I have integrated Innovation Days and Genius Hour into my classroom for several years. This past year, I haven’t been able to have a consistent time for the kids to work on developing their passions, but I have done a lot of great things involving choice, makerspaces, and STEAM. Even with that, it didn’t feel right ending the school year without having time for passion projects, so I decided to have the last full week of social studies spent on American History Passion Projects. The students could choose to learn about anything involving American History and create a project about it.
I tell you...it’s the magic recipe for ending the school year with engaged learners eager to come to school! I have enjoyed seeing the kids come alive with curiosity and excited to learn. Teaching three sections of fifth grade Social Studies, each class got 4 hours to work on their projects, however, many decided to work on their projects at home and even during recess.
Interestingly, there were several projects that were themed around September 11. An event that is still so vivid in my mind, was an event they had heard about, but didn’t know many details about. It was hard to find appropriate information for kids, but we did find a great resource with the 911 Memorial page. Many of my students were interested in learning more about the Twin Towers. It just so happened that I great up with Minoru Yamasaki’s grandson, Jesse. I contacted Jesse and asked him if he would video conference with us. He happily agreed, and we had a wonderful time connecting with him over a lunch and recess last week. The kids were able to learn a lot about Min, as his grandfather was commonly called, and the wonderful building her designed...right down to the art he commissioned throughout the building and the 10-foot model that was created when preparing for the build. Here are some of the projects that were created:
I had the chance to video some of the projects. Here are our videos. Enjoy!
If you are interested in ending the year with kids eager to come to school and be engaged, I highly recommend putting the control into their hands. I noticed better behaviors while we were working on the projects, and I enjoyed walking around and seeing the joy in their minds and hearts!