Inquiry, Maker & Passion
We believe that students’ internal drive to engage authentically at school is validated when given opportunities to pursue an interest and nourish their curiosity. This creates a runway for them to make contributions which increase their sense of themselves as capable and valuable, and enhances their ability to recognize their gifts and challenges. Ultimately, kids are empowered to identify a need, realize a vision for change, and combine the contributions of others to bring it to life.
The aquarium tank rested on a table in the Innovation Lab. Several inches of water – tinged slightly brown from the nutrients – rippled gently inside as tubing drew it upwards. Above the tank, microgreens sprouted from holes carved into a PVC pipe, their roots nourished by the system’s flow.
The creator of this hydroponic system, middle school student Emil A., explained to parents, teachers, and students how his system would grow organic plants faster, and use less water, than a traditional soil garden.
The event was a symposium for students to share the status of their Passion Projects. The student-led work spanned a variety of subject areas. Some wrote novels about outer space and a summer camp set in England. Others designed and constructed motorized scooters or life-size Strandbeests in woodshop. Some conceptualized and programmed computer games using Python and Scratch, while others immersed themselves in life sciences experiments, using CRISPR to modify E.coli genomes.
Acera features Passion Projects as part of its middle school program. Every week, middle school students have blocks of time to design, create, problem solve, and iterate on a project of their choosing, while concurrently learning project management skills. Specialist mentors are available to advise on independent projects.
Passion projects are a way for kids to get excited about something, to find a mentor who can help them learn about the thing that they want to learn about, and create something that makes them feel proud. This fosters a sense of purpose that motivates them to want to improve in areas of weakness, because they are bringing alive something that’s important to them.
The result? Students want to come to school. With additional funding, AceraEI can partner with public schools experiencing chronic absenteeism to build Passion Projects into their programming. This sense of purpose can set the stage for kids to not only show up to school, but also be productive and engaged citizens in their future.