A few months ago, I stumbled upon a web docu-series called City Ballet. Narrated and produced by Sarah Jessica Parker, these shorts give the layperson a glimpse into the life of the dancers and the company of New York City Ballet. I immediately soaked up season one during one lazy Saturday morning and watched most of season two as soon as it was released. Today, being a snow day, I revisited the series and watched, Season Two, Episode 10: Inspiration. It is amazing-take a look:
What I think impresses me the most about this episode is the way that the dancers respect the fragility of their art form, its fleeting timeline, and follow passions in their lives to become well-rounded individuals. They take time to cultivate their own interests outside of the ballet, be it art, diy, or faith formation. This makes me think of the Joseph Campbell quote, “follow your bliss”
So why am I waxing on about ballet and bliss? Because I feel we as educators have an opportunity to allow our students to apply their own interests to learning. We can provide experiences for them where they can explore a wide-range of interests and projects. We can help them develop the well-roundedness by stepping out of the bounds of the classroom and the textbook and into the real world. Certainly, they explore a wide range of topics within a traditional curriculum and in their extra curricular activities, but we can structure our teaching and time to allow these things to take place within the instructional day.
I am a huge proponent of passion-projects/20% time. The fable goes that this concept originated at Google-allowing company employees to use 20% of their work-day time to follow their own innovation and ideas. It seems, based on a quick, ahem, google search that this might have gone by the wayside at google directly, but it still remains a very good concept for our classrooms. Giving students the time, space, and resources to design their own learning project is an excellent way for them to work through design, organization, testing, working with mentors, research, and, possibly, failure. Through these projects they can develop creativity, curiosity, collaboration, resiliency, and problem solving.
Students might choose from a wide range of topics from building an app to running a marathon to working in a political campaign. They might write a novel or build a schoolyard garden. Their only limitations are based on their own creativity and imagination.
Have you used 20% time or done passion projects in your classroom? Tweet me and let’s discuss!