Passion Wins

Passion, it drives us in everything we do (especially the things we do well!)  Over the years educators have worked hard to figure out how to engage students in the classroom.  I don’t want to take the credit away from all the educators over the years who’ve worked so hard but it might just be the case that the business world deserves some of the credit for finding the best solution.  Way back in 1948, Spencer Silver at 3M, a major American corporation, came up with the idea of “15 percent time”.  This was paid time given over to employees “to chase rainbows and hatch their own ideas.”  For years “15 percent time” was little known, until a man named Art Fry took his idea for an adhesive bookmark and created the product we all know and love today, the “Post-It Note”.  Talk about a success story!  

As time went on, other corporations took up the idea and began to implement similar programs to give their employees a chance to follow their passions and pursue creative projects.  Google implemented “20 Time”, upping the ante from 3M’s “15 percent time”.  Gmail is perhaps the most famous product created from Google’s “20 Time” but many other creations have made an impact as well:  Google News, AdSense, Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Talk just to name a few that you may have heard of before.  The opportunity to take paid time to work on something you’re passionate about sounds like a pretty awesome concept and, in fact, it has proven to be a very helpful recruiting tool for companies who’ve implemented such plans.

These are awesome ideas for corporations but what about schools?  Many teachers are still working hard to engage their kids in creative ways and it’s working!  Conversely, there are many teachers who continue to work at engaging their classes with little success.  Then there’s a group of teachers (and even whole schools) who’ve taken the concept of “20 Time” and found a way to apply it to the student experience.  Here at AC our Elementary School (grades 3-5) completely revamped the “homework policy” from lots of worksheets and stressful tasks to one of no “homework” with the option for kids to pursue “Inspiration Projects” at home.  These kids have had the regular (3-4 times already this year) opportunity to show off their Inspiration Projects at a showcase day, the final showcase happens June 9th…come check it out!!  There is no question that when our kids dive into these projects they are 100% engaged and committed to their work, they are not only inspired but they are passionate!

My real inspiration for writing this week was not the Lower School but rather the work of our High School English department and their students.  On Monday night we had a beautiful night of presentations as students from 10th, 11th, and 12th grades presented their year-long efforts on their “20 Time” projects.  All year long our English teachers have turned over the time from one out of every six class periods for kids to work on their “20 Time” projects.  This project was guided and not just a free-for-all for our students, maybe some day 🙂  This year, students had to follow a six step process including these steps:  Topic proposal, research, mentorship (they needed to find a mentor to guide them), elevator pitch (selling their idea in 60 seconds or less), implement the project and reflect, and finally present.  For many kids it was a long journey but for all kids it was enlightening and rewarding.

As this was the first year that our High School students participated in a “20 Time” project there was bound to be a mixed bag of results.  There were failures, which were great!  Students may have learned more from their mis-steps and errors than from anything.  There were also some tremendous successes, which also came with their fair share of hiccups and bumps in the road.  Overall the process and journey were the real rewards for most of these kids.  Be that as it may, I wanted to share some of the final products.  I’ve included below the final products from a selection of our students, including their “blurb” from the presentation program as well as links to their final products.  I chose these specific kids for two reasons:  First, they had an actual digital product I could share.  Secondly, they were the kids who granted me permission to share with the whole wide world (most were very excited and proud to share!)  As I’ve alluded to, these projects were totally inspired and clearly showed the passion these students had for the topics they chose.  There is a wide range here in both topics as well as quality.  I’ll let you be the judge of the results but no matter what you think of the final product, remember that the journey was the true learning experience for these kids!!

Enjoy…

Rosie – Music in Pieces:

From songwriting to the recording process, Rosie wanted to create music and understand what it takes to make a finished song.  Growing up with music as a major influence in her life, Rosie taught herself both piano and guitar and figured it was only a matter of time before her own songs came to life.  Her passion for music and the lessons she learned along the way, as well as where the project will keep going, are what she takes from this experience.  And, of course, a finished song!

Paula – Cooking with Paula!:

In her 20Time Project, Paula decided to explore the world of professional baking.  With the help of a family friend who owns a bakery, Paula created her own pastries to be sold in the store, and got to experience the gratification of seeing her work generate a profit.  Her experience was documented on her website.

**Note:  Paula’s website is overall very impressive, she has a better profile than most adults I’ve seen!

Cole – Your Advocate for Religious Understanding:

Many people have heard false misconceptions on world religions given by society, such as “Muslims are terrorists” and that “Jews are rich and greedy.”  Cole, as a Mormon, has faced many misconceptions about his own religion and has seen other people have to live in a world of religious intolerance.  In his 20Time project, he set out to fix this problem on a small scale by creating a blog that shares the truth about these faiths.  You can view his blog and see how he writes about the truth behind the Mormon church and its misconceptions and features other world religions to help bring the world to be more religiously understanding, the key to tolerance.

Saleem and Luis – Feel the Music:

In relation to the flourishing industry that EDM/House music has become in the last lustrum, Saleem and Luis with their 20Time Project set out to explore this vast and exciting world of electronic music.  They created their own mixes in hope of shining a light onto this growing industry and the high involvement it has with our upcoming generation.

Suzy – Cooking Healthy Food

For her 20Time Project, Suzy chose to dedicate herself to the challenge of creating simple, healthy meals for one person, in an attempt to reduce individual food waste.  For this, she created a website to help provide the nutritional value of the meals she was cooking, as well as posted videos to teach you how to make them.

Nour – Khamisetas:

Ever since she could hold a pencil, Nour was in love with creating art.  Now, at the age of sixteen, she believes it is time to share her art with the world.  Throughout this experience she has explored the world of online merchandising and other ways to implement her art into products (such as t-shirts).  In Nour’s 20Time presentation, she will reveal the struggles and achievements encountered in her artistic journey.  Visit Nour’s Red Bubble page her to see the merchandise available.

Junilly and Valeria – It’s Time to Cook!:

Bringing exquisite platters from the most famous regions in Brazil and savory dishes from the heart of Venezuela, Junilly and Valeria are going to put it all on the table and display their culture and passion for cooking – and eating – on their own Instagram account dedicated for these recipes.  In their 20Time Project, these dedicated girls posted the recipes, in their native languages and in English, of their favorite dishes.

Martin – Quito Documentary:

In his 20Time Project, Martin, being a Quiteño citizen, wanted to illuminate people about his city and all of the people and sceneries that are present within it  For his project, he set out to film in this beautiful city and make a short documentary about it.  He prepared for the execution of his movie by practicing in school and investigating about movie making.  Martin finalized his project by creating a stunning movie with Quito’s most beautiful views and scenery.  He didn’t want to tell a story, or inform people about the city, but capture the essence of the city.

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Curiosity May Have Killed The Cat, But Thankfully We’re Not Cats!

Over the summer I watched and played with my nephews (two and four years old) as they explored and played with their Legos and other newfangled toys.  I realized that there were two likely traits of a successful toy.  The first trait of a successful toy, for my nephews anyway, is that you can throw it, hit (with) it, or kick it.  The second, is that the toy sparks curiosity.  This is what I want to talk about today, maybe I’ll get to the throwing, hitting, and kicking another (more stressful) day 🙂

One of my favorite parts of working with young people is the opportunity to watch them be curious.  In time, I have come to strongly believe that curiosity is one of, if not the most important character strength in successful people.  Each day at break as I make my usual tour of the café, courtyard, and soccer field I keep an eye out for students who are lingering on the periphery.  When I first started I was concerned about these students, worried they weren’t making connections with their peers.  Over time, however, I’ve come to understand that many of these kids are just pursuing their curiosity of the world around them.

During China Trips last year it was wonderful to see the wide eyes and ‘ohs and ahs’ as kids explored the outdoors.  The opportunities for exploration of curiosities in that setting are almost endless.  Similarly, the chances for students to independently pursue curiosity exists here at school as well.  As an example, there was a sixth grader last year who took a direct route to the bushes near the field at lunch.  It took me a couple days to realize that this was a pattern and when I wandered over to see what had drawn her curiosity she explained that there was a spider who had spun a web and she was admiring the geometric patterns while hoping that it would trap something.  She was curious, she wanted to watch and wonder in awe about how this tiny creature had created something so seemingly perfect but at the same time she was concerned that it wasn’t “working” because nothing had yet been trapped.

Curiosity is a character strength that is, perhaps, more easily fostered than actually taught.  I couldn’t have paid some students to be interested in that spider web but others would have had the same sense of curiosity and awe if they had been exposed to that wonder.  They, however, hadn’t gone searching for it like this little girl had done – which is where we come in.  There is currently a lot of research going into character education and I think we’re still a ways away from any definitive answers as to how we could teach some of these character strengths.  However, we can facilitate them and foster their growth when the time is right.  So, how are you helping to encourage curiosity in your classroom and beyond?

Our students have incredibly curious and creative young minds.  Feel free to allow them the opportunity to open up and explore new ideas.  Some of the greatest minds in the world have been successful because they’ve been freed of restricted thinking and have been allowed to think openly about their ideas.  If curiosity really killed the cat then I guess we’re all lucky not to be cats…open yourselves to exploration and let’s do the same for our kids!!

“I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein

“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.” – Bernard Baruch

“Curiosity is the lust of the mind.” – Thomas Hobbes

There is a fast-growing movement in education right now around 20-Time.  It is based on a similar concept perviously used at Google and other companies to encourage the pursuit of passions during working hours.  I’m not asking you to turn over one class every five days to the pursuit of curiosity but I think there is definitely room for including pieces of this concept in our day-to-day lessons.

20-Time informational website:  http://www.20timeineducation.com/

An interesting article about Google and 20-Time:  http://www.wired.com/2013/08/20-percent-time-will-never-die/