Category: HS

Passion Project Round-Up

It is the end of semester 1 in the high school, which means that another round of Passion Projects are “complete”.  When I inherited this class two years ago, it had a solid framework for the students to use as they followed their passions and blogged about their process.  I made little tweaks along the way and aligned it to our ISB Design Process and standards.  At previous schools, I was the MYP Personal Project coordinator or a mentor and I really loved the idea of the project, but for a lot of students it became a chore and something they groaned about and had to tick off at the end of grade 10.

At ISB, Passion Project is an elective.  It allows for students to follow a passion, delve deeper into a subject or learn something that isn’t offered in other courses at ISB.  The course is open to all high school students, although mostly ninth and tenth grade students take it.  There are even a few students who have applied to take it more than once.

Even though students are following their own passions, it is a challenge for most high school students to stay focused and work independently through the project when they are busy with so many other things.  The three things that I really focus on the most as I coach the students through their Passion Project are:

1. Following the ISB Design Process – especially focusing on feedback and iterations in the “Create and Improve” stage

2. Documenting their process and learning through their blogs and using  media to support their reflections

3. Sharing their work  with a wider audience, both during the course for feedback – asking friends, parents, teachers, experts for advice and encouragement and at the end of the product to share their learning and “final products”.

The hardest thing for me in this course has been providing the right environment for students to work on campus.  There is such a wide variety of projects and all the students need different things.  I often let them work where they need to and check in with them, but that doesn’t always lend itself to productive working sessions at school.  That being said… it is a student-led learning environment and a lot of the students do a lot of work at home because that is their preferred “creation” time.  But this is definitely an area for improvement.

It is a course that I feel is a really important part of our offerings.  Next year, another teacher will take on this course and it will likely change it’s name to align better with our Design Elective Courses.  I hope it continues to grow and we can get more students involved in this course, especially in 11th and 12th grade.

Without further ado, here are a few of the projects from this semester.  Please feel free to give students feedback on them.  Their blogs document their whole process this semester, but their latest posts will be their final reflection.  And, I’m always up for feedback as well: suggestions, recommendations and to see how other people are doing independent passion/personal projects with their students, so please comment and/or share away!

Austin’s Dragon Design Student Pop-Up Shop

June & Melissa’s YouTube Channel – Scenario with their supporting process blogs – June’s Blog & Melissa’s Blog

William’s Music Writing Passion Project Blog

William’s Performance at the Open-Mic Night:

BreAnne’s Piano Skill Development Project

Sustainability ELO – A Student Initiated Trip

Last semester, in Grade 10 Biology 1 class, an idea bubbled up.  After working with Mr. Tebo on the Conservation Action Project, students were inspired and wanted to take action. They learned about the importance of sustainability and the need for action regarding conservation.  Right around the same time, students heard about The Green School in Bali.  After further inquiry, the students learned that The Green School was an exemplar school for sustainable action, and their ideas and planning began…

A small group of the Biology students wrote a letter to the Office of Learning to propose their own ELO (Experiential Learning Opportunity) for their Junior year.  They wanted to visit The Green School to learn more about what they were doing and to make plans to bring ideas and action back to Beijing and ISB.  After communicating with a Science teacher at The Green School, and further assistance from our Director of Learning, a new ELO trip was born.

Since The Green School is a fully functioning school, they couldn’t host us all week, so the Office of Learning hired Buffalo Tours to help fill in our week with other conservation and sustainability projects in Bali.  Our week was fufilling and our students gained so much from the experience.

On Tuesday, our first full day in Bali, we visited The Green School.  We were lucky to be hosted by teachers, Pak Dan and Ibu Jackie.  They were gracious, engaging and knowledgeable hosts and we took a tour of their school and participated in one of their high school science electives: Chickens and Permaculture.  Other highlights included their composting toilets, working with their students, learning about BioFuel and the BioSoap workshop.

Working with Green School students to prepare signage for food waste to be used for chicken feed

Making BioSoap from used cooking oil

On Wednesday, we went to IDEP and learned more about permaculture and Bali Water Protection Program.

Learning about community wells giving back to the aquafers

On Thursday, we went to the Coral Triangle Center to learn more about conservation of coral reefs and mangroves while reflecting on our own tourism practices.

Planting mangroves

Learning about data collection from the CTC

Students collected their trash for the week to reflect on their practices

On our last day, we visited Zero Waste to Oceans which was a great mix of an Eco-park and hands-on learning center where the students participated in different activities (composting, creating seed balls, natural dyeing, learning about different plants) to get their Eco-passport stamped.   Later in the afternoon, we visited the ROLE Foundation to learn more about how the program works and students participated in a soap making workshop and an educational exchange with the girls in training there.

Students making seed balls

Giving new life to leftover hotel soap – Pressing the soap to make new soap

English language & cultural exchange at the ROLE Foundation

We arrived back in Beijing with our hearts and our minds full.  We were all sad that the week had ended and created a special bond over our experiences.

Now, we wait and see what great ideas spawn from this trip and how our students (along with their equally inspired chaperones) take action and weave more sustainable practices into our ISB community.

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