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Project-Based Learning Showcased in Brady Passion Project

5/30/2017
Project-Based Learning Showcased in Brady Passion Project

Brady Middle School – Passion Project 2017

What happens when students combine a passion with an innovative learning opportunity? They code video games, design stop motion animation, create 3D drawings, record video guitar lessons, and write a multi-cultural cookbook. They design websites that teach about science, the environment, fitness, airplane construction and ADHD. They fill bags they made out of tee shirts with blankets and toys for homeless children. They compose and record an original song. All this and so much more were part of the Brady Middle School Passion Project.

The Passion Project provided each Brady student the opportunity to explore an interest and develop a project that was presented to his or her parents/caregivers and staff Pride Leader at parent-teacher conferences. It represents a strategy to increase students’ exposure to Project-Based Learning, a District-wide initiative in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem or challenge.

“In addition to content mastery, part of our mission as a school is to help our students develop competencies that are essential for lifelong success,” said Mr. Brian Frank, Brady Middle School Principal. “Passion Project allowed our students to apply and reflect on many of the competencies introduced earlier this year. In a formal way, all of our students receive feedback on their Passion Project presentation via a rubric.”

For 10 weeks, students conducted research, created their products and developed their presentations during dedicated school hours. Students worked independently for an hour each week. They had to propose and defend their passion to their PRIDE teacher using three rules:

• What was the idea?
• Why it was being proposed?
• How will he or she address the needs of the project, such as materials, mentors and research?

“The journey is 99 percent of it. One percent is the final project,” said Passion Project Team Member, teacher Lee McClain. “We helped students in mining for their passions by providing questions to prompt ideas and topics.”

When it was time to present their finished projects, the student-led parent-teacher conferences were transformed into Student Learning Exhibitions where technology and communication skills were utilized to share their work.

“I was confident that our educators would see the value and relevance of this experience, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how excited the parents were as well,” said Jacob Miller, Technology Integration Specialist at Brady. “The majority of parents that I came in contact with after the presentations seemed to feel pride in their child's performance and saw the benefit of the Passion Project.”

Educators and parents were not the only ones to see the value and relevance in the Passion Project. Many of the students affirmed the notion of the importance of project-based learning. When asked what they found most valuable throughout this process, students’ responses spoke volumes:
• Being able to be able to work on something that I really enjoy
• Learning to persevere
• The feeling of accomplishment
• We needed A LOT of time and it was valued greatly
• How much I learned and how much I can now teach people about what I learned
• It made students work independently and be self-reliant which is very important in my mind throughout life
• Being able to make a difference in the world
• Self reliance
• Presentation skills
From researching why we dream to writing a screenplay in the suspense thriller horror genre to publishing a newspaper about famous African Americans’ contributions to society, students were fully engaged in their Passion Projects. There were presentations about the history of art, famous artists, and famous paintings. An educational board game was developed with varieties of different games to help fourth graders with their math skills. One student wrote a comic about how the education school provides is very important and how it helps with a job in the future.

Students coded a website about brain cancer, developed a YouTube channel for teaching magic, and crafted a website about the history of the Cleveland Indians. Poetry, interior design, learning Latin, video tours of Brady, improving strength and fitness, and working with preschoolers were all among the list of engaging endeavors. The Passion Project truly presented project-based learning opportunities for students to learn, to lead and to make a difference.

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