Passion Projects

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Passion Projects – How to Engage Your Child This Summer

By Aaron Blackwelder

 

A Passion for PokemonAs school begins to wind down, my wife and I (like many parents) scramble to figure out how to keep our boys engaged in learning over summer rather than allow them to zone out in front of screens all day. Granted, our boys will spend an exorbitant amount of time gazing into the mesmerizing, soft glow of computer, Nintendo DS, iPod, and television screens, but we do what we can to foster learning, engagement, and responsibility during the summer months.

Passion Projects

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 the classroom or workplace. Something this powerful can be easily incorporated into the home.

A Passion Project is an activity that caters to the individual’s interests. It involves research, planning, and creating. 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 them 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.

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. This summer, I plan to have our family engage in our own Passion Projects.

Current Passion Projects some of 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. 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 and creating something to share with others. It is about growth and learning. It can be shared with family and close friends or it can be shared 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. This summer, he plans to take his love for Pokémon and create his own YouTube channel where he can share his love and knowledge of Pokémon.

Aidan and LolaAs for my youngest, my wife and I are planning to get him a puppy. We are going to set up a blog space so he can journal his summer. We want to see him share how he learns to take responsibility for a dog. We plan to share his 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. The sky is the limit.

I recommend adults, parents and extended family members join 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:

Finally, we are excited to see and hear about the Passion Projects you and your family have worked on this summer.

Please share your projects with us at spectrums@autismempowerment.org

or www.facebook.com/spectrumsmagazine

and we may feature your project on our website or in a future issue of Spectrums. If we get enough response, we’d like to share Passion Projects each issue!

Works cited:

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.

Aaron BlackwelderAaron Blackwelder is a high school English teacher at Woodland High School in Woodland, WA. He is married and the father of two boys with Autism who have shaped him as an educator. He is passionate about creating learning environments for all students. In his free time, he writes his blog “Thinking 101” where he shares his ideas about education.

Visit: mrblackwelder.wordpress.com

This article originally appeared in print in the Summer 2017 issue of Spectrums Magazine published by Autism Empowerment. It was the cover feature for the magazine.

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