Based on this idea, Passion Projects are taking center stage in work and school. This year, I introduced Passion Projects to my students, and they have quickly become an addition my students love. Because of their success, I plan to have our family engage in our own Passion Projects this summer.
Some current Passion Projects my students are developing are:
- A website with student-written articles highlighting our school’s sports teams.
- YouTube channel on favorite books.
- Writing a personal blog on the student’s perspective of current events.
- Creating a board game on a favorite book, movie, video game, etc.
Developing a new series of characters for a favorite show, game, or movie.
Find out your children’s interests and let them explore. Encourage them to develop those ideas. Challenge them to take risks and make mistakes. This project should be about getting in touch with personal interests to create something. It is about growth and learning. It can be shared with family and close friends or it can be published globally via the internet.
My oldest son recently completed a Passion Project for school (his teacher called it a Genius Hour Project) on the history of Pokémon. He had so much fun and it never turned into fights to get him to work on it. This summer, he plans to take his love for the game and create his own YouTube channel where he can share his knowledge of Pokémon.
As for my youngest, my wife and I are planning to get him a puppy. He wants to set up a blog space so he can journal his summer. He wants to share how to take responsibility for a puppy and plans to share this blog with family and friends.
Ultimately, the purpose is to create something personal and meaningful while learning something new. It doesn’t have to be done online. It can be done at home in posters, projects, or crafts. It can be a lemonade stand or painting rocks. The sky is the limit.
I recommend adults, parents, and extended family members join in the fun and create their own Passion Projects. Share them with your children or peers, talk about them over meals, and encourage one another along the way. Discuss where you are in the process and talk about setbacks, challenges, and accomplishments. I plan to take the time to become a Google Certified Teacher. My wife is looking forward to some gardening. Making it a family endeavor models the importance of Passion Projects and can give families something to talk about.
Summer activities don’t have to cost a lot of money. A little creativity and scheduling can make the time worthwhile for everyone.
If you want more information or ideas on Passion Projects visit the following websites:
Kirr, Joy. SHIFT THIS!: How to Implement Gradual Changes for Massive Impact in Your Classroom. San Diego: Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., 2017. Print.
Pink, Daniel H. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead, 2009. Print.
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